Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Czer, Jul 5, 2018.
That’s actually true
China is pretty dope
Except the whole freedom thing
Somebody needs to combine the supposedly-amazing OpenAI text generator with deep fakes of US presidents. By just sending it some hints over the internet, you could have POTUS rambling off on arbitrary topics in real-time. Oh wait...
Yeah I think people would be pretty hard pressed to distinguish between a deep fake of Trump reciting one of those we-fed-a-neural-network-50000-hours-of-Homeland-episodes scripts and actual footage of Trump free-associating about border security at a rally
There is no need for artificial intelligence if you already have natural stupidity.
China just overtook the US in global leadership approval
The median approval of China's leadership across 134 countries was 34%, rising from 31% in the past two years, Gallup said.
The US's standing is at 31%, the lowest for any of the past three US presidents' administrations.
Gallup says the ratings could have implications for 'soft power' and billions in US trade.
Global approval of China's leadership is gaining ground, while that of the US is waning.
That's according to a report this month from Gallup, which said that the median approval of China's leadership across 134 countries was 34%, rising from 31% in the past two years.
Meanwhile, the US's standing is at 31%: "Approval of US leadership plummeted around the globe during President Donald Trump's first year in office and has yet to recover," Gallup said. "China's advantage over the US in terms of leadership approval has widened."
The global approval rating of US leadership is at the lowest for any of the past three US presidents' administrations. In 2017, US leadership approval ratings plunged by 10 percentage points or more in 65 countries.
Just look at this chart:
Such low ratings for the US could have implications for 'soft power' and billions in US trade, the report's authors said.
"To complement its rise as a great economic power, the Chinese government has sought in recent years to expand its global influence in other spheres," the report said. Gallup cited China's "massive investment in its military and large-scale economic projects" with "a diplomatic angle that emphasizes national sovereignty and rejects foreign meddling in the name of human rights or democracy."
Russia posted a 30% approval rating, which Gallup says is "the first time this country has been on equal footing with the US."
"Trump's foreign policy of 'America First' in its second year may have opened the door for China and Russia to flex their global influence," the report said.
"It is currently unclear if this firmer footing will continue to give China's leadership a leg up over US leadership," Gallup said.
it's as if bickering with Russia for the first time since the Cold War ended (or, letting them get away with installing an imbecile as our chief executive and being consumed by infighting while his incompetence and corruption worm their way into every branch of our government) brought us down to their level
really makes you think
does it? can we think without separating our observations into training & test sets?
I think it’s mostly the fact that the US elected a clown like Donald Trump. From memory a similar thing happened when the US elected the laughable George Bush Jr.
Europe and Canada Just Signaled They Don't Trust the FAA's Investigation of the Boeing 737 MAX
MARCH 20, 2019
The decision by Europe and Canada to break with U.S. air-safety regulators over the safety of the Boeing 737 Max is likely to delay the resumption of flights after two of the jets crashed.
The Europeans and Canadians vow to conduct their own reviews of Boeing’s changes to a key flight-control system, not to simply take the Federal Aviation Administration’s word that the alterations are safe. Those reviews scramble an ambitious schedule set by Boeing and could undercut the FAA’s reputation around the world.
Boeing hopes by Monday to finish an update to software that can automatically point the nose of the plane sharply downward in some circumstances to avoid an aerodynamic stall, according to two people briefed on FAA presentations to congressional committees.
The FAA expects to certify Boeing’s modifications and plans for pilot training in April or May, one of the people said. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the briefings.
But there are clear doubts about meeting that timetable. Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1 and suspend some routes that it flew with the plane before it was grounded around the world last week.
American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines, which are slightly less dependent on the Max than Air Canada, are juggling their fleets to fill in for grounded planes, but have still canceled some flights.
By international agreement, planes must be certified in the country where they are built. Regulators around the world have almost always accepted that country’s decision.
As a result, European airlines have flown Boeing jets with little independent review by the European Aviation Safety Agency, and U.S. airlines operate Airbus jets without a separate, lengthy certification process by the FAA.
That practice is being frayed, however, in the face of growing questions about the FAA’s certification of the Max. Critics question whether the agency relied too much on Boeing to vouch for critical safety matters and whether it understood the significance of a new automated flight-control system on the Max.
The FAA let the Boeing Max keep flying after preliminary findings from the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air Max 8 in Indonesia pointed to flight-control problems linked to the failure of a sensor. Boeing went to work on upgrading the software to, among other things, rely on more than one sensor and limit the system’s power to point the plane’s nose down without direction from the pilots.
The FAA’s assurance was good enough for the rest of the world until an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed. Satellite data suggests both planes had similar, erratic flight paths before crashing minutes after takeoff.
Patrick Ky, the executive director of the European regulator, said his agency will look “very deeply, very closely” at the changes Boeing and the FAA suggest to fix the plane.
“I can guarantee to you that on our side we will not allow the aircraft to fly if we have not found acceptable answers to all our questions, whatever the FAA does,” he said.
The message was the same from Canada’s Transport minister, Marc Garneau.
“When that software change is ready, which is a number of weeks, we will in Canada — even if it is certified by the FAA — we will do our own certification,” he said.
Other countries could also conduct their own analysis of how much pilot training should be required on the Max. Ky noted that one Lion Air crew correctly disabled the plane’s malfunctioning flight-control system, but not the crew on the next flight, which crashed. He said pilots under stress might have forgotten details of a bulletin Boeing issued in November, reminding pilots about that procedure.
The FAA’s handling of issues around the Max jet have damaged its standing among other aviation regulators, said James Hall, former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
The FAA will have to be more transparent about its investigation, and it should require that pilots train for the Max on flight simulators, Hall said, because “that is how pilots train today, not on iPads.”
John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chairman of an FAA research and engineering advisory committee, said separate approvals by Canada and the Europeans will reassure the public because those countries are seen as having no vested interest in the plane.
“It’s unfortunate because it will probably cause a delay, but it may be the right thing in the long haul,” Hansman said. He expects that the FAA will wait until other regulators finish their reviews before letting the Max fly again.
FAA spokesman Greg Martin would not comment on whether the agency’s reputation has been hurt by its approval of the Max, the crashes or the agency’s initial hesitation to ground the planes after the second crash.
The FAA is getting a new chief. The White House said Tuesday that President Donald Trump will nominate former Delta Air Lines executive and pilot Stephen Dickson to head the agency. Daniel Elwell has been acting administrator since January 2018.
Boeing too is shifting personnel. This week, the company named the chief engineer of its commercial airplanes division to lead the company’s role in the investigations into the Oct. 29 crash of the Lion Air jet and the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash. The executive, John Hamilton, has experience in airplane design and regulatory standards.
From 2013 until early 2016, Hamilton oversaw the use of Boeing employees to perform some safety-certification work on behalf of the FAA. That program has come under criticism from critics including members of Congress.
The Justice Department is investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing, and a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to someone involved in the plane’s development. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao formally directed her agency’s inspector general to audit the FAA’s handling of that process. Congressional committees are looking into the matter as well.
A Senate subcommittee announced Wednesday that it will hold a public hearing on the Max crashes and airline safety on March 27, led by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican.
The company declined to comment. The Max, the latest and most fuel-efficient version of the half-century-old 737, is Boeing’s most popular plane, with more than 4,600 unfilled orders.
Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras
Nikki Haley, who fought union effort at Boeing S.C. plant, nominated to jet maker’s board
February 26, 2019
CHICAGO (AP) — Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been nominated for a seat on the board of directors at Boeing Co.
The defense contractor and aircraft manufacturer said Tuesday that Haley will stand for election at its annual shareholder meeting on April 29.
Haley was previously the governor of South Carolina, and she fought attempts by unions to represent workers at the plant where the Chicago-based company assembles its Boeing 787 jetliners. She said that companies in her state take care of workers, and unions aren’t needed.
In 2017, Boeing workers in North Charleston voted about 3-to-1 against representation by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, a resounding setback for unions that have long hoped to make inroads in the South.
Boeing did not say whether Haley will replace a current director or will expand the board. A spokesman said the company would disclose more details when it files a proxy statement next month.
There are currently 13 directors including a former White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush, a former U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the younger Bush, and Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Barack Obama.
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Tuesday that the company will benefit from Haley’s combination of diplomatic, government and business experience.
The 47-year-old Haley was named as ambassador to the U.N. by President Donald Trump, and served from January 2017 until December 2018. In a prepared statement from the company, she praised Boeing as the world’s biggest aerospace company and the largest U.S. exporter.
Recording Reveals Oil Industry Execs Laughing at Trump Access
The tape of a private meeting was made shortly after the lawyer for an influential industry group was tapped for a high-level post at the Department of the Interior.
March 23, 2019
Gathered for a private meeting at a beachside Ritz-Carlton in Southern California, the oil executives were celebrating a colleague’s sudden rise. David Bernhardt, their former lawyer, had been appointed by President Donald Trump to the powerful No. 2 spot at the Department of the Interior.
Just five months into the Trump era, the energy developers who make up the Independent Petroleum Association of America had already watched the new president order a sweeping overhaul of environmental regulations that were cutting into their bottom lines — rules concerning smog, fracking and endangered species protection.
Dan Naatz, the association’s political director, told the conference room audience of about 100 executives that Bernhardt’s new role meant their priorities would be heard at the highest levels of Interior.
“We know him very well, and we have direct access to him, have conversations with him about issues ranging from federal land access to endangered species, to a lot of issues,” Naatz said, according to an hourlong recording of the June 2017 event in Laguna Niguel provided to Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The recording gives a rare look behind the curtain of an influential oil industry lobbying group that spends more than $1 million per year to push its agenda in Congress and federal regulatory agencies. The previous eight years had been dispiriting for the industry: As IPAA vice president Jeff Eshelman told the group, it had seemed as though the Obama administration and environmental groups had put together “their target list of everything that they wanted done to shut down the oil and gas industry.” But now, the oil executives were almost giddy at the prospect of high-level executive branch access of the sort they hadn’t enjoyed since Dick Cheney, a fellow oilman, was vice president.
“It’s really a new thing for us,” said Barry Russell, the association’s CEO, boasting of his meetings with Environmental Protection Agency chief at the time, Scott Pruitt, and the then-Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke. “For example, next week I’m invited to the White House to talk about tax code. Last week we were talking to Secretary Pruitt, and in about two weeks we have a meeting with Secretary Zinke. So we have unprecedented access to people that are in these positions who are trying to help us, which is great.”
In that Ritz-Carlton conference room, Russell also spoke of his ties to Bernhardt, recalling the lawyer’s role as point man on an association legal team set up to challenge federal endangered species rules. “Well, the guy that actually headed up that group is now the No. 2 at Interior,” he said, referring to Bernhardt. “So that’s worked out well.”
Today, Bernhardt is in line for a promotion: the former oil industry lobbyist has been nominated by Trump to be secretary of the Interior. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Thursday, March 28. Bernhardt has been running the department since early January, when Zinke resigned amid an ethics scandal. The post gives Bernhardt influence over regulations affecting energy production on millions of acres of public lands, deciding who gets to develop it, how much they pay and whether they are complying with the law.
An Interior Department spokeswoman, Faith Vander Voort, said, “Acting Secretary David Bernhardt has had no communication or contact with either Barry Russell or Dan Naatz.” The IPAA executives were not available to comment on this story, a spokeswoman said.
At the meeting, the association’s leaders distributed a private “regulatory update” memo that detailed environmental laws and rules that it hoped to blunt or overturn. The group ultimately got its way on four of the five high-profile issues that topped its wish list.
Trump himself was a driving force behind deregulating the energy industry, ordering the government in 2017 to weed out federal rules “that unnecessarily encumber energy production.” In a 2017 order, Zinke called for his deputy secretary—Bernhardt—to make sure the department complied with Trump’s regulatory rollbacks.
The petroleum association was just one industry group pushing for regulatory relief — the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Oil and Gas Association and the Western Energy Alliance also were active. But since IPAA created its wish list, the Interior Department has acceded to nearly all its requests:
* Rescinded fracking rules meant to control water pollution. Frackers pressure-inject water and chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release oil and gas. In 2015, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management moved to minimize water pollution caused by fracking, setting standards for well construction and proper management of fracking fluids. For the first time, the new rule also required frackers to get federal permits, a costly and time-consuming process, the industry complained.
The IPAA sued, contending the rule was not needed because fracking was already regulated by states. Under Trump, Interior sided with the energy industry, and in 2017 the rule was rescinded.
* Withdrawn rules that limit climate-change causing methane gas releases. An oil strike can release clouds of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. When producers lack the means to capture methane and sell it as natural gas, they either burn it or release it into the air. In 2016, to fight global warming, the BLM issued a rule sharply limiting these practices and imposing a royalty fee on operators who wasted natural gas on public lands.
IPAA sued, complaining producers would face huge financial losses. Trump’s Interior Department sided with the industry and in 2018 rescinded key provisions of the rule.
* Abandoned environmental restoration of public land damaged by oil development. To offset the harm of oil production, the BLM often required producers to pay for restoration projects as a condition of their permits. This practice of “compensatory mitigation” is used by many government agencies. In 2015, then-President Obama ordered Interior to set a goal of “no net loss for natural resources” when issuing development permits.
IPAA pushed back hard against the “no net loss” standard, arguing that developers might be saddled with exorbitant mitigation costs. In 2017, Trump himself ordered the repeal of the Obama mitigation rule. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke attacked the concept as “Un-American.”
* Ended long-standing protections for migratory birds. Every year, millions of migratory birds are killed when they fly into power lines, oil waste pits and other energy development hazards, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. Since the 1970s, the service has promoted industrial safety practices to protect birds from accidental harm—and has prosecuted and fined energy companies responsible for the deaths of these birds.
IPAA complained it was unfair to prosecute energy companies engaged in legal activities that unintentionally harmed birds. In 2017, Trump’s Interior Department called a halt to prosecuting companies for the “incidental” deaths of birdlife. Bernhardt played an important role in crafting the legal opinion that gutted these protections, emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.
“The IPAA’s wish list was granted as asked, in the executive order, and in the actions taken by the Department of the Interior,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society environmental group, who reviewed the document for Reveal. “It pains me to say it.”
Bernhardt’s began his career in government as an aide to then-Rep. Scott McInnis, a Colorado Republican elected in 1992. In 1998, he quit to work at the powerhouse Washington lobbying firm of Brownstein, Hyatt.
After President George W. Bush took office, Bernhardt returned to government as a political aide to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, a fellow Coloradan. He worked on the administration’s push to reverse a congressional ban on drilling for oil in Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge. In 2006, he was promoted to solicitor, the department’s top lawyer.
In 2009, he rejoined the Brownstein firm and became head of its natural resources department. Over the years, he lobbied or provided legal advice to about 40 clients, many of them companies seeking to block the force of environmental regulations administered by Interior. Among his clients were 18 energy concerns, including offshore oil drillers, frackers and operators of coal-fired power plants. His federal ethics report showed he had worked for IPAA since at least 2015.
In July 2018, then-Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt listens as Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, speaks at a luncheon in Denver sponsored by the Colorado Petroleum Council. | AP
After Trump was elected, Bernhardt served on the new administration’s transition team, then was named Zinke’s deputy. A coalition of 150 environmental groups opposed Bernhardt’s appointment, calling him a “walking conflict of interest” because so many of his former clients were subject to Interior Department regulations.
Bernhardt’s Senate confirmation hearings were roiled when a collection of his emails, reported by Reveal, showed he had continued to give political advice to the Westlands Water District, a California agribusiness concern, for months after he told Congress he had quit lobbying.
Bernhardt promised to follow Interior’s ethics rules, which call for him to recuse himself for up to two years on matters involving former clients.
“I believe that public trust is a public responsibility and that maintaining an ethical culture is important,” he told senators, and the Senate confirmed his appointment. At Interior, to remind himself of conflict of interest concerns, Bernhardt carries a wallet-sized card listing former clients covered by his ethics recusals, the Washington Post reported.
Interior Department lawyers say Bernhardt is permitted to work on matters affecting his former clients, such as the petroleum association, as long as the issues affect a broad group of players, not just the one client. But the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint accusing Bernhardt of ethics violations for working on California water issues favored by Westlands, his former lobbying client.
Bernhardt’s recusal concerning the petroleum association expires in August and his official calendars do not reflect any meetings to date with IPAA officials.
The oil lobby has had ready access to top administration officials, both inside the Interior and out, according to public records and the lobby leaders themselves. Since Bernhardt began work at the department, the IPAA has spent more than $1.3 million lobbying the department and other federal agencies, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
In April 2018, an IPAA contingent led by Naatz, the political director, met with Bernhardt’s top aide, Todd Willens, concerning two issues from the wish list: migratory birds and mitigation. Hours later, Willens met with Bernhardt, but a copy of Willens’ calendar doesn’t state the topic of their meeting.
It was the kind of access the group had begun to marvel at the year before in the plush confines of their Southern California resort. On the recording, Russell, the IPAA’s CEO, described an extended meeting he had already had with Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general and climate-change doubter whose tenure at EPA would be cut short by ethics scandals. What started as a simple meet-and-greet became an invitation to critique the EPA’s air pollution regulations, the oil executive said.
“Scott Pruitt, he came from Oklahoma, and we have a lot of friends in common and I thought that’s what we were going to talk about, we did that for about three minutes,” Russell said. “And then he started asking very technical questions about methane, about ozone … and if Scott Pruitt thought he was going to go deep nerd …”
The audience began laughing.
“And what was really great is there was about four or five EPA staffers there, who were all like, ‘Write that down, write that down,’ all the way through this,’’ Russell continued. “And when we left, I said that was just our overview.”
The audience laughed again.
“So it’s really a new world for us and very, very helpful.”
Naatz predicted Bernhardt would actually run the department while Zinke would play a ceremonial role.
“What secretaries of Interior do is go out to Yellowstone, go out to Tetons … have big vision for what they’re going to do,” he said. “David is going to be the COO. David’s going to move the pieces. David’s going to be part of that, and we know him well.”
He also warned of what could go wrong in the Trump era.
Trump was slow to make middle-level appointments at the regulatory agencies to carry out the pro-industry policies he ordered, Naatz contended. Without supervision, career federal employees might well slow-walk, or resist the sweeping regulatory changes the industry favors, he said.
“If you don’t have the politicals pushing down, bureaucracy is going to take over and push up,” Naatz said.
Another problem was what he called “the gorilla in the room.” The investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia was “hampering everything that is going on,” he said. He groused about Trump’s “inane tweets that come out after midnight,” and faulted the entire White House for lack of focus.
“They have got to be better on message because they are going to lose the opportunity. It’s an unbelievable opportunity, you have Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, and the administration and so they need to get their act together and start to move,” he said.
When “you are talking about issues that are important to you, the Republicans win,” he continued. “If you are talking about Michael Flynn and Russia, you are going to lose. And so it’s really important to carry that narrative on energy, on infrastructure, on all these issues.”
Baristas beware: A robot that makes gourmet cups of coffee has arrived
March 22, 2019
In the food industry, it seems, the robot revolution is well underway, with machines mastering skilled tasks that have always been performed by people.
In Boston, robots have replaced chefs and are creating complex bowls of food for customers. In Prague, machines are displacing bartenders and servers using an app. In Denver, they're taking orders at a fast food drive through.
Robots are even making the perfect loaf of bread these days, taking charge of an art that has remained in human hands for thousands of years.
Now comes Briggo, a company that has created a fully automated, robotic brewing machine that that can push out 100 cups of coffee in a single hour -- equaling the output of three to four baristas, according to the company.
Using a blend of Latin American beans, the machine -- known as a "coffee haus" -- creates customized cups of gourmet coffee that can be ordered via an app, giving customers control over ingredients, espresso shots, flavorings and temperature without any human interaction. The company says no other business in the world has applied as much technology to "specialty coffee."
Removing the human element from ordering a cup of coffee is one of the company's primary selling points.
"No more lines, no more counter confusion, no more misspelled names," Briggo's website says, flicking at human failings.
Briggo said all eight of its machines are owned by the company, but they've recently begun offering a licensed business model to prospective operators. The company didn't reveal how much that business model costs, but noted that rent and revenue-sharing arrangements are typical when a machine is placed in a public location, such as an airport.
Kevin Nater, Briggo's president and chief executive, said the machine would thrive in locations in which convenience is highly valued, like airports and office buildings, where several of the 10-foot by 4-foot machines currently operate.
"Imagine you're coming into the security line at the airport, your flight is coming up, and you know that if you want a coffee you're gong to stand in a long line," said Nater. "From the security line, you can simply order your cup of coffee and pick it up at the coffee haus and make it to your flight on time."
"I've never found anyone who wants to stand in line a long time," he added. "We've just changed the game."
It seems others agree. This year, Fast Company named the Austin, Texas-based company one of the 10 Most Innovative companies in the world. Assuming both companies grow, Briggo may someday compete with Cafe X, an automated coffee bar from San Francisco that uses assembly line-style machines that promise your cup of joe will be engineered with "robotic precision."
The machines arrive at a time when ready-to-drink coffee, such as bottled drinks found in supermarkets and convenience stores, continues to explode in popularity, according to CNBC.
Nater said he has no doubt his machine makes cups of coffee as well, if not better, than a human barista. Referring to the robot as a "high speed, totally controlled food factory," he said that unlike human workers a machine doesn't get flustered when business gets busy. By looking at analytics, he said, he can ensure that the robot is hitting "all of it's quality marks."
But Oliver Geib, a 24-year-old barista at Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, Md., remained skeptical. As coffee is being made by a barista, he said, subtly gauging the ratio of water to grind as flavor develops through refined taste tests, is a crucial part of the process.
"All the numbers and data in the world can't actually tell you how the coffee tastes," Geib said. "A big part of what a human brings is being able to taste the coffee during the process of dialing in the flavor."
Fast-food restaurants like Starbucks, Wendy's, Panera and McDonald's encourage customers to order using self-service kiosks or a mobile app.
Asked how Briggo would impact employment, Nater said food service companies have a hard time retaining workers and are often short on staff, especially in airports where turnover is high.
"We don't think we're replacing people," he said. "We are creating a high tech retail and marketing business and developing jobs in the process. We just hired two people in the Bay Area, where we are opening a new location in the spring."
But automation critics claim that machines ultimately harm more workers than they help. Last month, Erikka Knuti -- communications director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union -- said too many businesses treat customer service as a line-item cost instead of an investment. In addition to eliminating jobs, she said, removing people from transactions degrades the product that businesses are selling.
"Retailers and businesses underestimate the importance of the customer service interaction -- that point when a customer hands over their money and they get a warm smile in return that tells them they're valued," she said.
Asked whether he was worried about losing his job to a robot, Geib said, "absolutely not." Though he sees the value of robots making coffee at particular locations when customers are short on time, he said there's a loyal group of people who will always seek out the slower, interactive experiences at coffee shops.
"A lot of customers really appreciate watching a barista carefully pouring water or steaming the milk or adding a little flourish to their drink," he said. "The social aspect, the atmosphere and the interaction with the barista, is a big part of the experience of drinking coffee."
California accounted for nearly three-quarters of US jobs added in February
MAR 22 2019
California accounted for nearly three out of every four nonfarm jobs created in the U.S. during February, according to data released Friday.
Employers in the state added 14,600 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, the California Employment Development Department reported Friday. Earlier this month, the U.S. government reported nonfarm payrolls in the U.S. rose by just 20,000 jobs in February, or the weakest national showing since September 2017.
“Whatever caused the nation as a whole to have a subpar job gain didn’t have as much influence in California in February,” said Aubrey Henry, a spokesman for the state’s EDD agency.
Even so, Henry said California’s February job gain was below trend for the state in terms of its average for the entire nine-year expansion. California — the fifth-largest economy in the world — has added more than 3.13 million jobs since the economic expansion began in February 2010.
The state official added that comparing California’s share of the nation’s job gains each month with its size in the national economy also shows many months when the state outperforms the nation and many when it lags.
“February 2019 stands out because California’s job gain was large in relation to the nation’s unusually small gain,” he said. “You could just as easily look at January and ask why California’s 5,900-job gain was so small relative to the nation’s 311,000 job gain.”
Still, Henry said it’s perhaps more meaningful to look at trends over several months and not a single month such as February.
“The nation had a larger year-over job gain than California in February 2019, 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent,” he said. “However, it is too soon to determine whether this is a temporary phenomenon or not. California has enjoyed stronger year-over job growth than the nation for the balance of the expansion.”
Meantime, California’s unemployment rate in February remained at 4.2 percent, the state reported Friday. That remains ahead of the U.S. unemployment rate, which was 3.8 percent in February.
Republicans Are Warning Drug Companies Not To Cooperate With A Congressional Investigation
The House Oversight Committee is attempting to study how drug companies set prescription drug prices, but Republicans have warned the industry that it may be better for them not to cooperate.
April 8, 2019
WASHINGTON — In an unusual move, House Republicans are warning drug companies against complying with a House investigation into drug prices.
Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sent letters to a dozen CEOs of major drug companies warning that information they provide to the committee could be leaked to the public by Democratic chair Elijah Cummings in an effort to tank their stock prices.
Cummings requested information from 12 drug companies such as Pfizer Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis AG in January as part of a broad investigation into how the industry sets prescription drug prices.
In their letters, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows — leaders of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus — imply that Cummings may be attempting to collect the information in order to bring down the industry’s stock prices.
They write that Cummings is seeking sensitive information “that would likely harm the competitiveness of your company if disclosed publicly.” They then accuse Cummings of “releasing cherry-picked excerpts from a highly sensitive closed-door interview” conducted in an investigation into White House security clearances. “This is not the first time he has released sensitive information unilaterally,” says the letter. The authors say they “feel obliged to alert” the drug companies of Cummings’ actions.
Democrats expressed bafflement at the letters. While politicians routinely spar over committee work, warning companies not to comply with an investigation is unconventional — perhaps even unprecedented, Democrats say.
“Rep. Jordan is on the absolute wrong side here,” Cummings said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. “He would rather protect drug company ‘stock prices’ than the interests of the American people.”
In their letter, Jordan and Meadows say that “while we cannot speculate about Chairman Cummings’ motives,” the committee should not pursue an investigation designed to impact stock prices.
This hinges on a quote from Cummings saying he has three staffers he calls “the drug team” who work on the high cost of drugs and that their work has lowered drug company stocks.
The quote omits the full context of Cummings’ remarks. At the time he was appearing before the Committee on House Administration seeking an increase in funding for his committee. (Jordan, as the ranking Oversight Republican, objected to a funding increase.)
The letter quotes Cummings as saying of his drug team: “If you follow the headlines, we have already seen the impact they have had… on stock prices with regard to drugs. I mean, it has been astronomical.” The letter omits the rest of the sentence: “saving the taxpayers money.”
In the edited quote, Cummings seems to be bragging about an “astronomical” impact on drug company stocks. In the context of his statements before and after, he seems to be saying the “astronomical” impact is on taxpayer savings, which justify giving his committee more resources. A minute later he says: “Whatever you all give us, we will give it back in savings by rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse.”
Jordan’s office insisted that the letter does not tell companies not to respond to Cummings’ requests, and in fact encourages the companies to cooperate with “responsible and legitimate” oversight. However, Jordan’s office reiterated that he has grave concerns that in this case Democrats are out to destroy drug company stock value.
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