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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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Climate change: President Xi Jinping vows to end Chinese funding of coal plants abroad at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) | Climate News

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China will stop funding new coal-fire projects abroad, President Xi Jinping announced at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

China was the last significant public financier of overseas coal – predominantly in Africa and Asia – delivered under its enormous global infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But international pressure on Beijing to stop financing the most polluting fossil fuels has intensified, as the world attempts to meet Paris Agreement targets to prevent runaway climate breakdown.

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Is President Biden’s pledge enough to help developing countries tackle climate change?

In a pre-recorded video address, President Xi told the UNGA China will “step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad”.

Bernice Lee, director of Futures at global affairs think tank Chatham House, said recipient countries were already “moving away from [coal] plants anyway”.

“But it is a big deal, credit where credit is due,” she said. “It is important that this is now formalised and locked into the system.”

The move could be a significant step towards tackling global emissions, potentially culling $50 billion of investment across 44 projects, according to US think tank Global Energy Monitor (GEM). The Chinese President did not specify when the commitment would come into effect – although his country has not directed any BRI funding toward coal power plants so far this year.

But China itself accounts for half of the world’s coal consumption, according to Our World in Data.

The country’s “substantial domestic plans” for new coal plants is “the next new frontier” said Ms Lee.

The move is not just about tackling climate change but also about geopolitics, according to Dr Rebecca Nadin, director of ODI’s Global Risks and Resilience programme.

“Beijing also hopes the announcement will send a clear message to developing countries that they don’t need to… rely on the US’s ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) or the G7’s Clean Green Initiative, if they want a clean energy future.

“The message is now very much that China can provide that, either as financier, technology provider, knowledge broker or development partner.”

The announcement came hours after the US President Joe Biden promised to double his country’s aid to help poorer nations cut emissions and cope with climate change, bringing the total to $11.4bn (£8.3bn).

In May the Group of Seven (G7) countries vowed to end all new finance for coal power abroad by the end of this year, and to rid forever their own power systems of unabated coal in the 2030s.

China’s announcement could help galvanise COP26, United Nations (UN) climate talks hosted in Glasgow in November, as it had been under pressure to end the financing as a part of its updated package of climate pledges to be submitted to the UN.

However China has yet to confirm it will attend the talks, the COP26 president Alok Sharma told Sky News on Sunday.

Analysis by Thomas Cheshire, Asia Correspondent

China was the biggest financier of coal projects abroad – so Xi’s pledge is a big deal. Simply, “it leaves no international financing for new coal”, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Coal’s appeal had been waning internationally. A recent analysis from CREA found that overseas coal capacity linked to China was more likely to be cancelled than built, because of economic reasons and public opposition.

But this is now the official end – and hopefully prevents overseas coal creeping back if conditions were to improve.

So, good news. But, as ever, the more important issue is China’s own use of coal.

It still relies on it a huge amount and remains the world’s biggest polluter. Xi has promised that emissions will peak by 2030

But even if that is achieved – and that’s a big if, with new coal power stations still being built – experts say it will be too late to prevent the worst effects of warming.

Watch the Daily Climate Show at 6.30pm Monday to Friday on Sky News, the Sky News website and app, on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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US-Mexico border crisis: Vehicles form barrier at Texas crossing to deter Haitian migrants – as VP Kamala Harris criticises ‘horrible’ tactics | US News

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Parked vehicles have created a steel barrier which stretches for miles along the US border with Mexico in the latest measure to deter migrants from crossing into Texas.

The US has been expelling Haitians from a large makeshift camp at the border, which at one point had attracted more than 12,000 migrants.

Around 8,600 people remain at the camp beneath the Del Rio International Bridge, which spans the Rio Grande from Texas to Mexico’s Ciudad Acuna, after more than 3,000 migrants were moved.

Texas Department of Safety vehicles line up along the bank of the Rio Grande near an encampment of migrants, many from Haiti, near the Del Rio International Bridge, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The U.S. is flying Haitians camped in a Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico. 
PIC:AP
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The vehicles have been lined up along the bank of the Rio Grande near the camp. Pic: AP

Law enforcement officers on horseback were pictured using what appeared to be aggressive tactics against the migrants – and a barrier has now been set up along the border, using vehicles belonging to the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, has backed his approval of the tactics – and criticised the Biden administration for not doing more, claiming local people and officials had “taken the lead on securing the border”.

But US Vice President Kamala Harris criticised the way the migrants had been treated, when she said: “What I saw depicted, those individuals on horseback treating human beings the way they were, was horrible.”

She added she supported an investigation into the horseback incidents, while homeland security officials called the images “extremely troubling”.

In recent days, US authorities have removed at least 4,000 people from the site for processing in detention centres.

More than 500 Haitians have been deported to their homeland on four flights, with repatriations set to continue on a regular basis, the US Department of Homeland Security said.

A U.S. border patrol officer grabs the shirt of a migrant trying to return to the United States along the Rio Grande river, after having crossed from the United States into Mexico to buy food, as seen from Ciudad Acuna, in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico September 19, 2021. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
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A migrant is pursued by a US patrol along the Rio Grande river

Some of those returned reacted angrily as they stepped off flights at Port-au-Prince airport in the Haitian capital after spending large amounts of money to travel from the troubled Caribbean nation via South America, hoping for a better life in the US.

The disturbances underscored the instability in the Caribbean nation – it is the poorest in the Western hemisphere, where a presidential assassination, rising gang violence, and a major earthquake have spread chaos in recent weeks.

The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former president Donald Trump in March 2020, which allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum.

Unaccompanied children are exempt from the order, a decision which was made by President Joe Biden.

 United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop a Haitian migrant from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021. - The United States said Saturday it would ramp up deportation flights for thousands of migrants who flooded into the Texas border city of Del Rio, as authorities scramble to alleviate a burgeoning crisis for President Joe Biden's administration
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Tactics by US border patrols on horseback have been widely criticised. Pic: Getty Images
Migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. take shelter in make-shift migrant camp near the International Bridge between Mexico and the U.S., as they wait to be processed, in Del Rio, Texas, U.S. September 21, 2021. REUTERS/Go Nakamura
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Migrants seeking asylum in the US take shelter near the Del Rio International Bridge

Mexico has also begun moving Haitian migrants away from the border, authorities said on Tuesday, signalling their support for the US as the situation creates a political headache for Mr Biden.

Republican politicians with an eye on the 2022 midterm elections, when they will bid to retake control of Congress, have been quick to portray the camp as the result of a push to end some migration restrictions.

There are also reports that some of the Haitian migrants facing expulsion back to their homeland are instead being released in the US, with some observed at the Del Rio bus station by Associated Press journalists.

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Lithuanian defence ministry urges people to ‘throw away’ Chinese phones after discovering censorship tools | Science & Tech News

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The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence has urged people to stop buying Chinese phones and throw away the ones they already possess after discovering censorship software.

It followed a report from the country’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which found that Xiaomi devices were censoring terms deemed to be offensive to Beijing.

According to an analysis by the Lithuanian NCSC, the Chinese company’s flagship devices sold in Europe have a built-in ability to detect and censor particular terms.

The phrases included “demonstration”, “free Tibet”, “long live Taiwan independence”, and “church” according to the Lithuanian authorities.

Although the censorship capability had been turned off for devices in the European Union, the ministry of defence warned that it could be turned on remotely.

“Our recommendation is to not buy new Chinese phones, and to get rid of those already purchased as fast as reasonably possible,” said Defence Deputy Minister Margiris Abukevicius, according to Reuters.

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A spokesperson for Xiaomi declined to comment when contacted by Sky News.

The call to throw away Chinese phones comes amid growing tensions between Lithuania and China over the former’s support for Taiwan – which China claims as part of its own territory.

China demanded Lithuania recall its ambassador in Beijing last month and recalled its own envoy from Vilnius in a protest over Taiwan announcing its mission in the country would use the name of Taiwan, instead of the city of Taipei, which is typically used in other European nations and in the US.

Professor Alan Woodward, a cyber security expert at the University of Surrey, told Sky News: “We all know there are different builds of phones for different countries. If you want to sell a device in a country then you have to obey the laws there.

“But to have censorship software left in that can be remotely activated… that’s a whole different level of one country effectively exporting its domestic regulations via technology,” he said.

Professor Woodward said he could understand the thought process behind the Lithuanian warning: that if one Chinese vendor has included a censorship capability to please Beijing then that made it harder to trust others haven’t done so too.

“Lithuania is a small market so I can imagine this might blow over, but the censorship software seemed to specifically be addressing items that were part of the tension between the two countries,” added Professor Woodward.

“That starts to look like a deliberate attempt to interfere,” he said.

“I’m sure other countries are also looking at these devices, so it behoves the Chinese government to make sure that they aren’t trying to export their censorship regulations elsewhere or else they could destroy trust in all Chinese vendors, and that won’t end well for anyone.”

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