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Trump looks to impose additional $100 billion in China tariffs

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“I have also instructed the Secretary of Agriculture, with the support of other members of my Cabinet, to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests.”

In Beijing, the Commerce Ministry said China doesn’t want a trade war — but isn’t afraid to fight one.

“China will dedicate itself to the end and at any cost and will definitely fight back firmly” if the U.S. persists in its “protectionism,” the ministry said in a statement.

Larry Kudlow, the new director of Trump’s National Economic Council, said on Wednesday that “it’s possible” Trump’s proposed tariffs against China could just be a negotiating tactic.

“It’s part of the process,” Kudlow told reporters, though he cautioned, “I would take the president seriously on this tariff issue.”

Earlier Thursday, at a roundtable on tax reforms in West Virginia, Trump had touched upon the subject, calling China’s President Xi Jinping “a friend of mine, and I’m a friend of his.” But he hammered Beijing, saying “we can’t be taken advantage of any longer.”

“We can’t continue to allow this to happen, where hundreds of billions of dollars is taken out of our country and our system,” he said. “If they make a car, they sell it here, it’s 2.5 percent tax. If we make a car and try and get it into China, number one, they won’t take it. But if they did, it’s 25 percent tax.”

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Attorney General Garland rescinds Trump-era memo curtailing consent decrees

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday rescinded a Trump-era memo that curtailed the use of consent decrees that federal prosecutors have used in sweeping investigations of police departments.

Garland issued a new memorandum to all U.S. attorneys and other Justice Department leaders spelling out the new policies on civil agreements and consent decrees with state and local governments.

The memo comes as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies in the wake of nationwide protests over the death of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

In easing restrictions placed on the use of consent decrees, the Justice Department is making it easier for its prosecutors to use the tool to force changes at police departments and other government agencies with widespread abuse and misconduct.

The memo in particular rescinds a previous memo issued by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions shortly before he resigned in November 2018.

Democrats have long argued the ability of the Justice Department’s civil rights division to conduct sweeping probes of police departments had been curtailed under President Donald Trump. The so-called pattern or practice investigations examine whether systemic deficiencies contribute to misconduct or enable it to persist.

“This memorandum makes clear that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with longstanding Departmental practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s career workforce,” Garland said.

The Justice Department didn’t totally ban pattern or practice investigations under Trump, but former Attorney General William Barr suggested they may have been previously overused.

As attorney general in the Obama administration, Eric Holder frequently criticized violent police confrontations and opened a series of civil rights investigations into local law enforcement practices. The civil rights investigations often ended with court-approved consent decrees that mandated reforms.

The consent decrees included those with the police in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown and in Baltimore following the police custody death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

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SNP outlines when Scotland would hold independence referendum after elections

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SNP John Swinney has outlined when his party would hold a Scottish independence referendum if they won a majority in the next election.

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When culture wars meet the corner office, CEOs walk a ‘tightrope’

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Corporate America is increasingly wading into social and political issues, taking positions on thorny subject like voting rights in ways that would have been unheard of a generation ago.

Despite calls on social media for boycotts, analysts and corporate branding experts say there is little chance that the companies whose CEOs are speaking out against repressive voting laws will lose sales. The issue took on new urgency this week when hundreds of corporate and celebrity signatories put their names to a statement titled, “We Stand for Democracy” that ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post on Wednesday.

“This is an enormous cross section of businesses… and they’re stepping up during a window of jeopardy we’re facing as a country,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School.

“They’re feeling like they have to take a stand,” said Matt Kleinschmit, CEO of Reach3 Insights, a market research firm for brands. “If you’re a CEO today, you have a balancing act, making sure you’re living up to the expectations of your future consumers, without being over the line in areas where your older customers don’t really expect you, as a private company, to be involved in.”

Walker Smith, knowledge lead in the global consulting division of Kantar, says the current moment might be new, but marks the next stage in a long-running evolution of how Americans interact with and respond to brands. In the first half of the 20th century, Smith said, brand messaging focused heavily on the product. After World War II, that started to shift to an emphasis on the buyer, which had evolved to a celebration of individualism and personalization by the end of the 1990s.

Then, after a generation of looking inward, society turned its gaze outward. “The idea of purpose as something that companies should embrace is not a new idea… but purpose has a new edge to it lately,” Smith said.

“There’s a new era of expectations about social values — we call this the era of the public. People expect brands to contribute more to society,” Smith said. As a result, “It’s much more salient to business leaders today than it was before.”

People expect brands to contribute more to society — and, as a result, it is much more salient to business leaders today than it was before.

That means that more brands are willing to address thorny political issues, even when that means provoking the ire of a former president. In a rambling statement that included baseless claims of a stolen election and an excoriation of “woke” politics issued in response to Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver, former President Donald Trump called for a boycott of the League, along with “Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Citigroup, Cisco, UPS, and Merck” — all companies that had made statements supporting voting rights or opposing Georgia’s newly implemented law.

But threats to boycott major companies don’t pack the same punch they once did.

“I think the Nike incident with Colin Kapernick emboldened a lot of companies,” said David Bahnsen, chief investment officer at The Bahnsen Group. When it became clear that the sneaker manufacturer — which tapped the former NFL player to be the face of its “Just Do It” campaign in 2018 — had plugged in to a cause much of its customer base supported, that paved the way for others.

The magnitude of the repudiation of state laws that restrict voting is significant, and there is certainly safety in numbers for the businesses that put their names to Wednesday’s statement. “Americans do not have the attention span for 100 companies,” Bahnsen said.

In addition, boycotts that demand big changes to basic consumer habits — say, shopping at Amazon or searching the web with Google — face long odds, Smith pointed out. “Nothing much happens, largely because it’s kind of hard to change people’s buying habits. Convenience is a pretty big driver of brand choice, and habit is the way a lot of brands are purchased,” he said.

Bahnsen noted that some major companies — such as Walmart — are still wary and remaining on the sidelines of the debate. “Nike knew their audience… I’m not sure every company in the Fortune 100 is Nike,” he said.

Corporate chiefs have their personal convictions, of course, but branding experts say it would be naive to believe that there aren’t other factors contributing to this capitalistic calculus. They are canny enough to read the tea leaves and decide that ruffling the feathers of some of their older, more conservative customers will be less disruptive to their bottom line over the long term than alienating the next burgeoning wave of consumers.

“If you’re a CEO today, you’re walking a tightrope, in many respects. You have increasingly vocal expectations from younger consumers that are rapidly gaining economic power. The Generation Z generation, so to speak, is the largest generation since the Baby Boomers, and they’re really starting to enter the market from a consumption perspective,” Kleinschmit said. “If you’re a CEO of a major corporation, you’re trying to think about the expectations of that generation and balance that with the expectations of your older customers [who] have lower expectations about the role of the corporate community to bring change.”

A sense of civic duty might also be a motivation. Cohen suggested that CEOs are stepping up because of a lack of leadership from elected officials.

“They’re filling a vacuum. They’re taking the palace of reasonable leaders on the political side,” he said, characterizing corporate resistance to laws that would restrict voting as an explicit repudiation of Trump.

“Most CEOs are intelligent enough, regardless of their predisposition politically, to know damn well this election wasn’t stolen,” Cohen said.

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