WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump angrily escalated his trade fight with China on Friday, raising retaliatory tariffs and ordering American companies to consider alternatives to doing business there.
He also blamed Jerome Powell, the man he appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve, for the state of the domestic economy, wondering who was a "bigger enemy" of the U.S. — Powell or Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Even by the turbulent standards of the Trump presidency, his actions, all done via Twitter, were notable, sending markets sharply lower and adding to a sense of uncertainty on the eve of his trip to France for a meeting of global economic powers.
Trump's move came after Beijing announced Friday morning that it had raised taxes on U.S. products. He huddled with advisers, firing off tweets that attacked China and the Fed. And he mockingly attributed a drop of 573 points to the withdrawal from the Democratic presidential race of a marginal candidate. The Dow Jones average eventually closed down 623 points.
The president attacked the Fed for not lowering rates at an informal gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where no such action was under consideration. Powell, speaking to central bankers, gave vague assurances that the Fed would act to sustain the nation's economic expansion, but noted that the central bank had limited tools to deal with damage from the trade dispute.
Trump said he would be raising planned tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese goods from 10% to 15%. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative also said existing tariffs on another $250 billion in Chinese imports would go from 25% to 30% on Oct. 1 after receiving feedback from the public.
The impact could be sweeping for consumers.
"With each percentage point added to the tariff hikes, it becomes more and more difficult for importers not to pass the costs on to the U.S. consumer," said Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade negotiator now at the Asia Society Policy Institute. "And this is not to mention the uncertainty that these increases contribute to the overall business environment."
Trump acted hours after Beijing said it would hike tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. imports, a move that some economists fear could tip a fragile global economy into recession.
The president appeared caught off-guard by China's tariff increase, and was angry when he gathered with his trade team in the Oval Office before departing for France, according to two people familiar with the meeting who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose closed-door conversations.
Administration officials, including U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and adviser Peter Navarro discussed potential retaliatory options. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, returning from vacation, joined by phone.
Earlier Friday, the president said he "hereby ordered" U.S. companies to seek alternatives to doing business in China. The White House did not cite what authority the president could use to force private businesses to change their practices.
Trump's latest escalation will impose a burden on many American households. Even before he announced an increase Friday, J.P. Morgan had estimated that Trump's tariffs would cost the average household roughly $1,000 a year if he proceeded with his threats.
Businesses large and small joined in a chorus of opposition to the intensifying hostilities.
"It's impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment," said David French, senior vice president of government relations at the National Retail Federation. "The administration's approach clearly isn't working, and the answer isn't more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?"
If Trump goes ahead with all the tariffs he's announced, they would cover just about everything China ships to the United States.
China, for its part, slapped new tariffs of 5% and 10% on $75 billion of U.S. products in retaliation. Like Trump's, the Chinese tariffs will be imposed in two batches — first on Sept. 1 and then on Dec. 15.
China will also go ahead with previously postponed import duties on U.S.-made autos and auto parts, the Finance Ministry announced.
Trump tweets on Friday included one declaring: "Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing... your companies HOME and making your products in the USA."
French, at the National Retail Federation, said it was "unrealistic for American retailers to move out of the world's second largest economy ... Our presence in China allows us to reach Chinese customers and develop overseas markets."
MILTON — After receiving every item she had sought in an online donation campaign Friday, Milton Elementary School third-grade teacher Jennifer Saul will have to go back to the books and rewrite the lesson plans she worked hard to complete over the summer.
"I'll have to go through everything and sort through what I have and reassess," she said. "But that's a good problem to have."
Saul was one of 347 teachers at 218 schools with 40,000 students in West Virginia whose online donation campaigns through DonorsChoose.org were completely filled, thanks to a partnership with Walmart. Every campaign made by West Virginia teachers prior to Aug. 21 was fulfilled as part of the company's more than $260,000 donation to provide items such as books, classroom supplies, technology, robotics kits and art supplies.
The secret was revealed to Saul in her classroom Friday by former Marshall University and NFL quarterback Chad Pennington, who interrupted Saul's morning lesson with a trove of Walmart employees following him with boxes of the items she had been longing for.
Saul said she nearly cried when she was surprised by Friday's announcement.
"To see the looks on their faces, that's why I do it; that's why I do all this, to give them the best I can," she said. "I'm glad I can give them the things that make school really cool and modern and a place they want to be."
Pennington said he felt it was important to give back to the community not only because of his connection as an athlete, but also because both his parents were teachers for more than three decades.
The Penning tons went to Marshall as well, and did their student teaching in the Barboursville and Milton areas, he said.
"This is certainly full circle for me, knowing my parents were in this area doing their student teaching in the early 1970s before I was even thought of," he said. "To be able to come back and be a part of a project like this makes a lot of sense, but also makes me excited."
Pennington said when kids know they're supported and have the right materials, it makes them feel good and encourages them to be their best.
Tennyson Thornberry, store manager of the Huntington U.S. 60 Walmart, was on hand with other Walmart employees to shuttle the boxes into the classrooms and show support for the local teachers alongside Pennington.
"It was like Christmas morning," Thornberry said. "They were just tearing into packages and it was exciting for them. It was exciting for us to see that. We live here. We work here and we are proud to be part of all these organizations."
DonorsChoose.org was founded by a Bronx teacher in 2000 and more than 3.8 million people have given $850 million to projects affecting 35 million students.
Saul had started her campaign a couple school years ago to start updating some of the older and outdated things in her classroom, which is located in an aging school. She said she wanted her classroom to be modern and nurturing, an environment students wanted to return to each day, but needed help to make that happen.
Some of the campaign items gifted Friday ranged from wobble stools so the students could move around to different desks and even ground tables, so the kids were comfy on the floor.
Saul said she felt as if a burden had been lifted.
"It definitely affects it. I have spent a lot of money on my room," she said. "My husband has gotten on to me. He's a teacher, too. He's like, 'You're spending too much money,' so this really helps our family."
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.
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CHARLESTON — A Ritchie County woman claims her father was one of nine or 10 patients who died at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, West Virginia, after they wrongfully were injected with insulin by a person who is known to federal administrators through an investigation into the deaths.
A deputy medical examiner with the U.S. Department of Defense ruled the death of Felix "Kirk" McDermott was a homicide as part of an investigation by the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General into the suspicious deaths of patients at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center, according to a statement of claim submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Investigators for Veterans Affairs have identified a person of interest in the case, but they have not disclosed the identity of that person to McDermott's family, and no criminal charges have been filed in the case, according to the claim.
The claim doesn't indicate whether the person of interest was an employee at the hospital.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail obtained a copy of the claim, filed by McDermott's daughter, Melanie Proctor. The claim only addresses the circumstances regarding McDermott's death, but it refers to the investigation into his and other deaths.
According to the claim, medical staff didn't tell McDermott's family how he died on April 9, 2018, when he was a patient being treated for pneumonia.
McDermott was a Vietnam veteran, and he retired as a sergeant to end a 20-year career with the U.S. Army. He subsequently served as a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
"If the medical examiner's conclusion is correct, Felix 'Kirk' McDermott was murdered while he was in the care and custody of the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center despite the VAMC being on notice of the previous wrongful injections," said Proctor's attorney, Tony O'Dell, with Tiano O'Dell PLLC in Charleston.
O'Dell told the Gazette-Mail on Friday that he was not aware of any other claims filed on behalf of the other potential victims in the case.
The Gazette-Mail reached out to the Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General for comment, but an office representative declined to comment as to whether there was an investigation, per office policy.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin issued a statement Friday after the production of media reports about the investigation, saying the reports were "shocking if accurate."
"I am appalled that these crimes were not only committed, but that our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country were the victims," Manchin said.
"As a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, I will do everything in my power to investigate these accusations and get to the bottom of what happened. These families and loved ones deserve answers as soon as possible, and I will make sure they get them."
Proctor, who is the executor of his estate, is seeking monetary damages, including $7,500 for funeral expenses.
If McDermott's family and the government can't resolve the claim within six months, the family will have the ability to file a lawsuit in federal court.
McDermott died after he was wrongfully injected with insulin while he was a patient at the hospital in April 2018, O'Dell said in the claim.
At the time of McDermott's death, employees at the hospital were aware of the "unexpected and suspicious" deaths from unexplained severe hypoglycemia.
"Each of these nine or 10 patients had received a large and wrongful injection of insulin in the abdomen that was neither ordered by a doctor nor medically necessary," the claim states.
McDermott did not suffer from diabetes, nor had he ever been diagnosed or taken medication for the condition, O'Dell said.
The other patients whose deaths are subject to the investigation also died as a result of being wrongfully injected with insulin in their abdomens, O'Dell said in the claim.
McDermott was admitted to the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg on April 6, 2018, for pneumonia. At the time of his admission, McDermott had been diagnosed with dementia and experienced a physical disability as a result of a stroke.
During his initial stay at the facility McDermott's health condition improved, but he unexpectedly developed shortness of breath during the morning of April 9, 2018, O'Dell said.
A blood test showed McDermott was suffering from hypoglycemia, meaning his blood sugar was "critically and profoundly" low, and medical efforts to raise it were unsuccessful.
"His condition continued to worsen, and he died from severe hypoglycemia at roughly 9 a.m. on the morning of April 9, 2018," O'Dell said. "Employees of the VAMC never explained to (retired) Army Sgt. McDermott's family the unexplained diagnosis of hypoglycemia."
McDermott's family arranged funeral services for him, and he was buried April 13, 2018.
On Oct. 23, 2018, McDermott's remains were disinterred and taken to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for an autopsy as part of the investigation into the suspicious deaths at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.
The deputy medical examiner who performed the autopsy determined his cause of death was the insulin administration and said McDermott's manner of death was a homicide.
It was during the process of this investigation that Proctor and the rest of McDermott's family learned there was evidence that her father may have died as a result of the insulin injection and that her father was one of the last known victims to have died in this manner.
"It was not until months later (after McDermott died) that government investigators contacted (retired) Army Sgt. McDermott's daughter Melanie Proctor and advised her of the earlier deaths and their belief that her father's death was not a result of natural causes," O'Dell said.
Reach Lacie Pierson at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1723 or follow @laciepierson on Twitter.
HUNTINGTON — As he prepared to head to Marshall University for his freshman year, Bradley Johnson, of Hurricane, West Virginia, turned to his cousin, already attending Marshall, for advice.
"She said Week of Welcome was the best three days and some of her favorite memories," Johnson said Friday.
"She said it was a really welcoming and informative experience. I'm having a similar experience."
The Class of 2023 was officially welcomed as sons and daughters of Marshall on Friday morning during the President's Freshman Convocation following nearly a week of events aimed at acclimating them to campus. Despite rain, the students marched down 4th Avenue with President Jerome Gilbert and the Marching Thunder drumline to the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.
The keynote speaker was Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader, a Marshall alumna.
Rader welcomed the new students to the city, which she described as progressive and vibrant.
"As a university, I like to describe Marshall as resourceful and unassuming," Rader said. "Where others see problems, our professors see solutions, and they have been heavily involved in solutions when dealing with the opioid crisis. They provide an enriched learning environment that is diverse, and frankly, quite awesome. Yet you rarely hear any boasting or bragging from Marshall University."
Rader said the university and the city have a synergistic relationship with each other.
"Together we are resilient and we have overcome disaster at great odds," she said.
She said they hope that when the students graduate, they choose to stay in Huntington, or at least West Virginia.
Rader also gave the new college students some tips for success, including don't be afraid to fail, always be kind, be humble, persevere and do one good deed a day.
"And finally — I'm a firefighter, so I have to add this one in there — never leave a candle unattended," she said.
Kayla Sprouse, of Ritchie County, West Virginia, said convocation was interesting and she enjoyed learning who else was a Marshall grad. Sprouse said she is studying medical imaging.
"Not a lot of places have medical imagining and (Marshall) has such a small, yet big campus," Sprouse said. "It's easy to find your way around, and it's really nice."
Johnson, a marketing major, said his dad went to Marshall and he grew up with Marshall spirit, but he inevitably chose Marshall because it was so welcoming.
"I knew people that went here, and they only had great things to say," he said.
His favorite part of Week of Welcome, he said, was beginning UNI 100, an introduction to Marshall and college life that all first-year students must take. They get one elective credit for completion. Johnson said the other students in his class are why it's his favorite.
Sprouse's favorite part of the week was a DIY pour art class, similarly because she got to meet new people.
Week of Welcome wraps up Saturday, Aug. 24, with Rec Fest, which brings campus and community organizations together for students. Upperclassmen move back to campus Saturday as well, with classes beginning Monday, Aug. 26.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.
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