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Labor shortages plague midwest manufacturing towns

AJ Mast / AP

While economists and futurists are rightly concerned about the possibility of mass unemployment precipitated by automation technology, right now the U.S. economy is experiencing one of the tightest labor markets in a generation.

The immigration paradox: It's rural counties in midwest states like Indiana that have the lowest unemployment rates in America, and could therefore benefit from a bit more immigrant labor. In all, 73 U.S. counties have 2% joblessness or lower, according to government statistics.

Take, for example, Indiana' Kosciusko County, home to a third of global orthopedic device production. The Washington Post reports that manufacturers there are struggling to find workers for dozens of open positions, as the county's unemployment rate sits at a minuscule 2%.

And while the population in a lot of the former manufacturing towns of the Midwest has shrunk, many rural counties have seen it tick up. The population of the northern Indiana town of Warsaw, for instance, has gone over 14,000, from just over 12,500 in 2000, the Post reports.

But these are also the places that are culturally averse to immigration — a 2015 UCLA study pegged Indiana as the fourth most-inhospitable state to undocumented immigration.

The Fed's quandary: The U.S. central bank is raising interest rates under the presumption that such labor shortages will soon cause steep wage increases, and lead to inflation. We aren't seeing those effects just yet, and left-leaning economists argue that the Fed needs to embrace tight labor markets to help raise pay for the working class.

Zachary Basu 1 hour ago
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John Bolton super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica in 2014

John Bolton
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A super PAC led by incoming White House national security adviser John Bolton hired Cambridge Analytica in 2014 for “behavioral microtargeting with psychographic messaging,” reports the New York Times. Bolton's PAC was reportedly aware at the time that the models it received were derived from harvested Facebook data, according to former Cambridge employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie.

Why it matters: Per the Times, "Mr. Bolton’s experience with the company appears to have provided a model for how it sold itself to future political campaigns, including Mr. Trump’s." Trump, Bolton and Cambridge Analytica also share a common patron in the billionaire Mercer family, which has yet to comment on the data scandal.

Zachary Basu 2 hours ago
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At least three killed in hostage crisis in southwest France

French gendarmes block an access to Trebes, where a man took hostages at a supermarket on March 23, 2018. Photo by ERIC CABANIS/AFP/Getty Images.

A gunman killed at least three people in a supermarket in Trebes, France on Friday, before being fatally shot by police, reports BBC News.

What they're saying: The suspect, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, took several hostages and was involved in a police standoff for about three hours. Witnesses say he was heavily armed and was demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only living suspect in the 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.