Seven Billion Dollar Deal Could Bring 50,000 Jobs to US

The top and side of an iPhone 5S, externally identical to the iPhone 5. Photo courtesy of Calerusnak

Two high tech giants, Foxconn and Apple, are considering a deal to build a panel factory in the United States at a cost of about $7 billion and could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. Chairman Terry Gou of Foxconn said that an investment by Foxconn’s Sharp division will depend on the terms negotiated for the deal at the state and federal levels.

The announcement of the deal comes close on the heels of President Donald Trump’s inaugural address in which the new president promised to make “America First” as the backbone of his policies leading the nation. Trump stated in his speech: “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.”

One of Trump’s campaign promises was to try and persuade Apple to bring the manufacture of iPhones to US shores. Trump said that he was optimistic that Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, had his “eyes open” to the possibility. Foxconn is the biggest producer of iPhones.

Gou said that Trump-style protectionism was inevitable, but he is unsure how Americans will feel about spending hundreds of dollars more for a phone that does not work any better than a less expensive model that was made overseas.

Gou vowed to increase his investments in China. Apple is also dependent on China, not just for production, but also for sales. Last year China made up 22 percent of Apple’s total revenue, some $46.4 billion.

College Costs Continue to Climb

Brown University Robinson Hall 2009 Providence Rhode Island. Photo by chensiyuan.

Getting a college education is not getting cheaper: far from it. As the tuition and living expenses rise so does the student debt: collectively, Americans owe over $1.3 trillion in student loans.

With help from the College Board’s Trends in College Price and the Chronicle of Higher Education, the following is a list of some of the country’s most expensive undergraduate educations.

  • Surprisingly, the most expensive school in the country is in Claremont, California. Harvey Mudd College will set a student back $69,717 just for one year of learning. The breakdown is $52,666 is the tuition plus fees, while room and board will come to $17,051 for the year.
  • Number 25 on the list of 50 schools is Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Tuition is $50,910 for the year with an additional $14,976 for tuition. Grand total: $65,886.
    The last on the list of 50 is still not cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island is a bargain (not!) with tuition and fees adding up to $51,366 and room and board adding an additional $13,200.
  • Not everyone needs to go to such expensive colleges. There are choices with lower tuition, such as Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. With over 30,000 students it is the largest school with the least tuition: $5,300 for the school year 2016-17.
  • If you are inclined towards a small college in a rural area, Blue Mountain College is in Blue Mountain, Mississippi. With a campus size of 190 acres and only 457 undergrads, it might be a good choice, especially with tuition running only at $10,534 for the academic year 2016-17.

Russia Breaks INF Treaty

Medium-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead RSD-10 “Pioneer”. NATO reporting name was SS-20 Saber. Kapustin Yar museum in Znamensk, Russia. Photo by Leonidl.

The United States is faced with a serious challenge to an important treaty which could have dire consequences if not handled well.

The New York Times reported this week that Russia has deployed nuclear-capable cruise missiles which could be a critical threat to the countries of western Europe.

Officials believe that the missiles were 9M729s, which are ground-based missiles similar to Russia’s Kalibr missiles. The Kalibr were used to hit targets in Syria from a range of 1,000 miles away in the Caspian Sea.

Experts say these missiles are in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF, because they can reach targets from 620 to 3,420 miles away, from ground-based launchers. If this is true, then Russia has the capability of hitting a slew of European capital cities from home.

“We knew it was coming for a long time,” said one expert of the missiles. The Russians “started testing in 2008. In 2011, the Obama administration decided it was a compliance problem.”

The INF treaty is one of the few success stories from the arms-control talks between the two powerful nuclear-enabled countries. During the 1980s Russia had already begun to develop nuclear missiles with intermediate range which had the power to strike western European cities.

President Obama decided in 2014 that Russia had indeed violated INF. During an INF special verification meeting the US presented Russia with the evidence that they were in violation of the treaty. The Russians answered with “capricious arguments,” saying that the US had also violated the treaty.

“None of the Russian accusations amount to the US, in secret, deploying a large number of missiles that violate the treaty,” the expert said. “The US does not have ground-launched intermediate-range forces anywhere.”

Microsoft Seeking Exemptions for Employees with Valid Visas From the Seven Banned Countries

Microsoft asking Trump to grant exemptions to their foreign employees.

President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, Brad Smith, wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump asking for a formal exemption process for employees effected by Trump’s executive order travel ban. Microsoft would like to see exemptions upheld for all “responsible known travelers with pressing needs.” The idea would be proposed and sponsored by a US company or university. The proposal would allow anyone from the seven countries in question who have valid visas to travel safely outside the US without fear of having their return re-entry denied, on the understanding that they will travel for amounts of time less than two weeks, either for business or family reasons.

Smith stated that Microsoft does not consider this request a “fix” for the executive order, which it considers “misguided and a fundamental step backwards.” Rather, it is just an immediate solution to help foreign employees, who have been left stranded outside the US where they live and work; and those who are afraid to leave because they are worried they won’t be allowed to return.

Microsoft explained that they have 76 employees with 41 dependents, who are affected directly by the ban. Some of them have been unable to return to their children or visit sick relatives abroad.

Since the executive order has come under a maelstrom of criticism the Trump administration has eased up slightly on the terms of the order, allowing legal permanent residents an exemption from the ban. However, people on temporary visas are not exempt. Microsoft says its proposal does not change the terms of the order, it only asks that each case be judged on its own merits, granting exemptions under certain conditions.

“Immigration authorities already have a wide range of personal information about individuals in the visa categories that we have proposed,” writes Smith. “Many of these individuals also fill critical roles in the organizations that employ them, whether they are doctors, scientists, engineers, medical technicians, software developers, or any number of other highly skilled professionals. They are deeply valued contributors to the innovation, research and business acumen of our nation, and they serve critical roles in the successful operations of US companies.”

Uber Growing as Cab and Rental Business Transactions Shrink

Uber won the majority of total ground transportation transactions last quarter for the first time since the ride-hailing startup started up. According to Certify, the second-biggest travel and expense management software provider in North America, Uber Technologies Inc. had 52 percent of the total ground transportation transactions during the last quarter of 2016.

Last year Uber has already become more popular for business travelers than rental cars as measured by transactions, though rental car bookings still accounted for a bigger share of revenue.

As Uber continues to grow, taxis and rentals continue their decline. During 2016’s Q4 rentals had 33 percent of the market while cabs had only 11 percent. For taxis 2016 was a pretty tough year, down over 37 percent since Q1 of 2014, according to Certify.

Uber’s other competitor in the ride-hailing, high-tech niche, Lyft Inc., also grew, doubling its share from 2 percent to 4 percent in Q4 2016. The apartment rental website Airbnb Inc. also doubled their transactions every year since 2014, according to Certify.

Part of what is driving Uber’s fast growth is its low cost. On average, a ride with Uber, as reported on Certify expense reports, was $24.75 last quarter. For Lyft it was $24.99, and for a taxi, $34.62.