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The Weekly Recap 2/3/19

Daniel Chase

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Congratulations, comrades, we’ve managed to make  it through yet another week in this dog-eat-dog existence we call “life.” I, for one, did everything I could to squeeze every drop of effort out of this week, that way, by the time the weekend hits, I feel ready to take the time I need. As I’ve suggested before, there is nothing quite like sharing delicious meals with friends, and having pleasant conversations whilst enjoying those savory bites. If you ever feel at a loss for what to discuss, might I make one suggestion? I highly recommend touching on the highlights and lowlights of the previous week because it accomplishes two goals: you have an opportunity to relive the good parts of your week, and learn from your mistakes in a supportive environment. 

Without further adieu, here’s your weekly recap. 

For The People

About a week or so ago, Sen. Kamala Harris let the world in on a secret that has since become public knowledge; she’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination in the upcoming 2020 election. Earlier this weekend, Harris held her first rally in her hometown of Oakland, California, where she dropped a pretty decently-sized truth bomb on the American people. Harris said that the “American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before. We must answer a fundamental question: who are we as Americans? So, let’s answer that question — to the world, to each other, right here, right now. America, we are better than this.”

It doesn’t take a political scientist to recognize that Harris is calling out President Donald Trump for laying waste to true American democracy, and for being the reason we —as Americans — are struggling with our national identity. We’ll have to see if she continues with this underlying message throughout the campaign process. 

Brexit Be Trippin’

If you haven’t heard the news, PM Theresa May failed to secure enough votes to pass Brexit — a deal that would allow the UK to essentially leave the European Union — and has since been trying to come up with some semblance of a plan to get her country back on track. According to recent reports, the British government is considering enacting martial law as well as declaring a state of emergency if no concrete plan comes about. 

“The very need for the backstop in the first place was because of the UK’s red lines, that it wanted to leave the customs union and the single market as well as the European Union. Ireland has the same position as the European Union, I think, when we say that  the backstop is part go a  balanced package that isn’t going to change. The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement without a backstop in it. It’s as simple as that.”

Simon Coveney, Irish Tanaiste 

Rain Drop, Dropbox

Today, Dropbox announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire HelloSign, an eSignature and document workflow platform with over 80,00 customers. 

“With over an exabyte of data on our platform, millions of people already use Dropbox as a place to collaborate on their most important content. We’re thrilled to welcome HelloSign’s talented team to Dropbox and add their capabilities to our product suite. HelloSign has built a thriving business focused on eSignature and document workflow products that their users love. Together, we can deliver an even better experience to Dropbox users, simplify their workflows, and expand the market we serve.”

Drew Houston, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dropbox 

Under the terms of the agreement, described in the official press release, Dropbox will acquire HelloSign for $230 million in cash, subject to customary purchase price adjustments and closing conditions. While many see Dropbox’s motivation as less-than-exciting because HelloSign, at first glance, seems to be a platform built to allow consumers to attach electronic signatures to documents, HelloSign is actually a pretty extraordinary company, and the acquisition is huge for Dropbox users. 

Starbucks For President 

When Trump was elected president, a belief was catalyzed, suggesting that individuals interested in running for office no longer needed previous political experience, they need only speak their mind and remain unafraid to tweet some hot takes here and there. With the 2020 election season growing closer each day, we’ve already started to see potential presidential candidates come out of the woodwork. 

After double-checking to make sure he placed his latte and spinach feta wrap down safely, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told several media outlets on Sunday that he is heavily considering running for president as a “centrist independent” in the upcoming election. 

“We’re living at a most fragile time. Not only the fact that this President is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics. I want to see the American people win. I want to see America win. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person who will embrace those ideas because I am not, in anyway, in bed with a party.”

Howard Schultz

An Apple & Aetna A Day Keeps The Doctor Away 

People have often said that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but rarely, if ever, has anyone interpreted this to have any connection to Apple and its accompanying devices. However, the common interpretation of this painfully inaccurate adage may be subject to change following news released today describing corporate decisions from fruit-based tech giant. 

Apple today announced plans to collaborate with health insurance provider Aetna to launch a new wellness-based app called Attain which will use Apple Watch data to allow Aetna patients to observe their health statistics. According to TechCrunch, the partnership began back in 2016 when the two companies conducted tests during which 90% of participants reported a health benefit from using their Apple Watch. 

“We believe that people should be able to play a more active role in managing their well-being. Every day, we receive emails and letters from people all over the world who have found great benefit by incorporating Apple Watch into their lives and daily routines. As we learn over time, the goal is to make more customized recommendations that will help members accomplish their goals and live healthier lives.”

Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer, Apple 

Get Out Of Huawei

Following the fiscal ceasefire agreement, which was set into place back in December, it seemed that peace between the U.S. and China had been temporarily restored. This was true for the geopolitical equivalent of roughly four minutes before the Trump administration elected to file criminal charges against Huawei, one of China’s largest telecom companies, for committing money laundering, bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice, just to sweeten the judicial pot. 

As for the individual named in Huawei’s recent charges, the Company’s chief financial officer, Wanzhou Meng, will have the distinct honor of being indicted by Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Rumors suggest he is quite warm and friendly when processing an indictment, but that’s just hearsay. 

The official indictment, filed with the United Stated Eastern District Court of New York, stated that:

“…Since in or about July 2007, Huawei repeatedly misrepresented to the U.S. government and to various victim financial institutions…that, although Huawei conduced business in Iran, it did so in a manner that did not violate U.S. law, including the ITSR (Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations). In reality, Huawei conducted its business in Iran in a manner that violated applicable U.S. law, which includes the ITSR.”

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York 

Cash Me If You Can

According to a 2017 survey conducted by CNBC, 50% of respondents said they carry cash with them less than half of the time when they are out, and if they do, 76% said they keep less than $50 on hand. This trend has driven consumers to shift towards the use of debit cards, and because millennials were somehow never taught the difference between a debit and credit card, they have used these plastic demons to rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. 

Well, it wouldn’t be America if someone didn’t start a company in response to the misfortunes of thousands of people, and a new mobile banking startup called Step wants to assist the next  generation in understanding the value of a dollar. 

The Company, founded by CJ MacDonald and Alexey Kalinichenko, former execs from the mobile gift card platform Gyft, started Step to help the some 75 million children and young adults under the age of 21 in the U.S., who are burdened by having to use cash for all their purchases. Step is banking on (apologies for the pun) the youthful spirit of todays’ teenagers who are hot to buy items on Amazon,com or purchase in-app downloads on their smartphones but are too young to have a debit/credit card. Step CEO Macdonald says the market for the startup isn’t based on the “unbanked,” it’s the “pre-banked.” 

“We’re building an all-in-one banking solution that primarily focuses on teens and parents. We want it to be a teen’s first bank account. We want to be a teen’s first spending card. And we want to teach financially literacy and responsibility firsthand.”

CJ MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer, Step

Pandora Radio Is Getting Sirius

In September of last year, Sirius XM Holdings INC and Pandora Media, Inc announced a definitive agreement under which SiriusXM would acquire Pandora in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.5 billion. For those unfamiliar with Sirius, the Company offers subscription-based satellite radio service with hundreds of curated channels, and no commercials. Since the deal closed, consumers and shareholders have waited patiently to see hear about Sirius’ plans for its newest asset. Sirius XM CEO James Meyer — speaking to investors on their most recent earnings call this week — said that the Company has plans in place: 

“…to capitalize on cross-promotion opportunities between SiriusXM’s more than 36 million subscribers across North America and Pandora’s approximately 70 million monthly active users. In early February, we will begin a targeted promotion to SiriusXM subscribers and Pandora listeners Select Pandora listeners will receive an offer to obtain a unique $5 a month ‘Mostly News,’ ‘Mostly Music’ or ‘News Talk’ [SiriusXM subscription] package in their satellite-equipped vehicle.”

James Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Sirius XM 

To put Meyer’s words into something a little easier to get down, SiriusXM will began offering a $5 per month streaming plan within the Pandora Radio smartphone app. According to TechCrunch, roughly have of the owners of SiriusXM-enabled vehicles have used Pandora over the course of the last two years, and Sirius plans on taking advantage of this fact by employing cross-promotional strategies. Meyer believes that by utilizing Pandora’s radio-streaming platform, the Company will be able to create “new, unique audio packages that will bring together the best of both services creating a powerful platform for artists to reach their fans and create new audiences.”

Moving Forward 

Perhaps the most significant news, in terms of preparing for next week, is President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the INF treaty. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States will formally begin the process of withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era armistice agreement with Russia that has served as the most significant piece of anti-nuclear proliferation legislation in recent history. Pompeo said that “Russia has refused to take any steps to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days,” and because of this, the U.S. wants out. 

“To this day, Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations not to produce, possess or flight test a ground-launched intermediate range cruise missile system…The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective February 2, and we will provide Russia and other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 

We’ll have to just wait and see how this plays out in the coming weeks. 


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Energy

President Trump To The World: Iran Is Out

Joe Samuel

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Though the stock market opened lower on Monday, that route was short lived thanks to the surging price of oil and gas. The US President, Donald Trump, sought to cut off Iran’s top income producing commodity, oil.  In fact, any U.S. ally that continues to do importation of Iranian oil would receive a swift sanction by the U.S.

So, What Does This Mean For The Rest Of The World?

Sanctions are set to hit at the beginning of May. Furthermore, there will be no exceptions to these sanctions either. Previously there were certain exemptions for countries like China, Japan, South Korea and others that imported oil from Iran, in 2018. 

“The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for decades.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Backlash Against The United States

Of course, there was immediate backlash from the rest of the world.  China, for instance, took a hard line against the news. With concern over Beijing/Washington relations, this could escalate things to another tipping point ahead of any negotiations on trade. 

A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said that the United States was going above its jurisdiction.  Furthermore, the spokesperson, Geng Shuang, explained that the People’s Republic and its business (with Iran) are clear and transparent. Of course, they would say this based on the fact that China is one of the biggest buyers of oil from Iran.

Other countries also hit back at these statements from the U.S. President. Turkey, for instance, said that it was being “meddled with” on a different front. Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu explained that this move could be seen as an attempt to negatively impact Turkey’s business with its neighboring countries.

Something Else Behind The Scenes?

Rumors began buzzing after the fact. Some even cited that this move could be an attempt by the U.S. to support an exiled Iranian group known as MEK (Mujahedin-e-Khalq). Those close to the situation like Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State) refuted these rumors, however.

“We’re supporting the Iranian people, not any particular group.”

Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary Of State

This move by the U.S. is said to be a small part of a much bigger plan.  The administration is putting “maximum pressure” to confine Iran’s regime and slow its economic growth.

“The Trump Administration pushback against the Iranian regime has been effective and will pay dividends over time. This is the clearest signal yet that if you do business with the Iranian regime you will NOT do business with America,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

The May 2 deadline should give these “allies” time to readjust their sources of oil imports. But as with anything, time will tell.

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Does China’s Bull Market Indicate Global Stock Market Momentum?

Joe Samuel

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Chinese stock market

The markets in China are up by more than 30% so far this year.  The Shanghai composite had jumped by over 30% since the end of 2018 and the Shenzhen component has rallied by more than 40%.  Despite the weak finish to last year, China’s stock markets have been on a bull run so far in 2018.  This comes during a period of optimism about potential trade deals with the United States.

China Compared To The US Markets

Compared to the other averages like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, which have risen 13% and 15%, the Chinese markets are outpacing the US by more than double. This comes after these same Chinese markets experienced the worst performance in a decade.  The Shanghai composite closed the year on a low note with a decline of roughly 25$ compared to 2017.

What has helped boost Chinese stocks has had much to do with the economic turn around as it would seem.  Beijing reported on Wednesday that it saw better than expected economic growth for Q1 of 2019. This comes after months of worry about a global economic slowdown lead by China.  The most recent GDP figures show the Chinese economy grew by more than 6% year over year during the first 3 months of 2019.  This beat the 6.3% expectation from the Street.

What Will The Future Hold For China?

“We’ve started to see retail investors in China feel a little bit more optimistic but they’ve been busy trying to just take their money back after a terrible year in 2018, so the money is not really at work at the moment,” Tai Hui, Asia-Pacific chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, on CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday.

It also helps as optimism continues to grow.  Beijing may be on the verge of coming to an agreement with the United States. The slew of massive tariffs from both economic giants was thrown about during 2018. This initially caused more worry and triggered large market sell-offs before the New Year.

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Politics

The Weekly Recap 4/7/19

Daniel Chase

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There’s nothing quite like a nice cup of coffee to start the morning. It’s almost like within that cup of mysterious liquid lies a magic to help us start the day. Coffee is the drink of champions no matter what obstacles they may come across but nothing can compare knowing the future. It hasn’t been proven that any one actually can tell the future but our best attempt at this is reviewing our past to inform how to act in the present, thus altering the future. Now that we’re on the same page, please enjoy this healthy serving of your weekly recap. 

Leave Biden Alone 

There are certain people the media covers quite often because of their inclinations to say racist things or make women feel uncomfortable, but there stands to be a select few that have managed to stay out of the negative spotlight. Former Vice President Joe Biden is one such person who has given off the never-hurt-a-fly vibe. Biden may or may not announce his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election, but on Friday, Lucy Flores, Nevada’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014, came forward and said that Biden made her feel uncomfortable when he was weirdly physical at a campaign event. 

“Neither then, nor in the years since, did he or the staff at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable nor do they recall what she describes.”

Bill Russo, spokesperson for Joe Biden 

Melania Trump, Everyone 

I don’t know what you’ve heard about First Lady Melania Trump but I’m here to tell you that she’s a stand-up individual. Actually, to be fair other than her debacle with decorating the White House with red Christmas trees during the holiday season I’m not really sure what she’s been up to. According to recent reports, First Lady Trump’s “Be Best” program, a program designed to focus on major issues facing children today, encouraging them to be best, is doing quite well. My only issue that how can someone “be best,” wouldn’t it make sense to “be the best” or “be one’s best?” 

I digress, Melania announced over the weekend that she’s now working the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, an organization founded under President George W. Bush. 

“When Mrs. Trump was was made aware that there is an existing mechanism in government that convenes 20 agencies that focus on youth-specific programs, she saw that as a real opportunity to bring their good work to the forefront and ensure that those programs aligned with Be Best get the attention and focus they deserve.”

Stephanie Grisham, First Lady Trump spokesperson 

Biden, Now We Can’t Do This…

It has now come to the media’s attention that Joe Biden, former vice president and potential presidential candidate, has been accused by a second woman of him touching her inappropriately. Earlier this week, Lucy Flores, a former lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, came out and said that Biden had kissed her forehead at a campaign event and it made her incredibly uncomfortable. On Monday, Amy Lappos told a Connecticut newspaper that Biden rubbed noses with her at a 2009 fundraiser. Lappos stated that it “wasn’t sexual” but her head was grabbed. 

Naturally, Biden responded with his own statement: 

“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my attention.”

Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States

Be Careful

Anytime friends of mine get into Ubers or other ride-hailed vehicles, I always remind them to check the license plate on their smartphone app and compare it with the vehicle that has shown up. Unfortunately, a University of South Carolina student was taken advantage of and murdered over the weekend. The body of Samantha Josephson, 21, was found in a forest on Friday night when she didn’t come home after a night out. 

“We want every college student in America to take a pledge that says they will never get into a ride share without first asking the driver, “What’s my name,’ to make sure that they are getting in the right vehicle. This is really a national problem. We thought we had a safe city here and a safe campus, but this might happen again this weekend if a student gets into one of those vehicles and hasn’t fully confirmed that it’s the right vehicle.”

Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina President 

Borders Are Bad For Business, Beats, Battlestar Galactica 

According to a recent economic study released on Tuesday, countless American businesses, including manufacturers and farmers, will lose $726 million per day if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to temporarily shutdown the US-Mexico border. Chat Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers told The Hill that over 21,000 companies in the U.S. export to Mexico.

“The NAM has been to the border to witness the situation firsthand. Congress absolutely must tackle comprehensive immigration reform immediately to address the real national security and humanitarian concerns that are a direct result of our current broken system. We’re getting somewhat mixed messages from the markets right now. We have really strong job growth, optimism is high when I talk to firms about their overall outlook, but they also have this lingering worry about the global economy, and looking at Germany and China, we’re already seeing materially slower growth than even a couple of months ago.”

Chad Moutray

Bern, Baby Bern That Money!

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is back at it again with the white hairs and is showing no signs of slowing down. Sanders in February announced his entrance into the pantheon of candidates running for president in the 2020 election. According to recent reports, he’s raised $18.2 million from over five-hundred thousand donors since his initial announcement. If these numbers are in fact correct, Sander has raised more money than any other Democratic presidential candidate currently in the running. 

Compared to other candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris, Sanders has raised most of his funds from smaller donors rather than deep-pocketed individuals. 

“We’re building a campaign to win and we’re planning to win from the outset.”

Faiz Shakir, Campaign Manager for Sanders 2020

Facebook…Why Do We Even Bother? 

It’s almost painful how often Facebook has dropped the data privacy ball over the last few months. To be honest, I’m fairly close from closing my own account in an effort to secure my private information. According to a TechCrunch report released this week, over 540 million user profiles were exposed due to two separate third-party companies who failed to keep them safe. As for the team that discovered the data exposure, the UpGuard Cyber Risk team today reported that Cultura Colectiva, a Mexico-based media company exposed “146 gigabytes of records including comments, likes, reactions, account names, FB Ids and more.”

Given the increasing value of data among the tech industry, one would think that Facebook  would be more careful with which companies it works with/shares user data with. In all fairness to Zuckerberg and his team of rag-tag engineers at Facebook, mistakes happen, especially with computers. Having said that, Facebook has dominated the headlines over the last six months for several “mistakes” that bring to mind the question of whether our data is truly safe when stored on internet databases and social media sites. 

“For app developers on Facebook, part of the platform’s appeals is access to some slice of the data generated by and about Facebook users. For Cultura Colectiva, data on responses to each post allows them to tune an algorithm for predicting which future content will generate the most traffic. The data exposed in each of these sets would not exist without Facebook, yet these data sets are no longer under Facebook’s control. In each case, the Facebook platform facilitated the collection of data about individuals and its transfer to third parties, who became responsible for its security.”

UpGuard

Mr. Trump, Your Taxes, Please…

After years of birther movements and lascivious acts, it seems as thought the tables have turned. On Tuesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal submitted a formal request for the tax returns from President Donald Trump. Transparency for U.S. presidents is one thing, but especially considering the doubt and mistrust from the Democratic Party towards Trump, it would serve him well to share his taxes.

“Consistent with its authority, the Committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President. Under the Internal Revenue Manual, individual income tax returns of a President are subject to mandatory examination, but this practice is IRS policy and not codified in the Federal tax laws…”

Richard E. Neal   

Swipe For The Next Page 

Bumble arose as a cultural alternative to Tinder. The app was created with a women-centric framework that structured the app around a woman’s right to choose. If a male swiped right on a female, and she swiped on him, it was up to the woman to initiate the conversation. The app instantly took off and became the less-creepy dating app on the market. Tinder remained operable for hook-ups, but Bumble has been lauded as a place to find true love. 

In recognition of their upcoming eminence as a digital brand, Bumble today announced the release of Bumble Mag, a lifestyle magazine made in collaboration with Hearst Publications that has relationship-related content, dating advice, etc…Per the details of their announcement, the magazine is split into four sections, “You First,” “You + BFFs,” “You+Dating,” and “You+Bizz.” The organization of the publication is said to mimic the goals of the Company. 

“Bumble is at the forefront of inspiring women to make connections and take initiative in all aspects of their lives with its positive message of empowerment. The magazine is a perfect example of how HearstMade is changing the face of custom publishing with hyper-targeted content that reflected the brand’s ethos in the most authentic way…”

Brett Hill, Editorial Director, HearstMade

I Know Why The Caged Cohen Sings 

Michael Cohen, the disgraced former lawyer of President Donald Trump, knows that he messed up by being the President’s fixer. He orchestrated hush payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, who spent romantic moments with our president, as well as committed campaign finance violations and he lied to congress. Now, Cohen is begging members of the Democratic leadership to let him go freely if he cooperates with Congress. He is asking for more time — before heading to the clink — to assist Congress in pinning down President Trump.

“We hope that this memorandum demonstrates that Mr. Cohen needs to be readily accessible and immediately available to provide ongoing assistance to Congress in order for it to fulfill its executive branch oversight responsibilities. Mr. Cohen was only recently able to access a hard drive with important documents.”

Statement from Michael Cohen’s legal team

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