Monday Sunrise Briefs: Drones attack Saudis, UAW strikes

Planet Labs Inc/Handout via REUTERS
In this satellite photo, a dark plume of smoke stretches for miles in the aftermath of the attack an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia September 14, 2019.

An Islamic rivalry escalates, and costs rise.

Two Middle Eastern Muslim nations, one Sunni, one Shiite, are teetering on the brink of direct war. Saudi Arabia lost half its oil output after drones and cruise missiles attacked its facilities Saturday. Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility. But U.S. and Saudi officials say the attack came from Iran or southern Iraq, where Iran backs Shiite militias. Iran denies involvement. In any case, oil prices rose Monday. Higher oil and gas prices can be a drag on the global economy. The Saudis produce about 10 percent of the world's oil and tend to act as a counterweight on volatile price swings. Some analysts forecast $100 per barrel prices if Saudi repairs take more than a month. Iran, under debilitating U.S. sanctions over its foray into nuclear weapons, is also suspected of attacking ships in the Persian Gulf, another tactic that pushes up oil prices (which benefits Iran's economy). 

Among the questions we're considering: How will Saudi Arabia respond to this provocation? What's the U.S. role? Is this attack about the Iranians trying to strengthen their hand ahead of a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in New York next week? 

Why We Wrote This

Good morning! Welcome to your Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, sunrise briefing.

Here are three news events from this past weekend (while you were deep-sea fishing, watching soccer, and enjoying an offline life). Also, what to look for in the news coming this week.

2. Rebalancing process: Some 49,000 union workers at 55 General Motors plants in the U.S. went on strike at midnight Sunday, shutting down its auto production in the U.S., and likely Canada and Mexico. For car buyers, that means fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and no new orders - or delivery of - specially ordered cars and trucks. 

The United Auto Workers union seeks better wages, profit sharing, and health care benefits. GM is balking at wage hikes, but says it's willing to share profits. GM says it needs to narrow a competitive pay gap with foreign automakers. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at foreign-owned U.S. factories. 

3. Justice for the justice? Several Democratic candidates running for president called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The Sunday calls came after The New York Times reported a sexual misconduct accusation from another former Yale classmate of Mr. Kavanaugh's, a man, who tried to tip off the FBI last year, but was ignored. An impeachment process could start in the House, which Democrats control. But the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, would unlikely remove the justice from office. President Trump tweeted Sunday that Kavanaugh "should start suing people for libel."

REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Victory dance? Supporters of jailed presidential candidate Nabil Karoui celebrate in Tunis. Exit polls show a second-place finish for Karoui in the first round of the Tunisian presidential election, September 15, 2019. Official results are expected in a few days.

Look ahead

Tuesday, Sept. 17

Israeli elections, a Do Over: Voters return to the polls for the second time in six months. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister won in April but failed to form a coalition government. This time it's a close race with centrist Benny Gantz. Mr. Netanyahu is galvanizing his right-wing base and, controversially, promised to annex parts of the West Bank, if he wins.

A democracy with integrity: Facebook, Google, and Twitter execs are expected to attend a Federal Election Commission meeting in Washington, D.C. to "identify effective policy approaches and practical tools that can minimize the disruption and confusion sown by fraudulent news and propaganda in the 2020 campaign," reports Politico. 

Wednesday, Sept. 18

Lower interest rates:  To keep the U.S. economy from stalling, the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank is expected to lower interest rates Wednesday. 

Managing free speech: Google, Facebook, and Twitter execs are scheduled to appear at a US Senate panel hearing on political extremism and mass shootings.

Friday, Sept. 20

Swedish Miss mass movement: Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg says the U.S. has "a moral responsibility" to address climate change and has inspired students worldwide to hold Friday strikes to raise awareness of the issue. This Friday, an intergenerational event is planned in Washington to kick off a week of climate "strikes" by workers worldwide.  

Generosity watch

Giving doesn’t subtract. It multiplies. Six-year-old Jermaine Bell of Jacksonville, Florida. learned that lesson while visiting his grandmother in South Carolina. For about a year, he’d been saving money for a trip to Walt Disney World. But Jermaine decided those fleeing Hurricane Dorian needed help. He gave away free hot dogs, chips, and water to about 100 evacuees who passed by on Highway 125 in Allendale, S.C. "I wanted them to have some food to eat, so they can enjoy the ride to the place that they’re going to stay at, Jermaine told WJBF-TV in Augusta, Ga.. "I wanted to be generous and live to give." His generosity didn’t go unnoticed. A few days later, Disney characters showed up at his seventh birthday party. Jermaine and his family got a free pass to Disney and Delta Airlines donated the flight

Hidden gem

Start your week with a recent story that inspired Monitor editors and readers:

NASA eyes the ocean: How the deep sea could unlock outer space

Sneak preview

In tonight’s Daily Edition, watch for our story about Avigdor Lieberman, the nationalist, who's likely to be the Israeli kingmaker in Parliament after Tuesday's election.

Finally, the Monitor’s five best stories in Friday’s subscription-only Daily Edition:

  1. Will backlash against Big Tech play into China’s hands?
  2. Amid rubble in Kabul, fatigue with ‘talking while fighting’
  3. An unlikely tool to help assault survivors: consumer protection law
  4. The Islamist who would be president
  5. ‘It’s not sci-fi anymore.’ Astronomers find water vapor on distant planet.

This is a beta test. This is an experiment with an early Monday morning news update. Please give us your feedback via the link below and let us know what you think. Thank you!

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