Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Golan Heights

Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump

President Donald Trump’s support for Israeli authority over the Golan Heights garnered immediate praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. | Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States will formally recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” the president tweeted.

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Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War in 1967, and effectively annexed the territory in 1981.

During a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in Israel, Netanyahu urged the United States to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the area, The New York Times reported.

Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision shortly after the president’s announcement.

“At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu tweeted. “Thank you President Trump! @realDonaldTrump”`

Netanyahu will meet with Trump at the White House for a working meeting on March 25 to “discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East.” The prime minister will also attend a White House dinner on March 26.

Netanyahu’s trip to the White House comes several weeks ahead of the Israeli elections, where the prime minister is facing a tough reelection battle.

While speaking to reporters on Thursday in Israel prior to Trump’s announcement, Pompeo declined to confirm whether the U.S. was considering recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

“I don’t have anything to say about that,” he told reporters. “The administration’s considering lots of things always, and I try to make sure we get to answers before we talk about them publicly.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has strongly advocated for Israel, called on Congress to also recognize the president’s request.

“President Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan as part of Israel is strategically wise and overall awesome,” Graham tweeted. “Well done, Mr. President! Now I, along with Senator @tedcruz, will try to get Congress to follow your lead.”

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‘Suffocating smell of death’ as SDF attacks last ISIL pocket

Asmar al-Bahr says he saw scores of bodies strewn across ISIL‘s last encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz and stockpiles of weapons.

However, it was the “suffocating smell of death” that he worries he may never forget.

Bahr is a photographer with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US-backed group fighting ISIL in Baghouz. He says he went to the village on Tuesday, hours after fierce fighting the night before.

“I talked to several Daesh fighters,” he told Al Jazeera on the phone, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL. 

“There were Russians, Swedish, Germans [and others],” Bahr said on Thursday. “Many of them told me that they never surrendered and will come back for the heads of the infidels; some of them said they regretted joining Daesh but just couldn’t leave easily so they stayed.”

On February 9, the SDF began an operation to wipe out the remnants of ISIL from Baghouz in Deir Az Zor province, the group’s final holdout on the Syria-Iraq border.

Since then, ISIL has been said to be near to defeat at any moment, any day, any hour. The operation undertaken this week has pushed ISIL fighters to the tiniest part of the sliver of territory it has been holding on to, SDF says.

‘Hiding in caves’

According to maps posted on Twitter by SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali, the remaining ISIL fighters and their family members are squeezed in a few hundred metres along a stretch of the Euphrates River.

However, Bali urged caution against a premature declaration. “SDF is in control of Daesh encampment area in Baghouz,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“This is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight against Daesh. Clashes are continuing as a group of ISIS terrorists who are confined into a tiny area still fight back.”

A day later, US President Donald Trump appeared ready to declare for the second time victory over ISIL – the first being in December last year.

Those left, he said on Wednesday, would be “gone by tonight”.

Ahmad Sultan Abu Araj, deputy commander of Jaish al-Thwar, the Arab contingent with the Kurdish-dominated SDF, said on Thursday that Trump’s comments came too early.

“The US president has said the same thing before and no liberation was announced,” Abu Araj said. In the commander’s estimation, there were still obstacles to cross and sometime before victory was announced.

“The declaration would be by the end of March or the beginning of April, if nothing unexpected happened, after we make sure that Daesh is completely over,” Abu Araj said.

“Still Daesh fighters may be hiding in the caves at the Euphrates bank east of Baghouz and near the camp. Those caves might be linked to the desert of Iraq or Deir Az Zor via tunnels, we don’t know. We are about 500-1,000 metres away from them.”

Remaining cautious

Asmar, the photographer, argued that “there will be no announcement” for Baghouz’s “liberation” before “the full transfer of weapons and before SDF clears the area”.

“There are lots of trucks in Baghouz to clear the dead bodies,” he said.

Since the operation began, at least 60,000 people, mostly women and children, have left Baghouz and are now in the al-Hol camp in Hasakah in northeastern Syria.

Thousands of ISIL fighters have been detained in makeshift prisons by the SDF. Those remaining in Baghouz are believed to be die-hard ISIL fighters, along with family members unwilling to surrender.

The SDF has said its operation was slowed down to avoid harming women and children.

According to interviews of SDF leaders previously reported on Al Jazeera, the delay has also been a result of negotiations between SDF and ISIL over the release of hostages – Westerners, Kurds and Arabs.

But they have largely seemed to fail.

Ahmad Sultan Abu Araj, the SDF’s Arab commander, said that there was no confirmed information about the hostages.

“We haven’t had any information about the hostages, but if they were still alive then they would be used to apply pressure in the future. We still don’t know where they are. Maybe they are being held by ISIS leaders in the desert, or maybe they are dead,” Abu Araj said.

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Israel, anti-Semitism and 2020 fight on display as AIPAC gathers

Bibi Netanyahu at AIPAC

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference on March 6, 2018. This year’s gathering comes at an extraordinarily turbulent moment in U.S.-Israeli relations. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The politics of Israel, anti-Semitism and the 2020 presidential campaign will move to center stage in Washington over the next few days as the powerful pro-Israel group AIPAC holds its annual policy conference and President Donald Trump prepares to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

The dual meetings come as Trump pushes his party ever closer to Israel — most recently with a Thursday announcement that the U.S. will recognize Israel’s annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights — and Democrats face an internal debate over their party’s support for arguably the most important U.S. ally in the Middle East.

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This year’s three-day AIPAC forum will include appearances by Netanyahu and his political rival, Benny Gantz. It will also feature speeches from Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and an array of lawmakers from both parties.

The annual gathering comes at an extraordinarily turbulent moment in U.S.-Israeli relations. Unconditional support for Israel was once sacrosanct in American politics, a topic so touchy that a mere misstep or faint flub could damage a politician’s career.

But with Netanyahu making a critical election-season trip to the United States, Israel has become a partisan football, with Trump’s Republican Party on one side, and a new generation of Democrats, including the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, on the other.

Under Trump, the GOP has moved in lockstep with Israel and Netanyahu. Just on Thursday, Trump recognized Israeli control over the Golan Heights, a provocative move that no other American president would even dream of doing during the last 50-plus years.

While the White House has signaled the announcement was coming for weeks, it was still seen as a major boost for Netanyahu, who gushed that Trump “is the greatest friend Israel ever had in our entire history” as he stood next to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu will join Trump at the White House next Monday and Tuesday. It’s the Israeli prime minister’s second visit to the White House since Trump took office. The two leaders are scheduled to meet on Monday to “discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East.” On Tuesday, Trump will host Netanyahu for dinner, according to the White House. The Israeli elections are scheduled for April 9, with Netanyahu and Gantz — a former general and Israeli army chief of staff — locked in a tight contest.

Trump, meanwhile, has also seized on anti-Semitic comments by Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) to claim “Democrats hate Jewish people,” a raw partisan comment that outraged Democrats. Pompeo even singled out Omar by name during a Thursday interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, an extraordinary move by an American diplomat engaged in official business overseas.

“The rise of anti-Semitism in the United States and in Europe and in, frankly, all across the world is something that is deeply troubling, and to see someone – a duly elected congressman – behave in that way, to speak about anti-Semitism in that way, is of great concern,” Pompeo said.

And Trump is pushing the so-called “Jexodus movement,” which is aimed at convincing Jewish Democrats to switch parties.

“The ‘Jexodus’ movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democrat Party. Total disrespect! Republicans are waiting with open arms,” Trump tweeted just last week. There’s no sign that the effort has had any success – surveys show Jewish voters remain overwhelmingly Democratic – but Trump’s efforts are clearly aimed at helping his own reelection effort next year.

Democrats, for their part, are wrestling with the question over U.S. relations with Israel, a dispute that crosses the lines of race, religion and age.

Newly elected Democratic lawmakers such as Omar and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) – the first two Muslim women elected to Congress – have bashed Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians. Omar’s criticism of AIPAC and the support Jewish-American voters have for Israel touched off a national furor over anti-Semitism, and Omar later apologized for some of those remarks. The House has twice passed resolutions condemning such comments, yet the controversy over Omar continues to reverberate inside the party.

And while numerous Democratic lawmakers will speak at the three-day AIPAC forum, not one top-tier Democratic presidential candidate will be in attendance.

In fact, Democratic frontrunners — including Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — had no problem highlighting the fact they would be skipping the gathering. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is weighing a presidential bid, will speak at the event.

O’Rourke has said repeatedly that Netanyahu “openly sided with racists” in order to help save his embattled political career, while a Sanders’ spokesman told the Associated Press the Vermont Democrat is “concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution.”

But a large bloc of other Democrats remain unquestionably aligned with Israel, despite their queasiness with Netanyahu’s tenure. These Democrats have raised concerns about the tenor of Israel criticism among Democrats, including Omar, both in public and private.

In a statement to POLITICO on Thursday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) signaled that he backed Trump’s announcement on the Golan Heights.

“Israel has controlled the Golan Heights for over 50 years. The Syrian civil war and the resultant presence of extremists on Israel’s northern border, including Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and ISIS, underscores the importance of Israeli control of this strategic area,” Engel said in his statement. “This is the reality of the situation, and there is no circumstance under which Israel should give that strategic advantage to the murderous Assad regime.”

A pair of Jewish Democrats are also pushing a new measure to condemn an international boycott campaign aimed at Israel — the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement — a chance for much of the party to unify around support for the key U.S. ally after weeks of turmoil on the issue.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution Thursday that denounces BDS efforts as “incompatible” with the official U.S. stance on a two-state solution to end the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a letter to colleagues Thursday, Nadler and Schneider described the global attempt to economically isolate Israel as an “overly-simplistic and one-sided approach.”

“Its goal is Israel’s elimination, not the criticism of any particular policy of Israel,” they wrote of BDS, which has been cheered by some outside progressive groups as the best tool to force a change in Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

The language on a two-state solution — which both parties have stuck by for years — is expected to be widely supported in the House. The resolution includes two GOP cosponsors: Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

Yet it could also expose a leftward shift among Democrats, with new members like Omar and Tlaib supporting such boycotts.

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This 19-year-old is paying her way through college by naming over 677,000 Chinese babies

The process takes just three minutes.

“I provide three appropriate names for the parent to choose from and I encourage them to involve their friends and family in this decision,” said Jessup.

Initially, Jessup provided the service for free. But after naming 162,000 babies, she introduced a fee of 60 pence (79 cents).

At the time of writing, the site has named 677,929 babies. By CNBC Make It’s estimations, that amounts to revenues of £309,557.40 (around $407,443).

Jessup noted in an interview with that those earnings have gone toward paying her university fees, investing in property and, of course, paying back her father’s loan — with interest.

As for the website, it is largely self-sufficient, requiring just a small team in China to manage its technical operations.

“I still update the database each month, but the business is fully automated, allowing me to focus full-time on my studies,” said Jessup, who is studying social anthropology at the London School of Economics.

Beau said she is currently in negotiations with a company who “shares my vision for Special Name” and wishes to purchase the business. Meanwhile, she plans to use the experience for future business endeavors.

“I hope to use what I have learned from Special Name so that I can add value to other businesses,” said Jessup.

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DeVos strikes out — in court

Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other conservatives have said that the previous administration’s approach was too lenient and costly to taxpayers. | Alex Wong/Getty Images


Judges have rebuffed the education secretary’s attempts to pause or change a range of Obama-era policies.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempts to swiftly roll back major Obama-era policies at her agency are hitting a roadblock: federal courts.

Judges have rebuffed DeVos’ attempts to change Obama policies dealing with everything from student loan forgiveness to mandatory arbitration agreements to racial disparities in special education programs.

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As a result, the Education Department is being forced to carry out Obama-era policies that the Trump administration had been fighting to stop — stymying DeVos’ efforts to quickly impose a conservative imprint on federal education policy over the past two years.

The latest legal blow came earlier this month, when a federal judge ruled DeVos illegally postponed a regulation requiring states to identify school districts where there are significant racial disparities among the students placed in special education programs. And last week, Education Department officials began implementing a sweeping package of Obama-era student loan policies after DeVos lost a lawsuit over delaying them last fall.

The department already had to forgive $150 million in student debt under those policies, which DeVos argues are too costly to taxpayers and unfair to colleges. Department officials also directed colleges to stop requiring students to sign mandatory arbitration agreements, forcing them to implement an Obama-era policy that largely bans the practice.

More legal challenges are in the pipeline. A federal judge allowed a challenge to DeVos’ delay of rules governing online colleges to proceed. And a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s delays of the Obama administration’s signature regulations aimed at cracking down on for-profit colleges is ripe for a decision at any time.

Judges in the cases decided so far have said the Trump administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedures Act, ruling that the department’s efforts to delay policies were arbitrary or lacked a reasoned basis.

“It speaks to the Department of Education’s unwillingness or inability to follow the basic law around how federal agencies conduct themselves,” said Toby Merrill, who directs the Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending, which has brought some of the lawsuits against DeVos.

Every administration has wins and losses in court, Merrill said, but most have done better at making sure they follow the legal rules of the road for rulemaking.

“At the very least, they cross their T’s and dot their I’s and therefore are less vulnerable to some of the procedural challenges that have been the undoing of so many of this Department of Education’s policies,” she said.

In rebuking the Trump administration’s efforts to delay the policies, judges have largely focused on procedural problems. The federal judge striking down DeVos’ postponement of student loan regulations called her delays “unlawful,” “procedurally invalid,” and “arbitrary and capricious.” The judge who rejected the delay of a special education rule faulted DeVos for failing to provide a “reasoned explanation” for stopping the policy.

The administration is committed to correcting the regulatory overreach of the prior administration and will continue to make the case for fair and appropriate regulatory reform in the courts,” Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill said.

Many of the policies at issue in the lawsuits have dealt with student loan forgiveness. The Obama administration began forgiving the debts of some students who it determined were defrauded by their college following the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, a massive for-profit chain of colleges.

DeVos and other conservatives have said that the previous administration’s approach was too lenient and costly to taxpayers. But the Trump administration’s effort to scale back the amount of loan forgiveness for some defrauded student loan borrowers has been blocked in court.

The judge ruled in that case that the Education Department violated federal privacy law when it came up with a new formula for loan forgiveness that tied the amount of debt relief a borrower would receive with average graduate earnings at an academic program. The Trump administration has appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit, where it remains pending.

In another case involving Obama-era regulations that call for more consumer disclosures to students of online colleges, a judge chastised the Trump administration’s arguments in favor of delaying them.

The judge wrote in that it “takes chutzpah” for the Education Department to say that it would be too burdensome for colleges to provide the disclosures to students while also arguing that students “should be able to hunt down this undisclosed information on their own.” The judge hasn’t ruled on the merits of the case, which is being brought by a teachers union, but allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

The Obama Education Department also faced legal setbacks to its regulatory agenda. A federal judge dealt a blow to the Obama administration’s first attempt to tighten regulations on for-profit schools and other career colleges, which officials rewrote during Obama’s second term. The Obama administration was similarly forced to redo another set of rules governing online college programs after a federal judge tossed them out. More recently, a federal judge found that the Obama administration’s decision to terminate a large accreditor of for-profit colleges illegally failed to properly consider tens of thousands of pages of evidence.

The Trump administration welcomed that decision, immediately reinstating the college accreditor.

And the Trump Education Department, to be sure, has also had some victories in court. A federal judge last year dismissed most of a lawsuit brought by advocacy groups challenging DeVos’ new guidance for how colleges must address sexual assault.

But the Trump administration overall has been on a particularly noteworthy losing streak in the courts, according to a Washington Post report this week that analyzed data maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law.

The legal setbacks to DeVos’ efforts to stop Obama-era policies at the Education Department also come as the Trump administration has faced a well-organized coalition of consumer groups, state Democratic attorneys general and oversight organizations run by many Obama administration alumni, all of whom are focused on challenging the Trump administration’s agenda at every turn.

“This administration likes to pretend the rules don’t apply to them,” said Aaron Ament, a former Education Department official during the Obama administration who has brought legal challenges against DeVos as head of the National Student Legal Defense Network.

“The Administrative Procedures Act does not say ‘check with your corporate supporters, and do whatever they ask,’” Ament said. “As long as DeVos keeps on acting based on political expediency instead of what’s best for students, she’ll keep getting challenged and she’ll keep losing in court.”

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Vietnam’s last public letter writer, ‘a witness of Saigon’

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – As Ho Chi Minh City’s iconic French colonial architecture fades away and shiny skyscrapers punctuate the new skyline in the Southeast Asia megacity of 13 million people, there is one man who might be the last vestige of Vietnam’s colonial past.

Duong Van Ngo is the only remaining public writer and still pens letters from the grand 19th century Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, built when Vietnam was still a part of French Indochina. 

Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam before the war and the named changed to Ho Chi Minh City after North Vietnam overtook the city in 1975. Many Vietnamese, especially in the south, and foreigners still refer to the city as Saigon.

Duong Van Ngo held various jobs at the post office before becoming a letter writer.

“I began to work for the post office when I was only 16, in 1946,” the 89-year-old told Al Jazeera, speaking at Saigon Central Post Office.

Every morning, he tapes a piece of paper with the words “Public Writer” in French, Vietnamese and English on a panel near his wooden table, completing his makeshift office. 

A large painting of Ho Chi Minh hangs on a nearby wall.

The Saigon Central Post Office remains one of the most famous landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City and a symbol of French colonial architecture in the city [Valerie Plesch/Al Jazeera]

Ngo has written letters for hundreds of people in Vietnamese, English and French in the past 28 years. 

There were three other public writers when he joined, but they have since all passed away.

He learned French when he was seven years old, which was normal growing up under French colonial rule. English came later, when he was 36 and taught by American instructors.

As he approaches 90, he still travels to work every day on his bicycle. 

“Going to work, I feel more joyous than to stay at home,” Ngo said. “I still can serve the public, serve the society.”

But he realises that his profession as a translator and letter writer is becoming redundant given the internet.

“There are many places to make translations but they do not work directly [with people]. Here, I work directly with the people.”

The interior of the Saigon Central Post Office. The building was completed in 1891 when Vietnam was part of French Indochina [Valerie Plesch/Al Jazeera]

At 8am every morning, he unpacks his black leather bag, placing a magnifying glass and a weathered copies of English-Vietnamese dictionaries on his table.

Inside the dictionaries, he has scribbled notes marking his own expressions and meanings next to the words. 

He also sells postcards to visitors who want him to write something on the spot for 5,000 dong (around 22 cents). He doesn’t charge for his writing, though most customers give him a generous tip.

Most of his visitors are tourists.

But a few people who have known him for 40 years still come to see him at work, such as 60-year-old Mai Dang Guesdon.

“Chao Chu,” she says, the polite way to address an older man in Vietnamese that is akin to “uncle”.

Guesdon was on holiday from France, where she has made her home.

Duong Van Ngo writes a postcard for a tourist at the Saigon Central Post Office [Valerie Plesch/Al Jazeera]

She used Ngo’s services in the 1990s to write love letters to her French boyfriend, who she had met in Vietnam while working as a tour guide .

She didn’t speak any French and relied on Ngo to communicate with her now husband. She still keeps the letters written at her home in France.

“It was him who translated for me for many years,” she said. “He works with all his heart … He likes to work; he likes words and letters … He loves French words.”

When asked about writing love letters, Ngo laughed and said: “I only translate them. I do not write them myself.”

During the day, curious tourists come to chat to Ngo. 

Some ask him to write letters or postcards for friends and family back in their home countries.

Kim Liong, 40, from Malaysia, said: “It’s like back to the 60s, the olden days. That is how I feel and I love it. If you look at the handwriting, it’s beautiful. You can see that he trained a lot.”

Duong Van Ngo prepares his writing desk early in the morning inside the Saigon Central Post Office [Valerie Plesch/Al Jazeera]

Chi Pham, 32, is a tour guide and brings visitors to meet Ngo.

“Every time I take people to the post office, I always try to find him. He’s 89 years old already, and I don’t know how many more times we can see him,” she said. 

“As a tour guide, I talk to the people about the city. If there’s something I don’t know, I can ask him, he will explain to me.”

Under Vietnam’s economic and political reforms under Doi Moi in the mid-1980s, Ho Chi Minh City went through a major facelift as foreign investment poured into the city.

“He’s like a witness of Saigon, the one who got the French education during the French era and then before 1975, the democratic time in Saigon or in South Vietnam,” said Pham. “And now, he still appears here in the modern post office. He is the one from the past who still exists here, so it’s very special.”

When asked how much longer he plans on working at the post office office, Ngo said: “I do not know. That depends on God.”

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There’s one reason why stocks are doing just fine despite worries about earnings and the economy

Supportive monetary policy from the Fed is nothing new. In fact, it has been the norm ever since the financial crisis.

After the financial crisis, the Fed slashed rates to zero and launched three quantitative easing programs, also known as “QE.” This largely accommodative stance helped spark the longest bull market in U.S. stocks history as companies used those low rates to fund expansion and, most importantly, buy back their own stock. The S&P 500 is up more than 300 percent since is post-financial crisis low.

However, some investors worry the Fed may not be able to shield the stock market from the next downturn, which could be around the corner.

U.S. economic data have been weak recently. The Citi Economic Surprise Index is deep in negative territory and recently hit its lowest level since the summer of 2017. A negative read on the index signals economic data are underperforming economist expectations. The Fed itself also trimmed its economic growth forecast for 2019.

Investors have been loading up on Treasurys as the U.S. economic data weakens. The benchmark 10-year yield hit its lowest level in a year on Wednesday following the Fed’s announcement. Treasurys are considered a safer investment than equities.

Slower economic growth “will make its way into corporate balance sheets. It will be reflected again in corporate earnings,” said Komal Sri-Kumar, president of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies. “Previously when that happened, the Fed was able to start a QE2 or QE3 and then reinvigorate corporate earnings. But 10 years after the last crisis, they may not be able to do that trick again.”

Corporate profits are expected to be lackluster for the first quarter of 2019. FactSet data show analysts expect first-quarter S&P 500 earnings to fall a year-over-year basis.

Some companies, including FedEx, UBS and BMW have all issued negative commentary on their quarters and the rest of 2019. FedEx’s CFO said earlier this week that “slowing international macroeconomic conditions and weaker global trade growth trends continue.” BMW also said it seeks to cut more than $13 billion in costs this year while UBS said the first quarter could be one of its worst one’s ever.

“It’s important to look at what FedEx said and they’re saying growth is slowing,” said Thomas Thornton, president and founder of Hedge Fund Telemetry. “Stocks are bid higher on this hope for a second-half recovery. I just don’t think the Fed is seeing a second-half recovery if they are pausing like this. I think they’re seeing some risk and that is with a lot of debt.”

But for now, stocks continue climbing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 100 points on Thursday, powered by shares of Apple.

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