Thursday, March 22, 2018

Trump is preparing his biggest crackdown on China’s economy yet

Beijing is warning of a possible trade war — but also hinting it’s open to a compromise.

By Zeeshan  Mar 20, 2018, 2:40pm EDT

President Donald Trump is preparing to unveil his biggest crackdown on China yet: $60 billion worth of tariffs on Chinese exports to the US. The measure is intended to punish Beijing for stealing intellectual property from American companies.

The bold move — which is expected by Friday — has prompted China to promise to reform its trade and investment practices and hint that it could come to some kind of compromise with the US.

Analysts and the US business community contend that China forces many foreign businesses to hand over their most prized technology in exchange for access to China’s coveted market. It’s an unfair practice because China’s state-owned companies then have the ability to use that tech to develop their own products — and beat the foreign businesses at their own game.

The $60 billion in annual tariffs that the US plans to impose would be applied to more than 100 Chinese products like electronics that the Trump administration says were developed using stolen trade secrets. The total number of tariffs could change before the policy is formally unveiled.

The administration also says the tariffs should create American jobs by blocking foreign competition.

In early March, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a China hawk and proponent of tariffs, reportedly presented the president with a plan to hit China with $30 billion worth of tariffs. But Trump rejected the package and asked for something bigger. It’s now looking like the White House is going for double what his top trade official recommended.

US companies that rely on Chinese imports are unhappy about the move. A number of US industries have lobbied against the proposed tariffs, arguing that they’ll raise costs for their businesses and push up the price of the many cheap Chinese goods US consumers rely on, ranging from electronics to toys to footwear. A group of 25 retail giants including Walmart and Costco sent a letter to the White House on Monday petitioning against the tariffs.

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Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are only getting worse

Facebook is in deep trouble over new revelations of how the personal data of 50 million users was accessed and used in the runup to the 2016 election. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]

The problems for Facebook started when the New York Times and the UK Observer published reports this weekend revealing that Cambridge Analytica collected the data of tens of millions of users without their permission. [NYT / Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore, and Carole Cadwalladr]

The analytics firm is owned by conservative hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, and at the time of the data leak, it was headed by Trump’s key adviser Steve Bannon. [UK Observer / Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison]

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge Analytica, characterized the data leak as a bid to use a massive amount of Facebook data to target political ads and posts to users, to “exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons.” [UK Observer / Carole Cadwalladr and Emma Graham-Harrison]

That’s all the more interesting because Trump’s 2016 campaign used Cambridge Analytica, paying them $5.9 million. (Ted Cruz’s campaign used the firm as well.) [Vox / Emily Stewart]
What Wylie is saying is that Mercer, Bannon, and other right-wing figures were using data to essentially wage a new “culture war” online, targeting people’s fears in campaigns. [Guardian / Carol Cadwalladr]

It’s important to note that this wasn’t a hack. And the news about the Facebook data breach isn’t really news; it’s been around for years. [Vox / Aja Romano]

But with the political implications of what the firm was able to do with the data, lawmakers in the US and the EU are furious and are calling for further investigations. [Vox / Zeeshan Aleem]

Beyond the question of what this means for our data, there are huge implications for Facebook’s business. The company’s stock took a nosedive amid the recent reports. [Vox / Emily Stewart]

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Lawmakers just tried — and failed — to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen

Sens. Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy had their Yemen resolution killed. The US will therefore continue to help commit war crimes in Yemen.

By Alex  Mar 20, 2018, 5:20pm EDT

A bipartisan effort to end US involvement in a bloody, three-year war in Yemen failed in a close Senate vote on Tuesday afternoon.

The vote demonstrated growing pushback on President Donald Trump’s coziness with Riyadh, which is leading the war effort in Yemen. That same day, the president met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who was visiting Washington during a country-wide tour.

A disparate group of senators — Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) — drafted and introduced the resolution to stop America’s support for the bloodshed. “This is one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time,” Sanders told Vox in an interview last week.

But the GOP-controlled Senate voted to table — that is, kill — the resolution that says America shouldn’t assist Saudi Arabia in its three-year fight against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. By a 55-44 margin, a majority of Republicans and some Democrats effectively said the US can still help Riyadh, by refueling its planes and providing intelligence in the Saudi’s brutal air campaign.

Supporters of the resolution claimed it would immediately end America’s involvement in the war; critics said it wouldn’t.

So far, the conflict has claimed more than 13,500 lives — many of them in airstrikes. Roughly 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs — including food and water — out of a prewar population of 28 million, and nearly 1 million people are suffering from cholera. However, conditions are so bad there that it is hard to have a reliable tally of any of these measures, which means the situation could be much, much worse.

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Insider reveals the bogus decision-making process behind cutting teen pregnancy prevention program

By Walter Einenkel 
Tuesday Mar 20, 2018 · 11:54 AM EDT

When the Trump administration abruptly and clandestinely pulled $213 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs, everyone knew that the “abstinence only” crowd in Trump’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Department was clearly behind it. NBC News has notes and emails showing that appointees with abstinence-only philosophies campaigned tirelessly to let down young people across the country.

The $213 million Teen Pregnancy Program was aimed at helping teenagers understand how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It had bipartisan support in Congress and trained more than 7,000 health professionals and supported 3,000 community-based organizations since its inception in 2010.

In the notes provided to NBC News, Evelyn Kappeler, who for eight years has led the Office of Adolescent Health, which administers the program, repeatedly expressed concerns about terminating the program, but appeared out of the decision-making loop and at one point was driven to tears.

The integrity of the Teen Pregnancy Program seemed pretty clear, as the United States has seen declining teen pregnancy rates for about two decades and one could very easily argue that the numerous studies showing that teen prevention programs that include sex education and contraception education work.

“The pregnancy rate for women in the United States continued to decline in 2010, to 98.7 per 1,000 women aged 15–44, a record low for the 1976–2010 period. This level was 15 percent below the 1990 peak,” wrote researchers Sally Curtin and Joyce Abma of the NCHS and Kathryn Kost of the Guttmacher Institute.

“The estimated number of pregnancies dropped to 6.155 million in 2010, the lowest number since 1986,” they added.

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The NRA finally found a school shooting it wants to talk about

By Taylor Dolven Mar 20, 2018

Usually, the National Rifle Association is silent after school shootings. But not this time.

Just hours after the gunman, 17-year-old student Austin Wyatt Rollins, died after exchanging gunfire with a school resource officer in a Maryland high school, the NRA is treating the incident as a slam dunk for its agenda. The group is now using the shooting to show why it’s better to have more “good guys with guns” in schools.

While details are still unclear, the school resource officer stopped a shooting in progress at Great Mills High School in St. Mary's County, Maryland, on Tuesday morning. The St. Mary's County Sheriff's Department, however, wouldn't confirm if the officer's bullet hit Rollins; they fired "simultaneously," a spokesman said.

The gunman had shot and critically injured a female student, with whom he had a relationship, and wounded another male student, according to the sheriff's department.

Despite the lack of clarity, the NRA didn't take long to hold the school resource officer's actions up as a victory over the “anti-gun, anti-freedom narrative.”

“Thankfully, an armed school resource officer stopped the attack by engaging with the shooter,” said NRA-TV host Grant Stinchfield. “This story is proof, when something doesn’t fit their anti-gun, anti-freedom narrative the lying news media simply doesn’t cover it.” The shooting has been covered by all the major cable news networks.

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