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Chaos erupts in Jordan parliament over clashing Morsi aid claims

MiddleEasteye - 7 hours 31 min ago
Language Undefined

A Jordanian MP accused the US of giving toppled Egyptian president billions of dollars in aid while giving nothing to Jordan

Republicans, Enjoy This Week's Party, But Remember 2009

RealClearPolitics - 7 hours 46 min ago
Steve Israel, CNN
The party is in rapture. It's on the verge of controlling the White House, the House and the Senate. After eight years of misery, it will inaugurate a new president who has realigned the electorate. Dominance seems assured. Despite the chilly January temperatures, there's not a cloud in the political skies on that brisk Inauguration Day. The Republicans in 2017

Trump Is Following the Authoritarian Playbook

RealClearPolitics - 7 hours 46 min ago
Ruth Ben-Ghiat, CNN
In less than a week, America will embark on a new political experience: rule by an authoritarian President. Donald Trump won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. So, for every American who looks forward to the Trump era, there is likely another who fears he will lead us into ruin. What can we expect from Donald Trump, based on his words and actions over the 19 months since he declared his candidacy

UK prime minister rejects call for inquiry into Israeli influence

MiddleEasteye - 7 hours 56 min ago
Language Undefined

Spokesperson says Theresa May 'considers matter closed' despite calls from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for probe into 'improper interference'

Egyptian lawyers move to overturn Sisi's support for Nile dam project

MiddleEasteye - 8 hours 3 min ago
Language Undefined

Sisi faced calls on this week to be prosecuted for treason over his attempts to transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia

U.K. Supreme Court to issue Brexit decision next week

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 8 hours 12 min ago

Britain's Supreme Court will issue its decision Jan. 24 on whether the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May must consult the country's parliament on her plans for Brexit. Its judges have been weighing arguments in the U.K. government's appeal against a High Court ruling that it doesn't have the right to unilaterally invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would begin formal talks for the U.K. to withdraw from the European Union. On Tuesday, May laid out her plan for Brexit, which she said would be put to the vote in both Houses of Parliament. The Supreme Court will hand down its decision on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. London time, or 4:30 a.m. Eastern Time, according to a post on the court's official Twitter account.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

U.S. stocks open little changed after mixed banking earnings

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 8 hours 15 min ago

U.S. stocks opened little changed Wednesday after mixed earnings reports from banks. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. earnings were better than expected, however, Citibank revenues disappointed. Investors are also waiting for a speech by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen in the afternoon. The S&P 500 were off 2 points, or 0.1%, at 2,265, shortly after open. The Nasdaq Composite was flat at 5,537. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 54 points or 0.3%, to 19,770.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Where Trump and Tech See Eye to Eye

Truth-Out - 8 hours 17 min ago

In a much-hyped, closed-door meeting in December, President-elect Donald Trump and a big chunk of the tech elite discussed what the tech industry should expect as the country enters the Trump era.

As always, the public was left short on the details. The tech news website Recode reported, based on anonymous sources, that topics discussed included immigration, STEM education and diversity, job creation and, of course, tax havens and profit repatriation.

These are fairly predictable subjects for everyone involved in the meeting. What surprised some was, first, that the meeting happened at all, given that the tech industry overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton in the election; and second, that it didn't end up being a trainwreck.

In a bulletin to employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained well why no one should be surprised. "Governments can affect our ability to do what we do," Cook wrote, and so Apple must "engage." He wasn't lying when he wrote: "[W]e engage when we agree and we engage when we disagree."

Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Alphabet (Google's parent company) and their ilk lead huge corporations that dominate a massive and growing sector of the economy. So of course they're going to intervene politically, whether it's attending high-level meetings or hiring scores of lobbyists.

Cook insists that the tech giants are standing up for "privacy and security, education...human rights for everyone...combating climate change" and all of that good stuff. The "making the world a better place" line has gotten so bad that the satires of it are pretty widespread now.

When it comes to Apple and human rights, of course, most people probably think of Chinese sweatshop workers -- and Apple convincing parts manufacturer Foxconn to install nets around its factories so those workers won't be able to commit suicide. (Qualifier: In no way is Apple the only tech company to use sweatshop labor, Foxconn's or otherwise, throughout its supply chain.)

There are plenty of things that the tech industry does that most people don't see as "making the world a better place" -- sweatshop labor, hoarding profits in tax havenssupporting "free trade" deals and economic agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and so on.

Still, Cook and the other tech bosses probably think of themselves as standing for progressive values, in contrast to Trump -- but that they have to "engage" with the new president to achieve anything to do with them. Barack ObamaHillary ClintonBernie SandersElizabeth Warren and every other liberal hero you can think of has preached the same thing.

But they are also realistic in understanding that there are points of agreement. As Cook admitted, the tech chiefs all want to negotiate "things that are more business-centric -- like tax reform."

***

Tax avoidance -- to call it by its true name -- is an obsession that Trump and the tech industry share. Speaking about the estimated $200 billion that Apple has stashed overseas in dummy subsidiaries to avoid paying the relatively higher US corporate tax rate of 35 percent, Cook says that the company won't bring this money back to the US until there is a "fair rate." (Qualifier: As Cook correctly says, "many, many other companies" do exactly the same thing.)

Those attitudes put Apple and the tech giants on the same page as Trump when he responded to Hillary Clinton's allegations that he hasn't paid income taxes by smirking that this merely made him "smart."

In August, Europe's competition chief announced that Ireland gave "illegal state aid" to Apple in the form of sweetheart tax deals and ordered the state to reclaim $14.5 billion in unpaid taxes and interest for 2003-14.

Cook was outraged by what he called "total political crap." "When you're accused of doing something that is so foreign to your values, it brings out outrage in you," he said.

Trump is openly sympathetic to Cook's hopes for "a fair rate" -- meaning a really low one -- to bring Apple's profits home. In August, the Republican presidential candidate promised to "bring that cash home" at a 10 percent tax rate. This would save Apple an estimated $40-50 billion.

Maybe Cook and friends think this is all truly reconcilable with Google's one-time "don't be evil" motto. But a closer look at the tech industry quickly tarnishes the progressive image it cultivates.

***

For a number of liberal commentators, it was inconceivable -- or just plain stupid -- that some working people believed Trump would "fight for the little guy" when he himself is a rich asshole. But somehow, there is no contradiction in Apple and other tech giants stating that they stand for "human rights for everyone" while having sweatshops in their supply chains.

In Apple's 2016 "Progress Report" -- there is progress every year, including the year of the Shenzhen suicides, because of those nets -- COO Jeff Williams opened with the typical rhetoric about the company being "deeply committed to making sure everyone in our supply chain is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve." Williams reported an unprecedented 97 percent compliance with work-hour limits. It isn't until 10 pages later that you find out the "respectful" limit is a 60-hour workweek.

Another example: 2016's biggest privacy showdown was the battle between Apple and the FBI over the locked iPhone that belonged to one of the assailants in the San Bernardino mass shooting in December 2015.

At the time, Trump called for a boycott of Apple products until the company cooperated with the FBI. Cook postured as a privacy champion, resisting the government's attempts to force the company to hack open the phone. Fellow tech companies and liberal media applauded Apple.

Forget that but for the FBI's incompetence, Apple was ready to hand over the locked phone's iCloud data. Forget that not so long ago, the tech industry was implicated for cooperating with the NSA's mass surveillance program -- and getting paid for it to boot. And forget that Apple's business model of commodifying consumers' social lives -- "there's an app for that!" -- requires digitizing more people's communications and social interactions, which helps make state surveillance possible and more effective.

***

This is why the tech companies aren't a reliable ally in the fight against Trump's suggestion of creating a Muslim registry. This would be something like a revival of the Bush-era NSEERS program, which required non-citizens from 24 Muslim-majority countries, plus North Korea, to register with the government and check in regularly.

It's worth keeping in mind that racist law enforcement and national security databases already exist. They typically don't target race or religion as explicitly as NSEERS did, but they do so at least indirectly.

Local police often maintain large databases with information gleaned from discriminatory tactics like stop-and-frisk. In Los Angeles, author Michelle Alexander reports that the result is "a database containing the...biographical information of the overwhelming majority of young Black men in the entire city."

These error-riddled databases are also used for deportation -- something that Peter Thiel's company Palantir helps out with.

NSA surveillance programs like PRISM have a similar bias because of the "One-End Foreign (1EF) solution", which legally allows it to collect data on communications involving US citizens as long as one ed of the exchange is overseas. This means that those of us who regularly communicate internationally -- say, immigrants -- are far more likely to be caught in the dragnet.

Still, a return to blatantly racist data collection would be intolerable, and it's heartening to know that many tech workers have voiced their opposition.

After IBM CEO Ginny Rometty wrote to Trump to express her support, services and advice, more than 500 IBM employees, including workers and higher-ups, signed a petition condemning the letter. "Hostile rhetoric towards immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, LGBT people and others impinge on our core values," the petition states -- its signers vow to "refuse participation in any US contracts that violate constitutional and civil liberties."

Another pledge signed by more than 2,000 tech employees calls for refusal to "build a database of people based on their constitutionally protected religious beliefs" or to "facilitate mass deportations." Notably, this pledge also recognizes "the roles that technology and technologists played in carrying [these threats] out," referencing IBM's role in the Holocaust. The employees call on their own organizations to "minimize the collection and retention of data that would facilitate ethnic or religious targeting."

Some tech writers found these statements praiseworthy, but also ironic because "ethnic or religious targeting" is a central element of the business model of many tech companies. These writers point out that a Muslim registry has effectively been created by Silicon Valley for advertising purposes, and it can be appropriated by the government easily.

This irony is real, but it isn't something to blame on tech workers. Most of those signing these statements are workers, but there are a few high-level managers and executives. The founder and the CEO of Foursquare have both signed up, for example -- this is a company that relies on detailed user information and targeted advertising.

***

Of course, the harms of commercial surveillance may seem minimal compared to state surveillance -- there are fuller discussions of this question elsewhere. The point, for the purposes of this article, is to illustrate that Cook's claim of engaging with Trump to win concessions for progressive values collapses because the tech industry doesn't actually stand for such values itself.

So don't be surprised that Trump and tech are meeting and willing to work together. Peter Thiel gained infamy in Silicon Valley for supporting Trump, and his relationship with Trump has been scrutinized, and will be further.

But it would be hypocritical to single him out, because there will be people like the heads of Uber and Tesla who take on policy advisory roles in the new administration. Cook hosted a fundraiser for Paul Ryan, and Apple didn't suspend its financial support for the Republican convention last year.

It may be a bumpier road for tech compared to the Obama years, but the industry will continue participating in state surveillance, feeding user information to advertisers and meeting with those who hold power in Washington.

Justified by liberal rhetoric or not, tech capital is going to act as capital always does.

NSA Allowed to Share More Intercepts ; Russia Extends Snowden Asylum ; Ex-CIA Agent Faces Extradition and Prison in Italy …and More Picks

Who What Why - 8 hours 19 min ago

PICKS are stories from many sources, selected by our editors or recommended by our readers because they are important, surprising, troubling, enlightening, inspiring, or amusing. They appear on our site and in our daily newsletter. Please send suggested articles, videos, podcasts, etc. to picks@whowhatwhy.org.

Ex-CIA Agent Faces Extradition, Prison in Italy (Trevin)

Former agent Sabrina de Sousa is currently in Portugal, waiting to be taken to Italy to serve a four-year sentence for her involvement in the 2003 rendition of the radical Muslim cleric, Abu Omar. Sousa was tried in absentia, kept from attending her own trial by both US and Italian governments, she believes, so that she could not name the real guilty parties in court.

Russia Extends Snowden Asylum (Dan)

The move comes a day after the Obama administration commuted whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence to five months.

NSA Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications (Jimmy)

The outgoing Obama administration has expanded the ability of the NSA to share raw intelligence intercepts with the 16 other intelligence agencies.

Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border (Jimmy)

The UK Labour Party leader has questioned the recent buildup of NATO and Russian troops in the Baltic region, calling for de-escalation. His loyalty was quickly called into question.

TTP Lives…Sort Of (Dan)

Outgoing US Ambassadors in Asia, who will leave their posts on Friday,  penned a letter urging the incoming Trump administration to revive the trade deal and prevent Chinese hegemony over South Asia.

The post NSA Allowed to Share More Intercepts ; Russia Extends Snowden Asylum ; Ex-CIA Agent Faces Extradition and Prison in Italy …and More Picks appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

GE wins $1.4 billion in power generation orders from Iraq

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 8 hours 24 min ago

General Electric Co. said Wednesday it has won over $1.4 billion in power generation orders from Iraq's Ministry of Electricity. The orders are for setting up power plants and to provide technology upgrades and maintenance services. "Using GE's expanded portfolio of technologies and solutions, this project will provide more reliable and sustainable electricity for the country to help achieve better operations and higher levels of efficiency," said Steve Bolze, chief executive of GE Power. GE's stock, which was up 0.1% in premarket trade, has rallied 7.9% over the past three months, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has run up 9.2%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

J.C. Penney's stock drops after Credit Suisse downgrade, while upgrade boosts Nordstrom shares

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 8 hours 36 min ago

Shares of J.C. Penney Co. Inc. slumped 1.3% in active premarket trade Wednesday, after Credit Suisse turned bearish on the department store chain, citing expectations of limited sales growth amid store closures and stagnant apparel and accessories merchandising. Analyst Christian Buss cut his rating to underperform from neutral. He also downgraded fellow discount department store chain Kohl's Corp. to underperform from neutral on concerns over deteriorating store margins, sending the stock down 1.8% in premarket trade. Separately, Nordstrom Inc.'s stock surged 1.6% premarket, after Buss upgraded the high-end department store chain to outperform from neutral, citing expectations of relatively strong earnings growth as a result of investments in speed of execution and ecommerce. He raised his stock price target to $58, which is 31% above Tuesday's closing price of $44.38, from $48. J.C. Penney's stock had tumbled 18% over the past three months through Tuesday, while Kohl's shares have slipped 3.9% and Nordstrom's stock has dropped 17% and the S&P 500 has gained 6%. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF has tacked on 3.8% over the past three months.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Iran wants to protect, not topple, Saudi Arabia, says Iran security chief

MiddleEasteye - 8 hours 44 min ago
Language Undefined

Fall of the House of Saud could lead to chaos and the rise of Islamic State, says Ali Shamkhani

Germany to reach out to Trump government to keep good ties: Merkel advisor

Reuters US Politics - 8 hours 55 min ago
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany wants to reach out to the future U.S. administration under President-elect Donald Trump to safeguard essential trans-Atlantic relations, Chancellor Angela Merkel's foreign policy advisor Christoph Heusgen said on Wednesday.

U.S. sues JPMorgan for alleged mortgage discrimination

Top Reuters News - 8 hours 56 min ago
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday sued JPMorgan Chase & Co, accusing the bank of discriminating against minority borrowers by charging them higher rates and fees on home mortgage loans between 2006 and at least 2009.

Setting Manning Free Is a Betrayal by Obama

RealClearPolitics - 8 hours 57 min ago
Michael Rubin, New York Post
As the clock winds down on his presidency, President Obama has commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic anâ?¦

DeVos Shows Trump's Serious About Change

RealClearPolitics - 8 hours 58 min ago
Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast
It’s hard to grill something in just five minutes. But that didn’t stop Democrats from trying. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) decision as chairman of the Senate education committee to limit senators to one five-minute round of questioning of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of Education pick, was perhaps the most controversial (and consequential) thing to come out of Tuesday evening’s hearing.

Top Iraq commander announces 'liberation' of east Mosul

MiddleEasteye - 9 hours 30 min ago
Language Undefined

Iraqi army's largest military operation in years involved tens of thousands of fighters sourced from across the country

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