The combined market capitalization of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google is now equivalent to the GDP of India. How did these four companies come to infiltrate our lives so completely? In a spectacular rant, Scott Galloway shares insights and eye-opening stats about their dominance and motivation — and what happens when a society prizes shareholder value over everything else. Followed by a Q&A with TED Curator Chris Anderson. (Note: This talk contains graphic language.)
The eighth episode of the Star Wars saga, “The Last Jedi,” opens on Dec. 14. For those who’d like a quick primer without all the hype, behold some key, little-known facts:
A Déjà Vu Preview
The previous entry in the series, “The Force Awakens,” contained so many familiar story elements, some critics said it played like a cover version of the original “Star Wars.”
It featured secret information hidden in a droid, which gets separated from its master. On a desert planet, the droid is discovered by an orphan who may have the power of the Force and joins the underdog heroes in a galactic battle. There’s a brand new wisecracking pilot. Another father and son have it out. Someone quips “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” And the good guys must thread the needle to find the one weakness of a giant, deadly space station.
The details of ‘The Last Jedi” have been under wraps, but here’s a short preview of what we expect to be all-too-familiar:
JOHANNESBURG—Africa’s most-valuable company has become this year one of the world’s most-valuable companies, too.
On Wednesday, Naspers Ltd. NPSNY -0.86% —a media and internet firm little known outside South Africa and Silicon Valley—reported a surge in half-year earnings. The performance, bolstered by the company’s 33.3% stake in Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. TCEHY -3.98% , sent the stock up 0.8%, bringing its gains over the past 12 months to 84%.
Naspers, which was founded in 1915 as a newspaper publisher, is now the world’s 65th largest listed company by market value among the Stoxx Global 3000 index. Last year, it wasn’t close to breaking into the top 100, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
The climb has been driven almost entirely by Tencent’s own soaring share price. In 2001, Naspers paid $34 million for its stake in the Chinese company. Based on Tencent’s current market capitalization, that holding is now worth about $170 billion; however, investors have baked in a discount for Naspers shares because of a dividend-withholding tax that would kick in should it ever sell out. Naspers’s market cap ended Wednesday at about $121 billion.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the appointment “a very significant commitment” from the Trump administration.
White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayTom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP
Kellyanne Conway is spearheading the Trump Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a press conference Wednesday.
Conway will “coordinate and lead the effort from the White House,” according to Sessions. “I think her appointment represents a very significant commitment from the president and his White House team.”
Conway has “zero background” on drug policy, says Keith Humphreys, a Stanford psychiatry professor and former Obama drug policy advisor, adding that it’s unclear what this position entails. The White House has reportedly clarified that Sessions was simply acknowledging a role Conway was already playing in the administration’s response to the epidemic, according to Politico reporters.
In a startling demonstration of support for Palestinian human rights from Capitol Hill, 10 Democratic senators wrote a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday urging him to halt the impending demolition of two Palestinian and Bedouin towns.
Israel has been actively planning the demolition of the West Bank Palestinian village of Susiya for months. Its government claims that the village is not authorized, despite the fact that it is in the occupied West Bank, which is internationally recognized as Palestinian territory.
For the past couple years, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been a lone voice on the issue, writing directly to Netanyahu to demand he halt the demolition. Feinstein’s efforts have been successful, as Israel has put off Susiya’s demolition multiple times.
But there are reports that Israel will begin demolishing structures in the village within weeks.
On Wednesday, Feinstein finally got some backup. She was joined by nine other Democratic caucus senators — Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahy, Illinois’s Dick Durbin, Delaware’s Tom Carper, Minnesota’s Al Franken, Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren, New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich, Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, and Hawaii’s Brian Schatz — in a letter from her office demanding Israel not demolish Susiya and the Bedouin town of Khan al-Amr.
The letter is unusually strong in its description of Israeli government behavior. “Instead of forcibly evicting these communities, we encourage your government to fairly re-evaluate Susiya’s professionally developed master plan and provide the residents of Khan Al-Ahmar equal building rights. Your government’s threats to demolish these communities are particularly distressing in light of the Israeli Civil Administration’s efforts to dramatically expand settlements throughout the West Bank,” it reads.
What makes the letter so remarkable is that there has been traditionally little criticism of Israeli human rights violations from members of Congress. Even some of the progressive senators who signed onto Feinstein’s letter had in the recent past defended Israeli government abuses.
For instance, in 2014, Sanders angrily defended his vote for a resolution backing up Israel’s actions in the Gaza war to a crowd at a Vermont town hall, citing the threat from Hamas to Israel.
But the past few years have also seen an explosion of activism aimed at pressuring Democrats to improve on this issue. After Palestinian-American activists were ejected from a Sanders campaign event in Boston in 2015 for carrying banners pressuring the presidential candidate on the issue, the Sanders campaign responded by apologizing. Sanders then went on to tap a top Palestinian-American activist — New York’s Linda Sarsour — as a surrogate and denounced Hillary Clinton’s unwillingness to criticize Israeli treatment of Palestinians at a New York debate. More recently, Sanders met with Palestinian human rights activist Issa Amro.
In 2014, Warren more or less repeated Netanyahu talking points about the war in Gaza, simply defending Israel’s right to self-defense as the country bombarded civilian infrastructure. She also literally bolted away from a question about Gaza at the liberal Netroots Nation conference.
But shortly after she offered a defense of Israel’s actions during the war, Warren was confronted at a town hall by activists who objected to her pro-Netanyahu stance. A Holocaust survivor asked the senator if she believed Palestinians also had a right to self-defense. Warren softened her tone, said that they did, and that the “direction we ought to be moving is not toward more war.” And more recently, Warren came out against legislation that would criminalize activists who boycott Israel or its settlements.
Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, praised the Feinstein letter both on its merits and the political weight of having so many prominent senators joining on.
“The substance of the letter is terrific, and this list of signers makes a tremendous statement,” she said.
But she also insisted that Israel should cease the demolitions not just due to political fallout with the United States, but for moral and legal reasons as well.
“On the Israeli side, I hope they would take seriously the fact that, as [Israeli human rights organization] B’tselem has said, moving these people would constitute a war crime. I hope that Israel would take that seriously, separately from senators weighing in. I hope that they would take seriously that taking an action like this is counter to the values of a Jewish democratic state. This just adds to that.”
Top photo: A Palestinian boy walks while backdropped by his home village of Susiya, south of the West Bank city of Hebron, Friday, July 24, 2015.
If you want to know why President Trump’s appointments to the judiciary are so significant, have a look at these numbers.
In 2015, the US supreme court decided approximately 82 cases. In 2016, it was approximately 69. In contrast, the United States courts of appeals decided 52,000 cases in 2015 and 58,000 in 2016. The United States district courts decided 353,000 cases in 2015 and 355,000 in 2016.
While the supreme court is the court of last resort – and the one that attracts most attention – the judicial business of the United States is decided in what are called “the lower courts.” The judges appointed to these courts decide 99.9% of all cases.
Most cases never reach the supreme court. It is the so-called lower courts that play a critical role in deciding a wide range of issues. These judges have decided cases involving voting rights, contraception, privacy, sentencing, prisoner rights, gay rights, immigration, desegregation in schools and housing, employment discrimination, affirmative action, workplace rules, environmental impacts, and many others that shape US society. The impact of their decisions are felt daily by more than 300 million Americans.
This is the background needed to understand the importance of Trump’s judicial nominations during his first year in office. Much has been made of the administration’s legislative failures but Trump’s judicial appointments are calculated to have a more lasting impact on American life than many if not all of his proposed legislative initiatives.
Unlike legislation, these life-time appointments are not reversible. That is why it is so important to scrutinize who he is placing on these benches, and what impact they will have.
There are now approximately 144 vacancies in the federal courts, and Trump has already succeeded in appointing 14 judges, meaning that he began his term with more than 150 vacancies –10% of the federal judiciary.
There is a simple reason this president had so many vacancies to fill at the start of his term – it is called political obstruction. In the final year of the Obama administration, the Republican majority simply refused to confirm many of the president’s nominees.
A number of nominations simply lapsed without a committee hearing and never reached the Senate floor.
Trump has now nominated 16 judges for the courts of appeals, and 44 judges for the district courts to fill these vacancies. A mere 11 of these nominations are female (18.3%). Only one nominee is African American and only one is Hispanic (each 1.6%).
By contrast, in his eight years in office, President Obama appointed 324 judges, of whom 41.9% were women, 19% were African American and 10% were Hispanic.
Although white males make up only 31% of the US population, they account for approximately 80% of the president’s picks. People trust their courts when the judges reflect the makeup of the population they serve. But it is not just the gender and racial makeup of Trump’s appointments that merit scrutiny. There are other reasons for concern.
Four of Trump’s nominees have been given a “not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association – an institution that has recently been ousted from the vetting process, despite having assisted previous presidents with the vetting since 1953. Prior to these four, no other nominee has received this rating in the past 30 years.
House panel approves law that will allow firearms-owners to cross any state line with a hidden weapon.
The National Rifle Association has called the concealed carry bill, which would make it easier for gun owners to keep their firearms hidden when crossing state lines, its “highest legislative priority in Congress.” Despite concerns raised by Democrats about states’ rights and domestic violence, the Republican-controlled Congress has pushed the proposal one step closer to becoming law.
The House Judiciary Committee late Wednesday voted 19-11 for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would amend the federal criminal code to allow the concealed transport of handguns across state lines, so long as both states allow it. States will not be able to impose their individual requirements for a concealed carry license on armed travelers from other states.
Republicans rejected Democratic amendments that would ban violent offenders from qualifying under the law, as well as a change that would have prevented forum shopping, which means a New York resident barred from obtaining a concealed carry permit could instead send away for one from somewhere else. The bill, which has more than 200 co-sponsors, almost all Republicans, now heads for the floor of the 435-member House. A similar bill, with 38 Republican co-sponsors, is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This would end abuses in anti-gun states like New York and New Jersey and allow law-abiding concealed carriers to exercise their rights nationwide with peace of mind,” the NRA website states. “[The bill] would not, as some critics claim, affect how states issue their own concealed carry permits.”
U.S. Representative Richard Hudson, the North Carolina Republican who introduced the legislation, called the bill “welcome progress” in efforts to expand and protect access to firearms.
The legislation has reignited one of the more divisive issues in American politics. Calls for heightened regulation and background checks followed mass shootings at a country music concert in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 and a Texas church on Nov. 5, which together killed more than 80 people and wounded hundreds. The NRA, which spends millions of dollars helping elect pro-gun candidates, has urged its members to bombard Congress with calls and messages in support of the concealed carry bill.
The legislation allows firearm owners with a concealed carry permit issued by their home state to carry the firearm into any other state (all allow some form of concealed carry, although many are highly restrictive). The gun owners wouldn’t have to reveal they are carrying a weapon, though the bill does require they be eligible to possess a firearm under federal law (which requires a background check), carry a valid photo identification and a concealed carry permit. Gun owners from states that don’t require a concealed carry permit will need to obtain some credential from their home state to take advantage of the new law’s provisions. What form that would take isn’t specified in the House bill.
Hudson criticized existing state laws governing the right to carry a weapon secretly as “confusing” and “difficult to navigate.” A summary of the bill posted on his website said that under current law, “a North Carolina resident cannot travel to Delaware without having to reroute their trip to avoid driving through Maryland” if they want to keep their weapon concealed.
The NRA, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, currently offers a map for its members to determine which states honor their concealed carry permits. It also sells a variety of “Carry Guard” insurance products, which “provide payment for the lawful replacement of your seized firearm, property restoration for your primary residence, loss of earning while in court and psychological support.”
The lobbying group’s official store also sells a variety of accessories for carrying concealed weapons, including leather purses and denim jackets.
The bill has found its fair share of detractors as well, including New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill. “I don’t think there is any reason for anybody to bring a gun into New York City,” O’Neill said in an interview earlier this year. “We don’t need any more guns.” Historically, many firearms used in killings in more highly regulated northeastern states originate in southern and western states with fewer or no gun restrictions.
Moms Demand Action, a gun control group that attended Wednesday’s hearing, has also attacked the bill, arguing it “is a chaotic and dangerous policy that would gut every state’s gun laws and make our communities less safe.”
The group argues that the bill “would effectively turn the weakest state’s laws into nationwide laws” because conceal carry laws vary state by state. For example, convicted stalkers are banned from concealed carry in some states, but not all, and the age for concealed carry also varies. In the event the bill passes, a Georgia permit, a state that allows abusive partners to carry hidden firearms, would become effective in New York, a state that currently doesn’t recognize any other state’s conceal carry permits.
Responding to Republicans during the hearing, Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, said he “strongly opposed” the bill and argued it would override state’s rights, a traditional policy priority for Republicans. “Public safety would suffer if we were to unwisely adopt this legislation,” he added.
A slew of amendments brought by Democrats were shot down, including a proposal by Nadler to ban violent offenders from possessing a concealed handgun and another from Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas to exclude those convicted of domestic violence and stalking. A residency amendment, brought by Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California, was also rejected. The amendment sought to prevent “permit shopping” by prohibiting those living in states with stringent conceal carry permit regulations from applying for permits in more lax states.
Both Republicans and Democrats at the hearing claimed the National Fraternal Order of Police sided with them on the bill, however the law enforcement organization told Bloomberg that it has “taken no position on the overall bill.”
— With assistance by Katherine Scott