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Daily Archives: March 29, 2018
Trump vs. Amazon: Let’s set the record straight
By Chris Isidore March 29, 2018: 11:18 AM ET
President Trump took aim at Amazon yet again.
The president on Thursday tweeted three misleading statements:
1) Amazon pays “little or no taxes to state & local governments,” 2) Amazon’s relationship with the US Post Office causes “tremendous loss” to the United States and 3) Amazon is “putting many thousands of retailers out of business.”
Stock in Amazon (AMZN), the fourth most valuable company in the world, fell 3% Thursday morning.
It’s no secret that Trump hates Amazon. He has repeatedly tweeted how much he dislikes the company.
Amazon (AMZN) did not respond for a request for comment on the president’s latest criticism. Much of Trump’s distaste for Amazon is because CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, whose coverage the president frequently criticizes. Amazon does not hold a stake in the Washington Post.
But Trump’s criticism of Amazon is not based in fact.
Related: Trump vs. Amazon – So much for the businessman president
Amazon collects and pays sales tax in every state that charges one, and that’s virtually every state.
Years ago, when Amazon had few warehouses, it was able to get a competitive advantage by not charging sales tax. When retailers ship goods to states where they don’t have a physical presence, they do not have to charge sales tax.
But Amazon has been adding to its national network of distribution centers, and last year it announced it would start charging sales tax in every state, whether it has a physical presence there or not.
Amazon also pays local property taxes on its distribution centers as well as on the Whole Foods stores it purchased last year.
The company has not disclosed how much its customers pay in sales taxes, but it is considerable. Its North American sales came to $106 billion last year, suggesting that it collects billions in sales taxes for various states.
The president is correct that Amazon does not always collect city and local sales taxes, according to analysis earlier this week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. And it also does not collect sales taxes on purchases made on Amazon from third-party vendors. Third-party vendors had sales of $32 billion on Amazon in 2017, although some of those sales were outside of North America.
2. Postal Service
Amazon pays the post office to deliver packages to customers’ doors.
Because Amazon ships so many packages though the post office, it pays a lower rate than most customers. But Amazon doesn’t get a special rate — it pays the rate that the post office charges other bulk shippers.
Amazon also has a special agreement with the Postal Service to deliver packages on Sundays. Neither Amazon nor the post office has disclosed the details of its agreement, but the Postal Service says it’s mutually beneficial. Amazon effectively helps the Postal Service spread its costs over a seven-day week.
The Postal Service is losing money. But it’s not Amazon’s fault: Citigroup last year reported that the average parcel rate would need to increase by about 50% for the Postal Service to break even. The Postal Service’s biggest money problem is that it has billions in retirement obligations to its workers that it can’t afford.
Strong currents are pushing traditional stores to the brink.
It is clearly true that consumers’ shift to e-commerce companies like Amazon has forced many traditional retailers to close stores. But other megastores like Walmart (WMT) share much of the blame for that.
Amazon says that it actually helps small companies succeed in the difficult retail climate. For example, it allows small businesses to sell their products to a mass audience when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to achieve global scale.
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Brits blocked from UK Netflix access abroad after Brexit
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Frozen out: Brits won’t be able to watch UK Netflix services abroad
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Brits will not be able to access their native Netflix services when travelling round the EU after Brexit, EU officials have confirmed.
The European Commission said in a notice that UK residents will cease to be able to stream TV on the continent because of changes to EU copyright law that will block their own country’s streaming when travelling in EU member countries.
The EC notice states: “As of the withdrawal date [March 29, 2019], persons residing in the United Kingdom will no longer benefit from their digital content subscriptions when travelling to the EU.”
Currently, if you have a UK Netflix subscription and travel to Spain, you can only access the Spanish version.
New portability rules set to kick in on Sunday will let viewers see the same range of films and TV shows they would get at home, but this will change on March 29 2019.
From then on, Brits will not be able to indulge their desire for unfettered binge-watching of TV shows, as the UK will be subject to international guidelines set by bodies including the World Intellectual Property Organisation, according to the Commission.
“It should be noted that the multilateral international agreements mentioned above do not provide for the same type or level of protection … as that set out today in the EU copyright acquis,” the document says.
Many Brits appear to be attached to their Netflix subscriptions, with a fifth admitting in one survey to watching it at work.
The study, compiled by Toluna, found that Londoners were even higher up the list, with 39 per cent admitting to watching Netflix on the job compared to 24 per cent of participants from the West Midlands and 23 per cent of Scottish workers.
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Cambridge Analytica parent company had access to secret MoD information
SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, had access to secret UK information and was singled out for praise by the UK Ministry of Defence for the training it provided to a psychological operations warfare group, according to documents released by MPs.
An endorsement from an official at the 15 UK Psychological Operations Group dated January 2012 concluded that they would “have no hesitation in inviting SCL to tender for further contracts of this nature”.
US data firm admits employee approached Cambridge Analytica
The document also noted that SCL was permitted to have “routine access to secret information” and delivered a training programme that included a “classified case study from current operations in Helmand” in Afghanistan.
The official British note of approval was one of more than 100 pages of documents handed over to the digital, media, culture and sport select committee by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie earlier this week, following an oral hearing that lasted nearly four hours.
Another of the documents released by the MPs is a confidential legal memo dated July 2014, which says it was sent to Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser and Breitbart CEO, and Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Trump backer and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. It was also sent to Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica.
The author’s name and firm is redacted, but the memo discusses how far Cambridge Analytica and its executives could participate in US elections, given that donations and contributions by foreign nationals are banned.
Cambridge Analytica hit the headlines after it was revealed that data had been harvested for it from 50m Facebook profiles without the users’ permission.
The document notes that the company, formed in June 2014, could participate as a vendor of technology as long as Nix, a Briton, was “recused from the substantive management of any such clients involved in US elections”.
Facebook announces privacy tools to ‘put people in more control’ of data
At the parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, Wylie noted that Vote Leave had spent £2.7m with a digital marketing firm called AggregateIQ, and said it had previously undisclosed links to Cambridge Analytica/SCL.
The documents released include:
• A brochure promising to create US election campaign tools in 2014 that was “prepared for SCL elections by AggregateIQ Data Services” at a cost of more than $500,000 using “modelling data” from SCL to target 100 million or more Americans.
• A services agreement between AggregateIQ and SCL to support that work, listing a schedule of monthly payments, although the document released is not signed.
• A separate contract for work dated November 2013, in which AggregateIQ agrees to work for SCL Elections UK, and which is signed by company AggregateIQ’s chief executive, Zack Massingham, and its chief technology officer, Jeff Silvester, to work on a political campaign in Trinidad and Tobago.
Wylie had told MPs it was striking that Vote Leave and three other pro-Brexit groups – BeLeave, which targeted students; Veterans for Britain, and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party – all used the services of AggregateIQ to help target voters online. He accused the leave campaign of “cheating” to win the referendum because Vote Leave donated £625,000 to BeLeave, which in turn spent the money on AggregateIQ. The donation allowed Vote Leave to stay within its £7m legal limit.
AggregateIQ has denied it is linked to Cambridge Analytica. Silvester told the Times Colonist: “AggregateIQ has never been, and is not a part of, Cambridge Analytica or [its parent firm] SCL. AggregateIQ has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.”
However, Wylie told MPs on Tuesday that the corporate structures were designed to be confusing and ensure that regulators could not always keep up with what was going on.
MoD granted ‘List X’ status to Cambridge Analytica parent company
Tory donors among investors in Cambridge Analytica parent firm
Ecuador cuts off Julian Assange’s internet access at London embassy
Life Inside S.C.L., Cambridge Analytica’s Parent Company
The New Yorker
Cambridge Analytica: Warrant sought to inspect company
Housing benefit to be restored for 18 to 21-year-olds after fears young people will be made homeless
Housing benefit to be restored for 18 to 21-year-olds after fears young people will be made homeless
A U-turn will restore housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, after charities protested that young people would be made homeless if they could not live with their parents.
The controversial policy – first unveiled by David Cameron back in 2014 – has been dropped to “reassure young people’ they will receive the help with housing costs that they need.
Jobless under-22s no longer qualified for help with their rental costs, because it is “not acceptable for young people to go from school straight to benefits”, George Osborne said at the time. They should live at home instead.
Housing benefit is now being swallowed up in the new universal credit benefit. Regulations will be changed to give 18 to 21-year-olds the same rights to help as older people.
“As we roll out universal credit, we have always been clear we will make any necessary changes along the way,” said Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary
“This announcement today will reassure all young people that housing support is in place if they need it.”
The move was welcomed by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which said the Department of Work and Pensions had been forced to exempt the vast majority of 18 to 21-year-olds in any case.
Among the accepted reasons for escaping the crackdown were having a child, claiming disability benefits, being in care after the age of 18, or a risk of harm from living with their parents.
“This is brilliant news, as the statistics show that those young people claiming housing benefit are doing so because they don’t have a choice about whether to live at home,” said Alison Garnham, CPAG’s chief executive.
“In any case, most young people were being exempted and that puts the lie to the idea that young people are moving out of home as a lifestyle choice,”
Under the original plans, out-of-work 18 to-21-year-olds would also be unable to claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and would instead receive a “youth allowance” – set at the same level as JSA.
To continue receiving the cash after six months looking for work, claimants would have to undertake daily community work or take an apprenticeship or traineeship.
The restriction on housing benefit – together with a reduction of the separate benefits cap – was intended to fund the creation of 3m apprenticeships over five years.
But the DWP’s own statistics showed that no fewer than 96 per cent of those potentially affected were exempted in the first three months, from April to June last year.
Seyi Obakin, chief executive of the homelessness charity Centrepoint, said the policy “risked leaving very vulnerable young people with nowhere to live”
“It was obvious from the first time the policy was floated in 2013 that at best it would be unworkable and, at worst, it could actually increase homelessness and reduce the willingness of landlords to rent to all young people.
“Whilst the system of exemptions which Centrepoint and others fought for have smoothed the rougher edges of the policy, today’s welcome announcement will put the minds of young people and their prospective landlords at ease.”
70,000 disabled people owed thousands in benefits due to government error – and some will never be paid back
Blind people could have sight restored after stem cell trial success
If America went vegan an additional 350 million people could be fed, study suggests
Ministers in U-turn on axing housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds
Ban on housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds scrapped