Apple products under pricing pressure as new 15% tariffs drop Sunday – gpgmail


A new 15% tariff on Chinese imports will go in effect just after midnight Sunday, placing levies on hundreds of household goods and consumer tech, including a bevy of Apple products.

The tariffs, put in place by President Donald Trump as part of an escalating tit-for-tat trade war with China, were entered into the Federal Register on Friday.

Apple, the largest U.S. technology company by market cap, has its products assembled in China by Foxconn and then ships them to consumers all over the world. The Apple Airpods, Apple Watch and accompanying Apple Watch bands and the Apple Homepod are all products subject to the higher tariffs beginning Sunday. The iPhone doesn’t appear to be impacted this round, but could be subject to tariffs that begin Dec. 15.

Apple is hardly the only electronics company — most of which have final assembly in China — to be affected by the tariffs. TVs, speakers, digital cameras, lithium-ion batteries and flash drives are just a few of consumer electronics that will be subjected to a 15% tariff beginning Sunday. But the higher tariffs do threaten to give rival Samsung an edge.

The new higher tariffs come just a few weeks since Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Trump to argue that such a move would benefit its No. 1 competitor Samsung.

The 15% tariff will affect about $112 billion of Chinese goods, lower than the original list of $300 billion imports. Last week, the U.S. Trade Representative office modified the original list, either delaying tariffs on some products until December 15 or removing some goods altogether.

Despite the lower number, the impact is still expected to pinch companies importing products from China. The complete list of products affected by the 15% tariffs is 122 pages long. And eventually, that pain — aka higher prices — will be passed onto consumers.

Apple has not said whether it will increase prices of its products. Analysts from JP Morgan expect Apple to absorb the costs.

Tariffs have already had a cost, according to the Consumer Tech Association. Since July 2018, Section 301 tariffs on China have cost the consumer tech industry over $10 billion, including $1 billion on 5G-related products, the CTA said.

In total, American taxpayers have paid over $27 billion in extra import tariffs from the beginning of the trade war in 2018 through June of this year, most of which can be attributed to the U.S.-China trade war, according to U.S. Census information provided by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

Another 30% tariff on about $250 billion of goods is expected to begin October 1.


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U.S. border officials are increasingly denying entry to travelers over others’ social media – gpgmail


Travelers are increasingly being denied entry to the United States as border officials hold them accountable for messages, images and video on their devices sent by other people.

It’s a bizarre set of circumstances that has seen countless number of foreign nationals rejected from the U.S. after friends, family, or even strangers send messages, images, or videos over social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, which are then downloaded to the traveler’s phone.

The latest case saw a Lebanese national and would-be Harvard freshman denied entry to the U.S. just before the start of the school year.

Immigration officers at Boston Logan International Airport are said to have questioned Ismail Ajjawi, 17, for his religion and religious practices, he told the school newspaper The Harvard Crimson. The officers who searched his phone and computer reportedly took issue with his friends’ social media activity.

Ajjawi’s visa was canceled and he was summarily deported — for someone else’s views.

The United States border is a bizarre space where U.S. law exists largely to benefit the immigration officials who decide whether or not to admit or deny entry to travelers, and few protect the travelers themselves. Both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike are subject to unwarranted searches and few rights to free speech, and many have limited access to legal counsel.

That has given U.S. border officials a far wider surface area to deny entry to travelers — sometimes for arbitrary reasons.

On a typical day, U.S. Customs & Border Protection processes 1.13 million passengers by plane, sea and land and deny entry to over 760 people. Sometimes a denial is clear, such as a past criminal conviction or the wrong documentation. But all too often, no specific reasons are given, and there are no grounds to appeal.

A U.S. immigration form describing why a traveler was denied entry to the U.S. (Image: Abed Ayoub/Twitter)

CBP also claims to have what critics say is broadly unconstitutional powers to search travelers’ phones — including those of U.S. citizens — at the border without needing a warrant. Last year, CBP searched 30,000 travelers’ devices — close to four times the number from three years prior — without any need for reasonable suspicion.

Complicating matters, the Trump administration in June began to demand that foreigners who apply for U.S. visas disclose their social media handles and profiles. Some 15 million are expected to fall under the new rule.

Summer Lopez, senior director of free expression programs at PEN America, a human rights nonprofit, said in a statement that the immigration policy on social media “demonstrates all too well the damage these ill-conceived policies can do.”

“That should not be the price of entrance to the U.S., let alone that one’s friends should have to censor themselves as well,” said Lopez.

But Ajjawi’s denied entry is not an isolated case.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said device searches and subsequent denials of entry had become the “new normal” over the past year.

“We hear about this happening to Arab students and Muslim students coming into the U.S. today,” he told gpgmail. Although all travelers are subject to having their devices searched, Ayoub said the government was “holding [the Arab and Muslim] community to a different level” than other backgrounds.

Ayoub said he’s had clients that have been turned away at the border for content found in their WhatsApp messages.

“It’s probably the most popular app in the Middle East,” he said. Because WhatsApp automatically downloads received images and videos to a user’s phone, any questionable content — even sent unsolicitedly — under a border official’s search could be enough to deny the traveler entry.

In one tweet, Ayoub posted a photo of an expedited removal form from one of his clients — also a student with U.S. visa — who was denied entry for an image he received in a WhatsApp group. The student strenuously denied any personal connection to the images and argued it had been automatically saved to his phone. The border official wrote that as a result of the device search the student was “inadmissible” to the U.S. The student was only a couple of semesters away from graduating, but a rejection meant the student can no longer return to the U.S.

“This is part of the backdoor ‘Muslim ban’,” Ayoub said, referring to a controversial executive order signed by President Trump in January 2017, which barred citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries entry to the U.S.

“We don’t hear of other other individuals being denied because of WhatsApp or because of what’s on the social media,” he said.




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Trump adds tariffs to $550 billion of Chinese imports in trade war reprisal – gpgmail


President Trump announced Friday on Twitter that tariffs on Chinese imports will increase 5 percentage points in a tit-for-tat response to China’s own plans to place new duties on U.S. goods.

About $250 billion of goods produced by China and imported into the U.S. already have a 25% tariff. This newest increase will push tariffs to 30% beginning October 1, 2019. Trump also increased “List 4” tariffs from 10% to 15%. The List 4 tariff, which affects the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports, will go into effect September 1 and December 15.

The increase in tariffs on Chinese imports follows news earlier Friday that China will impose $75 billion worth of duties on U.S. goods, beginning Sept. 1 and December 15. China’s foreign ministry said that it would resume tariffs on U.S. imports of automobiles and auto parts and place an additional 5% or 10% tariff on agricultural and food products like soybeans, coffee, whiskey and seafood.

U.S. automakers Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Tesla all saw shares fall in response to China’s new tariffs. Agricultural product companies, the textile industry as well as automakers that build vehicles in the U.S. for export to China will take the brunt of China’s newest tariffs. The move could force these companies to raise prices, which could further dampen sales.

The president’s initial response on Twitter to China’s decision sent the market into a tailspin. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fall by as much as 700 points before closing the day slightly down only 623 points at 25,628.60. The S&P 500 Index fell 75.84 points to end the day at 2,847.11 and the Nasdaq dropped 239.62 points to close at 7,751.77.

Trump’s tariffs announcement came after markets closed Friday.

 




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Tech companies get a reprieve thanks to a reversal from the President on tariffs – gpgmail


President Donald Trump and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative have issued technology companies some temporary tariff relief.

Citing an unwillingness to hit consumers with higher prices on things like computers, mobile phones, laptops, video game consoles, computer monitors, clothes and shoes before the holidays, the President and his trade reps are holding off on slapping additional tariffs on those products coming from China.

The President could also have been motivated by growing concerns that the ongoing trade war could trigger a global recession and hurt his chances for re-election in 2020.

Whatever the reason, the news sparked a stock market rally on Tuesday with investors ignoring the rising prices that 10% tariffs on imports that don’t include consumer goods would cause.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices were both up 1.4% on the day, while the Nasdaq rose 1.9% — thanks in large part to a surge of Apple stock. The company’s stock rose $8.49 or over 4.2% to close at $208.97.

At the beginning of the month, President Trump said he would slap a 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, which sent markets tumbling. An ensuing slight devaluation of the Chinese currency further pushed markets into a tailspin before they began to recover.

The news on Tuesday all but erased those earlier losses.

These market whipsaws between fear and trembling and irrational exuberance won’t end until the U.S. and China come to some sort of agreement in the trade war.

Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spoke with their Chinese counterparts Vice Premier Liu He and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan about the ongoing trade battle. The two Chinese officials issued a protest against the duties that were set to take effect in September. The two trade representatives have a called scheduled for another two weeks.


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Democratic Presidential nominees are ignoring the issue of our cybersecurity infrastructure – gpgmail


With the long battle for the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 firmly underway, more than 20 political hopefuls are talking about spreading the fruits of a solid economy to millions of middle-class Americans who may have missed the good times, implementing Medicare for all to solve financial healthcare pitfalls, and free college education.

One would-be candidate – Jay Inslee, the governor of the state of Washington – is talking almost exclusively about the need to address climate change far more quickly and far more seriously.

But what has not been discussed by any of them, even briefly, is the stunning existential threat to our critical national security and the entire well-being of the U.S. posed by mounting and painful cyber breaches of infrastructure and other targets. If no would-be candidates can acknowledge the significance and magnitude of the cyber threat – let alone put forward a strategy and plan to defend against the threat – it’s hard to take them seriously as prospective national leaders.

I’m hardly the only one with this view. “When we think about existential threats, government has to understand that electricity doesn’t reside in its own silo and that if something happens to (companies like) us, it would have a potentially cataclysmic impact on finance as well,” utility Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning recently told Fox Business.

Specifically, consider just a few examples of what is going on every day:

 

Election malfeasance. We hear daily outrage about threats to our increasingly digital electoral infrastructure, and yet there is no policy discussion.

 

Rampant theft of intellectual property. The strength of our economy is based on our ability to innovate, as encapsulated in IP. And yet our economic and military rivals are brazenly stealing this IP with impunity. They take our innovation and weaponize it to challenge U.S. industry leadership and compromise our defense military technologies.

 

Targeting of critical infrastructure. When most of our infrastructure was built, it was not with security in mind. Our society is dependent upon our infrastructure. What if our phones didn’t work, we couldn’t bank, electrical and gas service was cut off, our planes couldn’t fly and our ports could not function? Massive financing is required to boost security.

 

Manipulation of privacy by select technology giants. What is, in effect, another sort of breach, is the collection, aggregation and manipulation of our privacy by digital aggregators such as Google and Facebook, which is then further manipulated and stolen by criminals. (Note here: A positive response has been the Federal Trade Commission’s endorsement this month of a $5 billion settlement with Facebook over a long-running probe into its privacy missteps.)

How do we solve these problems? Blatantly dictating solutions would inevitably fail. What we can do successfully is set standards of performance and responsibility, coupled with timelines and severe penalties for failure to perform. There must be accountability –something that sometimes exists in industry (albeit at inadequate levels), but that is wholly missing in government at all levels.

While I care deeply about cybersecurity, I am not naïve about the extreme pressure confronting politicians to score well in polls – a requirement to have a shot at winning their party’s presidential nomination. Arguably, cybersecurity awareness may not fit this bill.

If enhanced cybersecurity is to be injected into the Democratic election agenda, the public must actively promulgate such a step. Supporting an outcry is the irrefutable fact that the signs of risk are flagrant. Earlier this year, Global Risks Report 2019 – published by the World Economic Form – said that the rapid evolution of cyber and technological threats poses one of the most significant dangers to societies around the world.

In the U.S., meanwhile, cybersecurity is now at the forefront of policy discussions and planning for future conflicts. The cyber threat has leveled the playing field in many ways, presenting unique concerns to the U.S. and its allies. Two years ago, the final report of the Department of Defense Science Board Task Force on Cyber Deterrence concluded that cyber capabilities of other nations exceeded U.S. ability to defend systems and said this would remain the case for at least another five to 10 years.

These and other threats manifest themselves through attacks on our digital infrastructure. And as the largest and most digitized economy in the world, we have the most to lose when our infrastructure is comprised. There is no higher priority threat to the U.S. If those who would be our leaders, including Donald Trump, cannot acknowledge such a huge external threat to our security, economy and lifestyle and take steps to resolve it, they have no business vying to become the leader of our nation in 2020.


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Reports say White House has drafted an order putting the FCC in charge of monitoring social media – gpgmail


In the executive order, the White House says it received more than 15,000 complaints about censorship by the technology platforms. The order also includes an offer to share the complaints with the Federal Trade Commission.

As part of the order, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to open a public complaint docket and coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission on investigations of how technology companies curate their platforms — and whether that curation is politically agnostic.

Under the proposed rule, any company whose monthly user base includes more than one-eighth of the U.S. population would be subject to oversight by the regulatory agencies. A roster of companies subject to the new scrutiny would include Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snap and Pinterest .

At issue is how broadly or narrowly companies are protected under the Communications Decency Act, which was part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Social media companies use the Act to shield against liability for the posts, videos or articles that are uploaded from individual users or third parties.

The Trump administration aren’t the only politicians in Washington are focused on the laws that shield social media platforms from legal liability. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took technology companies to task earlier this year in an interview with Recode.

The criticisms may come from different sides of the political spectrum, but their focus on the ways in which tech companies could use Section 230 of the Act is the same.

The White House’s executive order would ask the FCC to disqualify social media companies from immunity if they remove or limit the dissemination of posts without first notifying the user or third party that posted the material, or if the decision from the companies is deemed anti-competitive or unfair.

The FTC and FCC had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.


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Tech stocks walloped as China retaliates in the latest salvo of its trade war with the U.S. – gpgmail


All U.S. stock markets were down severely today, and tech stocks were hit especially hard, as China retaliated to increasing U.S. tariffs by halting imports on U.S. agricultural goods and finally acceded to market pressures by letting the yuan slide in value against the dollar.

At one point, the Dow was down nearly 900 points before staging a late afternoon rally to close off by roughly 760 points. The Nasdaq, the marketplace which is home to a number of technology stocks, saw its value drop by 3.4% or 277.10 points.

Shares of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix, and Twitter were all down for the day. Indeed, as CNBC reported, the biggest tech stocks, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Alphabet lost a combined $162 billion in market value.

Declines came as China allowed its currency to fall below what was once considered to be a red-line in the country’s currency peg against the dollar. That means that Chinese goods start to look more attractive globally as their prices decline in relation to the dollar. It could also trigger a wave of currency devaluations and protectionist measures across the globe — further putting downward pressure on global economic growth.

Stocks also continued to feel the pinch from the threat that President Donald Trump would make good on his threat to impose new tariffs on goods from China beginning September 1, 2019. Those tariffs are expected to take a bite into every day consumer goods and clothing, which adversely affects tech companies.

The big concern for these tech companies is the looming threat of that tariff expansion from the U.S. If those tariffs go into effect it would have significant consequences in these companies’ home market. 

“Assuming smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and computer systems are not categorically excluded from the final $300B tranche, we expect there will be material impact to Apple hardware product earnings,” analysts from Cowen & Co. wrote in a note quoted by CNBC .


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Which immigration headlines should you care about? – gpgmail


Foreign-born tech workers shouldn’t panic — or bury their heads in the sand

Newsflash! President Donald Trump is planning to deport naturalized U.S. citizens, force H-1B visa holders to return to their home countries, and revoke the green cards of lawful permanent residents. He also wants to deport the Dreamers and evict millions of other immigrants from the country. Or wait — maybe he’s planning to increase visas for skilled workers, open the door to foreign-born researchers, protect DACA recipients, and — for an encore — bar himself from the United States.

Feel like you’ve got whiplash yet? Welcome to the nerve-wracking world of U.S. immigration policy — a strange place at the best of times but one made all the more confusing by the weaponization of immigration issues for political gain and the media’s continuing failure to cut through the spin.

Tech workers are better prepared than most to cope with a torrent of torrid immigration headlines, continuously amplified and distorted by Twitter rumors, Slack chatter, and credulous Facebook reposts. Still, the sheer volume of immigration news makes it hard to know what to pay attention to — and with 71 percent of Silicon Valley’s techies born outside the United States, this isn’t simply a theoretical problem. If you, your loved ones, colleagues, or staff are immigrants, then you need to learn to separate the signal from the noise.

So how can you tell the real deal from the real fake news? There’s no simple answer, but to keep you safe — and keep your heart rate in check — here are a few ground rules to help you figure out which headlines are worth taking seriously:

Whose headline is it anyway?


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