The biggest global trade deal ever is now ratified. Think anyone in the Trump White House noticed?


Roberto AzevadoReuters

❝ An international agreement forecast to boost global trade by $1 trillion a year has come into force.

The Director General of the World Trade Organization, Roberto Azevedo, called it “the biggest reform of global trade in a generation”

Mr Azevedo said it would have a bigger impact than eliminating all existing taxes on imports, known as tariffs.

❝ It involves countries signing up to a long list of reforms, including easier access for businesses to information, reduced fees and simpler and faster procedures.

WTO economists estimated it would cut the cost of trading by 14.3%, and that developing nations would gain the most.

❝ TFA is one of the few successes of a much wider set of negotiations that were launched in late 2001 in the Qatari capital and known as the Doha Round…

The TFA was finally agreed at a meeting in Bali 2013, but could not come into force until 110 countries had ratified it. That is what has now happened…

BTW, the United States ratified this Trade Agreement in January, 2015.

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The Pentagon decides on a new military handgun


Donald Trump Jr. holding a Sig Sauer MCX…brother Eric, 2nd from right

The US Army has confirmed that its new XM17 handgun is to be a 9 mm Sig Sauer model P320 and the contract allows the government to buy Sig Sauer’s proposed XM1152 Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) and XM1153 Special Purpose (SP) ammunition and training rounds.

The long-running XM17 Modular Handgun System (MHS) contract, intended to replace legacy 9 mm M9 Beretta pistols, was awarded…with a total $580+ million maximum ceiling.

It is understood that Sig Sauer bested bids from Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock, after Smith & Wesson and partner General Dynamics Ordnance Tactical Systems (GDOTS) had earlier been dropped from the programme. A total of nine bids were submitted, according to a separate Pentagon statement. The US Army declined to reveal the other bids…

The MHS programme, which is expected to reach full-rate production in 2018, could result in buying between 280,000 and 500,000 weapons for the army, navy, air force, marines, and US Special Operations Command. The army has said it wants more than 280,000 handguns…

I’m not commenting, today, on the predictable waste of dollar$ from the Pentagon. This project or any other is subject to the politics of our military-industrial complex – which has little to do with defense or sanity.

I grew up in the “arsenal of America” – in Connecticut. Where mass production was invented as an innovation to produce muskets for the American Revolution. Where firms like Colt, Winchester, Remington and Ruger got their start because of talented, trained and experienced machinists and designers. Natives and immigrants alike.

It was only my generation that ended the lineage of folks from my family who worked on firearms, from assembly lines to talented prototype gunsmiths who spent their lives designing fine guns for peace – or war.

The furor over Beretta’s award years ago will not be matched over Sigg-Sauer getting this juicy contract. Their headquarters is in the US, nowadays – even though they’re a subsidiary of Lüke & Ortmeier Gruppe. And they love their friendship with the Trump family.

Highest Value Export Good by State


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Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

It’s pretty funny how these can be skewed. New Mexico has computer processors because of one Intel foundry in Rio Rancho. The tax break deal they got allows for a payment back to local government if a certain percentage of employees are imported from out-of-state. A codicil necessary because local government and Intel both realized our education system is so weak that any high tech business would have to rely on supplemented staffing.

It’s a good time to be an immigration lawyer in Canada


Click to enlargeAnthony Maw

Gastown District, Vancouver

❝ The quaint cobblestone streets of the historic Gastown district of Vancouver belie its status as a fast-growing technology hub.

Drawing on links with nearby Seattle, and San Francisco further south, a tech boom in Canada’s third-largest city has pulled in tens of thousands of skilled workers and start-up entrepreneurs in recent years, sparking a fierce fight for the limited supply of office space.

Now the commercial centre of Canada’s most westerly province of British Columbia is braced for a fresh influx of talent — this one driven by the shifting immigration policies of the Trump administration in Washington.

❝ A month after Donald Trump entered the White House, the US tech sector is still trying to figure out how to adapt to the sweeping immigration reform promised by the new president…

The sector now fears that Mr Trump could push ahead with further legislation, including tearing up the H1B visa programme they rely upon to hire skilled foreign workers.

This has led many in Silicon Valley and beyond to consider their options, including looking further afield to more liberal Canada…

❝ Many of the world’s largest tech groups already operate in Vancouver, which regularly tops lists of the world’s most liveable cities and has the mildest climate in Canada.

Amazon is looking to add to its 700 staff in Vancouver, while Microsoft opened an office in the city last year for 750 employees. Cisco Systems, Samsung and SAP also operate there…

The tech industry and a booming construction sector have made Vancouver the fastest growing area of Canada’s economy, with GDP growth averaging 3.5 per cent in the past five years. “Resource economies historically were important, but tech now has more jobs than forestry, oil and gas, and mining combined,” says Mr Robertson.

Too bad 3rd World states like New Mexico can’t figure this out. The cost of doing business here would be a boon – if only we had an education system to match. It’s not just that we can’t supply much to incoming tech sector startups and established firms. Who wants to move somewhere where the public school system offers nothing more than a mediocre education to their children?

Feds join suit against UnitedHealth Group for overcharging Medicare million$

❝ The U.S. Justice Department has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group Inc that claims the country’s largest health insurer and its units and affiliates overcharged Medicare hundreds of millions of dollars, a law firm representing the whistleblower said on Thursday…

❝ The lawsuit, filed in 2011 and unsealed on Thursday, alleges UnitedHealth Group overcharged Medicare by claiming the federal health insurance program’s members nationwide were sicker than they were, according to the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP.

The Justice Department has also joined in allegations against WellMed Medical Management Inc, a Texas-based healthcare company UnitedHealth bought in 2011…plus several more affiliates who say they can’t imagine why they’re accused of being co-conspirators.

❝ The lawsuit by whistleblower Benjamin Poehling, a former UnitedHealth executive, has been kept under seal in federal court in Los Angeles while the Justice Department investigated the claims for the past five years.

The wheels of justice in America grind exceedingly slow in those rare circumstances when they’re set upon corporate theft and fraud.

1 out of 50 new jobs in the United States came from the solar industry last year

❝ The number of jobs created to make, sell and install solar panels in the U.S. grew at a record pace last year, and grew much faster than the overall American economy, which is welcome news for the solar industry in the face of policy uncertainty.

❝ The new figures were issued recently courtesy of a new report from The Solar Foundation. The report — the seventh annual edition to come from the nonprofit — found that there were 260,077 solar workers as of November 2016, which represents nearly 25 percent growth from the amount of solar jobs recorded the year prior. In comparison, jobs in the overall U.S. economy grew at a rate of 1.45 percent.

❝ Last year’s solar market performance made 2016 the fourth consecutive year that U.S. solar jobs grew by 20 percent or more, the report found. It also made for some eye-popping figures, like how 1 out of every 50 new jobs, or 2 percent of new jobs, created in the U.S. in 2016 came from the solar industry…

The solar industry is an American success story,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation, and these numbers “are proof positive” of that. “Despite partisanship and the election, people really do love solar. Every poll says so. Even conservative Republicans favor solar,” added Luecke.

❝ While Trump has said he’s in favor of job creation from any energy sector, he emphasized the fossil fuel industries during his campaign.

Like his peers in all factions in the Republican Party and the US Chamber of Commerce, the fossil fuel barons own his testicles.

❝ Forty-one percent of the current solar jobs in the U.S. are in residential solar installations, and workers get paid on average $26 per hour, the report found. In 2017, residential solar jobs are expected to see the biggest growth in comparison to other solar sectors, which will likely continue for years to come.

Electricity has only come to full use in economies offering providers the same grants and discounts common to oil and gas providers for decades. Our government still provides billion$ in tax dollar to fossil fuel corporate giants – in every administration. Subsidies for electric cars and solar home installations are building on an even playing ground…for the first time.

Sell-by dates on food are about to become more realistic


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❝ On Wednesday, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the two largest trade groups for the grocery industry, announced that they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations to clear up what product date labels mean. Where manufacturers now use any of 10 separate label phrases, ranging from “expires on” to “better if used by,” they’ll now be encouraged to use only two: “Use By” and “Best if Used By.”

The former is a safety designation, meant to indicate when perishable foods are no longer good. “Best if Used By” is a quality descriptor — a subjective guess of when the manufacturer thinks the product should be consumed for peak flavor.

❝ That’s what most “use-by” dates indicate now, though studies have shown that many consumers believe they signal whether a product is okay to eat. In fact, it’s totally fine to eat a product even well after its so-called expiration date.

❝ These dates typically indicate one of two things: a message from the manufacturer to the grocery store, telling the store when the product will look best on shelves, or a subjective measure — often little more than a guess — of when consumers will most “enjoy” the product. Methods for setting those dates have been left to manufacturers, rather like the phrasing of the labels themselves…

❝ Advocates and environmentalists have been warning for years that many people interpret date labels as a sign that food is no longer good to eat. As a result, one industry survey found, 91 percent of consumers have mistakenly thrown away past-date food, when the label only signals the manufacturer’s guess at its peak quality.

❝ Shoppers shouldn’t expect to see the new labels the next time they buy groceries; the change won’t be immediate. While FMI and GMA are urging manufacturers and retailers to make it now, they have until July 2018. Even then, the standards are voluntary, so there’s no guarantee that they’ll be adopted by every single company.

RTFA for more discussion, inevitable state vs federal standards. You’re going to have to pick your way through a bit of crap legalese, no doubt. The market will have to sort out the rest.

Join the NRA, fly with your Congress-scum to Alaska and kill bear cubs in wildlife refuges – from an airplane

You, too, can call yourself a true Republican-style hunter.

❝ The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to legalize the killing of black bear cubs and their mothers at their dens in Alaska’s national wildlife refuges.

The controversial measure, backed by the National Rifle Association, overturns a ‘Fair Chase’ rule, promulgated by the Obama administration, that also limited baiting, trapping, and the use of airplanes to track and shoot bears and wolves on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands in Alaska.

❝ The vote was met with an outpouring of criticism from wildlife and conservation groups.

❝ “Alaska’s extreme predator control policies lack scientific support, contravene conservation mandates on national wildlife refuges and defy traditional wildlife management principles,” said Jenny Keatinge, federal lands policy analyst with Defenders of Wildlife. “H.J. Res. 69 would cede federal management of iconic wildlife to the state’s misguided program on over 76 million acres of national wildlife refuges that belong to all Americans.”

❝ Safari Club International, a group that has been criticized by both sportsmen and animals rights groups for advocating canned or captive “hunting” and elite trophy hunting, joined the NRA in pushing Congress to overturn the Fair Chase rule.

As a lifelong hunter, I oppose any hunting of predators under damned near all conditions. Destroying nature’s own checks and balances to satisfy the ego of trophy hunters ain’t my idea of how we evolved as hunter-gatherers.

Add in the demented profiteering of gun lobbyists like the NRA and you have so-called hunting that fits the mold of ruling-class creeps in 19th Century English hunt clubs.

Fiery tribute to a crap product — Samsung battery factory bursts into flame

❝ The factory tasked with producing and later recycling the batteries for the self-detonating Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has itself fallen victim to a fire.

Defective batteries and other faulty hardware stored in a recycling center went up in smoke at the Samsung SDI facility in Wuqing, Tianjin, in China. No injuries were reported, although environmental protection workers have been called in to monitor air quality. The plant is snuggled in a suburban area. Some 19 fire engines and more than 110 firefighters turned up shortly after 6am to tackle the flames…

❝ Apparently, the fire occurred in an area dedicated to housing waste and defective batteries marked for recycling. The rest of the factory, including its production lines, was not significantly damaged and normal operations will resume…

❝ The Tianjin factory is one of two that had manufactured the ill-fated battery pack for the Note 7 phablet. Shortly after release, the battery pack was found to be prone to exploding without warning…

The cause of the exploding packs was eventually pinned on a combination of poor design and rushed assembly that resulted in widespread defects and failed safety measures.

Phew. Good thing I ain’t superstitious. Might be some mysterioso revenge shade at work, eh?