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Is President Trump right about Amazon? Here’s a reality check

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President Donald Trump stepped up his attack on Amazon on Thursday, firing off a tweet that accused the internet retail giant of having a detrimental effect on the U.S. economy.

Trump claimed the retailer was not paying its share of state and local taxes, was putting retailers out of business and was sucking much-needed resources from the United States Postal Service.

Amazon declined NBC News’ request to comment on the tweet.

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Amazon has long been Trump’s favorite corporate punching bag on Twitter, and this is not the first time the president has laid into Amazon regarding taxes, jobs, and its use of the postal service. However, the tweet comes one day after Axios reported that Trump wants to “go after” Amazon, despite reports there are no current plans to enact new regulations or taxes against the retailer.

The news rattled investors. Amazon shares dipped 4.4 percent on Wednesday amid fears of regulation and general volatility in the tech sector brought about by Facebook’s data privacy scandal.

Taking the president’s tweet at face value would be incorrect. When it comes to Trump’s statements about Amazon, there’s a bit more to unpack.

State and local taxes

Trump claims Amazon is paying little to no state and local sales taxes in some places. He is likely referencing the fact Amazon doesn’t collect state sales tax from third-party sellers in parts of the United States. In some cases, those sellers are required to collect the tax.

Additionally, Amazon collects sales tax in the 45 states that require it. However, there is a patchwork of regulations at the local level that dictate whether or not taxes are collected and if so, whether it is the job of Amazon or the third-party seller.

Sound confusing? It is. Amazon has expressed its support in the past for federal legislation to create a uniform plan for collecting sales online, but there has yet to be movement on that front.

In a memo on Thursday, Lloyd Walmsley, a Deutsche Bank analyst, said the “ship has sailed’ when it comes to quibbles over Amazon collecting state sales tax, a practice the company enacted last April.

“In a way, we think charging sales tax has been a boon to Amazon because it now has extensive fulfillment facilities close to consumers such that it can lead the way in offering faster and more reliable deliveries,” he wrote, according to CNBC. “Whether Congress enacts a special tax on Amazon, simply because President Trump wants it, remains to be seen.”

Is the United States Postal Service being ripped off?

Amazon ships millions of packages around the U.S. each year, but Trump’s claims that the retailer is unfairly using the United States Postal Service and causing “tremendous loss” is incorrect.

In a December tweet, Trump said the USPS is losing “many billions of dollars a year” and should be charging Amazon more money.

The USPS is losing money, but delivering packages has been the bright spot in its annual financial report. Last year, mail volume declined by 5 billion pieces, but the number of packages increased by 589 million — some of which is certainly attributable to Amazon.

Amazon’s partnership is reviewed each year by the Postal Regulatory Commission, which requires the agreement be profitable for the postal service.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon doesn’t use the postal service the same way most people and small businesses do.

Instead of relying on the postal service to move parcels across the state or country, Amazon relies on its network of fulfillment and sortation centers to get everything ready and then deliver the parcel to the post office that is closest to the customer. The postal service then takes care of the last mile or so, making sure the order gets into the hands of the customer.

Where are all the retail jobs going?

Then there’s the question of how Amazon is affecting U.S. retail jobs. Trump has previously accused Amazon of hurting retailers. “Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!” he tweeted.

In reality, while brick and mortar retail may be struggling, Amazon and the e-commerce sector has more than made up for the job losses, according to a report from the Progressive Policy Institute.

“We found that the e-commerce sector added 355,000 jobs from 2007 to 2016 — more than enough to compensate for the 51,000 jobs lost in the general retail sector,” the report said.

Additionally, wages and salary payments to e-commerce employees increased by nearly $18 billion from 2007 to 2016, with the same payments in general retail increasing by less than $1 billion, according to the report.

Amazon has created more than 200,000 jobs in the United States, said the company investor relations team. The internet giant hired nearly 130,000 people globally last year, excluding its acquisitions, chief among them, Whole Foods.

More jobs are also on the way. In January, Amazon whittled down a list of 238 proposals to host its second headquarters – called HQ2 – down to just 20 contenders. Amazon has committed to investing $5 billion on the winning proposal and creating at least 50,000 high-paying jobs at the new campus.

The cities still in the running, including Austin, Atlanta, Nashville and New York City, are pulling out all the stops to impress Amazon, including dangling tax incentives and other promises in hopes of being the winner.

Amazon added $38 billion to the economy of its hometown, Seattle, from 2010 to 2016, according to the company. With HQ2 being an equal to the first headquarters, it is likely the chosen city will also experience a major infusion into its economy.



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Ireland’s health service shuts down IT systems over ‘significant ransomware attack’ | World News

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Ireland’s health service has closed down its computer systems after what it described as a “significant ransomware attack”.

The Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had shut down its entire IT network as a “precaution.”

It said COVID-19 vaccinations were not affected by the attack.

“There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems,” the HSE said on Twitter.

“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us fully assess the situation with our own security partners.”

It added: “We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available.

“Vaccinations not affected are going ahead as planned.”

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Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News

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Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
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The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

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Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News

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Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

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Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

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