Under the Radar: April 9-15, 2018

Welcome to Newscoop’s “Under the Radar” —  

the weekly review of important news no one’s talking about.

 

Hi, I’m Zoe Licata, with Newscoop’s Under the Radar for April 9-15.

*     First of all, there’s a lot of excitement right now on the part of online privacy activists. The new EU consumer data regulations go into effect next month, and many expect those regulations could inform what legislation the U.S. Congress will pursue in the coming months. The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR, secures the control of EU residents over their own personal data – including the need for them to give consent to have their data collected, and their right to access and erase their data. It also imposes severe penalties on any company not complying with the new regs, including fines amounting to the greater of $20 million or 4% of a company’s global revenues. And it applies to any company doing business in the EU – even if it’s not located there. The EU laws are very timely, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was being grilled this past week by the U.S. Congress for the harvesting of data on more than 87 million of their users. While the U.S. Congress may not be quite ready to regulate online tech companies, the new EU laws make it harder for the U.S. not to act in kind.

*     Next, on President Trump’s trade war with China. In early March, Trump announced that he was imposing huge tariffs on steel, aluminum, and $60 billion in other Chinese imports. Economists, business owners, and politicians alike felt his action resulted from either a general lack of understanding as to the nature of tariffs and the dangers of trade wars, or that Trump was simply playing to his political base. Economist Joseph Stiglitz quipped that Trump’s actions were “in keeping with his record of responding to nonexistent problems.” Nearly everyone expressed concern that a tit-for-tat trade war was likely to hurt the U.S. more than China. On April 4th, on cue, China announced that it would be slapping its own tariffs on a long list of 106 U.S. products – everything from soybeans, corn and sorghum, to whiskies, wheat and automobiles. Perhaps most interesting was that China seemed to be targeting products made in states that supported Trump in the 2016 election. In other words, Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky constituents won’t be selling much whiskey to China. It’s clear by now that blocking Chinese imports will not create U.S. jobs – it will only serve to raise prices for Americans, and damage their businesses.  Larry Summers, U.S. Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton and former chief economist of the World Bank, called Trump’s tariffs “the most irrational economic policy that any president has introduced in the last half century.”

*     And lastly, we’d like to bring your attention back to the Intel controversy of some months ago because it has not gone away. As a reminder, Intel is the tech company that provides chips for 90% of the world’s computer processors and 99% of the world’s servers. So when it was revealed months ago that their chip had a flaw that allowed hackers to steal data from machines with the Intel chip, it meant that virtually every PC, smartphone and server since 1995 was at risk. The real scandal, however, was that while the company worked for 6 months on a fix for the flaw, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich quietly sold $24 million of his stock. And the company notified neither consumers nor the U.S. government until the info leaked to the public. The company is now facing more than 32 lawsuits, along with  investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and Security Exchange Commission for insider trading. Meanwhile, Intel has just announced there will be no fix for some of their older chips. And while competitors AMD and Qualcomm are stepping up their game to take advantage of the scandal, it’s very hard to truly hold accountable a company that commands more than 90% of the market. 

This has been Newscoop’s Under the Radar – important events that are getting far too little attention. Tune in next week for more.

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