Amazon Reveals Very Long Short List of 20 Cities for HQ2 – Trending Stuff

Amazon.com Inc. narrowed the field of cities for its proposed new headquarters to 20, with New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Toronto among the contenders.

Seattle-based Amazon solicited proposals in September for its second corporate seat, a project that’s expected to cost more than $5 billion and create 50,000 high-paying jobs over the next 10 to 15 years. The company received proposals from 238 locations, including from smaller markets like Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee. The retailer plans to make a decision this year and will continue discussions with the finalists, it said in a statement Thursday.

Amazon’s Great HQ2 Search ignited a reality TV-style competition among governors, mayors and bureaucrats across the U.S. and Canada. Civic boosters didn’t let long odds of success deter them, and the public relations stunts were legion. Birmingham, Alabama, erected a massive Amazon shipping box outside a new hip food hall to announce the city’s bid. The city council in Stonecrest, Georgia, voted to let the ecommerce giant form its own City of Amazon.

The company said it created a shortlist because it was difficult engaging with so many applicants, but winnowing competitors down to a chosen few is a staple of reality TV — and sparked yet more publicity.

Read more: These cities didn’t make Amazon’s first cut

The spectacle is also good optics for Amazon in the age of Trump. The U.S. President and Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos have publicly sparred over sales taxes and jobs, but a commitment to spend $5 billion and create 50,000 high paying positions fits into Trump’s call for companies to manufacture and hire American. (Unless, of course, Toronto wins the bid.)

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Earlier this week Apple Inc. also announced plans for a second corporate campus somewhere in the U.S. and said it would add another 20,000 employees. The company also said it plans about $30 billion in capital expenditures over the next five years.

Whatever city gets chosen will be transformed by Amazon, which has already changed the character of its native Seattle, setting in motion a building boom and rising rents. High paying tech jobs can permanently transform a region and raise the political prospects of the leader who helped seal the deal.

Amazon has said its preferences for the site include a metropolitan location with a population of more than 1 million, mass transit, proximity to an international flight hub and the potential to retain and attract technical talent.

The list reveals little in terms of geographic preferences, with finalists on both coasts and the heartland.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” Holly Sullivan, of Amazon Public Policy, said in a statement. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Trump tweets on lives ‘being shattered … by a mere allegation’ – Trending Stuff

(CNN)President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to lament that “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation” in the wake of the resignations of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter and speechwriter David Sorensen following allegations of domestic abuse.

Porter abruptly resigned from his post at the White House on Wednesday amid abuse allegations from two ex-wives, who detailed to CNN what they said were years of consistent abuse from Porter, including incidents of physical violence. Porter has denied those allegations, calling them “outrageous allegations are simply false.”
Trump told reporters on Friday that Porter’s departure was “very sad” and that “he did a very good job while he was in the White House.” The President did not express any sympathy for the women Porter allegedly abused, instead focusing on Porter’s claim of innocence.
White House chief of staff John Kelly knew for months about some claims that Porter physically and emotionally battered two ex-wives, yet didn’t conduct an internal investigation into their veracity, sources told CNN. In that time, Porter’s stock in the White House continued to rise. By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining a security clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff.
Sorensen also resigned this week after being accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife, White House spokesman Raj Shah confirmed Friday. Sorensen denied the allegations, saying he has “never committed violence of any kind against any woman in my entire life,” and alleging that he “was the victim of repeated physical violence” during his marriage.

Backlash

Trump’s tweet drew backlash from some on social media, including third-ranking Senate Democrat Patty Murray.

“Women’s lives are upended every day by sexual violence and harassment. I’m going to keep standing with them, and trusting them, even if the President won’t,” the Washington senator tweeted, along with a subtweet of Trump’s original message.

The Senate’s most senior member, Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont, also expressed support for victims.

“As a former prosecutor, I’ve been amazed by the bravery & sacrifice required of victims to come forward. Their lives are forever changed,” Leahy tweeted. “Due process is critical, but it can’t be a pretext for not believing women. We don’t need to see photos of bruises to know that.”
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California slammed the President’s comment, tweeting: “Apparently his motto is when they go low, he goes even lower.”
“I do agree with @POTUS on one thing he said today, #domesticviolence does destroy lives, literally,” she added. “3 American women are murdered every day by their husband or boyfriend.”
Trump’s spoken defense of Porter also drew ire, including from at least one member of his own party. Former New Jersey Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman tweeted: “The fact that @realDonaldTrump praised Porter and said not a word about his abusive behavior or his former wives is typical of the WH attitude toward women and abuse.”

“Our children must learn a different lesson,” she added.

Trump’s history of lobbing allegations

Despite his call for “due process,” Trump has a history of issuing condemnations and promulgating conspiracies based on “a mere allegation.”
He repeatedly questioned former President Barack Obama’s nationality and the legitimacy of his American birth certificate over the course of several years, tweeting in August 2012 that “an ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Although he publicly acknowledged Obama’s citizenship in September 2016, Trump reportedly continued to privately question it as recently as November 2017.
In June 2016, Trump faced widespread backlash for alleging that US District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was then overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University, had “an inherent conflict of interest” due to his Mexican heritage and calling for his recusal in the case.

“I’m building a wall. I’m trying to keep business out of Mexico. Mexico’s fine,” Trump said. “He’s of Mexican heritage, and he’s very proud of it, as I am of where I come from.”

Curiel was born in Indiana.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump would address massive crowds to chants of “lock her up,” referencing his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The chant stems from questions surrounding Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state.

During the campaign, Trump called Clinton ‘guilty as hell‘ and said she should “go to jail” over her email use, citing a potential breach of national security.
However, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch did not pursue charges against Clinton.

Trump’s tendency to call for justice even if the circumstances seem questionable dates back to well before his time in the political sphere.

Trump pushed for the death penalty in the Central Park Five case, telling Larry King in 1989, “maybe hate is what we need if we’re gonna get something done.”

At the time, Trump had bought full-page ads that ran in various New York City newspapers that read,”Bring Back The Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

Those convicted of the attack on a jogger in Manhattan’s Central Park were exonerated years later after someone else confessed to the crime.

Categories CNN

Apple Plans Giant High-End iPhone, Lower-Priced Model – Trending Stuff

Apple Inc. is preparing to release a trio of new smartphones later this year: the largest iPhone ever, an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the flagship phone’s key features.

With the new lineup, Apple wants to appeal to the growing number of consumers who crave the multitasking attributes of so-called phablets while also catering to those looking for a more affordable version of the iPhone X, according to people familiar with the products.

Apple, which is already running production tests with suppliers, is expected to announce the new phones this fall. The plans could still change, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Despite months of breathless hype, the iPhone X hasn’t sold as well as expected since its debut last year. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the final quarter of 2017, below analysts’ projections of 80.2 million units. Some consumers were turned off by the iPhone X’s $1,000 price despite liking the design but wanted something more cutting-edge than the cheaper iPhone 8. With its next lineup, Apple is seeking to rekindle sales by offering a model for everyone.

“This is a big deal,” says Gene Munster, a co-founder of Loup Ventures and a long-time Apple watcher. “When you have a measurable upgrade in screen size, people go to update their phone in droves. We saw that with the iPhone 6, and we think this is setting up to be a similar step up in growth.”

Munster predicts a supercycle — which he defines as upgrades by 10 percent or more of Apple’s existing iPhone customers. “The market that will see the biggest jump in sales is likely Asia,” he says. “That market has many single-device consumers, and they love big phones.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. The shares gained 2.1 percent to $179.18 at 2:16 p.m. in New York.

Read more: How Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 compares to the iPhone X

With a screen close to 6.5 inches, Apple’s big new handset will be one of the largest mainstream smartphones on the market. While the body of the phone will be about the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus, the screen will be about an inch larger thanks to the edge-to-edge design used in the iPhone X. (Apple is unlikely to refer to the phone as a phablet, a term popularized by Samsung.)

The larger screen should especially appeal to business users, letting them write emails and manage spreadsheets on a screen about as big as a small tablet. Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the new handset will probably enable split-screen modes for certain apps. Still, the larger phone could cannibalize iPad sales, a category that recently started growing again.

The big phone is code named D33, a person familiar with its development says, and at least some prototypes include a screen resolution of 1242 x 2688. That would make the screen about as sharp as the one on the 5.8-inch iPhone X. Apple also plans to use OLED technology, the same, more expensive type of screen in the regular iPhone X.

Like the iPhone X, the larger model will include a Face ID scanner that unlocks the device and enables payments. Apple is also preparing an update to the regular-sized iPhone X that is internally dubbed D32, people familiar with the product said. Both of these phones are expected to use next-generation A12 processors and will continue to include stainless steel edges, they say, and will be Apple’s high-end smartphone offerings.

Apple is considering a gold color option for the update to the iPhone X and the larger model. The company tried to develop gold for the current X handset, but abandoned it because of production problems. All new iPhones since the 5s came in gold, including the iPhone 8. The gold option is especially appealing to consumers in Asia and may help boost sales in the region. Still, Apple may ultimately decide not to proceed with the color.

In at least some regions, Apple is considering offering a dual-SIM card option for the larger model. That would let people use their phones in countries with different carrier plans without having to swap out cards. Such a feature has been growing in importance and popularity, especially in Europe and Asia where business people routinely visit multiple countries.

Apple hasn’t made a final decision on including the feature and could choose to wait for E-SIM technology, which will connect phones to multiple networks without the need for a removable chip. Apple has wanted to offer E-SIM technology (it already exists in the iPad and Apple Watch), but some carriers are resistant to including it in iPhones, and Apple needs their support. A dual-SIM capability would provide a compromise.

The phones will have an updated operating system, probably called iOS 12 and code named Peace, which will include upgraded augmented reality capabilities, deeper integration of the Siri digital assistant, digital health monitoring and the ability to use Animojis in FaceTime.

Apple’s decision to also build a cheaper phone is an acknowledgment that the current entry-level 8 models too closely resemble the iPhone 6 introduced back in 2014. With their thick bezels and lack of edge-to-edge screens, they seem dated next to the iPhone X and the latest Samsung devices. The new lower-cost model will feature the same edge-to-edge screen as the iPhone X as well as Face ID instead of a fingerprint sensor.

“It’s good that they’re rounding out the product line” with a less expensive phone, Munster says. But he doesn’t think it will have a measurable impact on demand because many consumers will want the bigger model.

To keep costs down, the cheaper phone will use LCD screen technology similar to the type employed in the iPhone 8. It will also have aluminum edges and a glass back like the iPhone 8, not the flashier stainless steel used in the iPhone X.

Apple has tried selling cheaper phones in the past with poor results. In 2013, the company debuted the iPhone 5c, which had a polycarbonate body and came in various colors. Consumers quickly discovered that for a mere $100 more they could buy a 5s, which had an aluminum body, a slow-motion video camera and a fingerprint scanner. Apple soon discontinued the 5c.

For more on the iPhone, check out the podcast:

This time, the company is trying something different: using a cheaper body but including the features — Face ID and an edge-to-edge screen — that consumers most prize.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Markets Wrap – Trending Stuff

U.S. stocks plunged the most in 6 1/2 years, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking more than 1,100 points, as the equity selloff reached a fever pitch amid rising concern that inflation will force interest rates higher. Treasuries rallied and gold rose on haven demand.

Volatility roared back into American equity markets, as the S&P 500 Index sank 4.1 percent to wipe out its January gain and turn lower on the year. The index capped its worst day since the U.S. lost its pristine credit rating, topping the rout that followed China’s shock devaluation of the yuan, the Brexit selloff and jitters heading into the presidential election. Trading volume was almost double the 30-day average. All but two stocks in the broad gauge declined.

“This is classic risk off that may not end any time soon,” says Win Thin, head of emerging-market currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Selling accelerated shortly after 3 p.m. in New York, with the Dow sinking more than 800 points in a matter of 15 minutes only to snap back. The blue-chip index ended lower by 4.6 percent — its steepest drop since August 2011, and is also lower for the year. The Cboe Volatility Index more than doubled to its highest level in 2 1/2 years.

Treasuries popped, sending the 10-year yield down more than 10 basis points, and gold future pushed higher. The dollar stabilized while the yen advanced.

While Friday’s market rout came amid U.S. wage data on Friday that pointed to quickening inflation, which would lead to higher rates and, in turn, rising borrowing costs for companies, the selling Monday came amid few major data points.

“I think sentiment was a little too optimistic,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial Network. “What was driving the market up in January? It wasn’t the fundamentals, as good as they were, it was excessive confidence.”

Elsewhere, oil extended declines after U.S. explorers raised the number of rigs drilling for crude to the most since August. Copper climbed the most in a week. Bitcoin slid below $7,000.

Terminal users can read more in our markets blog.

Here are some key events scheduled for this week:

  • Monetary policy decisions are due in Australia, Russia, India, Brazil, Poland, Romania, the U.K., New Zealand, Serbia, Peru and the Philippines.
  • Earnings season continues with reports from Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ryanair, Toyota Motor Corp., BNP Paribas, BP, General Motors, Walt Disney, SoftBank, Sanofi, Philip Morris, Total, Tesla, Rio Tinto, L’Oreal and Twitter.
  • Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan and New York Fed President William Dudley are among policy officials due to speak in Frankfurt and New York.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

  • The S&P 500 fell 4.1 percent as of 4 p.m. New York time.
  • The Dow fell 1,178 points, or 4.6 percent, while the Nasdaq averages were off by more than 3.7 percent.
  • The Stoxx Europe 600 Index declined 1.6 percent , hitting the lowest in almost 12 weeks with its sixth consecutive decline.
  • The MSCI Emerging Markets Index lost 1.9 percent.

Currencies

  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index gained 0.3 percent.
  • The euro decreased 0.5 percent to $1.2405.
  • The British pound declined 0.8 percent to $1.4001, the weakest in almost two weeks.
  • The Japanese yen gained 0.3 percent to 109.79 per dollar.

Bonds

  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell four basis points to 2.81 percent.
  • Germany’s 10-year yield declined three basis points to 0.74 percent, the largest decrease in almost six weeks.
  • Britain’s 10-year yield declined two basis points to 1.558 percent.

Commodities

  • West Texas Intermediate crude dipped 2.2 percent to $64.01 a barrel.
  • Gold advanced 0.1 percent to $1,334.76 an ounce.
  • Copper gained 1.8 percent to $7,169 per metric ton.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Bitcoin Whipsaws Investors as Bubble Shows Signs of Bursting – Trending Stuff

Bitcoin whipsawed investors, falling below $8,000 for the first time since November before recovering most of Friday’s losses, as a miserable 2018 continued for cryptocurrencies.

Since reaching a record high of $19,511 on Dec. 18 shortly after the introduction of regulated futures contracts in the U.S., Bitcoin has wiped out more than half its value amid waves of negative news. Setbacks included escalating regulatory threats from authorities around the world including India, South Korea, China and the U.S., a record $500 million heist at Japanese exchange Coincheck Inc., fears of price manipulation and Facebook’s ban on cryptocurrency ads.

PMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp., the nation’s two largest banks, said Friday they’re halting purchases of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on their credit cards. Japanese authorities raided Coincheck’s offices Friday morning, a week after the robbery, hauling out documents and computers as evidence. The inspection was conducted to ensure security for users, Finance Minister Taro Aso said.

“Bitcoin is in trouble,” Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at foreign exchange broker Forextime Ltd, wrote in a note Friday. “Price action suggests that bears are clearly in control, with further losses on the cards as jitters over regulation erode investor appetite further.”

The largest digital currency dropped as much as 16 percent to $7,643, before trading at $8,646 at 4:47 p.m. in New York, according to consolidated Bloomberg pricing. Bitcoin tumbled 21 percent during the week, the biggest five-day decline since Jan. 16. Rival coins Ripple, Ether and Litecoin tumbled at least 28 percent as losses continued to spread across cryptocurrencies.

Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Macro Associates said Bitcoin is the “mother of all bubbles,” and its bubble is now bursting, speaking in an interview on Bloomberg Television. He said “virtually every” Group of 20 country is talking about cracking down on the phenomenon as policymaker worries grow.

For more on cryptocurrencies, check out the podcast:

Related news and information:
Bitcoin’s Huge Arbitrage Play Just Vanished as Korea Bubble Pops
Roubini Says Bitcoin Is the ‘Biggest Bubble in Human History’

To see Bloomberg’s cryptocurrency monitor, type VCCY

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Trump Suggests Bonuses for Gun-Trained Teachers, Praises the NRA – Trending Stuff

President Donald Trump called for paying bonuses to teachers who carry guns in the classroom, embracing a controversial proposal to curb school shootings hours after offering a full-throated endorsement of the National Rifle Association.

Trump told state and local officials gathered at the White House on Thursday to discuss school safety that “you can’t hire enough security guards” and teachers could carry concealed weapons and “nobody would know who they are.” He said that teachers would go through “rigorous training” and could get “a little bit of a bonus.”

His support for arming educators comes a week after the massacre of 17 people at a high school in Florida. The president and lawmakers are now struggling to respond to public demands for action, mindful of the clout gun-rights enthusiasts hold in the Republican Party, which controls the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Guns in America

The NRA, which has been one of the most powerful political opponents to gun control, received lavish praise from Trump just minutes before its chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference. LaPierre proceeded to blast school officials, local law enforcement and the FBI for failing to prevent school shootings.

It was a jarring contrast for Trump just a day after his emotional meeting with students and parents affected by recent school massacres. Earlier Thursday morning, before a tweet praising the NRA, Trump went the furthest he’s ever gone on gun control, saying he’d push for tougher background checks that screen for mental health, raising the minimum age of buyers to 21, and ending the sale of bump stocks.

Trump also suggested to local officials at the White House meeting that schools concentrate more on hardening facilities to withstand rifle fire. But he opposed mandating active shooting drills — which have become increasingly common — saying that rehearsing for a possibly violent event could upset students.

“Active shooter drills is a very negative thing, have to be honest with you,” Trump said, “I’d much rather have a hardened school.” He added that he wouldn’t want his son to be told he was going through an active shooter drill. “I think it’s very bad for children.”

White House spokesman Raj Shah later said that Trump only opposes using the term “active shooter drill” because it could be frightening, and suggested schools instead use the term “safety drill.”

Children’s exposure to violence on the Internet and in video games and movies also may be contributing to the shootings, Trump added. “Their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it,” he said.

LaPierre called for more armed security at schools and criticized the notion of making schools “gun-free zones,” which he said are targets for potential shooters, echoing comments Trump has made.

The NRA chief lashed out at Democrats including Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has long pushed for tighter gun laws, for “politicizing” the Florida shooting. He said “elites” want to “eradicate all individual freedoms.”

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” LaPierre said.

The NRA is one of the biggest spenders in elections, ranking 9th among all outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2016, the NRA’s political arms spent $54.4 million influencing elections, Federal Election Commission records show, including $19.8 million attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and $11.4 million promoting Trump. The NRA also spent $500,000 or more on 7 Senate races, including in battleground states Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Trump was endorsed by the NRA and has routinely touted his support for the organization, and his campaign said he opposed expanding the background check system or imposing new restrictions on gun and magazine bans. Trump is expected to speak at the CPAC event on Friday.

Trump conferred with the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, over the weekend in the aftermath of the Florida shooting, Shah said.

Gun stocks rose Thursday after declining the two prior days. Shares in American Outdoor Brands Corp. rose 2.8 percent to $10.34 and Sturm Ruger & Co. was up 5 percent to $49.55 at 1:30 p.m. New York time.

Background Checks

While Trump said he would push “comprehensive background checks” with an emphasis on mental health, an Obama-era gun rule aimed at preventing people with serious mental illness from buying guns was one of the first targets of Republicans in Congress last year. Lawmakers used a special procedure under the Congressional Review Act to do away with the rule.

Trump announced Tuesday he would propose regulations to ban “bump stocks” used to allow semi-automatic rifles to fire like automatic weapons. He signaled support for bipartisan legislation to improve data collection for the federal gun-sale background check system.

Trump said he called many lawmakers Wednesday evening to discuss background checks and that many prior opponents of toughening them have changed their minds.

But the president isn’t ready to back any specific legislation yet, Shah said. Instead Trump “is proposing ideas, he’s listening right now,” Shah said.

Click here for more on the debate over guns in America.

His support for arming teachers would eliminate the gun-free zones in and around schools enshrined in a nearly three-decade-old federal law.

Trump said in a tweet earlier Thursday that 20 percent of teachers “would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.”

The idea prompted sharp rebukes from some Democrats and misgivings from at least one prominent Republican.

Murphy said on CNN that the proposal was “a recipe for disaster,” adding that there was no evidence that it would prevent shootings.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told a CNN town hall meeting on Wednesday that he opposed arming teachers.

Trump on Thursday tried to explain his rationale for arming school staff members. “History shows that a school shooting lasts, on average, 3 minutes,” Trump tweeted. “It takes police & first responders approximately 5 to 8 minutes to get to site of crime. Highly trained, gun adept, teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly, before police arrive. GREAT DETERRENT!”

“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school. Cowards won’t go there…problem solved. Must be offensive, defense alone won’t work!” Trump wrote.

Trump has signaled support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would strengthen current laws requiring federal agencies to report information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The House passed a similar bill in December, but added legislation that would require states to recognize concealed carry licenses from other states. House conservatives would likely balk at separating the two issues, while the House version of the bill would likely fail in the Senate.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday found 97 percent support for universal background checks, while 67 percent backed a ban on the sale of assault weapons.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, which operates Bloomberg News, serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board and is a donor to the group. Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Trump’s Tariffs on Solar Mark Biggest Blow to Renewables Yet – Trending Stuff

President Donald Trump dealt his biggest blow to the renewable energy industry yet.

On Monday, Trump approved duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made outside the U.S., a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply. 

The tariffs are the latest action by Trump to undermine the economics of renewables. The administration already decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, sought to roll back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and signed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes are the most targeted strike on the industry yet and may have larger consequences for the energy world.

“We are inclined to view it as posing greater trade risk for all types of energy, particularly if other nations establish new trade barriers against U.S. products,” Washington-based research firm ClearView Energy Partners LLC said Monday.

Solar Surges

U.S. panel maker First Solar Inc. jumped as much as 9 percent to $75.20 in after-hours trading in New York. The Tempe, Arizona-based manufacturer stands to gain as costs for competing, foreign panels rise.

Just the threat of tariffs shook solar developers in recent months, with some hoarding panels and others stalling projects in anticipation of higher costs. The Solar Energy Industries Association projected 23,000 job losses this year in a sector that employed 260,000.

Trump approved four years of tariffs that start at 30 percent in the first year and gradually drop to 15 percent. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells are exempt for each year.

The duties are lower than the 35 percent rate the U.S. International Trade Commission recommended in October after finding that imported panels were harming American manufacturers. The idea behind the tariffs is to raise the costs of cheap imports, particularly from Asia, and level the playing field for those who manufacture the parts domestically.

“This is not a goodbye for renewable energy in the U.S.,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t believe this decision will reverse the solar expansion in the U.S. The global solar industry will adjust. The penetration of solar in the U.S. will continue.”

First Solar is the largest of a handful of panel makers left in the U.S. after most of the industry migrated to China in the past decade. That means the major impact of the duties will be on panel installers, which get most of their supplies from Chinese companies.

Read More: Why Trump Is Taxing Solar Panels Imported by U.S.: QuickTake Q&A

Despite higher anticipated costs, American solar installers including Vivint Solar Inc. and Sunrun Inc. jumped in after-hours trading. “A 30 percent tariff in Year One is bad,” said Gordon Johnson, a New York-based analyst at the Vertical Group, but “it’s less than what the consensus was.”

Jigar Shah, co-founder of investor Generate Capital Inc. and an outspoken advocate for the solar industry, went as far as to describe the decision as “good news.” The tariffs are “exactly what the solar industry asked for behind closed doors” to prevent a negative impact on companies, he said.

Not Deterred

The duties won’t be entirely devastating for the U.S. solar industry, said Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. He estimated they’ll increase costs for large solar farms by less than 10 percent and for residential systems by about 3 percent.

The decision will “destruct some demand for new projects in the next two years,” Bromley said. “But they will likely prove insufficient in magnitude and duration to attract many new factories.”

For Trump, the tariffs represent a step toward making good on a campaign promise to get tough on the country that produces the most panels — China. Trump’s trade issues took a backseat in 2017 while the White House focused on tax reform, but it’s now coming back into the fore: The solar dispute is among several potential trade decisions that also involve washing machines, consumer electronics and steel.

Solar Threatened

Tariffs may curb U.S. solar investments that have already fallen in recent years

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The decision comes almost nine months after Suniva Inc., a bankrupt U.S. module manufacturer with a Chinese majority owner, sought import duties on solar cells and panels. It asserted that it had suffered “serious injury” from a flood of cheap panels produced in Asia. A month later, the U.S. unit of German manufacturer SolarWorld AG signed on as a co-petitioner, adding heft to Suniva’s cause.

Suniva had sought import duties of 32 cents a watt for solar panels produced outside the U.S. and a floor price of 74 cents a watt. Trump’s tariffs translate to a charge of about 10 cents a watt, according to Bromley.

Read More: U.S. Solar Has a $1.5 Billion, Long-Shot Plan to End a Trade War

Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., Suniva’s parent, was up 3.9 percent in Hong Kong after jumping as much as 5.2 percent earlier.

While Trump has broad authority on the size, scope and duration of duties, the dispute may shift to a different venue. China and neighbors including South Korea may opt to challenge the decision at the World Trade Organization — which has rebuffed prior U.S.-imposed tariffs.

Here’s what people are saying about the tariffs:

  • Suniva thanked Trump for “holding China and its proxies accountable” and said it looked forward to global settlement negotiations. Trump said in his statement that the U.S. Trade Representative will discuss resolving a separate trade dispute that resulted in duties imposed on Chinese solar products and U.S. polysilicon.
  • SolarWorld said it “appreciates the hard work of” Trump and is “hopeful” the tariffs will be enough to rebuild solar manufacturing in the U.S.
  • Sunrun said that while the decision lifts “a cloud of uncertainty,” it runs counter to “consumers, bipartisan elected officials, many military personnel, and the 99 percent of American solar workers whom this tariff will harm in the coming years.” It called for the administration to clarify which countries won’t be subject to the tariffs. (The U.S. Trade Representative said Mexico and Canada will be subject to the duties, despite previous reports that they may be spared.)
  • Rooftop solar installer Sunnova Energy Corp. said the tariffs will not deter the industry. Vivint said it was “disappointed” but would continue to “provide consumers with a better way to create energy.”
  • China’s JinkoSolar Holding Co. said the tariffs were “better than expected” and that it wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of building a plant in the U.S. Taiwan’s Neo Solar Power Corp. similarly said it would study the feasibility of establishing assembly lines in the U.S.
  • South Korea’s Hanwha Q Cells Co. plans to diversify sales to avoid the U.S. tariffs and look for other markets
  • Regardless of the tariffs, solar installer Tesla Inc. said it’s “committed to expanding its domestic manufacturing,” citing a “gigafactory” it opened in Buffalo, New York.
  • Bill Waren, senior trade analyst at Friends of the Earth, called the decision “recklessly irresponsible and a thinly veiled attack on clean energy.”
  • ClearView Energy Partners LLC estimated a roughly 6 percent increase in the costs of commercial solar projects and a 4 percent rise in residential rooftop solar expenses. Large, utility-scale projects may bear the brunt, with a 10 percent increase.
  • The Solar Energy Industries Association warned the tariffs will delay or kill billions of dollars of solar investments.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Sessions Ending Obama-Era Policy That Ushered In Legal Weed – Trending Stuff

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era policy that helped states legalize recreational marijuana, throwing a wet blanket on the fledgling industry during what could have been a celebratory week.

The Justice Department will reverse the so-called Cole and Ogden memos that set out guardrails for federal prosecution of cannabis and allowed legalized marijuana to flourish in states across the U.S., according to two senior agency officials. U.S. attorneys in states where pot is legal will now be able prosecute cases where they see fit, according to the officials, who requested anonymity discussing internal policy.

Shares of pot companies plunged as news of the policy change surfaced, though many began to rebound after investors weighed the potential impact.

The change comes at a high point for the weed industry. California, the biggest U.S. state and sixth-largest economy in the world, launched its legal marketplace on Jan. 1. Sales in California alone are expected to reach $3.7 billion in 2018, according to estimates from BDS Analytics. 

Seven other states and the District of Columbia have also legalized cannabis for adult use. Twenty-one additional states have voted to allow the plant to be used for medicinal purposes. The market is expected to skyrocket from $6 billion in 2016 to $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen & Co.

Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, has long been opposed to marijuana, equating it with heroin. But this is the first action he’s taken that deviates significantly from the Obama administration. Many in the industry said the news is unsurprising but disappointing.

“While dismantling the industry will prove impossible, the move by Sessions will sow more seeds of uncertainty in an industry that already has its fair share of risks and unknowns,” said Chris Walsh, vice president of Marijuana Business Daily. “Businesses could be in for a bumpy ride amid this uncertainty, and we certainly could see some types of regional crackdowns or delays in upcoming medical or recreational cannabis markets.”

Shares Plummet

The Bloomberg Intelligence Global Cannabis Competitive Peers Index dropped as much as 24 percent after the Associated Press first reported the Justice Department plan. Most companies in that group are small. Still, there are a few big names that could be hit by the changing policy. 

Constellation Brands Inc., which sells Corona beer and Svedka vodka in the U.S., got involved in the cannabis industry in October when it acquired a minority investment in Canopy Growth, a Canadian marijuana company. Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has also made its way into the Green Rush. It fell as much as 5.7 percent after the news, the biggest intraday drop since May. 

A tightening of enforcement also would be felt in Canada, where the cannabis industry has blossomed. Ontario’s Canopy Growth fell as much as 19 percent to C$29.06 in Toronto, while Aphria Inc. plunged as much as 23 percent to C$16.59. ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF, the first pure-play pot ETF to be listed in the U.S., dropped as much as 9.7 percent, the biggest intraday decline since May.

Fear and Doubt

Sessions’s policy may cause investors to think twice before putting their money into the Green Rush, according to Adrian Sedlin, founder of Canndescent, a marijuana cultivation and branded-flower company.

“Fear, uncertainty and doubt will rip through our industry like a California wildfire because of this,” he said. “Whatever happens longterm, this will retard and limit capital flows into the industry for the foreseeable future.”

The move is likely to sow confusion among consumers and state officials, and may spark a backlash if state-approved retailers are prosecuted. Sixty-four percent of the U.S. population now wants to make pot legal, according to a Gallup poll released in October.

But it’s too late to stop the industry from growing, said Laura Bianchi, a partner and director of cannabis, business and corporate transactions and estate planning at Rose Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“To undo this industry would be like closing Pandora’s box once it’s been opened,” she said. “It would be a Herculean effort that would undermine another Republican cornerstone, which is the importance of states’ rights.”

Senators React

Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, where marijuana is legal, said in a tweet that Sessions’s move contradicts what he told the senator before his confirmation.

“I am prepared to take all steps necessary, including holding DOJ nominees, until the Attorney General lives up to the commitment he made to me,” Gardner said.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, said Sessions’s actions are an affront to medical patients who need to use the plant as medicine. 

“Parents should be able to give their sick kids the medicine they need without having to fear that they will be prosecuted,” she said in a statement. “This is about public health, and it’s about reforming our broken criminal justice system that throws too many minorities in prison for completely nonviolent offenses.”

Still, the federal policy change may not actually hurt business much at all. Entrepreneurs starting marijuana businesses have already been working under risky circumstances. The plant has remained federally illegal, meaning most large companies — including banks — have shied away. Instead, the business has relied on state regulators, many of whom previously said they would defend the industry through any federal crackdown. 

“We’re not overly concerned that a change in DOJ policy around cannabis will be meaningfully disruptive to legal adult use cannabis states, given the vocal support offered by these state-level AG’s,” said Vivien Azer, a Cowen & Co. analyst who covers the industry.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

Muellers Move on Ex-Skadden Lawyer Puts Heat on Manafort, Gates – Trending Stuff

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller intensified legal pressure on ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, by filing a false-statements case against a lawyer who did Ukraine-related work with the two men.

Prosecutors accused the attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, of lying to the FBI and Mueller’s office about conversations related to a report supporting the legitimacy of a Ukrainian criminal prosecution of a former prime minister. That report has already come under the glare of Mueller’s team, which has previously accused Manafort and Gates of secretly funneling $4 million through offshore accounts to pay for it.

The two pages of accusations against van der Zwaan, filed on Feb. 16 and unsealed Tuesday, came in the form of a criminal information, which prosecutors typically file before a guilty plea. Van der Zwaan, 33, is scheduled for what the government calls a “plea agreement hearing” on Tuesday afternoon before the same federal judge in Washington overseeing the indictment of Manafort and Gates.

On Oct. 27, prosecutors accused Manafort and Gates of hiding their lobbying work in Ukraine and laundering millions of dollars. The two also failed to disclose lobbying work on behalf of then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and then tried to conceal that work as it came to light in August 2016, the U.S. said. Manafort left the Trump presidential campaign that month.

A month after Manafort’s departure, van der Zwaan communicated about the report with Gates and a second unidentified person, prosecutors said on Tuesday, and then lied about it when the FBI and Mueller’s office later asked about the exchanges.

Mueller, in his probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, accused 13 Russians on Feb. 16 of a sophisticated disinformation campaign that targeted U.S. voters. Three others, including former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating.

Van der Zwaan was an associate in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom. The information doesn’t say whether he is cooperating with prosecutors or why he allegedly lied to the government.

Last year, van der Zwaan married the daughter of Russian oligarch German Khan, according to the London Tatler. Khan is a shareholder of Alfa Group, a Russian banking and investment concern, and a board member at LetterOne Holdings, the investment vehicle set up by the founders of Alfa Group. A spokesman for Khan didn’t immediately provide a comment.

Neither van der Zwaan nor his lawyer immediately responded to calls and emails seeking comment.

In a statement, Skadden said: “The firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter.”

The case against van der Zwaan shows that Mueller is proceeding methodically and increasing pressure on key witnesses, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement. The case “sends a signal to both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: cooperate or risk greater trouble in the future.”

Secret Recording

Van der Zwaan was one of the lawyers who worked on the 2012 report, commissioned by the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which largely defended the prosecution and conviction of the country’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The report defied the view held by the U.S. and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated. 

Van der Zwaan is accused of misleading investigators about the last time he talked with Gates when he was questioned Nov. 3 by U.S. authorities regarding the work. He told investigators that his last contact with Gates was an innocuous text message in mid-August 2016, when they actually spoke the following month about the Tymoshenko report in a call the lawyer secretly recorded, the information says.

Prosecutors say van der Zwaan lied about his talks with someone else, who they identified only as Person A. The lawyer told investigators he last spoke with Person A in 2014, when in fact they spoke in September 2016 during the secretly recorded call with Gates.

Van der Zwaan also deleted and failed to produce emails sought by the special counsel and a law firm, prosecutors said.

Document Request

Skadden’s $12,000 fee for its 2012 report on Tymoshenko was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding. The following year, with no further work done, Ukraine sent Skadden $1 million. 

After the pro-Russian government was run out of town in 2014, the new authorities began investigating misuse of funds by the Yanukovych government. 

The Ukrainians asked the U.S. Justice Department for help in questioning Manafort and Skadden lawyers who worked on the report. Among those the Ukrainians sought to interview was van der Zwaan, a Russian speaker.

The Justice Department asked Skadden for information and documents related to its work for the Yanukovych government, the New York Times reported in September. In a previous statement, Skadden officials said it had returned the balance of Ukraine’s payment, which they said had been held in escrow for future work. Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed that Skadden refunded $567,000 to Ukraine, saying it had been overpaid.

Obama Counsel

Manafort was involved in recruiting Skadden to prepare the report on behalf of Ukraine, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The Skadden team was headed by Gregory Craig, a partner who had worked as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel from 2009 to 2010 and for President Bill Clinton during his impeachment.

Craig couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Manafort and Gates are accused of failing to register as agents in the U.S. for political consulting they did in Ukraine for pro-Russian politicians. Manafort is accused of laundering money to buy houses, cars, clothes and landscaping services. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

The indictment also alleges that offshore accounts associated with Manafort and Gates paid more than $2 million between 2012 and 2014 to two companies that lobbied members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions and “the propriety of imprisoning his presidential rival.”

The case is U.S. v. van der Zwaan, 18-cr-31, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/

How many US school shootings have there been in 2018 so far? – Trending Stuff

Attack on a Florida high school is the eighth shooting to have resulted in death or injury during the first seven weeks of the year

Attack on a Florida high school is the eighth shooting to have resulted in death or injury during the first seven weeks of the year

Just seven weeks into 2018, there have been eight shootings at US schools that have resulted in injury or death.

Seventeen people have been confirmed dead in the latest shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Valentines Day.

Less than a month ago, a 15-year-old student opened fire at a high school in Kentucky, leaving two students dead and 18 injured. Other incidents have been grave, but on a smaller scale.

In early February, one student in Los Angeles was shot in the head, and another in the arm, when a gun concealed in a fellow students backpack went off.

The congressman Bill Nelson, a Democrat of Florida, said on Wednesday afternoon: Are we coming to expect these mass shootings to be routine? And then after every one we say enough is enough and then it continues to happen?

Trump on Florida shooting: ‘We hurt for the entire community’ video

Congress has refused to tighten restrictions on gun ownership, even after 20 children and six educators were massacred in 2012 in Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.

Were lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting, Austin Eubanks, who survived the 1999 shooting at Columbine high school, told the Guardian last fall.

He was speaking in the wake of catastrophic Las Vegas shooting, where a depressed man took up position high up in a hotel, with a large arsenal of guns and ammunition, and sprayed bullets upon a music concert audience, killing 58 and injuring more than 800. Eubanks said he had watched an increasing pace of mass shootings across the US, in schools and elsewhere, with fear and anxiety.

‘This happens nowhere else’: senator decries gun laws after Florida shooting video

The fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting last December passed in subdued fashion, with congressional Republicans refusing to pass new gun control laws and instead pushing for a law that would weaken gun restrictions nationwide and make it easier to carry a concealed weapon across state lines. Donald Trump won the White House campaigning on a promise to support the National Rifle Association (NRA), the influential gun rights group, and oppose any limits to Americans right to own guns.

Its not (just) about the money. In 2017, the NRA spent at least $4.1m on lobbying more than the $3.1m it spent in all of 2016. But for comparison, the dairy industry has spent $4.4m in the same period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The National Association of Realtors, one of the biggest spenders, has paid out $32.2m lobbying on housing issues.

The NRA has plenty of cash to spend. It bet big on the 2016 US elections, pouring $14.4m into supporting 44 candidates who won and $34.4m opposing 19 candidates who lost, according to CRP.

But the real source of its power, I believe, comes from voters, said Adam Winkler, a UCLA professor of constitutional law.

The 145-year-old organization claims 5 million active members, that number is disputed, but whatever its actual size, membership is a powerful tool, said Robert Spitzer, a professor at the State University of New York at Cortland.

They have a very powerful ability to mobilize a grassroots support and to engage in politics when most Americans can barely be bothered to vote, he said. And because so few Americans do those things, if you get a bunch of people in a locality who are all prepared to go out to a meeting they can have a big effect.” Read more

Photograph: Mark Humphrey/AP

In all, guns have been fired on school property in the US at least 18 times so far this year, according to incidents tracked by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group. In eight of these cases, a gun was fired on school property, but no one was injured. Another two incidents were gun suicides, claiming the lives of one student and one adult on school property.

The repeated tragedies and frightening incidents continue to spark deeply divided political responses, with some Americans urging tighter laws on gun sales and ownership and others advocating for putting more armed guards in schools, or making it easier for teachers and parents to carry their own concealed weapons.
Experts caution that the toll of gun violence on children and teenagers falls heaviest outside of schools. Youngsters are much more likely to be shot in their own homes or neighborhoods than at school, according to research by the school safety expert Dewey Cornell.

But the emotional impact of school shootings has sparked a booming school safety industry. In 2017, the market for security equipment in the education sector was estimated at $2.68bn, according to industry analysts at IHS Markit. Some companies have capitalized on parents fears by selling bulletproof backpacks or whiteboards, as well as offering ways to fortify school buildings themselves against attack.

While refusing to pass substantive gun control restrictions, Congress has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in federal spending to help put police officers in public schools, including $45m in 2013, the year after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting.

Some gun rights advocates have pushed to expand gun-carrying in schools further. Andrew McDaniel, a state legislator in Missouri who introduced legislation last year to make it easier to carry guns in schools, told the Guardian that, in rural schools where it might take 20 or 30 minutes for law enforcement to respond to a school shooting in progress, it made sense to have other armed citizens ready to step in.