Reuters: Top News
EU tells UK's May: We will not renegotiate the Brexit treaty
The European Union ruled out renegotiating the Brexit divorce treaty or its Irish border protocol on Tuesday as Prime Minister Theresa May sought last ditch assurances from the bloc to save her deal after pulling a vote she acknowledged she would lose.
Huawei CFO back in Canada court as bail hearing set to wrap
A top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL] is set to return to a Vancouver courtroom on Tuesday, as the judge weighs final issues in determining whether she should be freed on bail while awaiting extradition proceedings.
Reluctant U.S. Supreme Court on collision course with Trump
The U.S. Supreme Court's reluctance to take up new cases on volatile social issues is putting it on a collision course with President Donald Trump, whose Justice Department is trying to rush such disputes through the appeals system to get them before the nine justices as quickly as possible.
China, U.S. discuss road map for next stage of trade talks
China and the United States discussed a road map for the next stage of their trade talks on Tuesday, during a telephone call between Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Canadian court weighs bail for jailed CFO of China's Huawei
A Canadian provincial court weighing whether to grant bail to a top executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], who is facing possible extradition to the United States, adjourned on Monday without deciding her fate.
GANNETT Syndication Service
Join these elephants in the last wetland wilderness
Sharing an elephant’s expression of joy is a spiritual experience for this biologist. Watch these elephants and more incredible wildlife during the world premiere of Into the Okavango on December 14th at 9pm ET on Nat Geo Wild.
Winter storm wreaks havoc across US
A strengthening winter storm could cause flash floods, power outages, snarl air travel and down trees as it crawls across the southern United States.
Nick Cannon defends pal Kevin Hart
Nick Cannon explains why he's proud of his friend Kevin Hart, who stepped away from presenting the Oscars over past anti-gay tweets. (Dec. 11)
Eastwood proud of Bradley Cooper
Clint Eastwood says "A Star is Born" is a "terrific" film and entrusting it to Bradley Cooper - who he has previously directed - was the right decision. (Dec. 11)
A Non-Binding Migration Pact Is Roiling Politics in Europe
An international migration pact adopted by the vast majority of the world’s nations aims to better handle rising flows of migrants worldwide, explicitly upholds national sovereignty, and is not legally binding. Why, then, is much of Europe freaking out over it?The United Nations Global Migration Compact, signed this week by 164 countries, has been years in the making, and includes relatively uncontroversial goals like improving data collection. In a sign of its import, German Chancellor Angela Merkel—whose legacy will likely be defined by her decision to allow more than 1 million refugees into her country in 2015 and 2016—flew in to Marrakech, Morocco, for the signing ceremony, arguing that it was “worth it to fight for this pact.”Just days earlier, though, the German leader was in Hamburg as her own political party debated whether it would even support the compact, a fight playing out across much of the continent. The agreement has roiled politics in more than half a dozen European countries, with several following the lead of the United States in pulling out of it entirely. Such moves point to a deepening mistrust across the region towards migration as populist and far-right parties gain support.Germany’s experience offers a lesson in the factors driving opposition to what is a mostly technocratic compact—one that had been crafted specifically in response to the very trends that are now opposing it.Merkel had won plaudits internationally for her decision to welcome an enormous number of migrants into Germany at the height of Europe’s migration crisis, a move that remains her signature decision, and one that had defined the race to replace her as head of her party this month. Under pressure from the far-right, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has waged a vocal campaign to stop the migration compact, some in Merkel’s Christian Democrats, including one ultimately unsuccessful candidate to succeed her, had suggested the issue of Germany joining the UN agreement should at least be open for discussion. Last month, the CDU chapter in the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt voted to reject the compact entirely, with state-level parliamentarian Lars-Jörn Zimmer saying it would effectively “open the gates unconditionally.”[Read: Is it time to bury Merkel’s legacy?]Ultimately, the CDU voted overwhelmingly in favor of the pact at its party congress in Hamburg last Friday—as did Germany’s parliament, which held a similar debate in November. But the fact that the compact was even a topic for debate shows the extent to which rising right-wing populist parties set the terms of debate even when they’re not in power, as well as just how much of a lightning rod this non-binding UN pact has become.“We all know that illegal migration, because of the different development opportunities around the world, has caused part of the great fear in our countries,” Merkel said in Marrakech. “And these fears are being used by the opponents of this pact.”More than half a dozen other European countries have also questioned whether to join the pact in the lead-up to this week’s UN gathering. The first domino to fall was Austria, which pulled out of the agreement in October despite negotiating it on behalf of all European Union countries (except Hungary). The country’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, leads a coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and has shifted his country sharply to the right on migration since taking office a year ago. Since then, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have all said they will not sign it, either.In some places, the debate over the pact is having even more dire political consequences: Over the weekend, the New Flemish Alliance, a nationalist party, withdrew from Belgium’s center-right ruling coalition over the country’s decision to adopt the agreement, leaving the now-minority government on the verge of collapse.Why is the UN compact, which is non-binding, so controversial? Arguments against it include the idea that it will ultimately lead to a “human right to migration” and that domestic courts could use it in deciding immigration cases. That it explicitly states that it upholds national sovereignty and has no legal standing has done little to assuage those concerns.[Read: What would a functional immigration system look like?]The compact itself emerged at the 2016 UN General Assembly in New York, was negotiated over the next two years, and finalized in June 2018. It lists 23 objectives that include goals such as better collection of data, minimizing the factors that cause people to emigrate, and providing flexible pathways for legal migration. It was designed as a way for countries to work together to better handle the issue in the wake of Europe’s difficulty in managing the more than 1 million people who crossed the Mediterranean in 2015.“Europeans were starting to get a sense that the governments had lost control of their borders,” Louise Arbour, the UN Special Representative for International Migration who led the process that resulted in the agreement, said. Negotiators acknowledged that immigration was a matter of state sovereignty, but also that migration increased interdependence between countries. Discussions were based on demographic and labor-market projections, not “mythology about identity and all kinds of intangible arguments that [are] … now being advanced,” Arbour said.The crisis that proved the impetus for the compact has now long since passed. Desperate migrants still cross the sea to reach Greece, Spain, and Italy, often with fatal consequences, but at far lower rates than they were at the height of the emergency that paralyzed Europe three years ago. The latest data show that crossings across the Mediterranean are at multi-year lows.Fewer people may be reaching Europe, and more migrants may be turned away, but the populist wave unleashed by the crisis has yet to recede. Anti-immigration parties govern in Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia; are part of the ruling coalition in Italy and Austria; and are influential in Denmark, Finland, and the Czech Republic. It’s hardly a coincidence that many of these countries are the ones that said they wouldn’t go to Marrakech to sign the compact. Neither will Australia, Israel, and Switzerland. Their positions are evidence of a growing skepticism toward multilateralism and international institutions across the world.[Read: The U.S. used to criticize countries that didn’t allow their citizens to leave.]These right-wing parties’ rhetoric about a continuing, unstoppable flow of migrants is clearly hyperbole. But at least in Germany, those arguments get at the very real challenges of integrating the vast number of newcomers who have already arrived—many of whom face language barriers, a daunting German bureaucracy, and a lack of available jobs at their skill level as they seek to settle in.In the German school system, for example, research shows that many of the more than 130,000 new refugee and migrant students end up in disadvantaged schools without the resources to help them catch up. And Germany’s apprenticeship and training programs, which are held up as the gold standard internationally, aren’t easy for arriving refugees and migrants to break into. As a result, many of them are not on track to be eligible for skilled labor positions, and are instead forced to compete for a smaller pool of unskilled jobs. (That said, statistics from Germany’s labor office suggest more refugees began to find jobs in 2018.)What’s more, a series of high-profile criminal cases involving refugees and asylum-seekers contribute to the perception that migrants pose not only an integration problem, but a security threat. Last summer, a missing 14-year-old girl was found raped and murdered in the western German city of Wiesbaden; the prime suspect in her murder was a 20-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker. “If he had been deported, she would still be alive,” read a headline in Bild, Germany’s most widely-read tabloid with a circulation of about 1.5 million.The AfD draws attention both to the violent headlines and the more structural problems with integration to make its case for curbing migration. “2015 is only the tip of the iceberg,” Beatrix von Storch, an AfD politician from Berlin, wrote on Twitter Monday as she linked to coverage of OECD findings on the comparatively low education level of Germany’s foreign-born inhabitants.As the debate in Germany shows, rhetorical pressure from the far right has forced mainstream parties to talk differently about migration issues—and to debate things like this compact that previously might have been taken for granted.“We cannot accommodate everyone,” Andrea Nahles, head of the center-left Social Democrats, said this summer. Even those CDU leaders who argued in favor of the compact in Hamburg spoke about curtailing immigration: “We all agree,” said Ralph Brinkhaus, the CDU’s leader in the German Bundestag, “that migration needs to be limited and controlled.”
Trump Can't Stop Confessing
Donald Trump can’t stop telling on himself.Just two years into his presidency, the New York real estate mogul turned politician faces at least two separate criminal investigations, while half a dozen former advisors, including his former campaign chair, deputy campaign chair, national-security adviser, foreign-policy adviser, and personal attorney have all pleaded guilty to or been convicted of serious crimes. That’s even more remarkable when you consider that the American legal system makes white-collar crimes difficult to prove, by making guilt conditional on a defendant’s state of mind, a notoriously high standard.Nevertheless, Trump has done his best to ensure that we all know what he’s thinking, even as his legal peril grows. Last Friday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York claimed in a filing that Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, had been directed during the campaign to pay hush money to women who claimed to have had affairs with the president. Those payments, according to the filing, were laundered through shell corporations and reimbursed by the president’s private company. Effectively, the president’s own Justice Department accused him of ordering his personal attorney to commit a felony.The standard for criminal violations of campaign-finance laws, though, turns on “knowing and willful” violations of those laws. So the president would have had to know it was illegal, and ordered Cohen to make the payments anyway.[Ken White: Manafort, Cohen, and Individual 1 are in grave danger]“It is a big deal that prosecutors concluded that Trump directed Cohen to commit crimes. The one note of caution is that if prosecutors wanted to charge Trump—and we can’t draw any conclusions from this sentencing memo about whether they will—they would also likely have to show that he knew what the laws were, and willfully violated them anyway,” said Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center. “Demonstrating Trump’s knowledge of anything could be a challenge.”Fortunately, Trump is here to help. On Monday morning, the president said on Twitter that the payments “a simple private transaction,” and that it was his “Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me.” If the president took this view of the law at the time he made the payments, he might be guilty of a felony.“We still don’t know what Trump knew about the law in 2016,” says Fischer. “But Trump and his lawyers should be concerned if Trump’s view of campaign-finance law in 2016 was similar to the view expressed in his 2018 tweet.”Although the tweet by itself will have little legal impact, it goes to a pattern of deception concerning the president’s conduct. After all, he has lied publicly not only about his alleged affairs and the payments he made to conceal them. He has also lied to the public about his business interests in Russia, he crafted a false account of the Trump Tower meeting in which his son Donald Trump Jr. sought dirt on Hillary Clinton from Russia, and he put forth a false cover story for firing former FBI Director James Comey, saying that Comey was fired for abusing his authority in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.[Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes: Mueller is laying siege to the Trump presidency]“Few defendants admit that they knew they were breaking the law. So prosecutors ordinarily prove the defendant's state of mind circumstantially, by asking the jury to draw inferences from the defendant's words and deeds,” said Bruce Green, a law professor at Fordham and a former associate counsel in the investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. “One of the traditional ways of proving intent is through statements or actions that demonstrate ‘consciousness of guilt.’ And one of the traditional ways of showing ‘consciousness of guilt’ is through lies and cover-ups.”If prosecutors want to convict politicians of bribery or campaign finance violations, perjury, or obstruction of justice, they need to meet the extraordinarily high burden of showing what the defendant was thinking. But if prosecutors want to, say, charge a person with possession of drugs with intent to distribute, they need only certain circumstantial evidence—a particular quantity of drugs, combined with any number of common household items, like a scale or plastic sandwich bags, will often suffice for a jury to convict."Poor people, generally people of color, lower- income people, they don't have that elevated standard of getting into the mind of the wrongdoer, that you see with white-collar crime," said Twyla Carter, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU. Prosecutors don’t need to show that someone “knowingly and willfully” violated drug laws. Proving intent for most drug-related crimes doesn’t require the mind-reading involved in securing convictions for white-collar crimes—which is one reason why the high and mighty so often skate."There are two tiers of justice in this country, one for the rich and one for the poor, and that is a fact, and we see it on every level," Carter said.That’s what makes Trump’s behavior so remarkable. Given every advantage conferred on the wealthy and connected, including being the president of the United States, Trump can’t help but provide both the public and the authorities investigating him and his campaign with knowledge of his state of mind. Proving guilt in white-collar crime is an exceedingly difficult task for prosecutors. Trump is doing his best to make it easier.
Does It Matter Where You Go to College?
This year, more than 2 million Americans will apply to college. Most will aim for nearby schools without global brands or billion-dollar endowments. But for the tens of thousands of families applying to America’s most elite institutions, the admissions process is a high-cost, high-stress gantlet.American parents now spend almost half a billion dollars each year on “independent education consultants,” and that’s not counting the cost of test prep or flights and hotels for campus visits. These collegiate sweepstakes leave a trail of frazzled parents and emotionally wrecked teens already burdened with rising anxiety, which raises a big question: Does it really matter whether you attend an elite college?The seemingly obvious answer is, Of course it matters! How could it not? Ivy League and equivalent institutions provide more than world-class instruction. They confer a lifetime of assistance from prodigiously connected alumni and a message to all future employers that you’re a rarified talent. College isn’t just an education; it’s a network, a signal, and an identity. Elite schools seem disproportionately responsible for minting the American elite. About 45 percent of America’s billionaires and more than half of Forbes’s list of the most powerful people attended schools where incoming freshmen average in the top first percentile of SAT scores.[Read: Elite-college admissions are broken]But what appears obvious may not be true. In November 2002, the Quarterly Journal of Economics published a landmark paper by the economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger that reached a startling conclusion. For most students, the salary boost from going to a super-selective school is “generally indistinguishable from zero” after adjusting for student characteristics, such as test scores. In other words, if Mike and Drew have the same SAT scores and apply to the same colleges, but Mike gets into Harvard and Drew doesn’t, they can still expect to earn the same income throughout their careers. Despite Harvard’s international fame and energetic alumni outreach, somebody like Mike would not experience an observable “Harvard effect.” Dale and Krueger even found that the average SAT scores of all the schools a student applies to is a more powerful predictor of success than the school that student actually attends.This finding suggests that the talents and ambitions of individual students are worth more than the resources and renown of elite schools. Or, less academically, the person you’re becoming at 18 is a better predictor of your future success than the school you graduate from at 22. The takeaway here: Stress out about your habits and chill out about college.That’s kind of inspiring. It also implies that all the angst and time devoted to the infamous admissions process is a wasteful pageant for the vast majority of its participants. Could that really be true? Or were Dale and Krueger off somehow?This month, economists from Virginia Tech, Tulane, and the University of Virginia published a new study that reexamines the data in the Dale-Krueger study. Among men, the new study found no relationship between college selectivity and long-term earnings. But for women, “attending a school with a 100-point higher average SAT score” increased earnings by 14 percent and reduced marriage by 4 percent. That is a huge effect. Has one of the most famous papers in education economics been debunked?[Read: What is an elite college really worth?]Not quite, says Amalia Miller, a co-author and an economist at the University of Virginia. “The difference we found is that college selectivity does seem to matter, especially for married women, by raising earnings almost entirely through the channel of increased labor force participation,” she says.If you’re not an economist, that might sound complicated. But it’s pretty simple. For the vast majority of women, the benefit of going to an elite college isn’t higher per-hour wages. It’s more hours of work. Women who graduate from elite schools delay marriage, delay having kids, and stay in the workforce longer than similar women who graduate from less-selective schools.This finding complicates the trendy “opting out” theory, which says that women who graduate from top schools are particularly likely to drop out of the labor force after they have children. In fact, the only gender-specific effect of attending elite colleges is that female graduates are more career-focused.Selective schools also seem to make a difference in the lives of minorities and students whose parents have no college education. A 2017 study led by the economist Raj Chetty found that lower-income students at an elite school such as Columbia University have a “much higher chance of reaching the [top 1 percent] of the earnings distribution” than those at an excellent public university, such as SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island.[Read: The dueling deities of Harvard]Why would elite institutions be so good at improving upward mobility for minorities, but not for their whiter, richer peers? After all, they’re listening to the same professors, sitting in the same chairs, and taking the same tests. But remember, college isn’t just about instruction. It’s also about alumni networks and signaling effects. Kids from rich families often rely on help from their parents to obtain selective internships and high-paying entry-level jobs. For kids without plugged-in parents, elite colleges are the plug that connect these students to the most dynamic industries and jobs: In loco rich parentis.The simplest answer to the question “Do elite colleges matter?” is: It depends on who you are. In the big picture, elite colleges don’t seem to do much extra for rich white guys. But if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy, the elite-college effect is huge. It increases earnings for minorities and low-income students, and it encourages women to delay marriage and work more, even though it doesn’t raise their per-hour wages.These findings send three different messages to three different parties.First, to high-strung affluent parents, well-compensated counselors, and other members of the elite-admissions industrial complex: Just relax, okay? You are inflicting on American teenagers a ludicrous amount of pointless anxiety. Even if you subscribe to the dubious idea that young people ought to maximize for vocational prestige and income, the research suggests that elite colleges are not critical to achieving those ends. In the aggregate, individual characteristics swamp institutional characteristics. It’s more important to be hardworking and curious than to receive a certain thick envelope.Second, to academics researching the benefits of college: Keep working. The robust debate over the benefits of attending an elite college lives concentrically within a larger conversation about whether college is worth it in the first place. It’s critical—to not only the country’s economic future, but hundreds of millions of individual Americans’ futures—that we learn more about how and why college matters, so that it can help the right people.Third, to admissions officers of elite colleges: Do better. America’s most selective colleges can, it seems, change the lives of minorities and low-income students. But they’re still bastions of privilege. They enroll more students from the top 1 percent of the income scale than the entire bottom 60 percent. In this way, elite institutions are like factories of social mobility being used as storage facilities for privilege; they have the potential to use their space to manufacture opportunity at scale, but mostly they clear out real estate for the already rich, who are going to be fine, anyway. In America today, high-income parents are desperate to find the right colleges for their kids. It should be the opposite: The highest-income colleges should be desperate to find the right kids for their seats.
The Language the Poet Knows
It is one of writing’s oldest cliches: Find your voice. Developing this ineffable quality—unique to a given writer, derived largely from reflection and experience—can seem like an elusive goal. Particularly for poets, with their highly personal interaction with language and the challenge of adapting it to form, the quest can seem highly subjective.We Begin in Gladness, a collection of new and reworked essays by Craig Morgan Teicher, attempts to lend some objective shape to this endeavor by surveying how poets grow in their craft and take on its challenges over the course of their writing lives. In these engaging studies—informed by Teicher’s considerable work as both a poet and a critic, and imbued with a sensibility that is as comfortable in the lyrical mode as it is in the critical—Teicher considers the idea of poetic voice, as well as its complement, form. Some poets in his accounts find stylistic breakthroughs toward the ends of their tragic, abbreviated lives, while others are able to develop their styles over many years of reflection. But his essays show that the ongoing effort to merge voice and form is the great but considerable labor common to them all.In his compelling introductory essay, “We Begin in Anticipation,” Teicher makes a foray into what poetic voice means and why it’s so important to a poet’s work. “Poetry is a conversation,” he writes, “an extended one, occupying, perhaps, the span of an entire life.” This conversation—a process of refining, questioning, and translating one’s feelings, impressions, life influences, and ideas into language and form—is a sustained personal as well as aesthetic matter. Poets focus their attention inward, listening and searching themselves at length, only later to redirect their findings outward, clad in forms evolved to suit the refinements of voice.Teicher remarks that “the poet trains to hear clearly and, as much as possible, without interruption, the voice of the mind, the voice that gathers, packs with meaning, and unpacks the language the poet knows.” While this description is somewhat abstract, Teicher’s concept of voice works because he situates it in large part in the poet’s experience of language and life. After all, the intangible “voice of the mind” only starts out that way. Through gradual, parallel refinements, voice and form grow closer to eventual convergence.[Ta-Nehisi Coates: What makes fiction good? It’s mostly the voice]Teicher’s charting of a poet’s vocal and formal development might be most compelling in “Mirror Portraits,” an essay on John Ashbery’s poetry. In it, Teicher explores the iconic “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” the title poem of a 1975 collection and a high-water mark in Ashbery’s career. The poem, which engages with Parmigianino’s early-16th-century painting of the same name, doesn’t “succumb to extended stretches of wayward association, to mere accretion of material, to a great degree of randomness” that Teicher observes in Ashbery’s other extended works. Instead, “Convex Mirror” focuses the poet’s style, exemplifying the towering philosophical and aesthetic inquiry that brought Ashbery wide critical regard. Masterfully, Teicher illuminates the thematic core of the poem:
The mind, the self, the poem indicates, is subject to uncontrollable randomness, to its own memories and to what the body senses, but it orbits a somewhat stable self—“the whole is stable within / Instability,” Ashbery writes.
In the poem and the painting, a maybe inscrutable, maybe forthcoming reflection peers out while an artist peers in—the distance between the two seemingly close and far, the image elusive but real. It’s an apt metaphor for a poet’s efforts at self-expression. Ashbery’s poem relays the profundity, the unremitting difficulty, and the fascinating tangle of aesthetic implications involved in bridging the gaps between inspiration and execution, or between artists and their audiences. With this poem, in its way a contemplation of voice and form, Ashbery seeks (and just might attain) a grand synthesis.But Teicher doesn’t just consider how canonical poets like Ashbery progress; he’s also keenly interested in contemporary poets, especially francine j. harris (whose name is styled in lowercase when related to her poetry). To Teicher, she exemplifies poetry’s potential to synthesize a wide palette of styles and sensibilities and revive old methods within new structures. “If contemporary poetry has a hallmark,” he writes, “it is variety: the best poets of this period are neither experimental nor traditional, neither formal nor free, neither political nor aesthete. They are all of these things at once, blending styles and modes.” As Teicher sees it, harris is among a group of poets writing today who develop original voices by pursuing new poetic forms of variegated beauty and expressiveness.[Read more: How poetry came to matter again]Teicher suggests that harris’s style reflects those of two American poets who each invoked marginalized perspectives: Lucille Clifton, who often wrote about African American experience, and D.A. Powell, who is deeply associated with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s. Teicher notes that social consciousness is inseparable from style; Clifton writes with profound economy of language, while Powell’s poetry is often made up of long, voluminous lines. Like Clifton, Teicher writes, “harris is a poet of icons and subtle undercurrents in her lines, but she is a poet of the internet age, so she has a lot more language to compete and contend with”; maybe as a means of situating all that language, harris takes after Powell, who often “gets more than one line into a line.” By marshaling diverse influences, harris crafts a new type of poetry—one that suits her unique voice.Throughout their careers, poets carry with them a persistent sense of an ending. Teicher remarks late in the book that death “has always been poets’ home base, the ether or dreamscape where meaning originates and where poets hopefully live on through their poems.” By way of continued labor, poets attempt to craft language that can carry their ideas beyond the passing moment, reframing their experiments as steps toward the ultimate realization of their aesthetic visions. The poet’s will toward synthesis of voice and form is about having something vital to say and knowing time is always running out.
Lessons From a Failing Company
When Leigh Radford was young, her father worked in logistics at Procter & Gamble, formulating new products and technologies for Pringles. Radford’s mother worked as an educator at the University of Cincinnati, specializing in early-childhood education. Later, Radford worked for Eastern Air Lines, which would become Continental Airlines, before going on to get her master’s in business administration and rising through the Proctor & Gamble ranks to become the vice president of P&G Ventures. I spoke to Radford about her career choices and finding a job that combines the left and right brain. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.Lola Fadulu: What was your first job out of college?Leigh Radford: I went to the University of Florida for my undergrad degree. I went down there specifically because I wanted a big university with a lot of options. I went for advertising. After graduating, I went into the airline business. I started at Eastern Air Lines, which was right after deregulation, so it was a big opportunity—a little risky at that time, but I had a passion for it. After Eastern Air Lines, it turned into Continental Airlines. Then I decided to go back to business school and went to Northwestern. Then I was recruited into Procter & Gamble.Fadulu: Were you on the marketing and business side when you were working for Eastern Air Lines?Radford: I started in sales. Eastern Air Lines, at that time, when in my early 20s, had gone through multiple strikes, and later bankruptcy.I gave the example to a friend recently about my Eastern Air Lines experience when we went through the bankruptcy. The airlines stopped. I was 22, and I was pulled onto the tarmac to bring in a 757, because everyone had walked off. All the gate agents, all the machinists, all the tarmac workers. You just get the job done, and we went out there and did it. And you learn a lot—I mean everything. We went from 150,000 employees to 1,500 overnight, and all of a sudden it’s about cleaning the bathrooms since you don’t have janitorial service, it’s about writing personal paychecks to try to keep the airline afloat. And when you learn that at that young of an age, it was a fantastic opportunity, but I also realize and I never take for granted what it’s like to also be beside individuals who have worked for the company 30 years with an underfunded pension. Really, the quality of the companies you work for and the obligation of leaders to take care of employees became very evident very early in my career.Fadulu: Did you have any jobs before working for Eastern Air Lines?Radford: I’ve been working since I was 13. Everything from babysitting to being hired for the athletic association for my school to being a lifeguard. And I think one summer I worked three jobs. I did that because I believe in a strong work ethic. I just love that sense of independence and figuring things out and being self-driven. So that’s where it all started.Fadulu: Were there any specific professions you wanted to have when you were growing up?Radford: I always knew I wanted to combine the left brain and right brain—the creative with the business. I always wanted to explore the world around me.Fadulu: How much time passed between graduating from UF and starting at Northwestern for business school?Radford: I was three years in the airline industry before I went to Northwestern.Fadulu: Why did you decide to go back to school?Radford: I always knew I wanted to go for an MBA. I took my test when I was an undergrad, so I think I always knew that was going to be part of my plan. Three years seemed about right. Also, living through Eastern Air Lines and then the consolidation with Continental, I realized that this was a good time. I took a leave of absence. I graduated in ’91 from Northwestern, and at that time it was right during the Gulf War, and the airline industry was volatile. P&G came knocking, and I felt like I needed to take the opportunity to really solidify myself in a good company. This goes back to my father, where there wasn’t a day he did not get up and have a respect for Procter & Gamble and his job and his career. Given the fact that the airline was different than that, I wanted to experience that. I wanted to be part of a really well-operating, well-respected company after leaving school. That’s when I decided to come to P&G.Fadulu: You grew up seeing your dad work for P&G. When you started working there, how much of it was how you expected and which parts of it surprised you?Radford: I always felt that I wanted to go faster, further, and I sometimes felt that not everyone was running at the same pace. I think there was a learning curve on that, but that happened very early on. And then what I realized is if I was really clear with what I was trying to do for a certain business or brand, and got the right level of data, support, and passion, nothing was impossible.I tend to innovate, no matter what business it is, and find new ways of making things happen. If you have an idea, you still have to sell your idea. I really pushed for things that never existed before, and that was my mainstay.
The Golden Age of Rich People Not Paying Their Taxes
In the summer of 2008, William Pfeil made a startling discovery: Hundreds of foreign companies that operated in the U.S. weren’t paying U.S. taxes, and his employer, the Internal Revenue Service, had no idea. Under U.S. law, companies that do business in the Gulf of Mexico owe the American government a piece of what they make drilling for oil there or helping those that do. But the vast majority of the foreign companies weren’t paying anything, and taxpaying American companies were upset, arguing that it unfairly allowed the foreign rivals to underbid for contracts.Pfeil and the IRS started pursuing the non-U.S. entities. Ultimately, he figures he brought in more than $50 million in previously unpaid taxes over the course of about five years. It was an example of how the tax-collecting agency is supposed to work.But then Congress began regularly reducing the IRS budget. After 43 years with the agency, Pfeil—who had hoped to reach his 50th anniversary—was angry about the “steady decrease in budget and resources” the agency had seen. He retired in 2013 at 68.After Pfeil left, he heard that his program was being shut down. “I don’t blame the IRS,” says Pfeil. “I blame the Congress for not giving us the budget to do the job.”Had the billions in budget reductions occurred all at once, with tens of thousands of auditors, collectors, and customer-service representatives streaming out of government buildings in a single day, the collapse of the IRS might have gotten more attention. But there have been no mass layoffs or dramatic announcements. Instead, it’s taken eight years to bring the agency that funds the government this low. Over time, the IRS has slowly transformed, one employee departure at a time.The result is a bureaucracy on life support and tens of billions in lost government revenue. ProPublica estimates a toll of at least $18 billion every year, but the true cost could easily run tens of billions of dollars higher.The cuts are depleting the staff members who help ensure that taxpayers pay what they owe. As of last year, the IRS had 9,510 auditors. That’s down a third from 2010. The last time the IRS had fewer than 10,000 revenue agents was 1953, when the economy was a seventh of its current size. And the IRS is still shrinking. Almost a third of its remaining employees will be eligible to retire in the next year, and with morale plummeting, many of them will.The IRS conducted 675,000 fewer audits in 2017 than it did in 2010, a drop in the audit rate of 42 percent. But even those stark numbers don’t tell the whole story, say current and former IRS employees: Auditors are stretched thin, and they’re often forced to limit their investigations and move on to the next audit as quickly as they can.Without enough staff, the IRS has slashed even basic functions. It has drastically pulled back from pursuing people who don’t bother filing their tax returns. New investigations of “nonfilers,” as they’re called, dropped from 2.4 million in 2011 to 362,000 last year. According to the inspector general for the IRS, the reduction results in at least $3 billion in lost revenue each year. Meanwhile, collections from people who do file but don’t pay have plummeted. Tax obligations expire after 10 years if the IRS doesn’t pursue them. Such expirations were relatively infrequent before the budget cuts began. In 2010, $482 million in tax debts lapsed. By 2017, according to internal IRS collection reports, that figure had risen to $8.3 billion, 17 times as much as in 2010. The IRS’s ability to investigate criminals has atrophied as well.Corporations and the wealthy are the biggest beneficiaries of the IRS’s decay. Most Americans’ interaction with the IRS is largely automated. But it takes specialized, well-trained personnel to audit a business or a billionaire or to unravel a tax scheme—and those employees are leaving in droves and taking their expertise with them. For the country’s largest corporations, the danger of being hit with a billion-dollar tax bill has greatly diminished. For the rich, who research shows evade taxes the most, the IRS has become less and less of a force to be feared.The story has been different for poor taxpayers. The IRS oversees one of the government’s largest anti-poverty programs, the earned income-tax credit, which provides cash to the working poor. Under continued pressure from Republicans, the IRS has long made a priority of auditing people who receive that money, and as the IRS has shrunk, those audits have consumed even more resources, accounting for 36 percent of audits last year. The credit’s recipients—whose annual income is typically less than $20,000—are now examined at rates similar to those who make $500,000 to $1 million a year. Only people with incomes above $1 million are examined much more frequently.We submitted a detailed list of questions to the IRS and asked about the budget cuts’ effects on the agency’s enforcement efforts. The agency replied with a brief statement. “The IRS has substantial resources to identify and audit noncompliant taxpayers and continues to deter those attempting to evade their legal obligations,” it said.In ProPublica’s interviews with dozens of tax professionals and more than 50 former and current IRS employees—part of an ongoing series on the state of tax enforcement—many agency veterans wondered whether the damage of the past several years will ever be undone. And they had a greater worry: that the American public will inevitably realize how weak the IRS has become.The effects of an explosion in tax cheating would be dire. The nation’s already soaring budget deficit would surge by hundreds of billions of dollars more, pushing it well past $1 trillion. Commissioners of the IRS, starting with President George W. Bush’s appointee, Douglas Shulman, have warned Congress about a crisis like this since the budget cuts began, in 2011. But after eight years, Republican lawmakers, who are chiefly responsible for the reductions, show no signs that they think the danger is urgent. By the time the danger becomes indisputable, immense harm will already have been done.“In the last few years, it was really frustrating,” said Pam Reicks, a former manager at the IRS who, until she retired at the end of last year, oversaw a program to audit wealthy taxpayers with undeclared offshore bank accounts. “It’s like in the fall when you bob for apples,” she told us. “You’ve got a tub of apples and can’t use your hands to grab them. You can see all this abuse and fraud, and people not paying their taxes, but can’t use your hands to get it.”The IRS has never been a popular cause on Capitol Hill. But Democrats and Republicans long shared a grudging consensus that the agency’s basic work of tax collection deserved protection.That changed when the Republican Party came into power in 1994 and Newt Gingrich became the speaker of the House. The new majority’s main priority was tax cuts, and vilifying the IRS helped its case. Some conservatives favored a “fair tax,” a consumption tax based on purchases. Proponents said that this simplified approach to taxation would allow them to “abolish” the IRS.The notion wasn’t a fringe position within the party. Former Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a respected mainstream Republican, ran for president in 1996 on a platform of abolishing the IRS. A Republican congressman in 1998 introduced a bill to repeal the Internal Revenue Code by 2002. “Abolish the IRS” remains a potent talking point. Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas, campaigned on the slogan when he ran for president in 2016.In 1997 and 1998, the Republican-controlled Senate held a series of dramatic hearings on alleged abuses by the IRS. Agency employees testified behind black curtains with their voices disguised, like Mafia snitches, to protect their identity. The testimony depicted an organization run amok, with claims of biased examiners and lurid tales of agents in flak jackets storming establishments. One restaurant owner told of a raid to seize business records at the home of an employee, during which agents forced a teenage boy to the floor at gunpoint and made a group of teenage girls at a slumber party get dressed “under the watchful eyes of male agents.” A USA Today headline read: “Witnesses Accuse IRS Investigators of ‘Gestapo-like’ Raids.”Congress followed the hearings with a sweeping overhaul of the agency, limiting the IRS’s collection powers and independence and giving taxpayers new protections. In the Senate, the reform bill passed 97–0 and President Bill Clinton signed it.It was only afterward that the Government Accountability Office debunked the allegations of IRS abuses. “Generally, we found no corroborating evidence that the criminal investigations described at the hearing were retaliatory against the specific taxpayer,” the report stated. “In addition, we could not independently substantiate that IRS employees had vendettas against these taxpayers.”By then it was too late. Reeling from the new law and the public attacks, IRS audits and collections tumbled to historic lows.Recovery took years, but because the IRS wasn’t a locus of partisan warfare during the presidency of George W. Bush, it did happen. By 2010, under the administration of Barack Obama, the IRS’s budget hit its high point: $14 billion in today’s dollars, about $2.5 billion above where it is today. Collections rebounded.But that spring, over unified Republican opposition, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act. The sprawling health-care bill was also, indirectly, a sprawling tax bill, since it relied on the IRS to help administer many of its provisions.In the midterm elections that followed, Republicans took the House of Representatives in a wave similar to that of 1994. The first bill introduced by House Republicans in 2011 was a budget that slashed funding across the government and took special aim at the IRS. In addition to calling for a cut to its budget of $600 million, the bill prohibited the IRS from using any of its funding to carry out key parts of the Affordable Care Act. It didn’t pass.Since then, Republicans have cited the ACA as a reason to withhold funding from the IRS. In 2013, in response to an IRS request for a budget increase, former Representative Ander Crenshaw, a Florida Republican who then sat on the House Appropriations Committee, said, “Any kind of increase of this magnitude was going to be a challenge for some very basic reasons. There are a lot of objections to the Affordable Health Care Act, a lot of objections to Obamacare.”The agency faces a structural political problem. On one side are anti-tax Republicans, while on the other are Democrats who fear publicly supporting the taxman. “This is an agency that doesn’t have any friends,” says James Dyer, a Republican who worked for years on the House Appropriations Committee staff. “There’s no advocacy on the Hill for them except what they do for themselves.”In 2013, the IRS’s bulwarks collapsed. First, as part of a budget deal with Obama’s administration, Republicans got what they had previously sought: a $600 million cut, which came on top of cuts in the previous two years. Then things got even worse. In May, an IRS inspector general reported that the agency had targeted right-leaning nonprofits for scrutiny, igniting what came to be known as the Lois Lerner scandal, named for the manager who had overseen the effort. Shortly thereafter, another report criticized the IRS for loose spending on its conferences. Republicans seized on both scandals, calling hearings and launching investigations.To head an agency that was now devastated by budget cuts and scandal, Obama appointed John Koskinen. He was a turnaround specialist, a Mr. Fix-It who, at 74, emerged from retirement for one last job. Most recently, he’d led Freddie Mac after the mortgage giant was taken over by the government during the 2008 financial crisis. Fifteen years before, the Clinton White House tapped him to oversee preparations to avert the Y2K crisis. He was a Washington version of Winston Wolfe from Pulp Fiction, if Wolfe were unfailingly polite and liked working with large bureaucracies.A pragmatist, Koskinen is someone who, by his own description, almost never gets angry. To deal with the crisis, he embarked on a morale-boosting cross-country tour, starting in Cincinnati, the center of the nonprofit scandal. He toured two cities a week for three and a half months. Ultimately, he spoke with more than 22,000 IRS employees. They didn’t gripe, he told us; they were focused on getting the resources to do their job. “This was as good a workforce as I have ever worked with,” he said.Cutting the IRS’s budget didn’t make sense to him. It was one of the few areas of government that had a positive return on investment. Koskinen told the Senate, “I don’t know any organization in my 20 years of experience in the private sector that has said, ‘I think I’ll take my revenue operation and starve it for funds.’”When that argument failed, Koskinen tried to ease the vitriol through a personal connection. In 2014, he contacted Hal Rogers, who was then the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Koskinen had grown up in Ashland, Kentucky, not far from Rogers’s district. He requested a meeting, couldn’t get in, and kept at it. After a few calls, he threatened Rogers’s staff that he would come and sit in their offices until Rogers met with him. They capitulated. When Koskinen and Rogers finally sat down together, sure enough, they knew folks in common. One of Koskinen’s good friends had gone to college with Rogers. The two had a friendly meeting.The next time Koskinen went to the Hill to testify, Rogers welcomed him warmly: “It is always good to see someone with strong Kentucky roots in the hearing room, particularly during basketball season.” He added, “I think much of you personally, Mr. Commissioner.” Then Rogers launched into a litany of criticisms: The IRS was trying to implement the Affordable Care Act against Congress’s wishes; it was spending too much, wasting too much, resisting reforms, and letting the poor commit too much fraud. By that time, the Republican narrative had taken hold: The IRS had to be “held accountable” for wasting millions on lavish conferences and persecuting conservative nonprofits for their political beliefs.These charges ignored inconvenient facts. The IRS’s conference spending had already plummeted, from $38 million in 2010 to $5 million in 2012—before the Republicans first criticized the agency for overspending. And inspector-general reports later pointed out that the IRS division that oversaw tax-exempt organizations had also targeted progressive groups, and concluded that the IRS had taken prompt action to address the previously identified problems in the nonprofit unit.Nevertheless, the scandals provided the rationale for ongoing budget cuts. The IRS lacked the “moral authority” to appeal for a budget increase, said Republican Representative Paul Ryan, then the chair of the House Budget Committee, in 2013.The cuts also forced discipline, Republicans argued. “We deliberately lowered the IRS funding to a level that would make the IRS think twice about what you are doing and why you are doing it,” Crenshaw told Koskinen in a hearing, “because you don’t have a single dime to spare on anything frivolous or foolhardy or even mediocre.”Neither Crenshaw nor any other current or former Republican member of Congress agreed to speak with ProPublica about the IRS. Some staffers talked on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press on the record and acknowledged that the budget cuts were a mistake. Asked about the cuts, a Hill Republican staffer said, “It was punishment,” adding that the IRS clearly “needs more money and needs more people.”The lowest point for Koskinen—and for the IRS—came when, a few weeks before Christmas in 2014, after four years of consistent cuts, Congress slashed an additional $350 million from the agency’s budget. Because the cut came three months into the fiscal year, and only a few months before filing season began, it sent the agency scrambling. Desperate, Koskinen even considered briefly shutting down the IRS. Koskinen’s deputy said that this was the only time he saw his boss angry. “That night, I had trouble getting to sleep,” Koskinen told us. “Normally I go to sleep in about 22 seconds. It drives my wife crazy.”The sudden cut meant that the IRS couldn’t hire enough seasonal employees to answer taxpayer questions. As a result, almost two-thirds of the tens of millions of taxpayer calls would go unanswered that year.Koskinen was outspoken about the cause of the poor service. He liked to counter the constant urging to do “more with less” with a dose of realism. In fact, he said, the IRS would do “less with less”: answer fewer calls, and do fewer audits.That upset Republicans, who charged in a contentious 2015 hearing that IRS mismanagement, not the budget cuts, was causing the decline in service. Mike Kelly, a Republican representative from Pennsylvania, attacked Koskinen, the ever-optimistic turnaround specialist, for being too negative. “I would encourage you to be a little more upbeat,” Kelly told Koskinen. “It is spring! Let’s talk about the good side of it.” The congressman also didn’t like Koskinen’s frequent quip that the budget cuts were really a “tax cut for tax cheats.”“I don’t think that I would want to be a cheerleader, telling those people that don’t want to pay their taxes: ‘Hey, you know what? We are not going to be able to come after you,’” said Kelly, adding that “those comments are better kept internally.”Koskinen replied with a speech he’d given many times before and would give again. A collapse in tax compliance was really possible, he said. People will catch on. He worried about the U.S. becoming Italy or Greece. “What I don’t want to do is have somebody later on say, ‘You never warned us,’” he told Congress. “This is your warning.”It’s a decision that everyone who works at the IRS has to make: How will you respond when someone asks, “So what do you do?” Answer forthrightly, and you’re bound to be met with either iciness or open hostility. Over her 30-year career, Pam Reicks, the former IRS manager, adopted a solution that’s common for IRS lifers. “I work for the government,” she’d say.Not that she was the least bit embarrassed by what she did. She was proud to play a role in making sure that the tax system was fair and that the rich paid their share. The walls of her home office are covered with family pictures, awards from the IRS, and an American flag. Get her started on the topic of auditing, and her large eyes will grow wide as she excitedly tells you why it’s such tricky, interesting detective work.When Reicks joined the IRS in 1987, she saw it as an exciting way to expand her world. Born and raised in Red Cloud, Nebraska (population 1,000), she was curious and eager to learn. She began her career in Waterloo, Iowa, first auditing individuals and then working her way up to businesses. She preferred auditing businesses, because poring over the books of companies taught her how they really worked.Reicks moved to Des Moines and climbed her way to management. She tried to inspire agents with her enthusiasm. “I’m, Go, IRS!, you know?” she said with a laugh. “Go team!”By 2011, she had shifted to a new job, one that offered plenty to satisfy her curiosity. At the time, the IRS was cracking down on Americans hiding money in tax havens. The Justice Department, with the help of whistle-blowers, had pierced the veil of secrecy that shielded Switzerland’s bank accounts. Banks sent lists showing thousands of account holders—many of them probable tax cheats—to U.S. authorities. But the scope of the problem was too big. The IRS simply couldn’t audit everybody who had an offshore account.One solution was to allow people to turn themselves in. The IRS launched programs that offered reduced penalties to those who came forward voluntarily, before an audit was opened. Tens of thousands did. But, of course, an unknown number of tax dodgers did not. Reicks’s new job, as a senior manager in the offshore program, was to help the IRS figure out how many of those people it could audit.“It’s like in the fall when you bob for apples,” Pam Reicks said. “You’ve got a tub of apples and can’t use your hands to grab them. You can see all this abuse and fraud, and people not paying their taxes, but can’t use your hands to get it.” (Kathryn Gamble for ProPublica)Auditing taxpayers with accounts in tax havens is hard. Revenue agents have to investigate the scope of any cheating and figure out whether it was intentional. Tracking down the necessary documents from foreign countries can add frustrating delays. The average time to complete an offshore audit, Reicks remembered, was close to three years.Part of her task was to make sure that managers and revenue agents, who feel pressure to show productivity, did not cut these audits short. Some of the cases involved huge amounts of money. But IRS employees aren’t supposed to think about that. Since the IRS-reform bill in 1998, the agency is prohibited from evaluating agents based on how much money they bring in. Instead, they are evaluated on how efficiently they open and close audits. “You have to account for your time,” Reicks said, “and if you’re not churning out the exams, you have to explain why you’re not.”The budget cuts meant agents had to trudge through these jungles without a map. Not only were there fewer agents every year to do these audits, but many of the ones who remained were less experienced. Training and travel budgets had been slashed along with everything else. The agents conducting these audits were scattered across the country, as was Reicks’s team of 11 experts, who were supposed to guide them. In-person training became a rare luxury. Instead, most instruction was done online: PowerPoint slides appeared on a screen while someone talked. “But this stuff is so complicated that without somebody sitting in front of you, you don’t know if they’re getting what you’re saying,” Reicks said.The entire IRS has seen a similar shift. As a result, training has become less effective, IRS employees told us, and the thoroughness of audits has diminished. It’s also made the IRS a worse place to work.“The last time I was aware of hiring,” says Marie Allen, who retired in 2016 after a 32-year career at the IRS that included time auditing wealthy taxpayers, “I saw the young, angel, baby-faced agents coming in. They were told to sit down in a cubicle, given a computer, and told, ‘This is your training.’” A couple of trainees decided to quit rather than suffer through weeks more of this, she says. “So we lost young talent by basically boring them to death.”Even established employees can feel themselves falling behind, making it harder to match up against sophisticated opponents. “We’re staying stagnant in what we know,” says an IRS employee who works on audits of corporations. Add to that the pressure to close audits as quickly as possible, and auditors often feel like they are rushing past signs of suspicious activity. “All I have time for is low-hanging fruit, basically,” the employee says. “It’s not only not fair to American taxpayers, it’s not very satisfying for me, either.”As time went on, Reicks said, the IRS was able to undertake fewer and fewer audits of offshore accounts. Given a list of American accounts in a tax haven, the IRS would often be able to audit only 10 to 15 percent of them, she remembered. That meant the agency was not able to adequately pursue tens of thousands of people who had kept their bank accounts secret from the U.S. government.In 2015, shortly after congressional Republicans forced the sudden $350 million cut that so upset Koskinen, Reicks began a new stage of her career. To prepare its managers for possible elevation to the executive level, the IRS puts them in temporary assignments. Over the course of a couple years, Reicks would get a different job every three to six months. But while the type of work changed at each assignment, the basic problem she faced did not: There weren’t enough people to do the work.Her final assignment put her in charge of exam activities at two of the IRS’s “campuses” in the northeast. At the campuses, in row upon row of cubicles, thousands of tax examiners and customer-service representatives review correspondence and answer phone calls from taxpayers.Employees, Reicks said, constantly asked whether the IRS was going to hire more workers. With no good news to report, the best Reicks could do was assure them that they were responsible only for the work assigned to them, not for the work the IRS should be doing. “I get that the four desks around you are all empty,” she remembered saying. “This is what we have. We will adjust the workload accordingly.”Lacking staff, the IRS has shrunk programs—even those that brought in billions. One such casualty: pursuing taxpayers who do not bother to file tax returns. Tracking those people and businesses down, determining what they owe, and then reviewing what they submit in response is time-consuming. “Why generate new work when we don’t have the resources to do the work we have right now?” asks Shantelle Kitchen-Nelson, who managed a collections campus in Philadelphia in 2017 and recently retired.As the IRS has fallen further and further behind on collecting the debts of those who filed a return but didn’t pay their taxes, many of those obligations have been allowed to surpass the 10-year statute of limitations.“For our customers,” says Jay Freeborne, a tax professional in Seattle who advises clients with tax debts, “those are touchdowns. When debts expire, we high-five them.”“This is a great time for not being compliant with paying taxes,” says Richard Schickel, a former IRS collection agent who now counsels taxpayers. “I have 11 clients who owe more than $1 million who are not being worked at all.”As Reicks toured different parts of the IRS, she was impressed by her colleagues. But she was working 80-hour weeks, often advising on offshore issues in addition to her current assignment, and living for chunks of time in hotels. On top of all that, her mother and brother had died in the same month.She decided not to put herself up for promotion and moved back to Nebraska, to live in Omaha near her sister. She returned to her old job of supervising offshore audits full-time. But by then, in 2017, things had grown noticeably worse.Reicks looked forward to the end of the year, when she’d reach 30 years of service and be eligible to retire with full retirement benefits. She’d always thought she’d stay longer than that. But she realized that she couldn’t.“I got tired,” she said.It’s unclear when—or whether—Congress might begin to reinvest in the IRS. The best that can be said is that it’s been a few years since the last deep cut.In 2015, when the IRS’s ability to answer taxpayer phone calls hit a low point, the budget discussions on Capitol Hill took a turn. Republicans agreed to boost the agency’s funding—but only part of it. The “taxpayer services” portion, which goes toward hiring seasonal employees to answer the phones, got bumped up. The “enforcement” portion of the budget continued to be pared: Today, adjusting for inflation, it’s $1.5 billion lower than it was in 2010, a decrease of 23 percent.This year, Republicans again selectively increased IRS funding. The massive new tax-cut law has dumped loads of extra work on the IRS, which now has to write rules interpreting the legislation, reprogram aged computer systems, and retrain its employees. Republicans understand that if the IRS fails to roll out their tax overhaul well, they might feel the political consequences. To help the agency cope, Congress handed it an extra $320 million, with the instruction that the money be used solely to implement the new law.The budget for 2019 is likely to be more of the same. When asked whether lawmakers might eventually provide increased funds to hire auditors and collectors, Republican Hill staffers told us that the members of Congress they work for will follow the lead of the new IRS commissioner, Charles Rettig. If Rettig, who was confirmed in September, asks for more money for the 2020 budget, Congress might support it, they said.Rettig, a tax lawyer with decades of experience defending wealthy clients against the IRS, has been publicly noncommittal so far. Pressed by Democratic senators at his confirmation hearing, all he would say was that “one of [his] top priorities would be to analyze the budget.” This was a stark contrast to Koskinen’s outspoken advocacy.In the meantime, the IRS continues to shrink. Annual revenue from audits is down by about $10 billion, adjusted for inflation, since 2010, and billions more have been lost by not pursuing nonfilers and other sources of unpaid tax debts. If the IRS had maintained a level of enforcement similar to that of the years from 2004 to 2010, it would have collected about $18 billion more than it did last year, ProPublica estimates. The total shortfall since 2011 has been about $95 billion.The true cost is likely much larger, since IRS enforcement has a magnifying effect. People who undergo audits are less likely to evade taxes in the future, just as nonfilers who are caught are more likely to file voluntarily, studies have shown. Take away enforcement, and evaders are emboldened and grow in number.One factor that has helped obscure this deterioration is the growth of the U.S. economy, which has pushed up tax receipts since the Great Recession. The IRS took in $3 trillion in 2017, up from $2 trillion in 2011. Republicans have pointed to this as proof that nothing is amiss: “You could argue,” Representative Crenshaw said to Koskinen in a 2016 hearing, “if you collect more revenue with less money, then maybe if you had even less money you would collect even more revenue.”But the increase in receipts is misleading. During that period, for example, the top marginal tax rate went up, so the richest taxpayers were paying more. More important, in 2011, Americans had deep losses from the 2008 financial crisis that were still depressing tax obligations. In the following years, receipts outpaced economic growth, a typical phenomenon during recoveries. Still, that increase was weaker than government analysts expected. Even before last year’s tax cuts, tax receipts as a percentage of GDP never reached the levels of the late 1990s or mid-2000s.It will be years before we know whether tax cheating has in fact increased. The last IRS report to assess what it calls the “tax gap,” issued in 2016, analyzed the period from 2008 to 2010. It found that taxpayers had paid about 82 percent of the taxes they truly owed. If the rate of compliance in 2017 was the same, that would translate to $667 billion in missing taxes.Even the tiniest drop in compliance would cost billions more. But no one we spoke with who has worked at the IRS thinks the drop is likely to have been small. “One day it will be clear,” Koskinen said, “but by that time, you’re in deep yogurt.”
The Grim Future of Urban Warfare
War is won by breaking an enemy’s morale until their ability to resist collapses. In Iraq, the U.S. military employed “shock and awe,” demonstrating overwhelming force while using superior technology and intelligence. It was a new term for an ancient approach: “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt,” Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, centuries before Christ. Strike suddenly, brutally, and with the element of surprise to sow confusion and encourage surrender and retreat—or to stage annihilation.The Third Reich’s blitzkrieg techniques did the same (“the engine of the Panzer is a weapon just as the main gun,” the German general Heinz Guderian noted), along with the shrieking “Jericho Trumpet” sirens its Luftwaffe attached to planes making dive-bomb attacks on cities. The aim was not just the shattering of buildings but the shattering of nerves.In the present, war’s terror arrives more silently. Soon, the missiles raining down will be hypersonic, traveling in excess of five times the speed of sound, and evading detection and interception in the process.War has changed and remained the same. The origins of future wars are already here, being laid in policies and ambitions, rivalries and resources, greed and grievances. The technologies that will be used to dominate and destroy are already in use or development. They will bring more conflict to cities, where casualties will multiply, along with chaos and fear. War is always bad, but it’s going to become much worse.Proxy and civil wars will continue to flourish, as will conflicts on the peripheries of power blocs. The danger of inadvertent escalation is high. The planet has already survived the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, the Soviet false alarm of 1983, and the Norwegian Black Brant nuclear-rocket scare of 1995. Eventually our luck might run out, and when it does, cities will likely be ground zero. The world’s city-dwelling population exploded from 746 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018, according to the United Nations (which expects that total to increase by another 2.5 billion by 2050). To dominate a nation has come to mean dominating its population centers.There are reasons that coming wars will be more, not less, deadly. As weapons systems become increasingly accurate through satellite positioning, surgical strikes on military targets will seem more viable. But the blood-soaked history of “smart bombs” show that they have only been as smart as the intelligence used to deploy them. In 1991, laser-guided missiles entered the Al-Amiriyya bomb shelter in Iraq through a ventilation shaft, killing more than 400 civilians. In 2008, an air raid obliterated a bridal party at Haska Meyna. Such “aberrations” likely will increase in frequency.[Read: The video game that could shape the future of war]The “double tap” approach—one strike followed quickly by a second meant to target rescue and medical personnel—that has been favored by Islamist terrorists, CIA drones, and Syrian and Russian air strikes will continue to devastate civilian morale and the public’s ability to survive and recover. Absent repercussions, or just to test the geopolitical order, combatants might abandon even the appearance of avoiding civilian targets. That’s already happened in the Russian bombardment of civilian parts of Syrian cities.Even an “ethical” attack, on infrastructure rather than civilians, will result in misery. Destroyed airports, downed bridges, disabled power stations, and disrupted communication networks will tear daily life asunder. The psychological impact upon children—living in basements; subject to the sounds and tremors of bombardments; isolated from social systems, education, adequate sanitation; facing food and medical shortages—is inestimable. Danger in the form of cluster bombs (which are still killing and maiming people in Southeast Asia decades after their deployment) and chemical weapons litters the wreckage that children play in.The threat of attack has already changed the design of cities. Some had underground metros where people could take refuge; in Uzbekistan, Tashkent’s even boasted atomic blast doors. Beijing has an entire underground city called Dixia Cheng, built in case the Sino-Soviet split went nuclear, capable of sheltering millions of people. During World War II, Switzerland built enough bunkers for its entire population to disappear into, along with infrastructure that was rigged to explode upon invasion.But most cities would require improvised refuge in the case of attack: the digging of impromptu and ineffective shelters, with most inhabitants fleeing into refugee camps or taking up residence in the interior rooms of buildings, avoiding windows and daylight, shrouding themselves in the shadows.In order to minimize the uncertainty of war, armies now practice on purpose-built fake towns, long before taking on the real thing. China has designed a replica Taipei to be stormed in Inner Mongolia. The German Bundeswehr pre-enacts civil war scenarios in the artificial settlement of Schnöggersburg. The Americans simulated an Afghan ghost town called Ertebat Shar in the Mojave Desert. The infrastructure of real cities crumbles while governments construct fake ones in order to destroy them. For those who do bring combat to the metropolis, data and smart technology can come to their aid. Aircraft pilots can see the landscape below them via augmented-reality headsets that supply up-to-date information and instructions. Already, supposedly innocuous social technology is being put to murderous use. Before and during the Rwandan genocide, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines was spreading conspiratorial paranoia and agitating for violence. In the case of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in Myanmar that has been targeted by the country’s military, the hate was stirred up on Facebook.On the ground, advances in facial-recognition and surveillance software would identify targets and innocents, but it could also single out specific ethnic groups, facilitating repression (or worse). This tech already aiding “China’s Muslim gulag” and its authoritarian social-credit system, setting the stage for granular information to service formal conflicts.[Read: Urban warfare, then and now]Despite all those innovations, the block-by-block, building-by-building, room-by-room fighting seen from Stalingrad to Aleppo will continue at great cost. Soldiers avoid conventional routes, preferring “mouse-holing” by blowing holes through the walls. For invading forces, the fear of infiltration and assault from below, from the city’s bowels, is ever-present. Jewish resistance fighters surviving beneath the Warsaw ghetto noticed that the German soldiers above suffered from “sewer paranoia,” fearing they could be attacked from any location. In Vietnam, the American soldiers referred to the Viet Cong tunnels at Cu Chi with the nightmarish term “Black Echo.” But invaders in the future would be armed with more than flamethrowers, harnessing sonar and special 3-D-mapping drones that could venture down where soldiers feared to tread.Some war technologies exist only to protect (and to restore confidence in) troops entering potentially hostile territory. Sniper-detection devices can be fitted on vehicles. Soldiers will wear exoskeletons to increase strength and mobility, or graphene armor to reduce vulnerability. They will fire self-steering bullets, and drive tanks built with composite metal foams that supposedly invincible.Given the dangers of physically entering cities on the ground, drones offer a safer alternative. Underwater drones can patrol seaside towns. Drone swarms, consuming everything in their path like a biblical plague, will be the stuff of psychological warfare long before they became reality. Paranoia pervades the sky, which might look empty but harbor invisible threats. Land-based robots will also strike terror into city dwellers, while collecting information from within the fog of confusion they also create.Reassurances that there was always a human supervisor somewhere in the operating of these otherwise autonomous weapons systems means little to the citizens who will watch them make their way through the streets like mechanical dogs, apes, or human beings.The ethics of autonomous warfare has become a contemporary crusade. There is a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, with signatories such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk urging caution. Other researchers disagree, begging for progress on robot soldiers to keep ahead of the “bad guys.” International legislation probably won’t come to pass, for a number of reasons. First, the arms race is already on, and it’s profitable. Second, there is a grey area as to what counts as a “killer robot,” given that automated weapons systems are already being used for defensive positions. And third, it is easy to portray war robots as a humanitarian advance. They spare soldiers from PTSD caused by messy operations. Not to mention that robotic troops wouldn’t require food or sleep, and would not suffer from guilt or remorse. That’s probably a mistake. Though it can be horrific, humans suffer trauma in part as a warning system, the mind’s message that an experience is deeply wrong.The roots of future conflicts are already here. Trade wars, territorial disputes, and resource grabs bubble away. International institutions promoting development and stability are being undermined by exceptionalism. Crucial urban infrastructure gets hacked and sabotaged by state agents. This battlefield alone promises to be devastating in the age of the Smart City. Political disinformation campaigns are rife across the internet, with the Russian fog-creating technique of maskirovka, or military deception, going digital.The Institute of Economics and Peace has noted eight pillars of what it calls “positive peace”: well-functioning government, equitable distribution of resources, free flow of information, good relations with neighbors, high levels of human capital, acceptance of the rights of others, low levels of corruption, and a sound business environment. The absence or fragility of these is not encouraging. The catastrophe of climate change alone has already begun to fuel conflict, and even attempts to mitigate it may lead to violence.What might spark the powder kegs could be anything from the seizure of an island in the South China Sea to a spree of graffiti to a market seller setting fire to himself.Though these wars may happen far away from the metropolitan centers of the West, in a globalized world, ripples will undulate globally: Failed harvests. Economic collapses. Surges in refugees. The rise of populist parties. The technological militarization of domestic police forces continues unabated—long-range acoustic devices and microwave “pain rays,” for example. War is privatizing at the urging of defense contractors, and arms fairs, selling technology to be used at home and abroad, are booming. In the fog of war, and its manufacture, there is a lot of money to be made.
The Atlantic Daily: Running Low on Options
What We’re FollowingRemaining ‘Leave’ Options: British Prime Minister Theresa May has postponed a critical parliamentary vote on a proposal on how exactly Britain will leave, and exist outside of, the European Union (her bill was reportedly likely to fail, in any case). With lawmakers at loggerheads over issues such as a permeable Irish border, and Britain’s March 2019 deadline to leave the EU fast approaching, the walls are closing in on May. Is a second referendum looking more likely?Unwanted: The post of White House chief of staff is an unenviable one. John Kelly, long rumored to be on the verge of leaving, will exit at the end of the year, and Nick Ayers, long rumored to be a top contender for the job, has declined it. “You don’t have to go very far back to find cases of first-term presidents facing legal problems or dim political prospects who have replaced their chiefs of staff,” writes David Graham, who examines the turnover through the lens of Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush’s difficulties filling the chief-of-staff role.Town Frog, Country Frog: There’s no question that animals are changing in response to urban environments. Birds sing through the night due to light pollution; squirrels are getting smarter about where to find food. Here’s yet another unexpected way an animal has adapted to the presence of human activity: Male túngara frogs in urban environments, for whom city lights offer protection from predators like frog-eating bats, sing more complex songs—which are in turn more attractive to túngara females.— Shan WangSnapshot
Sophie Gilbert picks the standout television shows, both new and returning, of 2018. Looking for a philosophical comedy? NBC’s The Good Place. Looking for cringe-y and relatable? Big Mouth, on Netflix. A subversive romantic comedy? You, on Lifetime. Here are all the picks.Evening ReadThis website, which diligently archives all jihadist propaganda published by a jihadist group of significant size, is on the verge of being shut down. Terrorists benefit from it. But so do researchers, argues Graeme Wood:
Over the years, analysts in media and government have spotted details, small and large, exploitable for investigation. A video of a public execution allows you to see not just the victim but also the audience of civilians. Do they have mobile phones? Are their pant-legs rolled up to mid-shin, in the Salafi style, or are the morality police getting lax and letting that rule slide? Once I saw an open-air restaurant in the background of an execution. The prices on the menu-board told me what currency was being used and, by comparison to earlier prices, the rate of inflation. Is the executioner’s accent Syrian? Iraqi? Sudanese? French? Still more valuable are the faces. Foreigners rarely appear in the videos, except intentionally. But now and then a video provides proof that a hunted man is alive and in Syria, rather than dead or on a mission elsewhere.
Read on.What Do You Know … About Education?1. This large for-profit college operator, which ran schools like Virginia College, Ecotech Institute, and Golf Academy of America, abruptly closed last week.Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.2. Teachers from the Acero Schools in this city went on strike last week, the first charter-school strike in the history of the U.S.Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.3. University of North Carolina administrators proposed housing this Confederate monument, taken down earlier this summer, in a separate building on campus.Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.
Answers: Education Corporation of America / Chicago / Silent Sam
Dear TherapistEvery week, the psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb answers readers’ questions in the Dear Therapist column. This week, an anonymous reader writes in about being caught in the middle of his parents’ messy divorce:
I am 21, a college student, and the oldest of three boys. My parents have been going through a bitter divorce process for the past two years. They are at each other’s throats in court about financial matters that they refuse to disclose to us, supposedly to “protect us.”
We don’t feel protected though, because they blame each other constantly to us. Oftentimes, they’ll even ask us to mediate between them, sending messages to each other via us.
My mother, whom I’m closer with, says a lot of money is at stake, and if I don’t try to convince my father to settle, it will all be lost. It’s painful enough—the last thing my brothers and I want is to get even more involved. But we want to help. What should we do?
Read Lori’s response, and write to her at email@example.com.
Looking for our daily mini crossword? Try your hand at it here—the puzzle gets more difficult through the week.
Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Email Shan Wang at firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Staff Infection
Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey).Today in 5 Lines
The search continues for a replacement for White House Chief of Staff John Kelly after several leading candidates reportedly have already declined the role.
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought by two states—Kansas and Louisiana—that were seeking to end Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood.
Maria Butina, the accused Russian spy who was close with officials at the National Rifle Association, seems to have reached a plea deal with the Justice Department, according to a new court filing.
Hundreds of activists protested in the offices of three House Democratic leaders, including likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The protesters are encouraging Democrats to create a special committee focused on climate change.
Over the weekend, House Democrats discussed the prospect of impeachment, and one senator suggested that Trump’s troubles have entered a “new phase.”
Today on The Atlantic
Lowering the Barr: William Barr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Justice Department, isn’t perfect, writes Benjamin Wittes, but he’s at least a more qualified attorney general than others the president reportedly has considered.
Who He Always Was: John Kelly’s employment in President Trump’s administration revealed the general’s true nature, writes James Fallows.
Finding Mr. Right: President Trump is looking for a new chief of staff to replace John Kelly. The problem is, he doesn’t really want one, argues Rahm Emanuel.
Who Is John Delaney?: The Maryland lawmaker and 2020 presidential contender just wrapped up his 20th visit to Iowa. But it’s still not clear that he’s the kind of candidate that Democrats want to challenge Trump. (Elaine Godfrey)
Why Is America So Angry?: In The Atlantic’s January/February cover story, Charles Duhigg delves into how anger became the dominant emotion in American politics—and what can be done to change that.
SnapshotJosie, an English retriever, plays in the snow as her owners, Dawn and Mark Lundblad, walk along Sandy Cove Drive on Sunday in Morganton, North Carolina. More than a foot of snow fell in the area over the weekend. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP)What We’re ReadingIn Case You Missed It: These are five big takeaways from federal prosecutors’ filings on Friday in three cases involving Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. (Aaron Blake, The Washington Post)Paul Ryan’s Great Betrayal: As the current House Speaker prepares to leave office, it has become clear that he “proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump,” argues Ezra Klein. (Vox)29 Minutes With Sherrod Brown: Some Democrats think that the Ohio senator, with his Midwest pragmatism and populist reputation, would be a perfect challenger for Donald Trump. Brown, though, is still getting used to the attention. (Gabriel Debenedetti, New York)
We’re always looking for ways to improve The Politics & Policy Daily. Concerns, comments, questions, typos? Let us know anytime here.
Inside For-Profit Japanese Crying Sessions
Hiroki Terai, a successful Japanese businessman and author, was conducting research for a book about the country’s rising divorce rate when he came to a startling conclusion. “He found that [many] Japanese women who were initiating divorces never got over the divorce,” the filmmaker Darryl Thoms told The Atlantic. As Terai explained to Thoms, “the whole legal and practical process overwhelmed people so much that they didn’t have a chance to emotionally deal with it—and they never got around to crying.”
Ever the entrepreneur, Terai saw an opportunity. “The business started to initially help women cry after that life-changing event,” said Thoms. “After that, Terai thought that perhaps more people could benefit from crying.”
Terai’s Tokyo-based company, Ikemeso Danshi—which roughly translates to “Handsome Weeping Boys”—provides cry-therapy services for those seeking a catharsis they feel unable to express in daily life. “He is selling the elation and lightness that is felt after a cry, similar to how people will go to the cinema for a tearjerker,” explained Thoms. Japanese companies often hire Terai’s team to make staff cry.
Thoms gained Terai’s trust after a few meetings with the businessman. Eventually, Thoms was able to secure permission to film a crying session. In his short documentary Crying with the Handsome Man, the session leader, known as the “tear courier,” induces tears among a group of Japanese women by showing them an emotional film. When the film is over and the waterworks have subsided, the women say they feel calmer.
“In Japan, people do not usually express their emotions,” says the tear courier in the film. In fact, Japanese are among the least likely of all nationalities to cry, according to a poll conducted by the International Study on Adult Crying. (Of the 37 nationalities polled, Americans were the most likely to shed tears.)
Thoms’s intention with the film is “to give some serious insight into Japanese society and the evolution of modern societies in general,” he said. “I’m interested in the modern approach of an instant fix—that basically any problem can be alleviated by commerce.”
Are crying sessions a uniquely Japanese phenomenon? Thoms doesn’t think so. “In other cultures, with more virtual rather than [interpersonal] relationships, I think there will be an increasing need for this service,” he said.
Top News & Analysis
US and China discuss next stage of trade talks
China and the United States discussed the road map for the next stage of their trade talks on Tuesday, during a telephone call between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Papa John's revamps loyalty program in bid to win back diners
It's been a challenging year for Papa John's. Public scandals surrounding its founder and a massive decline in same-store sales have pressured the company into making major changes to its marketing strategy and rethink how to lure customers back.
CNN.com - RSS Channel - HP Hero
President Trump is 'super pissed,' source says
President Donald Trump will be without a chief of staff following John Kelly's departure, and with the surprise decision by Nick Ayers to turn the job down, Trump scrambles to find a replacement. CNN's Jim Acosta has the details.
Trump grows anxious over his political future
While President Donald Trump and Nick Ayers were still in the middle of negotiations about him replacing John Kelly as chief of staff, Trump had already given Ayers a task. He wanted him to conduct a thorough review of how the West Wing operates, including evaluating staffing, in order to make it more politically focused over the next two years.
Don Lemon: Obama comparison makes me want to scream
CNN's Don Lemon shares why it does not make sense to compare former President Obama's civil violation of a federal election law to the campaign finance crimes of President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen.
Opinion: Trump better hope he wins in 2020
Let's be clear. Friday's filings by federal prosecutors backed President Donald Trump into a corner. And his Monday morning rage-tweeting indicates he may be beginning to grasp his limited options moving forward.
44 former senators urge Senate to defend democracy
Forty-four former Republican and Democratic US senators penned an op-ed for The Washington Post that warns "we are entering a dangerous period" and urges current and future senators to be "steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy."
Opinion: Republicans, don't break our democracy
Democrats won big in this year's midterm elections. We put hope on the ballot and voters across the country embraced our message, turning out in droves to elect the most diverse slate of candidates in history. It was a powerful repudiation of Donald Trump and the Republican politicians who march in lockstep behind him.
Tapper deciphers 'clues' in Mueller's probe
CNN's Jake Tapper examines what he says are clues that indicate where special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors are headed with their investigation of Russia and President Donald Trump.
Scientists find tons of 'zombie' bacteria
Barely alive "zombie" bacteria and other life forms are thriving miles below the earth's surface, scientists have found after a decade of research which changes perceptions of life on our planet.
Late night mocks White House job search
Late-night hosts jumped on the chance to offer their ideas for who should replace White House chief of staff John Kelly, who is leaving his position at the end of the year.
Google+ bug affected 52.5 million people
Google will shut down its Google+ social network much sooner than planned after discovering a second bug that revealed millions of customers' private information to software developers.
China bans most iPhone sales
A Chinese court has banned the sale and import of most iPhone models in a stunning decision sure to escalate the nasty trade war between the United States and China.
Probe launched in 1977 reaches interstellar space
NASA's Voyager 2 probe, launched in 1977, is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth and has reached interstellar space, the agency said Monday. This is the second time a human-made object has reached this part of space. And it's an incredible feat for a spacecraft designed to last five years.
An untold reason for the migrant caravan
Each night after her husband left, Delmi Amparo Hernández walked to a neighbor's house to look for him on the TV news. He had fled their mountaintop community here in rural Honduras without a phone because no one in the family could afford one. Their floor was made of dirt, they grew their own food. Watching coverage of the migrant caravan heading for the United States was Hernández's only way to know if he was alive.
How VR is helping dental patients calm down
When Shaun Denis wants to relax at work, he steps into a quiet room, outfitted with a few ferns and a chair. He slips on a virtual-reality headset and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and escapes to the beach.
Lyft's exec put it all on the line to catch Uber
Right now, Lyft is thriving. In the last year, the company expanded its business into bikes, scooters and self-driving cars, and has grown to 4,500 employees. It's ridden a wave of user growth as some customers switched to the platform following a series of scandals at rival Uber. And it recently filed to go public in early 2019, a move that could raise billions of dollars.
The best new cruise ships for 2019
The cruise boom is continuing full steam ahead into 2019, with plenty of new ships -- piled high with innovations -- lined up to sail the seven seas.
Why sentencing judge may not show Cohen 'mercy'
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, faces sentencing on Wednesday before a federal district judge in the Southern District of New York. Cohen will learn his fate, which likely involves years in jail, and we will learn more about the value of Cohen's cooperation and potential usefulness to special counsel Robert Mueller.
Ocasio-Cortez gets promise of 'Green New Deal'
Right-wing media outlets seem to be waging a coordinated campaign to portray US Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a dimwit radical. Their efforts will backfire. She is in fact championing the smartest, most practical idea in US politics to address two urgent problems: climate change and poverty.
Macron needs do a lot more to silence protestors
Emmanuel Macron, who swept into office 18 months ago on a wave of popularity, is now faced with the greatest challenge to his presidency -- a nationwide populist protest against skyrocketing taxes and the disenfranchisement of the poor.
Giant collisions shaking the cosmos
In 1608, the German-Dutch lensmaker Hans Lippershey became the first person to apply for a patent for what we now call the telescope. By combining two lenses, he found that he could make distant objects appear closer than they are. While some lauded the invention for its military applications, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei turned the telescope to the heavens and opened a new eye on the cosmos. His observations overturned the existing astronomical beliefs of his time.
Telling young women to stay in their lane is sexist
Jameela Jamil is on a mission to combat airbrushing, diet teas and other forms of image-based oppression, but not everyone is on board. The outspoken actor and presenter is best known for her role as the aggravatingly perfect, name-dropping former activist Tahani on NBC's "The Good Place."
Mueller is dropping big clues on Trump
President Trump and his allies have long rallied around the defiant battle cry that special counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a "witch hunt" that has uncovered "no collusion" with Russia. But public filings by Mueller and the Southern District of New York over the past two weeks have changed the game. We still do not know everything Mueller knows, but the contours of a broad scheme by the administration to conspire with Russia -- to the personal benefit of Trump and the detriment of the United States -- are now coming into sharper focus.
Even James Comey is numb to all of this
President Donald Trump fired James Comey as the head of the FBI. He has described Comey as a liar and a leaker. He has said he did the country a favor by firing Comey.
House Democrats may probe Kushner ties to Saudi crown prince
Rep. Eliot Engel, who is poised to lead the House Foreign Affairs Committee, plans to conduct a thorough review of US policy towards Saudi Arabia -- and that could include Jared Kushner's ties to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, according to a Democratic aide.
Latest news, sports, weather from Denver and Colorado | The Denver Post
Boy, 3, shot an 8-month-old girl in New Mexico motel room, police say
GALLUP, N.M. — A couple is facing charges after authorities say a 3-year-old shot an 8-month-old girl in the face while the couple was in a motel shower.
Police say Shayanne Nelson and Tyrell Bitsilly were at a motel Saturday in Gallup, New Mexico, when Nelson’s child found a gun and accidentally fired it, hitting the baby.
According to a criminal complaint, the 18-year-old Nelson says she didn’t know a gun was in the room and it may have been left by a prior occupant.
A witness told police he saw the 21-year-old Bitsilly wipe the gun after the shooting.
The baby was taken to a hospital. Her current condition is unknown.
Nelson and Bitsilly are facing child abuse charges.
It was not known if either is represented by an attorney.
5 missing Marines declared dead in warplanes crash off Japan
TOKYO — The U.S. military has declared five missing crew members dead after their refueling plane collided with a fighter jet last week off Japan’s southern coast, and halted search and recovery operations.
The five crew members were on a KC-130 refueling aircraft that collided last Thursday with an F/A-18 Hornet during regularly scheduled training.
Two crew members in the F/A-18 were recovered after the accident, but one died. The U.S. Marines said the survivor was in stable condition when rescued.
It said in a statement that the identities of the five people declared dead will be released after their next of kin are notified.
The crew members were based at Iwakuni air station near Hiroshima.
2 US warplanes crash off Japan; 2 found, 5 missing
Trump strongly defends use of tear gas on caravan migrants
Melting ice has U.S. military looking north
Leader of Colorado Army National Guard’s mountain flying center leaves dream job after 12 years
More soldiers return to Colorado from Afghan deployment
Seahawks on brink of playoffs after 21-7 win over Vikings
SEATTLE — Bobby Wagner leaped over the line of scrimmage, swatted Dan Bailey’s field goal attempt and sparked the Seattle Seahawks to two late touchdowns.
Whether or not what Wagner did was entirely legal, he frankly didn’t care.
“I’m not stressing about that. I made the play. They called what they called,” Wagner said. “There’s times in games where things happen all the time. I’m not stressing on it. It was a big block and we’ll definitely take it. It was amazing.”
Wagner’s block midway through the fourth quarter was the catalyst in a 21-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night that pushed Seattle to the brink of a playoff berth.
Chris Carson followed the blocked kick with a 2-yard TD run with 2:53 left, and Justin Coleman capped off the Seahawks’ fourth straight victory with a 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown 18 seconds later.
What was an ugly and mostly forgettable first three quarters turned into a Seattle party in the fourth as the Seahawks (8-5) moved to the brink of wrapping up a wild-card spot in the NFC. One win in Seattle’s final three games — including matchups with lowly San Francisco and Arizona — should be enough to put the Seahawks into the postseason.
“It’s really about the defense. I loved the way they played, they played so hard and so spirited,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It was almost poetic after last week’s game that Bobby would get to block the field goal and he pulled it off and did it. That was an incredible play.”
Minnesota (6-6-1) twice had scoring chances in the fourth quarter when it was still a one-score game but was turned away each time. Minnesota’s chances of winning the NFC North took a major hit with its second straight loss, but the Vikings still hold the No. 6 spot in the NFC.
“Part of it is being better on third downs. We haven’t really done a good job there. Part of it is being better in the red zone,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We had the ball on the 2-yard line and didn’t score.”
But much of the conversation centered on Wagner’s block of Bailey’s 47-yard attempt with 5:38 left and whether it was entirely legal. Wagner’s jump through a gap in Minnesota’s offensive line was fine, but it appeared he used his teammates to gain leverage, which allowed him to come through and block the kick. A flag was initially thrown but was picked up by the officials.
Wagner said he attempted it four times in practice without a problem but acknowledged it could be tough to pull off the play during the fourth quarter of a tight game.
“When I did it in practice I was pretty fresh,” Wagner said.
Zimmer said he asked for an explanation of what happened but wasn’t given one. He was told he couldn’t challenge.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t see what happened. I was told what happened,” Zimmer said.
Seattle took possession and Russell Wilson immediately scrambled 40 yards deep into Minnesota territory. Five plays later, Carson scored and Seattle finally had a cushion. Two plays after that, Jacob Martin sacked Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins and the ball popped to Coleman, who weaved his way for the clinching touchdown.
Cousins threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Dalvin Cook with 1:10 remaining, but Seattle recovered the onside kick.
“I feel like all of our losses we, as an offense, we are so slow,” Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said. “Our defense is keeping us in games. And we’re not pulling our side of the bargain.”
Broncos briefs: Vance Joseph reflects on experience with QB Baker Mayfield at Senior Bowl
Oakland Raiders fire GM Reggie McKenzie
Kiszla vs. O’Halloran: Do the Broncos or the Browns have a brighter future as an NFL playoff team?
Chiefs owner: Patrick Mahomes “always gives you a chance”
Sorting out the AFC playoff picture after Week 14 is a tough task
Wilson had one of the worst passing games of his career, completing 10 of 20 attempts for career-low 72 yards and a baffling interception late in the first half, one of the many mistakes by Seattle that allowed Minnesota to hang around. But Seattle’s ground game was outstanding against one of the better run defenses in the NFL. The Seahawks finished with 214 yards rushing, led by 90 yards from Carson.
Sebastian Janikowski hit field goals of 37 and 35 yards to account for all of Seattle’s scoring until the closing minutes.
“If you run it 40-something times, you ought to win. That was pretty good,” Carroll said.
FOURTH QUARTER WOES
Minnesota hung around despite failing to run a play in Seattle territory until there was 4:16 left in the third quarter. Cousins was 20 of 33 for 208 yards, most of that coming late. But he failed to get the Vikings into the end zone from inside the Seattle 5 while trailing 6-0 early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings had first-and-goal at the Seattle 4 but turned the ball over on downs with 9:06 remaining. Two short runs and an incompletion brought up fourth-and-goal at the 1, and Cousins’ pass for Kyle Rudolph was knocked away by Bradley McDougald. Bailey’s field goal was blocked on Minnesota’s next drive.
Minnesota fell to 0-6 when allowing its opponents to run for at least 100 yards. The Vikings came in to the week giving up 99 yards per game on the ground, good for seventh-best in the NFL. Seattle had 136 yards rushing in the first half.
OTHER CENTURY MARK
Thielen tied Cris Carter as the fastest Minnesota player to reach 100 receptions in a season, both accomplishing the feat in 13 games. Carter did it in 1994 when he finished the year with 122 catches. Thielen is the first Minnesota receiver to get to 100 catches since Randy Moss in 2003. But Thielen didn’t get his first catch until midway through the third quarter. He finished with five catches for 70 yards.
Minnesota: The Vikings return home to host Miami on Sunday.
Seattle: The Seahawks play their final road game Sunday at San Francisco.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
Trial postponed for Colorado man accused of killing son
Dylan and Mark Redwine
DURANGO — The trial of a Colorado man accused of killing his 13-year-old son has been pushed back, but a new date has not yet been set.
The Durango Herald reports a four-week trial for Mark Redwine was scheduled to begin in late February, but it will likely be moved to the summer as a judge is expected to rule on dozens of pretrial motions in the coming months.
Redwine appeared in court last week as attorneys argued motions to determine what evidence will be allowed at trial and where the trial will be held.
Redwine has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of his son Dylan.
Dylan disappeared in November 2012 while visiting his father in Vallecito. His remains were found near Redwine’s home.
Two more suspects arrested in Mesa County death of Clifton man who went missing in April
Lafayette woman accused of having imprisoned ex-boyfriend order hit
Man who drove into crowd at Charlottesville rally convicted of first-degree murder
Christopher Watts transferred to Wisconsin prison
Interview with Shanann Watts’ parents to run on national television show
Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com
Finding a White House chief of staff turns into a scramble
WASHINGTON — Wanted: Top aide to most powerful leader in world. Chief qualification: Willing to take the job. Must also be prepared to tolerate regular undermining by boss and risk of steep legal bills. Post-employment prospects: Uncertain.
President Donald Trump is scrambling to find a new chief of staff after his first choice to replace John Kelly bailed at the last minute and several other potential successors signaled they weren’t interested in the job.
Back to square one, Trump is mulling over a list of at least four potential candidates after Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, took himself out of the running Sunday and decided that he would instead be leaving the White House. The announcement surprised even senior staffers who believed that Ayers’ ascension was a done deal.
Trump is now soliciting input on a list of candidates that is said to include Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. And allies are pitching Trump on even more contenders.
But as quickly as names were being floated, candidates appeared to be pulling themselves from consideration, underscoring the challenges of working for a mercurial president who has acknowledged that he likes to surround himself with chaos and despises any suggestion he’s being managed.
“In the best of times, it is relentless,” said Chris Whipple, an expert on chiefs of staff and author of “The Gatekeepers,” a book on the subject. “It’s 24/7. It’s thankless. You get all of the blame and none of the credit for everything that happens. And that’s in the best of times. We are not in the best of times.”
Trump’s administration has set records for staff turnover, and the president has often struggled to attract experienced political professionals, a challenge that has grown more difficult with the upcoming threat of costly Democratic oversight investigations and an uncertain political environment.
Those who take high-level positions in the White House at this time open themselves up to potential legal exposure and pricey lawyer bills, said David B. Cohen, a political science professor at The University of Akron who co-wrote a book on chiefs of staff.
Meadows said Monday he had not discussed the role with the president, but one congressional Republican said Meadows has told others he wants the job.
“It’s not been anything that I’ve been out advocating for,” Meadows told Fox News, but he added that “my life changed” after Ayers decided to pull out of the job.
Meanwhile, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a potential contender, said he was “entirely focused” on his current position. A person familiar with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly made clear he, too, is happy in his current post.
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While some of the reactions may be strategic posturing, there is also ample reason for any aspiring chief of staff to give pause to the notion of taking the job.
Trump has already burned through two chiefs of staff — a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a retired Marine four-star general — subjecting them to regular humiliation and ridicule.
Former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’s departure from the White House was unceremoniously announced by tweet. Nearly 18 months later, Trump stepped on an orderly succession plan for Kelly, making a surprise Saturday announcement on the White House lawn that the retired general would be leaving by year’s end.
Ayers’ ascension and Kelly’s departure looked like a done deal Friday night, according to multiple people in and close to the administration, with an announcement planned for Monday. Trump and Ayers had discussed the job for months, and the president had already been steering inquiries to the Pence staffer rather than Kelly. These people, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive personnel matters.
But Trump jumped the gun Saturday, and Ayers re-evaluated his decision. While a White House official said Ayers’ decision was driven by a desire to return to Georgia to be closer to his family, people familiar with his thinking said he was also worried about scrutiny of his former political consulting business. He and Trump also could not reach agreement on Ayers’ length of service. Ayers wanted to serve on an interim basis; Trump wanted a two-year commitment.
Trump was stung by Ayers’ decision to back out, according to people close to him. The embarrassment comes at a pivotal time for Trump, as he prepares for re-election while facing an expected onslaught of investigations from Democrats who will take control of the House and amid the ongoing Russia probe.
When Trump appoints a replacement for Kelly, he will set a record for most chiefs of staff within the first 24 months of an administration, according to an analysis by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institution.
Yet Trump once mocked his predecessor for chief of staff turnover.
“3 Chief of Staffs in less than 3 years of being President: Part of the reason why @BarackObama can’t manage to pass his agenda,” Trump wrote in a 2012 tweet.
Trump had said Saturday that he would be announcing Kelly’s replacement in the next day or two. But with Ayers no longer waiting in the wings, there is fear that Trump may not have someone in place in time for Kelly’s departure or that he will pick the first person who comes to mind as he tries to counter perceptions that no one wants the position.
Two Republicans close to the White House said Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka Trump, who were among Ayers’ top backers, were still trying to have an outsized hand in the restarted process, telling the president that the two of them, as family, would be the only ones Trump could count on to stay the course in the coming months. The Republicans spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Trump has also told confidants that he is eager to bring on someone he gets along with as his third chief of staff. While he still had a measure of respect for Kelly, the men’s personal relationship had long been frosty. This time, Trump has told allies, he wants someone he can chat with — trading gossip and complaining about media coverage — as well as someone more attuned politically.
Meanwhile, the list of names floated for the job continued to grow, including mentions by people close to the administration of former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker — even White House communications director Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Many of them weren’t being taken seriously, but the breadth of the list highlighted the uncertainty in Trump’s political orbit over the job hunt.
Trump has also told people around him that he misses the more freewheeling feel of the Oval Office under Priebus and would not let his new chief of staff set the kinds of limits he allowed Kelly to impose.
Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Follow Miller, Colvin and Lemire on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller , https://twitter.com/colvinjand https://twitter.com/JonLemire
Fixing road woes for CU Buffs men’s basketball begins at New Mexico
Before the Colorado men’s basketball team visited San Diego three weeks ago, sparkplug point guard McKinley Wright said the Buffaloes were going to approach the challenging road test as if it was an NCAA Tournament game.
If it had been, the Buffs’ season would have come to a disappointing end, as CU struggled offensively against a dogged San Diego defense.
Of course, it wasn’t actually an NCAA tourney game, merely the first road game of the season. And while the Buffs picked up an elusive road win in rather easy fashion at Air Force four days after visiting San Diego, fully conquering the road woes that have thwarted the Buffs in recent seasons remains a critical priority for a club that begins a stretch of nine games out of the next 11 away from home on Tuesday at New Mexico.
“We have to not be satisfied with competing. We have to finish the game and come out with a victory,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we’re judged on. The San Diego opportunity is in our rearview mirror. We can’t do anything about it. We lost to a good San Diego team, a solid team. But again, we had the game won…and didn’t get a stop.
“Every game is important for this team in nonconference play.”
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Mel Tucker’s football staff starting to take shape with CU Buffs
Colorado head football coach Mel Tucker is quickly putting together his coaching staff, and it will include several familiar faces.
Buffzone.com learned through a source Monday that current CU assistant coaches Darian Hagan, Ross Els and Kwahn Drake will be retained by Tucker, who was hired as the Buffaloes’ new head coach on Wednesday. Darrin Chiaverini announced Sunday night he will be retained, as well.
Meanwhile, Buffzone has confirmed a FootballScoop.com report that the Buffs are in the process of hiring Jay Johnson as offensive coordinator. Johnson has spent the past two years as offensive quality control analyst at Georgia.
Tucker, who was the defensive coordinator at Georgia the previous three years, worked alongside Johnson with the Bulldogs and is giving him a chance to return to a coordinator role.
Johnson was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Minnesota in 2016. Prior to that, he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Louisiana from 2011-15.
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Two Denver men charged with possession of unregistered firearms, machine guns
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of ColoradoA stockpile authorities say were sold to undercover agents earlier this year, 2018.
A federal grand jury in Denver returned indictments against two men for allegedly selling firearms without serial numbers to undercover agents.
Eduardo Trujillo and Andres Jaquin Luna III were charged Dec. 4 with possession of unregistered firearms and possession of machine guns, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado news release.
Luna was also charged with distribution of methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Both defendants were originally charged by criminal complaints on Nov. 27. The pair allegedly sold firearms without serial numbers to undercover agents in July, August and October.
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The firearms included machine guns and silencers without serial numbers, according to affidavits.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives office in Denver.
Injury-depleted Nuggets take down grit-and-grind Grizzlies
If the Nuggets are to withstand their brutal rash of injuries, it’ll be because players thrived outside of their natural roles.
Down three starters and navigating a shin injury to point guard Jamal Murray, the Nuggets (18-9) snapped a two-game losing streak and took down the Grizzlies, 105-99, on Monday night at the Pepsi Center with their own version of grit-and-grind.
Mason Plumlee had a huge block and forced a steal late in the fourth, Monte Morris and Juancho Hernangomez nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, and the shorthanded Nuggets withstood the slow grind of the Grizzlies with a suffocating fourth quarter defensive performance. The Nuggets added reinforcements by signing Nick Young, but he didn’t get off the bench.
Instead, the Nuggets were paced by their superstar, Nikola Jokic, who had 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a season-high 38 minutes. Morris also chipped in 20 points, including 15 in the second half, curbing the momentum and ensuring the Nuggets couldn’t use depth as an excuse.
“I think Monte Morris was MVP of the game,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “He was phenomenal tonight.”
Plumlee’s double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) provided a huge boost in the frontcourt.
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“Nikola played great, obviously he sets the stage for everything we do,” Plumlee said. “Monte came off and played great, Jamal (Murray) really got people involved on offense. … Nobody has to play outside of themselves. Our system is what makes us good.”
The Grizzlies scored 22 points in the first 5:43 of the third quarter to take a 72-65 lead and force a Nuggets timeout. From there, Morris surged to the bucket on a transition layup, knocked down a 3-pointer and reeled off nine points to give the Nuggets an 84-83 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Nuggets returned home after a draining and debilitating road trip and were determined not to make excuses. The postgame locker room in Atlanta was tense after players discussed the need to take accountability, even with a shortened bench.
“Road trip, (number of) games in certain nights, I think the message was too many excuses,” Plumlee said. “Injuries, all that be what it may, I think guys just felt like (the excuses were) too powerful for that game, and it showed.”
Plumlee, in order to match up with Memphis’ versatile frontcourt, replaced Trey Lyles for his first start of the year. Until the Nuggets get healthy, it’s likely game-by-game matchups will determine the starters.
“I think all guys understand that with the injuries that we have right now, that kind of throws your lineup and your rotations out the window, and you almost take it on a game-by-game basis,” Michael Malone said. “What matchup, what lineup, what personnel will give us the best chance to get off to a good start.”
The Nuggets were missing their two best defenders in Paul Millsap (broken toe) and Gary Harris (injured hip), severely compromising the Nuggets’ fourth-ranked defense. Though Will Barton is getting closer, the Nuggets will need to survive for the time being using a hodgepodge of rotations that occasionally force players out of their typical positions.
“The biggest challenge for us is, obviously having the amount of few bodies that we have, plugging guys in, and all of our guys right now are playing in expanded roles,” Malone said.
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Though it’s a small consolation, the Nuggets’ upcoming schedule affords them a bit of a reprieve with just five games through Dec. 26. And Malone sounds optimistic that none of the injuries will linger for too long.
“I’m not a doctor by any means, but I don’t think it’s months,” Malone said. “I’m hoping it’s weeks. I definitely got my rosary beads out, trying to get those guys back as quickly as possible.”
Jokic, understanding the situation, was aggressive Monday and attacked the paint with vigor. He had 19 in the first half, including eight free throws, as the Nuggets jumped out to a 55-50 lead. Plumlee was both active and effective, scoring seven points and snagging eight boards in the first two quarters. The Grizzlies entered as the worst rebounding team in the NBA, and the Nuggets held an early 21-13 advantage on the glass.
Rockies can afford Nolan Arenado, GM Jeff Bridich says at winter meetings
LAS VEGAS — Topic No. 1 for Rockies fans this winter is not about who’s on first in 2019. Nor is it about whether the club will add a power bat to wake up its sleepy offense. Those issues, important as they are, are secondary.
The fate of all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who’s entering the final year of his contract, trumps everything, at least in the eyes of many fans. Will he sign a long-term deal? Will he be traded?
Yet here at the winter meetings, Arenado’s future has been put on the back burner, at least for now. General manager Jeff Bridich, who’s busy swapping text messages with teams and agents, has more immediate concerns at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
Yes, Bridich is aware of the Arenado issue, and he made it clear Monday that the Rockies are still in the game when it comes to a long-term deal with their third baseman. Bridich said the Rockies continue to have “good communication” with Arenado. The GM also reiterated that Colorado could afford to pay Arenado north of $200 million on a new deal, adding, again, that the Rockies are seeking “responsible growth.”
Last season, the Rockies had an opening-day payroll of $136.9 million and have steadily increased their payroll over the last few years.
“Our payroll has grown a lot over the past half-decade, and we’re continuing to plan on, as I’ve said in the past, responsible growth,” Bridich said. “We’re not in a holding pattern. We’re not where we’re drawing back on our payroll. We believe that we can continue to grow responsibly.”
That being said, the Rockies aren’t suddenly going to start spending like the Red Sox or the Dodgers.
“It’s not going to grow by huge, huge, huge jumps every single year, but we’ve made some commitments that we believe in, guys that we believe in,” he said. “We signed (outfielder) Charlie Blackmon this past year to a long-term deal (six years, $108 million).”
Hit man. Dave Magadan has emerged as a strong contender to be the Rockies’ next hitting coach, replacing the departed Duane Espy. Bridich, however, would not confirm that Madagan will join the staff of manager Bud Black. Bridich did say that the club will hire one hitting coach, plus retain Jeff Salazar as the second hitting coach. Magadan was the Red Sox’s hitting coach when they defeated the Rockies in the 2007 World Series.
Magadan, 55, played in the majors for parts of 16 season and was the hitting coach at Arizona for the past three seasons.
Redmond to O’s? Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond has interviewed for the job as the Orioles’ next manager. He is one of six candidates for the job. Bridich said the Rockies gave permission to the Orioles to allow Redmond to interview.
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Quotable. “The nice thing with us is that we don’t feel like we have to make a whole slew of changes to the team. We are very comfortable and very happy and very confident in so much of what we have on this team. So we get to be somewhat picky and somewhat choosy.” — Bridich
Footnotes. It’s clear that Colorado is looking for help in the outfield or at first base. When asked if multidimensional player Marwin Gonzalez was on the club’s radar, Bridich said, “That’s tough to say,” seeming to indicate that the Rockies are not making a pitch for him. Bridich did say that the Rockies talked to Philadelphia about slugging first baseman Carlos Santana, before Santana was traded to Seattle last week. There is no clear indications yet that the Mariners are willing to trade him again. … Colorado talked to Arizona about trading for all-star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Bridich confirmed. But the GM added it quickly became clear that the D-backs were not interested in trading Goldschmidt to Colorado. Goldschmidt was traded to St. Louis last week.
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“Denverization” is a thing in Kansas City — and not a good thing
Ever heard of “Denverization”?
In Kansas City, Mo., it’s a 13-letter word for gentrification, and it doesn’t come with Mile High City perks such as plentiful sunshine and nearby ski slopes.
The Kansas City Star published an editorial last week under the headline “Stop the Denverization of Kansas City. Troost doesn’t need to be hipster-friendly.” The editorial decries city policy that has allowed for new money and development to pour into the city’s East Side without any giveback from builders or protection for low-income residents now being priced out of their once-overlooked, minority neighborhoods.
“The East Side badly needs economic development, so what’s wrong with that?” the editorial asks. “Only that without any serious and legally binding housing policy, Kansas City is allowing its affordable housing crisis to deepen.”
K.C. Star opinion writer Melinda Henneberger penned the editorial. It references Denver just once, in the final paragraph, where it talks about creating housing with “mountain-view prices, Rockies not included.”
It doesn’t define Denverization. It doesn’t need to because the word is already part of the Kansas City lexicon, Henneberger says.
“I used that term because it’s one people on the East Side here actually use; I first heard it maybe six months ago at a community meeting at a library there,” she said in an email. “They call it ‘Denverization’ because so many of those priced out in your town are moving to ours, where they are in turn pushing others out.”
In other words, it’s a domino effect of pricing pressure many a Coloradan might link back to the oft-decried Californification of their state. The median home price in Kansas City is $195,000, according to Zillow, less than half of Denver’s $468,495. In Los Angeles, it’s $799,000.
Keith Myers, Kansas City StarThe revitalization of Troost Avenue includes new apartments going up between 26th and 27th streets. (Photo by Keith Myers/Kansas City Star)
Henneberger’s column isn’t the first place “Denverization” has appeared. The Colorado Springs Business Journal used it in a 2006 opinion piece lashing out at plans for a downtown skyscraper. More recently, the Colorado Springs Independent has used it to describe an in-migration of Denver restaurants in the local food scene.
For some Kansas City residents, Denverization is less savory.
The epicenter of Denverization is Troost Avenue, a north-south thoroughfare that The Star has reported on a lot recently. Troost has been the dividing line between affluent white neighborhoods on the west and poor black neighborhoods on the east for generations Only now, with young professionals (see: hipsters) being priced out of downtown Kansas City, new, more expensive housing is going up on the East Side.
Henneberger’s concern is that the city is asking nothing of developers when it comes to commitment to affordable housing. Nearly all of the hundreds of new apartments going up along Troost will command market-rate rents.
In Denver, high-percentage minority neighborhoods such as Highland and Five Points over the last decade have become redevelopment hotbeds. The result has been displacement of some low-income residents, many of them black and Latino.
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However, Denver has required developers to make affordability commitments. Its now-defunct inclusionary housing ordinance previously required large, new for-sale housing developments to set aside 10 percent of their units for low-income buyers. In place of that, the city has an affordable housing fund that draws from sources including development fees to support housing affordability.
But many have argued the city doesn’t do enough. Lisa Calderón, who is running for Denver mayor in May’s election, shared The Star’s Denverization column on her campaign Facebook page last week.
“Our city is becoming a model for what not to do,” Calderón wrote.
More than 200 Colorado groups taking part in #GivingTuesday this year
The seventh annual #GivingTuesday arrives this week, and more than 200 Colorado organizations are participating this year.
Founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City, #GivingTuesday is intended as the unofficial launch of the charitable giving season in much the same way Black Friday unofficially launches the holiday shopping season, according to the movement’s website.
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The day, falling on Tuesday, Nov. 27 this year, rallies the power of social media to grab people’s attention and amplify requests for donations, volunteers and resources in communities around the world. Nonprofit organizations, civic groups, private businesses and even individual people are invited to join the platform and put out a call for the help they need.
The Sun Valley Youth Center is one of 226 Colorado participants in #GivingTuesday this year. The center, in Denver’s poorest neighborhood, provides day care, after-school care, mentoring and other services.
Executive Director Kris Rollerson said her organization is appealing to “anyone in the world who would like to contribute to keep us open and keep programs running,” by donating on #GivingTuesday.
#GivingTuesday is not the same as Colorado Gives Day. That Centennial-state-centric day of giving falls on Dec. 4 this year. Local organizations will take part in both events.
These Colorado businesses are offering Black Friday deals, and there’s not a TV or video game console in the bunch
Across Colorado, countless businesses will be offering deals and special promotions starting this Friday as part of the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend that serves as the unofficial kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Not all of them hail from the traditional corners of the retail sector.
Hotels, spas, even recreational pot shops, are getting in on the act this year. The deals range from half-off rooms to discounted festival tickets to champagne and caviar.
The fledgling Origin Red Rocks in Golden is among the hotels that have announced special offers available for purchase this weekend. In a promotion starting Friday and ending Monday, people who book a two-night stay at the Origin through March 31 will get a $40 voucher for the hotel’s restaurant and bar, Nomad Taqueria + Beer Garden. Book online at originhotel.com/redrocks/packages.
The 124-room hotel opened in August. It’s the official hotel partner of Red Rocks Amphitheater. But concert season is over and management is looking for ways to showcase what Origin has to offer beyond proximity to an iconic music venue.
“It’s really just about getting out there and getting local people to come out and try us out,” Agnes Kwietniewski, the Origin’s director of sales, said.
Here are a few other hotels offering discounts of their own:
The Garden of the Gods Resort and Club is offering a $200 resort credit with any three-night stay booked between midnight Wednesday and 11:59 p.m. Monday. Offer good on stays through May 15. For booking visit: gardenofthegodsclub.com/cyber-weekend-sale
Boulder’s St. Julien Hotel and Spa is offering a 50 percent off the second night of two-night stays booked though March. Offer opens Friday and closes Monday. It is subject to availability. To book, call 720-406-9696.
The 10-room Dove Inn in Golden is offering 30 percent off stays between December and April, so long as they are booked on Friday or Saturday. Book online at thedoveinn.com using the promo code BUYSMALL.
Debbie Billings is staying at the Origin Red Rocks this week as part of a trip to visit a friend in Fort Collins for Thanksgiving. The Cincinnati resident didn’t book her room as part of a Black Friday promotion, but she thinks the hotel is on to something.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” she said. “I think more hotels should do it. Why wouldn’t you? Especially in the slower time of the year when you’re trying to fill it up.”
The Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel is taking a different approach to holiday promotions. It is offering a “Cyber Holiday Shopping” package. Starting at $289 per night for a two-person room, guests who stay between Sunday and Jan. 1 (pending availability) can get free valet parking, complimentary in-room breakfast and Bloody Mary or mimosa bar and a $100 Amazon gift card. Bookings have to be made a week in advance. Call 303-867-8100.
Kelly Wilson, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said a similar promotion last year netted about 25 bookings, but it didn’t include free valet parking or other value-adding features.
“With this one we’re trying to create little bit of a buzz,” she said. “Come do your holiday shopping under our 28-foot tree.”
The All Things Vain Medi Spa in Lone Tree will be offering “Holiday Mixer” packages through Sunday, packages that include half-off spa treatments along with other items. One package, the “Champagne and Caviar Luxe,” entitles the recipient to a half-off facial and caviar treatment with a real caviar mask. It’s going for $650.
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Even Colorado’s latest boom industry is getting in on the act. The Green Solution, a chain of 16 recreational marijuana dispensaries, is offering a variety of in-person and online specials this weekend. On Black Friday, all shoppers who buy something at Green Solution locations can purchase a key lime truffle (made with hash oil) for a penny. All Green Solution locations will be open limited hours on Thanksgiving.
“We’ve always been mavericks in our industry, and this is really a great way to say thanks for the communities that support us,” Jordan Bryant, the company’s creative director, said in an email. “Thanksgiving and Black Friday is a fun cultural event that we love to participate in. This feeds into one of our core principles to have fun and celebrate our products.”
SNEAK PEEK: Zara arrives in Denver’s Cherry Creek mall just in time for the holidays
Cherry Creek got an exclusive new store under its Christmas tree, and shoppers can unwrap it starting at 10 Thursday morning.
Fast-fashion clothier Zara is ready to welcome shoppers to the Denver store it announced in March.
The Spanish brand’s first and — so far — only Colorado location brings 32,000-square-foot of clothes and accessories to two floors of the Denver shopping center at 3000 E. First Ave. The store is across from the Neiman Marcus, off the plaza where Santa Claus has set up shop for the season.
“We’re excited to be here in Denver,” Zara spokeswoman Amaya Guillermo said. “Denver is a fashion-forward city in the U.S.A. and also we have found this amazing location in Cherry Creek.”
With white walls and surfaces and a simple, open floor plan, the focus inside Zara is on the merchandise. Coming in the ground floor entrance, shoppers will first see selections from the retailer’s evening collection. The entire first floor is dedicated to women’s clothing, as is a significant chunk of the second level. Men’s and kids’ items have dedicated rooms upstairs.
The prices are comparable to hip competitors like H&M and Uniqlo. Women’s jeans are going for $39.90 at Zara Cherry Creek, the same price as a pair on the Uniqlo website. H&M has pairs online for as little as $9.99, but its “premium quality” jeans are going for $49.99.
“Very excited,” Cherry Creek shopper Anna Brown said Wednesday as she peaked in Zara’s window. Brown has shopped at Zaras in other cities. She said the brand is “on-trend, pretty descent quality and the prices are good.”
Zara was founded by now-billionaire Amanico Ortega. Ortega turned what was one location in Spain in 1975 into one of the world’s biggest fashion empires. Zara parent company Inditex Group (also owner of Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Zara Home) saw revenues eclipse $25.7 billion last year, up from $10.4 billion in 2008. Inditex has 7,422 stores around the world, including 99 in the U.S. The Cherry Creek Zara is No. 100.
Zara takes “fast fashion” literally. It has in-house sourcing, logistics and production arms, relying on suppliers in Europe, Turkey and Morocco to keep its operation economical and sustainable. It also has 300 in-house clothing designers. The designers use data sourced from stores to produce new merchandise, which is then pumped out online and to physical locations.
“We are creating, always, new products and new designs that we are delivering to all Zara stores twice per week,” Guillermo said. “That will be the same in Denver.”
The Cherry Creek store was designed with sustainability in mind. Using in-store sensors to monitor how many people are shopping, Zara will regulate temperature and humidity inside. Thanks to LED lighting and other features, it is expected to use 20 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than a standard retail store.
Online Zara orders can be picked up in the Cherry Creek store, and exchanges and returns can be handled there as well.
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Counting Zara, Cherry Creek now has 40 stores that are unique to the shopping center in the local market, general manager Nick LeMasters said. That’s 25 percent of its total merchant count. Exclusivity is a major focus for Cherry Creek at a time where retail centers are competing with each other and online sellers.
“To get a first-to-market store like Zara is so important for the shopping center,” LeMasters said. He predicted it would draw customers from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
Aside from Zara, the mall will soon welcome a North Face store — relocated from the nearby Cherry Creek North district — and French luxury fashion brand Hermes, LeMasters said.
The biggest changes in Cherry Creek are taking place outside the main mall corridors. After Bed Bath & Beyond bolted for Glendale, its standalone building is now being occupied the District Shops, a craft and local makers market with goods from 300 producers.
Bed Bath & Beyond’s former neighbors, the Container Store and Macy’s Furniture Gallery, recently relocated to the former Safeway on the east side of the shopping center. Redevelopment plans for the center’s western property along University Boulevard are coming.
“It does allow us to begin with something of a blank slate on the west end as we contemplate what form that might take,” LeMasters said, emphasizing the center’s owner, Taubman Properties, is looking for the right partners for any redevelopment work. “It will likely be mixed-use, which isn’t necessarily what we do. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
As DACA hangs in the balance, meet the Colorado Dreamers who are gripped by hope and fear
A federal appeals court last week blocked the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides protection from deportation for approximately 17,000 Coloradans and hundreds of thousands of Americans brought to the United States illegally as children. It’s the latest in a series of lawsuits and rulings over the legality of the Obama-era DACA program that the Trump administration last year moved to rescind.
While these Dreamers’ legal status is still being decided, Denver Post journalists Hyoung Chang and Elizabeth Hernandez explored the lives of some of the state’s undocumented women and men, whose journeys, while all different, are connected by powerful people determining whether their American dreams will end in a nightmare.
As Laura Peniche described the harrowing journey through the desert she and her family crossed in 1997 — leaving Mexico to enter the United States when she was 13 — the tiny, sweet voices of her children playing behind her punctuated the memory.
Peniche, a 34-year-old Westminster resident, can’t imagine going a day without her three children, ages 4, 6 and 11. But the only way she can adjust her undocumented status to be recognized as a legal citizen is to leave this country and go through the process in Mexico. And that process, she fears, could take years. She worries she might never be allowed back in the U.S., leaving her separated from her children and the life she’s built in Colorado.
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostLaura Peniche, 34, immigrated to the U.S. at age 13 from Mexico. Peniche is single mother of three children. From left, Katalina Borso, 11, Athena, 4, and Leonardo, 6. The family was photographed at their home on May 27, 2018 in Denver. Peniche worries about being separated from her children as a result of losing protected status under the DACA program.
Peniche’s father couldn’t afford to get him and his three children visas when they crossed the border in search of more opportunities to work and thrive, she said.
So in their second attempt to cross the border — the first time, the family was picked up by U.S. Border Patrol agents — Peniche, her father and two young brothers ran through the desert with a Border Patrol helicopter shining a spotlight on them from above, she remembered.
Peniche’s father asked his daughter if feeling hunted was worth it. Peniche said she wanted a chance in the world. With the dream of being a Hollywood filmmaker propelling her forward, she asked her father to keep going.
“My father offered a prayer,” Peniche said. “He said, ‘Lord, this is your world. Let us cross and make it to the other side if that is what we must do.'”
The helicopter flew away and didn’t come back, Peniche said.
“The idea was we would come here and work and then earn the money to fix our status,” Peniche said.
But their plan didn’t align with immigration law. Because the family had entered the country unlawfully, Peniche learned when she got to the U.S. that to become a citizen, she would need to go back to Mexico to go through the process legally. People who enter the country illegally could be subject to a 3-to-10-year bar prohibiting them from entering the United States, depending on the amount of time they were in the country unlawfully.
“We haven’t been able to find a way to fix our status without us having to leave the country and wait outside the country without knowing if we’d be able to come back,” Peniche said.
Peniche kept a low profile growing up. She married, had three children and later separated from her husband.
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostLaura Peniche, 34, immigrated to the U.S. at age 13 from Mexico. Peniche is a single mother of three children. She is seen here on May 15, 2018.
“I saw mothers around me being deported, taken from their children,” Peniche said. “I saw how ICE didn’t have a heart. I was trapped, not being able to leave, but not being able to stay here freely.”
Although Peniche’s hope of gaining citizenship dwindled, she still held onto her childhood dream of making movies. The first person she told about her undocumented status was a film professor after enrolling at the Community College of Aurora’s Colorado Film School in 2003. The professor encouraged Peniche to make immigration documentaries focused on the subject she knew all too well. Peniche’s professor submitted a film to the Denver Film Festival, and it was accepted.
During the nine years it took Peniche to get through school as she worked and cared for her children, she never dreamed she’d access something like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, providing deportation protections to the some 700,000 people who were ushered into the United
DACA, the Obama-era program that has allowed approximately 17,000 Coloradans and hundreds of thousands of Americans brought to the country illegally as children to have a legal presence in this country, was rescinded on Sept. 5, 2017. Since then, a series of lawsuits have attempted to determine the legality of the program. Last week, a federal appeals court blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA, bringing the case over the program’s legality closer to U.S. Supreme Court review, according to the New York Times.
Peniche obtained her DACA status in 2014, becoming a “Dreamer,” as people utilizing the DACA program have been nicknamed, in reference to a 2001 legislative proposal called the Dream Act that intended to provide qualifying undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. That bill failed to pass, but the nickname stuck.
Peniche continues to make films about Dreamers and undocumented people, and she now works for a social justice organization Motus Theater in Boulder. She yearns for a path to citizenship that wouldn’t involve abandoning her American citizen children.
“It’s really difficult for me to envision a future,” Peniche said. “I just want to find a safe place that my children and I can call home. It bothers me when people feel so passionate against undocumented immigrants without having spent any time with us. We’re just humans. We have the same desires and dreams, and the only reason we don’t have status is becomes those without money can’t afford a path to citizenship.”
Tania Chairez and Alejandro Fuentes
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostAlejandro Fuentes, 27, left, hugs his girlfriend, Tania Chairez, 26, at their home on June 13, 2018, in Denver. They are both DACA recipients. Fuentes was born in Chile and immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 4. Fuentes was one of the first two “DACAmented” teachers in the nation. Chairez moved to the U.S. from Mexico at the age of 5. Chairez is an alumni adviser at KIPP Colorado Schools working with college students, and Fuentes is a teacher of Kipp Northeast Denver Middle School.
Tania Chairez, 26, swept her hand through her 27-year-old boyfriend Alejandro Fuentes’ hair as they sat side-by-side, squished into the desks normally occupied by Fuentes’ sixth-grade math students at KIPP Northeast Denver Middle School.
“I see five new gray hairs today,” Chairez said to her partner, playfully.
Chairez and Fuentes are both Dreamers who have gotten into the education field, using their own experiences and expertise to help up-and-coming undocumented children find their way.
Fuentes, born in Chile, immigrated to San Diego with his family at age 4. Chairez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, and moved to Phoenix with her family when she was 5 years old.
Both said their parents came to the United States hoping that their children would be able to have safe, fulfilling, joyful lives.
“We’re living out the dreams that our parents had,” Fuentes said. “The whole reason why they decided to move and stay here despite all of the troubles being undocumented is the opportunity for a better life for their children, and we are living representations of that.”
In Arizona, Chairez grew up thinking being Mexican was the worst part of her identity. After she graduated from high school, she was accepted into the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2010.
“It’s ironic because that’s where Trump went,” Chairez said.
In college, Chairez found activism and, through it, learned to love her Mexican heritage.
“I came out as undocumented,” she said.
DACA was announced by President Barack Obama in 2012, and Chairez and Fuentes were accepted to the program in college, feeling relief and flourishing opportunity after living most of their lives in the shadows.
Fuentes earned a full-ride scholarship to Whitman College in Washington after a teacher intervened in his teenage years, motivating him to go from a student pulling in C’s, D’s and F’s to straight A’s.
“I knew then that I was interested in becoming a teacher because I realized the impact one person could make on your life,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes and Chairez found each other through Teach for America, both ending up in Denver Public Schools.
Fuentes was one of the first teachers in the country to start off the program’s acceptance of undocumented educators, and Chairez followed shortly after.
Fuentes now teaches sixth-grade math in a Denver community southeast of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Many of his students or their family members are undocumented.
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostAlejandro Fuentes, 27, was born in Chile and immigrated to San Diego at the age of 4. Fuentes was one of the first two “DACAmented” teachers in the nation. Fuentes is a math teacher at Kipp Northeast Denver Middle School. In this photo, Fuentes talks to a student about a test at school on June 1, 2018.
After President Donald Trump was elected, and rescinded DACA in September 2017, Fuentes watched his students panic.
“There have been students whose parents have been persecuted by ICE,” Fuentes said. “Students stopped coming to school. Students would come with tears in their eyes in pure desperation asking what they were supposed to do with an ICE truck following them.”
Chairez works with college students — most the first in their family to pursue higher education, and some undocumented — and manages a scholarship for undocumented and DACA students who went through KIPP Colorado’s charter school network.
Education meant so much to both that they wanted to reinvest what their academic opportunities afforded them back into their community.
“When DACA was rescinded, I got to experience that for myself, my partner, my family and my students,” Chairez said.
When their undocumented students wonder what will come of their uncertain futures, the couple hopes they can serve as examples of success. Chairez has a master’s degree. The two just bought their first home together in the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood.
“We own a piece of this land that hates us so much,” Chairez said.
Chairez and Fuentes wish people would get to know the immigrants in their community rather than making assumptions based on their biases.
“I wish more individuals were willing to get past their fear of the unknown in order to try to get to know somebody who is in our predicament,” Fuentes said.
The couple tries to strike a balance between being informative and supportive.
“I tell them that things are terrifying at points, but that our ancestors have been very resilient,” Chairez said. “We have made it this far, and we can make it farther. It won’t be easy, but immigrant communities need to stand together and find the resilience and strength because otherwise we won’t make it.”
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostAngel Oaxaca-Rivas, 23, from Mexico, poses for a portrait on June 18, 2018. He graduated from Regis University in spring 2018. He has hesitated to broaden his job search because he worries about the future of the DACA program and what that would mean for him.
Dreamer Angel Oaxaca-Rivas feels like he’s done everything the way he was supposed to after his parents brought him to the United States from Mexico when he was 4 years old.
He kept his head down, studied, worked through school, earned two college degrees and now manages a small business in Colorado.
“And it still wasn’t enough to have this program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) be seen as successful,” Oaxaca-Rivas, 23, said. “I don’t know how anyone can look at DACA at this point and decide it has not been a worthwhile or successful program, not just for the recipients of DACA but also for this country.”
Oaxaca-Rivas noted that even though DACA recipients pay into the nation’s Social Security system through taxes, they aren’t actually able to collect Social Security benefits. He pointed out that DACA recipients aren’t eligible for Medicaid, federal financial aid, food stamps or welfare.
“For the U.S., DACA is something they don’t have to pay out on,” Oaxaca-Rivas said. “We’re just allowed to work. We’re allowed to be the most productive we can and allowed to have the means to survive in this country.”
Oaxaca-Rivas and his family were visiting the United States on vacation in the summer of 1999 when the now-23-year-old’s parents saw a brighter future for their son on this side of the border.
“They were coming from a really violent neighborhood, and if it could mean school and college for me, they thought it would be worth the risk to stay here,” Oaxaca-Rivas said. “My parents traded in their house back in Mexico to rent apartments for the rest of their lives here for the sake of being able to live in a space that gave me better opportunities.”
Oaxaca-Rivas didn’t realize he was undocumented until his freshman year of high school, and only then did things start adding up: why he was turned down at the last minute for a scholarship to a private Catholic school system when he was originally told he earned the award. Why his dad would warn him to be careful not to draw attention to himself when traveling with his school basketball team. Why his dad discouraged the idea of driving.
Halfway through Oaxaca-Rivas’ senior year in high school, President Barack Obama announced the DACA program that would allow him the chance to work and earn money for school.
“It opened up a world of possibility for me,” Oaxaca-Rivas said. “It was the perfect timing to start applying for colleges, which before seemed like a long shot.”
Oaxaca-Rivas chose the Denver Jesuit college Regis University and was open about his undocumented status and financial hardships in paying for his education. He worked as much as he could and said the school was helpful and flexible with his schedule, allowing him to double major in psychology and neurology and take pre-med classes.
When the millennial graduated from Regis University almost two years ago, he told the restaurant he’d been working at, Native American eatery Tocabe, that he was going to go out and find a job in his field. They countered, offering him a general manager role that he couldn’t turn down.
Hyoung Chang, The Denver PostAngel Oaxaca-Rivas, 23, serves tacos at the food truck where he works during lunch time at Civic Center Park on June 13, 2018, in Denver. Oaxaca-Rivas immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico at age 4. He graduated from Regis University in the spring of 2018. He hesitated in applying to jobs because he worries about DACA’s future now.
“I’ve learned a lot about Native American culture,” Oaxaca-Rivas said. “The food and the different tribes and people from different backgrounds come in from all over the country to see us. And here I am, some Mexican kid redefining what Native American cuisine is in this modern world.”
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When DACA was rescinded last year, Oaxaca-Rivas felt the feelings of inadequacy that he experienced in high school resurface. Oaxaca-Rivas renewed his DACA status, using an attorney for the first time because he “didn’t want to give anyone an excuse” not to accept his application in an anti-immigrant political administration.
The young man turned to his parents, who never reaped DACA’s benefits, to put his fear into perspective.
“DACA people have had this example of someone showing us this whole way just how privileged we are,” Oaxaca-Rivas said. “I’ve seen my parents struggle to survive here, but they survived. I’ve seen my parents work their asses off. I have them as my example. This might be tough, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end, and it doesn’t mean I give up.”
A cannabis Coke and a smile? Colorado companies hoping to tap infused beverage craze
When Coca-Cola publicly announces it is sizing up business opportunities in an industry, people take notice.
That was the case in mid September when Coke — the world’s largest beverage company with a market cap north of $211 billion — said it was keeping an eye on cannabis infused drinks, with a particular focus on beverages containing the non-psychoactive compound CBD. The announcement sent pot stocks soaring.
Coke may be on the sidelines for now, but at least one notable producer of bubbly beverages isn’t waiting around. Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Co., one of the largest beer makers in the world, launched a joint venture this summer with a Canadian cannabis company with the aim to create alcohol-free, infused drinks.
Bad news for Coors Banquet lovers who also enjoy cannabis: Molson Coors doesn’t plan to launch a similar venture in the states. Pot’s federal designation as an illegal drug in the U.S. is why.
“Our new (joint venture) will be limited solely to the Canadian market,” company spokesman Colin Wheeler said in an email last month. “We will we only review additional opportunities as and when adult-use cannabis becomes legal at both the federal and local level in a given market.”
It’s not necessarily drinks that provide a buzz generating the most buzz, though. Coke specifically singled out CBD, or cannabidiol, one of the more than 100 active compounds in cannabis, known for its physical relaxation and anti-inflammatory effects and not the high ascribed to its cousin THC.
CBD products can be purchased in many grocery stores across the country, or online through e-commerce sites like Amazon. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June approved an oral CBD medication for use to combat seizures.
Dirty Lemon, a New York City-based direct-to-consumer beverage company known for a sizable and enthusiastic Instagram following, ships six-packs of its citrus-flavored cannabis-blend drink around the country for $65 per case. The CBD it contains is “sourced from non-GMO industrial hemp, grown in Colorado under registration by the Colorado Department of Agriculture,” according to its website.
The legal use of hemp and hemp extracts like CBD in food products was codified in a bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May. That bolstered a policy the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has been observing since mid 2017.
The possibilities and the possible profits related to CBD and other non-psychoactive cannabinoids have generated a gold-rush-like excitement and lots of attention.
Denver-based ADM Labs is one of the relative newbies to the industry. The business was launched early this year as a subsidiary of Utah company ADM Group, which is dedicated to building businesses in emerging industries, according to executive vice president Nico Anthony. One of its key products: A water-soluble CBD isolate for use in beverages.
“We liken our business to moving into alcohol right before the end of prohibition,” Anthony said.
Fort Collins craft brewing mainstay New Belgium Brewing Co. earlier this year launched its Hemperor HPA, a twist on an India Pale Ale using portions of hemp seeds for added oomph.
New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson said the company is hoping to tweak the recipe with more hemp components if Congress clears the way with a new Farm Bill. As for a CBD or otherwise infused beer, Simpson said, “We’re certainly open to exploration.”
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A Coors Brewing alum and father of Blue Moon Belgium White ale, Keith Villa isn’t waiting on federal approval for his new brew.
Ceria Beverages, the company he and his wife Jodi launched in Arvada last year, will unveil the branding, packaging and pricing for a new line of drinks Monday. They will be brewed like beer, but have the alcohol taken out and THC put in its place. The results Villa said will be a low-calorie beverage that doesn’t leave drinkers with an alcohol hangover. It will be on sale at local marijuana dispensaries in December, he said.
“Young people, millennials especially, are drinking less alcohol and we honestly think that they are looking for something to replace it,” Villa said. “This will be a nice, refreshing way to socialize without alcohol.”
This $36-million “mountain modern” home in Aspen comes complete with $2-million worth of custom furniture
WHAT: An eight-bedroom, 11-bathroom estate in Aspen
LOCATION: 651 Pfister Drive
PRICE: $36 million
SIZE: 14,000 square feet on 3 acres, built this year
Built into a hillside that accentuates its zen rock garden, this masterpiece soaks in the sun with floor-to-ceiling windows. Doors to the outside are everywhere. Now, how does a house like this come about?
“The motivation was: clients were asking for true mountain modern,” said Bob Bowden, the house’s designer and founder of Bowden Homes, a real estate developer integrated from design to construction to furnishing and brokering. “No one was delivering. The homes on the market were Malibu modern, Miami modern but not a true mountain modern or mountain minimal. This (house) is clean — contemporary lines with local indigenous materials. What you’d expect in the mountains.”
The house has a $2 million furniture package. All custom designed. Bowden called on Aspen’s mining and skiing history as inspirations reflected in the home.
“Mining gives you larger exposed steel,” Bowden said. “Some of the more rustic and frontier-type construction. I married that with a tip of the hat to the ski chalet — woods and relaxed feeling. You could wear ski boots or cowboy boots and feel at home. We keyed on and found the sweet spot for that, which is this house.”
The house sits aside the 11th tee of the Maroon Creek Club on Buttermilk Mountain and is down the road from Tiehack ski area.
“It’s a very custom home,” said Laci Dinan, a co-listing agent of this property. “It’s designed to be single-level living with views up Hunter Creek Valley, a master wing on the main level (and a) big deck space upstairs.”
Travel downstairs to a 14-person hot tub or go farther down to the basement’s media room, where a nine-screen TV wall awaits.
“We have a Planet Earth DVD playing during tours to show the quality,” Dinan said. “There’s a huge custom sofa made for that room down there. There’s also a spa on that level with a fitness room, jetted tub, mega steam shower and a massage room.”
651 Pfister Drive is about natural woods and easy finishes, Bowden said. “Relaxed, very honest. It has to look like, ‘Yeah, that’s what kind of floor would go here.’ ”
Anti-slavery amendment passed, but faced resistance in rural Colorado
Coloradans had a rare opportunity to take a stand against slavery. Even in 2018, there are still holdouts.
Jumoke EmeryBurned placards were left on the front porch of Amendment A sponsor. on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018.
The proposed constitutional amendment to abolish slavery as a criminal punishment received more than 765,000 votes against it. The likely reasons were a combination of misinformation, a lack of outreach in rural areas and a fear of going soft on crime. Despite passing, the opposition was widespread: the majority of voters in 26 counties opposed the constitutional amendment.
“Our reach was very limited,” said Kamau Allen, a spokesman for Abolish Slavery Colorado, the group that pushed the amendment. “So we didn’t have as many coalition people out there as we did at other locations in the state.”
The measure, called Amendment A, had a straightforward purpose: Get rid of archaic language in the state constitution that allows slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime.
The amendment passed with 65 percent support statewide. Another 35 percent of voters rejected the amendment, according to Secretary of State results.
The group’s budget made it more challenging to get the word out to sparsely populated areas, Allen said. Abolish Slavery Colorado spent $40,834 to get out its message, campaign filings show.
In the Front Range, the word got out with literature drops, canvassing and phone banks, he said.
“We had a lot of support in the Front Range,” he said. “We had a lot of support in Denver, in Aurora and we also focused some of our efforts in Jeffco near the end of the campaign.”
Among uninformed voters, there was confusion about the amendment’s purpose that emerged on social media, he said.
“We got a lot of pushback from people living in some of these conservative areas, saying ‘If you do the crime, you have to do the time’ and ‘Slavery’s just fine for criminals’ and stuff like that,” Allen said.
Colorado Election Results
Allen said the change allows community service, work and vocational programs in prisons to continue. The overall impact is “mostly symbolic,” he said, but the change is deeper because the state constitution is a “living document” that laws are based upon.
“We fought so hard for this and it means a lot to me personally as a black person,” Allen said.
Following the election, a police investigation continues after burning door-knob placards were left on the the front porch of Jumoke Emery, a lead organizer for the amendment. The burning campaign literature was left outside his Denver house on Monday.
No arrests have been made and police are still actively investigating the case, said Sgt. John White, spokesman for the Denver Police Department.
A similar ballot measure, Amendment T, failed to pass in Colorado’s 2016 election cycle.
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Is Denver out of the running for Amazon HQ2? Some reports have Mile High City on outside looking in
Is Denver done for in the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes? If the unnamed sources in a Wall Street Journal story from Sunday are to be believed, the metro area’s mile high goose is all but cooked, even though the e-commerce behemoth may be considering splitting up its second headquarters among two cities or more.
Some of the people who have headed up Colorado’s campaign to attract Amazon, though, say not so fast.
“We have received no notification that we have been disqualified from the process,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., which is handling the bid process on behalf of the state.
The Journal cites “knowledgeable people” in asserting Amazon’s negotiations with public officials are moving into advanced stages in Northern Virginia, a region that has emerged as a front runner to land the Seattle-based company’s HQ2 project in the minds of many. Reporting in the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post seemed to corroborate the speculation. JBG Smith, a top real estate company in Crystal City, Va., has pulled some of its lease-able buildings off the market, according to the Post story on Saturday.
The WSJ story also points to Dallas. A developer there snatched up a 7.2-acre, transit-oriented site linked to Amazon for $33 million last week. Amazon is still “actively talking” with folks in New York, too, the Journal’s sources report.
“Site selection specialists say Amazon likely is having late-stage talks with two or more cities, and has other cities on hold, in case any one deal can’t be completed,” the story says. It lists Denver as one of several locales where “discussions appear to have cooled.”
Amazon officials have been none too pleased with the recent chatter about where it plans to locate its projected $5 billion, 8-million-square-foot HQ2 project. The company has said little about its search publicly since it named 20 finalist cities — including Denver — from a pool of 238 applicants in January.
The Metro Denver EDC’s Bailey respects the nondisclosure agreement signed with the company. He did say Colorado’s bid, which highlighted eight metro-area sites from a wider list of 30 possibilities in the state, was crafted with a potential split HQ2 in mind.
“We can’t comment on any discussions surrounding that scenario. However, we submitted our proposal to be flexible and adaptable should Amazon split the HQ2 project among multiple states and communities,” Bailey said.
Talent remains a key consideration for Amazon, and the Post article cited the difficulty of finding 50,000 workers in one location as a rationale for splitting up HQ2.
PayScale, a compensation platform, looked at the top 25 jobs and skills employed at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle and then looked at their availability in the 20 cities competing for HQ2.
Denver had a 48 percent higher concentration of jobs Amazon has at its original headquarters than the U.S. as a whole.
But when it came to the specific skills, like java programming, the concentration was only 30 percent higher, said Katie Bardaro, lead economist at Seattle-based PayScale.
Another consideration was how likely those workers were to jump ship. Denver workers were in the middle of the pack in terms of job dissatisfaction.
“In today’s labor market, it’s a seller’s market,” Bardaro said of the types of skills Amazon wants to employ.
Based on all of those three measures, Denver ranked ninth among the 20 finalist cities. The top three talent pool scores went to Boston, the Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia area, and New York.
In the middle of the country, Austin, Texas, Chicago and Dallas all ranked ahead of Denver in terms of their talent pool.
Bardaro said it is important to remember Amazon is also weighing available real estate, financial incentives cities and states are offering, vendor relationships, housing availability and transit.
The company is trying to avoid overwhelming a market like it did Seattle, she said.
“The concept of splitting HQ2 up in two locations alleviates at least some of that,” she said.
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The New York Times, in September 2017, crowned Denver HQ2 champion. Regardless of the outcome though, Bailey said Colorado is a winner. The Metro Denver EDC has counted 2,969 articles dating back to Sept. 8, 2017, that have mentioned both metro Denver and Amazon, 94 percent of which came in national publications. In that timeframe, Denver has attracted other major companies including the headquarters for apparel brand giant VF Corp.
“The Amazon HQ2 project has been immensely beneficial in generating exposure for our diversified economy, advanced industries and communities throughout Colorado and the Denver metro region,” Bailey said.
Technology news, startups, reviews, devices, internet | The Denver Post
Amazon touted as big win for New York, but math is more complex
NEW YORK — Officials tout their deal to land a new Amazon headquarters as can’t-miss math. The city and state put up $2.8 billion in tax breaks and grants. In return, they get an economic engine expected to generate $27 billion in new tax money over a quarter-century.
“This is a big moneymaker for us. Costs us nothing,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when the agreement was announced.
Experts say the economic equation isn’t that simple.
The state’s predicted 9-to-1 return on its investment was based on a widely used economic model that compares the costs of tax incentives with expected tax gains, but it didn’t factor in the substantial costs of accommodating Amazon’s growth in the city, economic development researchers said after reviewing the documents.
The city and state will have to spend money to educate the children of Amazon workers, improve public transportation to get them to work, collect their garbage, adjust police and fire coverage, and provide all sorts of other services for a growing number of people.
“Claiming 9-to-1 isn’t just implausible. It is a dishonest way to present the return on these incentives,” says Nathan Jensen, a University of Texas professor of government who has been critical of the way economic development incentives are used.
The reports also don’t measure the Amazon “HQ2” project against any other possible development of its intended site in the booming Long Island City neighborhood.
Four academic and think tank researchers who weren’t involved in the state’s cost-benefit analyses said that while its methods were standard, its scope was limited.
“It’s a standard cost-benefit approach, but it tends to talk a lot about the benefits and not a lot about the costs,” said Megan Randall, a research analyst at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “That’s not to say that the costs will automatically override all the benefits … (but) cities should be armed with that knowledge.”
New York state’s evaluation of the Amazon deal is based on an assumption that the company will ultimately create 40,000 relatively high-paying jobs in the city by 2034. That’s the maximum number foreseen in a deal that starts with a promise of 25,000 jobs by 2028.
The state-commissioned analysis by Regional Economic Models Inc. also predicts Amazon’s presence in the city will eventually create 67,000 other jobs outside the company, in industries from tech to real estate to restaurants that might serve Amazon workers.
Over 25 years, all those new jobs will generate about $14 billion in state income and sales taxes and about $13.5 billion in city taxes, according to that analysis and a city report also involving a REMI model.
Cuomo lauded that as “the highest rate of return for an economic incentive program that the state has ever offered.”
REMI’s analysis is deep and thorough, the state’s economic development agency said.
“Their model is widely considered to be the gold standard for economic and fiscal impact analysis and has been recognized for its analytical depth, sophistication and flexibility,” Adam Kilduff, a spokesman for Empire State Development, said in an emailed statement.
A representative of the city’s economic development agency did not respond to questions about the analysis.
The analysis may be right about tax revenue, but “it’s incomplete,” said Timothy Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and a leading expert on incentives. “You need to look at the spending side.”
Opponents of the project have raised alarms about adding to the strain on subways, sewers and schools already struggling to keep up in the fastest-developing neighborhood in New York City.
Some improvements are already in the works. The Amazon agreement promises a new school and infrastructure upgrades. Critics, including some local politicians, are skeptical it will do enough.
They’ve held a series of rallies and protests and are exploring possible options to try to stop the project.
While voters in New York City support bringing Amazon’s campus to the city, they are divided when it comes to the incentives from the city and state, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, found that 57 percent of city voters support Amazon’s decision, while 26 oppose it. Forty-six percent of respondents support the incentives, however, compared with 44 percent who said they are opposed.
Beyond the costs of growth, the New York analyses also don’t address some other questions, experts said.
David Merriman, a University of Illinois at Chicago public administration professor who specializes in tax issues, said it didn’t consider the possibility of economic growth in Queens even if Amazon never came.
There were prior plans for big commercial and residential development on part of the potential Amazon site that have now been scuttled in favor of accommodating the company.
The state analysis also didn’t examine whether New York could have bagged the same prize while offering less, as Virginia did to score an additional Amazon headquarters there.
“A proper analysis would take seriously that we are uncertain how much, exactly, was needed to attract HQ2 to New York,” said UT’s Jensen.
Amazon officials have said “the driving factor” in choosing New York and Virginia was the availability of enough tech talent, not the tax incentives.
Despite the unanswered questions, Bartik argues the financial bottom line isn’t necessarily the point.
“I honestly don’t think that the main thing that people should be looking at is whether or not it makes money for the state government. That’s not the purpose of state government,” he said. “The bigger impact is if you create jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
Why is it so hard to text 911?
NEW YORK — People can livestream their every move on Facebook and chatter endlessly in group chats. But in most parts of the U.S., they still can’t reach 911 by texting — an especially important service during mass shootings and other catastrophes when a phone call could place someone in danger.
Although text-to-911 service is slowly expanding, the emphasis there is on “slow.” Limited funds, piecemeal adoption and outdated call-center technology have all helped stymie growth.
Emergency 911 centers stress that a phone call is still the best way to reach them, since calls provide them with location data and other needed details. But in some cases — for instance, if a person has a hearing disability, or when a call might attract the attention of assailants — texting is a far better way to call for help.
The 911 emergency system was developed for landlines. But now about 80 percent of U.S. 911 calls come from cellphones, according to the federal government’s National 911 Program. There is no legal requirement for call centers to offer text-to-911 services.
If a center requests the service from mobile companies such as Verizon or Sprint, however, the companies are required to provide it within six months.
More money would speed implementation. “We need a significant federal grant program to modernize 911 systems across the country,” said Jeff Cohen, chief counsel at advocacy group the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials.
Congressional legislation could speed adoption of text-to-911, Cohen said. Traditionally, 911 call centers have been funded by a combination of state and local funding, rather than relying on federal grants. For that reason, technology and adoption varies widely between states, cities and counties.
A 911 call center in Roswell, Ga., with one of the computer screens used by dispatchers shows a text message that has come into the system. Lisa Marie Pane, Associated Press file
While some areas may have plenty of money to implement text-to-911 service, “others are cash strapped cities or communities that would rather spend money on a police car rather than text-to-911,” said Brian Fontes, chief executive officer of the National Emergency Number Association. “When you don’t have the money, you have to prioritize what you do with the money you have.”
The first text-to-911 was sent in 2009 in Iowa. Now, according to data collected by the Federal Communications Commission, more than 1,600 emergency call centers across the nation have configured systems to receive text message requests for 911 services, up from about 650 two years ago. But that’s barely a quarter of the roughly 6,000 overall in the country. Figures are a bit murky since they are self-reported to the FCC.
Implementing text-to-911 service usually starts with a state law requiring emergency centers to support it.
Indiana, for example, has state 911 requirements set by the Indiana General Assembly and a state 911 board that oversees the operation of the statewide 911 network, which routes and delivers 911 voice and text messages from people to their local 911 authority. It pays for 911 from monthly end user surcharges, $1 for landline, wireless and other types of phones, which are collected by phone service providers.
Four years after Indiana dispatch centers began adopting text-to-911 technology, residents in all 92 of the state’s counties can send texts during emergencies if they’re unable to speak to dispatchers, the state said in June. Minnesota, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont also offer statewide coverage.
Without state legislation, adopting text-to-911 can be more piecemeal. In California, a plan to raise taxes to pay for modernizing the 911 emergency dispatch system statewide fell one vote short in September in the Senate when Republicans refused to sign onto a tax increase.
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But cities and municipalities can decide to support text-to-911 on their own. Los Angeles County — which includes cities such as Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale — has supported text-to-911 since late last year, for example.
Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, where the synagogue shooting took place, does offer text-to-911 service. But high school students hiding from a gunman in Parkland, Fla., last February, had to make whispered 911 calls to authorities. Broward County, which includes Parkland, plans to have text-to-911 in place by the end of this year.
“We will never know where the next active shooter is going to be, whether it’s a rural school, synagogue, church or any public place,” Fontes said. “Certainly we want people to be able to text 911 for safety purposes.”
Should you pick Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri?
From left, Apple’s HomePod, Google Home and Amazon’s Echo don’t just want to play music — they want to build your smart home. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)
Sure, you could chose a smart speaker based on sound or price. The go-to gadget gift of the season is available from Amazon, Apple and Google with better acoustics, new touch screens and deep holiday discounts.
But you’re not just buying a talking jukebox. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant also want to adjust the thermostat, fill your picture frame or even microwave your popcorn. Each artificial intelligence assistant has its own ways of running a home. You’re choosing which tribe is yours.
I call it a tribe because each has a distinct culture — and demands loyalty. This decision will shape how you get information, what appliances you purchase, where you shop and how you protect your privacy. One in 10 Americans plan to buy a smart speaker this year, according to the Consumer Technology Association. And Amazon says its Echo Dot is the best-selling speaker, ever.
The last time we had to choose a tech tribe like this was when smartphones arrived. Did you go iPhone, Android or cling to a Blackberry? A decade later, it’s increasingly hard to fathom switching between iPhone and Android. (A recent Match.com survey found iPhone and Android people don’t even like dating one another.) Now, imagine how hard it will be to change when you’ve literally wired stuff into your walls.
In my test lab — I mean, living room — an Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod sit side by side, and the voice AIs battle it out to run my home like genies in high-tech bottles. Here’s the shorthand I’ve learned: Alexa is for accessibility. Google Assistant is for brainpower. Siri is for security.
Amazon’s aggressive expansion makes Alexa the one I recommend, and use, the most. Google’s Assistant is coming from behind, matching feature by feature — and Siri, the original voice assistant, feels held back by Apple’s focus on privacy and its software shortcomings. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.)
The Amazon Basics Microwave takes commands from Alexa – and even keeps track of your popcorn supplies. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)
Smart speakers are building the smart home that you never knew you needed. Inside the audio equipment, they’re home hub computers that work alongside smartphone apps to connect and control disparate devices and services. With a speaker and the right connected gizmo, you can walk into a room and turn on the lights without touching a button. Or control the TV without a remote. Amazon even sells an Alexa-operated microwave that cooks, tracks and reorders popcorn.
But home assistants can also be Trojan horses for a specific set of devices and services that favor one company over another.
My buddy Matt recently asked me to help him pick speakers and appliances for a big remodel. He loves the Google Assistant on his Android phone, so selecting his tribe should be easy, right? Hardly: He wanted to put Sonos speakers all around the house, but they take voice commands directly via Alexa. (Sonos says Google Assistant support is coming, though it’s been promising that for a year.)
Figuring out which connected doodads are compatible can be like solving a 10,000-piece puzzle. The best smart home gadgets (such as Lutron Caseta and Philips Hue lights) work across all three tribes, but sometimes alliances and technical concerns make appliance makers take sides.
Each AI has its limitations. They’re not all equally skilled at understanding accents — Southerners are misunderstood more with Google and Midwesterners with Alexa. The price of ownership with some is letting a company surveil what goes on in your house. You can try, like me, to live with more than one, but you’re left with a patchwork that won’t win you any favors with family.
How do you find your AI tribe? Here’s how I differentiate them.
Supported smart home devices: More than 20,000.
Who loves it: Families who buy lots through Amazon and experiment with new gizmos.
The good: Alexa knows how to operate the most stuff, thanks to Amazon’s superior dealmaking. The only connected things it can’t run in my house are the app-operated garage door and some facets of my TV. Amazon also has been successful at spawning new connected gadgets: Alexa’s voice and microphone are built into more than 100 non-Amazon devices. And Amazon recently announced plans to offer appliance makers a chip that lets Alexa users voice command inexpensive everyday things, from wall plugs to fans.
Alexa has also mastered some of the little details of home life. It will confirm a request to turn off the lights without repeating your command — super helpful when someone nearby is napping.
The bad: Alexa grows smarter by the week, but it can be a stickler about using specific syntax. It also has the weakest relationship with your phone, the most important piece of technology for most people today. Amazon has bolstered a companion Alexa app for phones, making it better for communicating and setting up smart home routines, but I still find it the most confusing of the lot.
Amazon doesn’t always show the highest concern for our privacy. This spring, when Alexa inadvertently recorded a family’s private conversations and sent it to a contact, Amazon’s response boiled down to ‘whoopsie.’ And it records and keeps every conversation you have with the AI — including every bag of popcorn it microwaves. (Amazon says it doesn’t use our queries to sell us stuff beyond making recommendations based on song and product searches).
Some love Alexa’s ability to order products by voice. But as long as Alexa runs your house, you’ll always be stuck buying those goods from Amazon. (That microwave will only ever order popcorn from Amazon.) The coming generation of appliances built with the Alexa chip inside could similarly trap you forever into Amazon-land.
The $150 Google Home Hub serves as a smart speaker, smart home control center and family photo frame. (John Brecher, The Washington Post)
Supported smart home devices: More than 10,000.
Who loves it: People who are deep into Google’s services.
The good: Google Assistant comes the closest to having a conversation with an actual human helper. You don’t have to use exact language to make things happen or get useful answers. Its intelligence can also be delightfully personal: It’s pretty good at differentiating the voices of family members. On the new Home Hub device with a screen, Assistant curates a highlights-only show from your Google Photos collection.
While Android phone owners are more likely to use lots of Assistant-friendly Google services, the Assistant doesn’t particularly care what kind of phone you use — its simple companion apps work on iOS and Android.
Google is neck and neck with Alexa on many of the nuances: Night mode reduces the volume of answers at night, and it can even require Junior to say “pretty please.”
The bad: As a relative newcomer to the smart home, Google has been catching up fast. But in my house, it still can’t fully control my Ring doorbell or send music to my Sonos speakers. I’m not convinced that Google has Amazon’s negotiating sway, or the influence to bring the next generation of connected things online.
The bigger problem is privacy. Google’s endgame is always getting you to spend more time with its services, so it can gather more data to target ads at you. Like Alexa, Google Assistant keeps a recording of all your queries — every time you ask it to turn off the lights. Google treats this kind of like your web search history, and uses it to target ads elsewhere. (Thankfully, It still keeps data from its Nest thermostat and home security division separate.) The potential upside is that when Google discovers your habits in all that data, it might be able to better automate your home — such as what time all the lights should be off.
Supported smart home devices: Hundreds.
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Who loves it: Privacy buffs and all-Apple households.
The good: Apple means business on security and privacy. Any device that wants to connect to HomeKit, its smart home software that works with Siri on the HomePod and iPhone, requires special encryption.
What’s more, your data is not attached to a personal profile, which aside from protecting your privacy also means that Apple is not using your home activity to sell or advertise things. (While other smart speakers keep recordings and transcriptions of what you say, Siri controls devices by making a request to its system through a random identifier, which cannot be tied to specific user.)
Apple is pretty good at keeping the smart home simple. Setting up a smart home device is mostly just scanning a special code. Even creating routines, in which multiple accessories work in combination with a single command, is easier in the Siri’s companion Home app than with competitors.
The bad: You have to live in an all-Apple device world to reap these benefits. Siri’s a pretty good DJ, but only if you subscribe to Apple Music. You’re stuck with the HomePod as the one-size-fits-all smart speaker, and Siri still isn’t as competent as her AI competitors.
Apple’s security-first approach has kept too many appliance makers from joining its ecosystem. Sure, it’s quality not quantity, but Siri still can’t interact with my Nest thermostat or Ring doorbell, just to name two. Apple did recently loosen up a tad: starting with Belkin Wemo’s Mini Smart Plug and Dimmer, it no longer requires special hardware for authentication — that can now happen via software. The move should make it simpler to make new products Siri compatible, and allow it access to existing ones.
Marketer Iterable joins Colorado tech rush with new office in Denver
A San Francisco-based marketing technology company whose clients include Spotify, Zillow and Box has opened a new office in Denver as part of its expansion into new markets across the country.
Iterable, co-founded by Justin Zhu and Andrew Boni in 2013, has hired its first 10 employees for the Denver office and plans to hire another 30 in 2019. While the initial team will be made up of primarily sales and customer service staff, Sara Riedl said the company will actively recruit for all departments.
“We’re very excited to come to Denver. There are a lot of great dynamics at play,” said Zhu, the company’s CEO and previously an engineer at Twitter.
Iterable, which opened an office in New York City two years ago, is in a co-working space in Lower Downtown Denver and plans to move to a permanent location in 2019.
It’s one of the latest high-tech companies deciding that the Denver area checks the boxes as the right place to branch out. The boxes include well-qualified candidates, a lower cost of living, good network of high-tech companies and customers, and an appealing lifestyle.
“We’re seeing tremendous activity from companies whose main base is on the coasts but are making substantial investments in the (Denver) metro area,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.
Facebook said the area’s quality of workforce played a big part in its decision to open an office in Denver in November.
“Talent is the foremost driver of the decisions” to expand to Denver, Bailey said. “Companies are confident they can track that talent through hiring locally as well as recruiting talent to Colorado.”
High-tech companies that opened offices in Denver this year and the number of jobs include:
Slack Technologies, 550 jobs
Udemy, online learning and teaching, 200 jobs
Funding Circle, financial services, 290 jobs
“We’re just blown away by the level of talent,” Zhu said of metro Denver. “We made 10 hires in a week. In San Francisco, it might take a month or more.”
Denver’s location also makes it easy for employees to fly to San Francisco and other parts of the country, he said.
“A lot of employees in San Francisco have volunteered to move to Denver,” said Zhu.
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Iterable has a total of about 190 employees. It works with companies to reach and attract customers across various platforms using data and proprietary algorithms.
“We’re sort of their power tools so they can do their best job,” Zhu said. “We’re sort of the command and control center for communications and marketers so they understand what’s working and is not working.”
Documents show Facebook used user data as a competitive weapon
Internal Facebook documents released by a U.K. parliamentary committee offer the clearest evidence yet that the social network has used its enormous trove of user data as a competitive weapon, often in ways designed to keep its users in the dark.
Parliament’s media committee accused Facebook on Wednesday of cutting special deals with some app developers to give them more access to data, while icing out others that it viewed as potential rivals.
In other documents, company executives discussed how they were keeping the company’s collection and exploitation of user data from its users. That included quietly collecting the call records and text messages of users of phones that run on Google’s Android operating system without asking their permission.
The U.K. committee released more than 200 pages of documents on the tech giant’s internal discussions about the value of users’ personal information. While they mostly cover the period between 2012 and 2015 —the first three years after Facebook went public — they offer a rare glimpse into the company’s inner workings and the extent to which it used people’s data to make money while publicly vowing to protect their privacy.
The company’s critics said the new revelations reinforced their concerns over what users actually know about how Facebook treats their data.
“These kinds of schemes are exactly why companies must be required to disclose exactly how they are collecting and sharing our data, with stiff penalties for companies that lie about it,” Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a statement.
Facebook called the documents misleading and said the information they contain is “only part of the story.”
“Like any business, we had many internal conversations about the various ways we could build a sustainable business model for our platform,” the company said in a statement. “But the facts are clear: We’ve never sold people’s data.”
In a Facebook post , company CEO Mark Zuckerberg sought to put the documents in context. “Of course, we don’t let everyone develop on our platform,” he wrote. “We blocked a lot of sketchy apps. We also didn’t allow developers to use our platform to replicate our functionality or grow their services virally in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook.”
The U.K. committee seized the documents from app developer Six4Three, maker of a now-defunct bikini-picture search app. Six4Three acquired the files as part of a U.S. lawsuit that accuses Facebook of deceptive, anti-competitive business practices. The documents remain under court seal in the U.S.
In a summary of key issues pertaining to the documents, the committee said Facebook “whitelisted,” or made exceptions for companies such as Airbnb and Netflix, that gave them continued access to users’ “friends” even after the tech giant announced changes in 2015 to end the practice.
“Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data,” the committee said in a statement. “It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.”
The documents “raise important questions about how Facebook treats users’ data, their policies for working with app developers, and how they exercise their dominant position in the social media market,” said committee chair Damian Collins. “We don’t feel we have had straight answers from Facebook on these important issues, which is why we are releasing the documents.”
The cache includes emails from Zuckerberg and other key members of his staff. The emails show Zuckerberg and other executives scheming to leverage user data to favor companies not considered to be threats and to identify potential acquisitions.
Collins said the emails raise important issues, particularly around the use of the data of Facebook users. “The idea of linking access to friends’ data to the financial value of the developers’ relationship with Facebook is a recurring feature of the documents,” Collins said.
The committee’s summary said Facebook collected data about the mobile apps its users favored to help it decide which companies to acquire. It also said Facebook knew that an update to its Android mobile app phone system — which allowed the Facebook app to hoover up user call logs and text messages — would be controversial.
“To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features of the upgrade of their app,” the summary said.
In a post Wednesday, Facebook continued to stand by its stance that the feature was “is opt in for users and we ask for people’s permission before enabling.”
The Android data collection practice was unearthed in April as the Cambridge Analytica scandal roiled Facebook. The data mining firm, employed by the 2016 Trump campaign, exploited lax Facebook data-sharing policies to obtain data on millions of users without their consent.
Facebook executives clearly understand the material is valuable. An unsigned memo setting policy for a system upgrade known as “Platform 3.0” laid out a case for shutting out any app developer who could be construed as a competitor.
“There are a small number of developers whom no amount of sharing to FB or monetary value can justify giving them access to Platform,” the memo said. “These developers do not want to participate in the ecosystem we have created, but rather build their own ecosystem at the expense of our users, other developers and, of course, us. That is something that we will not allow.”
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The documents also suggest Facebook would jealously safeguard its interests. In a January 2013 email exchange, Zuckerberg signed off on cutting access to Twitter’s Vine video-producing app, which had allowed users to find their friends on Vine by pulling in data from Facebook.
“Unless anyone raises objections,” Facebook Vice President Justin Osofsky wrote, the company would cut Vine’s access to users’ friend networks. “We’re prepared reactive PR.”
“Yup, go for it,” Zuckerberg replied.
The documents also suggest robust internal discussions about linking data to revenue.
“There’s a big question on where we get the revenue from,” Zuckerberg said in one email. “Do we make it easy for (developers) to use our payments/ad network but not require them? Do we require them? Do we just charge a (revenue) share directly and let (developers) who use them get a credit against what they owe us? It’s not at all clear to me here that we have a model that will actually make us the revenue we want at scale.”
Christmas turkey, fruitcake rocketing toward space station
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Christmas turkey is rocketing toward the International Space Station, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.
SpaceX launched the holiday shipment on a Falcon 9 rocket, which pierced the clear, chilly sky. The first-stage booster aimed for a touchdown on land back at Cape Canaveral, once its job was done, but ended up smashing into the Atlantic Ocean instead.
A SpaceX commentator called it a “bummer,” but noted it was secondary to the main mission of getting the Dragon capsule to orbit. It was the first missed landing at Cape Canaveral.
“What a great day for a launch,” said Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana. Twenty years ago this week, Cabana commanded the shuttle mission that carried up the first U.S. part of the space station .
Wednesday’s Falcon rocket was brand new, while the Dragon cargo carrier was recycled by SpaceX. The capsule should reach the 250-mile-high outpost Saturday; it also visited in 2017.
Besides smoked turkey breast and all the other fixings for Christmas dinner, the delivery includes 40 mice and 36,000 worms for aging and muscle studies, respectively.
Researchers expect a tenfold increase in the worm population. There will be plenty of room on board for all the tiny nematodes long. It turns out their muscles are similar to ours in structure and function, making them perfect lab substitutes, said lead scientist Timothy Etheridge of the University of Exeter in England.
The launch was delayed for a day after NASA discovered that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy because of contamination. More food had to be rushed in from California.
Just two days earlier, three astronauts arrived at the space station to join the three already there. The crew includes two Americans, two Russians, one German and one Canadian. The newest residents will remain on board for six months, while the others will return to Earth on Dec. 20.
SpaceX has been making station deliveries for NASA since 2012. The company expects to start launching station crews next year.
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Xcel Energy wants carbon-free electricity by 2050
Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest electric utility, is upping its renewables game with the announcement Tuesday that it has a goal of being 100-percent carbon free by 2050.
The Minneapolis-based company that serves eight states has been a leader in the quest to increase the use of renewable energy sources, said Ben Fowke, the utility’s chairman, president and CEO.
“This isn’t new to us. We’ve been leading the clean-energy transition at Xcel for quite a while now. Investing in renewables has really been part of our DNA for over 20 years now,” Fowke said at a news conference for the announcement Tuesday at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
The move to more wind, solar and other renewable energy sources is not only good for the environment but also good for the bottom line of both the company and its customers, Fowke added.
“That has allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint by 35 percent across all our eight states since 2005,” Fowke said.
Xcel Energy already had a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 60 percent and increasing its use of renewable energy sources to 55 percent of its mix by 2026 as part of its Colorado Energy Plan, which was approved by state regulators in August. The new plan includes a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030 across eight states and getting to zero emissions of the greenhouse gas by 2050.
Fowke and Alice Jackson, president of Xcel’s Colorado operation, said they don’t know of any other utility in the country that has set a goal and timeline for producing no carbon emissions.
Colorado Gov.-elect Jared Polis, who has a goal of getting 100 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2040, said he is excited about “Xcel having the most aggressive goal of any utility in the country.”
Polis, speaking at the Xcel Energy news conference, said he would like to see Colorado achieve the zero-carbon goal even earlier and wants to work with municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives to achieve the goal.
“Colorado has always been a very innovative state and I think it’s great that we’re showing the country the way to keep rates low, have cleaner air and to do our part for our climate and embrace the future of clean energy and make it work for Colorado businesses and individuals,” he said.
Fowke and Jackson conceded in a media briefing before the news conference that some of the technology required to meet the new goal might not currently exist.
“I’m betting on the technology,” said Fowke, referring to the many advances that have made wind and solar energy comparable to or less expensive than fossil fuels.
Jackson said state policies, including laws and regulations, might have to be changed to make it easier for utilities to invest in the research and development of new technology. She and Fowke also acknowledged that attaining zero emissions of carbon dioxide might involve the use of nuclear power and capture and sequestration of emissions from fossil fuels.
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Fowke stressed that providing affordable and reliable power across Xcel’s territory is the priority. Stemming the effects of climate change, fueled by heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions, is also of concern he said. The latest National Climate Assessment by the federal government shows that the effects of climate change are getting worse, he noted.
“I think it drives home the sense of urgency,” Fowke said of the report.
National Republican Congressional Committee reports getting hacked during 2018 midterms
WASHINGTON — The National Republican Congressional Committee said Tuesday that it was hit with a “cyber intrusion” during the 2018 midterm campaigns and has reported the breach to the FBI.
The committee provided few details about the incident, but said the intrusion was conducted by an “unknown entity.”
“The cybersecurity of the committee’s data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter,” spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement. “To protect the integrity of that investigation, the NRCC will offer no further comment on the incident.”
The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Politico first reported the cyberbreach.
The severity and circumstances of the hacking weren’t made clear. Politically motivated cyberespionage is commonplace across the world, but Americans have become particularly alert to the possibility of digital interference following the 2016 election. That hack is still fresh in the minds of many political operatives.
In March 2018, NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said the committee hired multiple cybersecurity staffers to work with its candidates and promised to do more.
“We’re starting to advise campaigns, but we’re not ready to roll the whole thing out. We’re working on it,” Stivers said at the time. “We’re working on the technology-based stuff to try and make sure that we know what’s out there — which is hard, too — and then we try to defend against it the best we can.”
In August, Microsoft alerted the public to attempts by government-backed Russian hackers to target U.S. conservatives’ email by creating fake websites that appeared to belong a pair of think tanks, the Hudson Institute and International Republican Institute. It also confirmed an attempt similarly attributed to Russian hackers to infiltrate the Senate computer network of Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who lost a re-election bid in November.
Google later confirmed in September that the personal Gmail accounts of multiple senators and staffers had recently been targeted by foreign hackers, though it did not specify the cyberspies’ nationality nor the party affiliations of the targets.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian state-aligned hackers organized the leak of more than 150,000 emails stolen from more than a dozen Democrats. The FBI later said that the Russians had targeted more than 300 people affiliated with the Hillary Clinton campaign and other Democratic institutions over the course of the presidential contest.
During the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks’ released hacked material damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort, and U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russia was the source of that hacked material. Special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, possible Russian ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and whether anyone had had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans.
Democratic lawmakers saw their cellphone numbers splashed online and voting databases for all 50 states had some type of intrusion attempt, although only a few were compromised. That included Illinois, where records on 90,000 voters had been downloaded. There was no evidence any votes were altered.
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Election systems are constantly under fire from efforts to steal sensitive data, disrupt services and undermine voter confidence.
Federal officials said after the midterms this year there had been no obvious voting system compromises — which appeared to remain the case, despite the hacking effort. There had been a major push since the midterms to shore up defenses against potential cyber intrusions, but most states remained highly vulnerable.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.
China gets U.S. tariff delay but movement on tech unclear
BEIJING — Buy more U.S. exports? Done. Tinker with technology tactics that irk Washington and other trading partners? Maybe. But scrap those plans, seen by Beijing as a path to prosperity and influence? Probably never.
The agreement by President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on a cease fire on tariffs postpones the threat of more disruption for China’s exporters and their Asian suppliers. Some economists said Xi might be ready to negotiate in earnest.
Still, Beijing gave no sign of a changed stance on technology ambitions that Washington says violate Chinese market-opening obligations and might threaten U.S. industrial leadership.
Trump’s complaints strike at the heart of the ruling Communist Party’s state-led economic model and plans to restore China to its rightful place as a political and culture leader by creating global champions in robotics and other fields.
“It’s impossible for China to cancel its industry policies or major industry and technology development plans,” said economist Cui Fan of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.
At his weekend meeting with Xi in Argentina, Trump agreed to postpone planned U.S. tariff hikes on Chinese imports by 90 days while the two sides negotiate. The 90-day clock starts Jan. 1. Xi revived promises to narrow China’s multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American exports.
The outcome was “as good as we could have expected,” the chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, William Zarit, said in a statement.
Also late Sunday, Trump said on Twitter that Beijing agreed to cut import duties on U.S. autos. There was no Chinese confirmation of the move, which would have little impact on trade because most American vehicles sold in China are made here.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Monday that there was an “an immediate focus on reducing auto tariffs,” though he did not provide details or timing. Asked if there was a specific agreement to remove the tariffs, he said: “Yes, there was.”
Yet Larry Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, later Monday said that “We don’t yet have a specific agreement on that,” referring to the auto tariffs.
“But I will just tell you as an involved participant we expect those tariffs to go to zero,” Kudlow added in a conference call with reporters.
Mnuchin stressed that the two leaders had detailed conversations on 142 items and said the goal now was to turn the talks into a “real agreement.” He said both leaders had extended invitations to visit their respective countries and said he expects them to meet in the “near future.”
Investors were pleased by the news. The Dow Jones industrial average jumped 287.97 points.
Trump’s promise gives Xi political room to negotiate after Beijing said earlier talks were impossible while Washington “holds a knife” of tariff threats to China’s throat. But both leaders face a mix of economic nationalists, free trade advocates and other conflicting forces at home.
The outcome wasn’t the result of a “significant change” by China, Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report. Washington instead chose to see Beijing’s argument that it already is making changes “in a more positive light.”
One sign of how far apart the two sides are: China’s foreign minister announced in Buenos Aires that Trump agreed to stop raising tariffs, rather than that he promised a 90-day suspension. Wang Yi failed to mention industrial policy or Trump’s demand that Beijing make progress toward changing it or face renewed increases.
Those omissions suggest Beijing doesn’t recognize how important those demands are to Trump, said Nick Marro of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“As a result we expect trade hostilities to resume in 2019,” Marro said in a report.
Trump imposed a tariff hike of 25 percent on $50 billion of Chinese imports in July over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Trump hit an additional $200 billion of Chinese goods with a 10 percent tariff that had been due to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1.
China retaliated by raising its own charges on U.S. imports.
Beijing has tried without success to recruit France, Germany, Japan and other governments as allies against Trump. They dislike the American president’s tactics but echo U.S. complaints about market barriers.
Xi’s government has offered to alter details but rejects pressure to discard blueprints such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for creation of champions in artificial intelligence, electric cars and other industries.
Those are “central to Xi’s core agenda of making China an innovation superpower” and linked to “geopolitical competition” with Washington, said Michael Hirson, Jeffrey Wright and Paul Triolo of Eurasia Group in a report.
Still, Kuijs said Chinese leaders might have hinted to the Americans of possible concessions.
China has its own grievances. Beijing is unhappy with U.S. limits on exports of “dual use” technology with possible military applications. Xi’s government complains Chinese companies are treated unfairly in American security reviews of proposed corporate acquisitions, even though nearly all deals are approved unchanged.
“China hopes the United States will treat Chinese companies equally,” said Song Lifan, an economist at Renmin University in Beijing.
Cui put the odds of an agreement at “higher than 50 percent” but said he had no idea how long that might take.
The tariffs battle has overshadowed changes Xi’s government has announced this year.
While Beijing retaliated for U.S. tariff hikes by imposing penalty charges on American soybeans, autos and other goods, it cut duties on factory machinery and other imports from other countries.
The government also has promised to ease limits on foreign ownership of automakers, insurance ventures and other companies.
Business groups have welcomed those changes but say they don’t address more important complaints about a thicket of rules limiting access to China’s finance, logistics and other industries.
Companies want a genuine response with measurable goals, Kenneth Jarrett, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, said in an email.
A measure of progress will be whether Beijing offers “meaningful concessions” on technology, said Hirson, Wright and Triolo of Eurasia Group.
Without that, hardliners in Washington “will urge Trump to resume escalation,” they said.
Littleton-made NASA spacecraft arrives at ancient asteroid, its first visitor
A spacecraft designed and built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems reached its destination Monday in the first U.S. attempt to collect samples from an asteroid and bring them back to Earth.
Lockheed Martin’s OSIRIS-REx, built at the company’s Waterton Canyon campus in Littleton, pulled within about 12 miles of the asteroid Bennu a couple minutes after 10 a.m. Mountain Time, said Mark Fisher, a spacecraft engineer.
The craft’s journey started Sept. 8, 2016, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it was launched by Centennial-based United Launch Alliance. This will be the first mission by NASA aimed at collecting samples from an asteroid.
Japan brought back samples from an asteroid in 2010, making it the only country so far to do so. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is currently on a second asteroid-exploring mission.
The arrival of OSIRIS-REx — Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer — comes a week after the Lockheed Martin-built InSight landed on Mars. That NASA mission will try to map the interior of the red planet by using the lander’s instruments to measure temperatures, seismic activity and how much the planet wobbles.
The University of Arizona-led mission to the asteroid Bennu, roughly 75 million miles from Earth, is part of ongoing efforts to determine how the solar system formed. NASA calls the billions-year-old Bennu “a time capsule from the early solar system” and says it could contain fragments that are actually older than the solar system. Scientists know from studying it through Earth- and space-based telescopes that the asteroid is rich in carbon, the main element in organic compounds.
“Bennu is tiny compared to the moon,” Fisher said. “It’s about five football fields across its diameter” or about the size of the Empire State Building.
The asteroid is shaped roughly like a diamond or, as Fisher described it, a charcoal briquette. The spacecraft will fly around Bennu to explore it and assess the asteroid’s gravity so it is able to eventually orbit the asteroid.
“It is the smallest body ever orbited by a spacecraft,” said Sandy Freund, the mission’s operations manager. “We’ve been seeing more detailed images of Bennu.”
The craft — a big box about 8 feet wide, 10.3 feet tall and 20.25 feet long with solar arrays — won’t touch down to collect dirt and rock samples from the surface. It will “tag” the asteroid with an 11-foot-long robotic arm called TAGSAM, short for Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. The collector head on OSIRIS-REx will blow out nitrogen to loosen and gather anywhere from 60 grams to 2 kilograms of dust and rocks.
The sampling is expected to occur in 2020. The capsule is scheduled to return to Earth in 2023 and land at a military training and testing site in a desert in Utah.
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The spacecraft incorporates features from other Lockheed Martin vehicles, but the robotic arm, which can flex its elbow and other “joints,” was “a new and innovative thing we had to do,” Fisher said.
“One of the problems with going to an asteroid is that landing conditions are very, very uncertain,” Fisher added. “We were trying for a landing-but-not-landing scenario.”
Bennu orbits the sun at about 63,000 mph.