How Armenia and Azerbaijan’s conflict could still destabilize the region

“A decades-long conflict in the Caucasus flared up last week — only to seemingly finally be decided.
Azerbaijan on September 19 launched an “anti-terror” strike aimed at Nagorno-Karabakh, the semi-autonomous, majority-Armenian region within its internationally recognized borders. One day later, the breakaway government agreed to disarm and dissolve its military. It was the second time in three years that Azerbaijan’s government made decisive gains in a conflict with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Now, many of those ethnic Armenians are fleeing the territory — 50,000, according to authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh, although some estimates are as high as 70,500. The breakaway region’s leaders told Reuters that as many as 120,000 people — essentially the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh — would leave, out of fear of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan’s government after the region’s de facto government capitulated to Azerbaijan last week.

A member of Nagorno-Karabakh’s former government, Ruben Vardanyan, has also been taken into custody by Azerbaijani border guards while trying to flee to Armenia, Al Jazeera reported Thursday. Armenian outlets have reported that David Babayan, an adviser to the region’s former president, has also turned himself in to authorities.

While tensions obviously remain high, and much of what’s happening on the ground is unclear, it does appear the “anti-terror” strike will dissolve the territory altogether. It’s a result that could echo far beyond Azerbaijan’s borders, as it has escalated an already difficult humanitarian crisis and is roiling Armenian politics.”

The War on Fast-Food Joints

“The battlefront starts with so-called “joint employer” or “joint liability” standards, which the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is expected to officially impose soon. This would essentially require franchisee employees to be counted as employees of the franchisor parent corporation by holding the franchisor liable for the actions of its individual franchisees. It also would make it easier for unions to organize at the parent company level, rather than via individual franchise outlets. Progressives have been pushing for years to impose joint employer standards onto the franchise model, and the Biden administration is echoing the Obama administration in following through (after a brief hiatus during Donald Trump’s presidency).”

“Left-leaning policy makers are not stopping at the federal level, either, as states like California are also considering joint liability bills. Last year, when California passed its controversial FAST Recovery Act, which not only raised minimum wages for restaurant workers to $22 an hour but also created a 10-member Fast Food Council to oversee and regulate the entire industry, the legislation also included new joint liability rules.
The joint liability language was removed from the bill before it passed, but once the franchise and restaurant industry fought back by getting a referendum for the FAST Act to qualify for the 2024 ballot, liberal state lawmakers suddenly reintroduced a stand-alone joint liability bill. The joint liability idea is already spreading beyond the Golden State—ironically known as the birthplace of fast food—to states such as New York.”

“Being the proprietor of a franchise has long been seen as one of the preeminent—and most readily accessible—ways to achieve the American dream. Franchise ownership often requires lower startup capital compared to other types of businesses and provides training in the requisite expertise and knowledge needed to operate the business.
As a result, the franchise model is recognized as providing more opportunities for those in underrepresented communities. This is reflected in the ownership numbers, as 30 percent of franchises are minority-owner compared to only 18 percent of other types of businesses. Some have even called the franchise system “the safety net of the economy,” since a recently laid-off worker in an unrelated sector can turn around and buy a franchise and receive the guidance needed to succeed.

According to the International Franchise Association, the Obama-era version of the joint employer standard cost franchises over $33 billion annually and resulted in 376,000 lost job opportunities. Perhaps most alarmingly, it led to an over 90 percent increase in litigation against franchises.”

The DOJ’s Antitrust Lawsuit Against Google Is a Loser for Consumers

“The DOJ alleged that the tech giant is monopolizing the market by contracting with Apple to become the default search engine for the iOS platform. The DOJ claims that Google and Apple will harm consumers with the possibility they could exploit their dominant positions.

Despite this claim of potential harm, the default search deal between Apple and Google provides an attractive service to consumers in an increasingly competitive market. The result of this lawsuit is a deliberate step backward toward a vision of antitrust that seeks to prioritize the welfare of individual competing firms instead of consumers. Where firms are at the center of government concern, consumers invariably lose.”

Map: In L.A., Local Control Is Local Confusion

“The patchwork approach can worsen land use rules, Gray warns, because each city unofficially competes by passing increasingly strict regulations to please incumbent property owners. Residents of, say, Santa Clarita or Pasadena get to protect their backyard views, the “character” of an old neighborhood, or a road with sparse traffic, while people who could benefit from new housing stock are exiled to unincorporated parts of the Los Angeles metro area, where there are fewer stakeholders to raise a ruckus.”

America’s potential Achilles’ heel in a cyber battle with China: Guam

“Chinese hackers have found a dangerous vulnerability in U.S. military computer networks nearly 8,000 miles from the Pentagon — on the serene South Pacific island of Guam.
They attacked essential infrastructure in the military outpost in May, infiltrating networks in the U.S. territory closest to China. Lawmakers and federal officials fear these attacks, which used a new method that allows intruders to linger undetected, could threaten security in the volatile region and sabotage any U.S. response to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.”

“Officials in Guam welcome the help.

“When it comes to not just cyber, but our critical infrastructure as a whole, it’s important to realize that we are isolated,” Scott said. “We have proximity to the pacing threats, and we don’t have a lot of the resources on our own to self-sustain.””

Trump’s become a runaway train in the GOP primary. Here’s why.

“They’re more conservative than other Republicans. More likely to be men. Less likely to have graduated from college.
And they’re way more confident they’ve made up their minds, even though the first primary or caucus is still four months away.

That’s the coalition former President Donald Trump has assembled in asserting his dominance over the Republican presidential primary.”

The Religious Right’s Grip on the GOP Is Weakening. That’s Working to Trump’s Advantage.

“Back in 2016, Trump ran away with the Republican nomination despite a crowded field of candidates, many of whom had real religious bona fides. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of a Southern Baptist Church in Houston, often quoted scripture during his stump speech. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted a Bible verse a day. Yet, despite lack of any religious credibility, Trump won half of the votes of Republicans who attended religious services weekly in 2016, while Cruz only got only 30 percent of their votes and Rubio earned 11 percent.
That was significant, but it would have meant little had he not earned huge support from Republicans who weren’t religious. During the nomination process, two in five Republicans described their religious attendance as “seldom” or “never” according to data from the VOTER Survey, a longitudinal study sponsored by the Democracy Fund that repeatedly interviews thousands of Americans. Among those who said that they never attended religious services, two-thirds were Trump voters in the 2016 Republican primary. Cruz, by contrast, managed just 16 percent of this group. Among those who described their attendance as “seldom,” Trump secured 57 percent of the vote while Cruz only tallied 22 percent.”

“In 2016, 39 percent of all Republican voters attended church less than once a year. In comparison, just 36 percent said that they attended religious services at least once a week.”

“In 2008, 44 percent of Republicans reported that they were in church at least once per week. By 2022, that number had slipped to just 35 percent. In comparison, the share of Democrats who attended weekly only declined five percentage points (23 percent to 18 percent) during the same time period.”

They Thought Their Sick Little Girl Would Be Safe in America. Then It Denied Her Family Entry.

“When Najeeb and his wife, Atefa, escaped Kabul with their two children in April 2022, they believed that they would be processed for resettlement to America quickly. After all, Najeeb had been working for the U.S. Embassy when it shuttered in August 2021. Plus, their little girl’s sensitive health situation, they reasoned, was sure to put them on a fast track. They were manifested for a U.S.-run evacuation flight to Qatar in April, 2022, which seemed a positive sign for their hopes of resettling in America. In Doha, an expedited processing site for Afghan refugees, their case would surely move forward quickly.

But spring turned into a summer of anxious waiting and watching, and summer to winter. Now, as the family faces another winter in limbo in their cramped, shipping container-like room at the Camp As Sayliyah army base, the door to America appears to close on them. (The State Department did not respond to specific questions about the Nasiri case, citing confidentiality of visa records.)”