U.S. may hold fire on North Korea ICBM test to get intel, if no threat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military might hold its fire rather than strike a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test in order to glean intelligence, if Pyongyang’s ICBM launch did not appear to pose a threat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday.

Longtime Apple programmer and Swift creator leaves Apple for Tesla

Software developer Chris Lattner, creator of the Swift programming language and Apple’s current director of the Developer Tools department, will be leaving the company later this month to become Tesla’s new vice president of autopilot software. Lattner announced his departure to the Swift mailing list earlier today, just a few hours before Tesla made his hiring public.

Ted Kremenek, another longtime Apple developer who has been with the company since 2007, will be taking over Lattner’s duties as Swift project lead.

Lattner has worked at Apple since 2005, and he’s been involved in a lot of major tools and software initiatives over the years. His extensive resume lists many versions of Xcode going back to at least version 3.1, LLVM and the Clang frontend, OpenCL, LLDB, and Swift. He also did some work on macOS, helped tune software performance for the Apple A6 used in the iPhone 5, and helped with the transition to 64-bit ARM CPUs that began with the iPhone 5S. His resume shows a willingness to create, adopt, and evangelize new software and programming languages, which will no doubt be a major component of his work at Tesla. He has also been a major proponent of Apple’s open source work, driving the push to make Swift open source and communicating with the Swift community and steering its efforts.

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Debate over firing U.S. consumer watchdog director intensifies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The debate over whether President-elect Donald Trump should fire the head of a U.S. consumer watchdog after taking office came to a boil on Tuesday, with congressional lawmakers sending off strong letters that dug into constitutional law.

Trump donation by L.L. Bean granddaughter garners outdoorsy retailer online consumer blowback

Duck boots and politics don’t mix.

L.L. Bean found itself under threat of boycott from activists after Linda Bean, granddaughter of founder Leon Leonwood Bean and a member of the company’s board of directors, donated to a pro-Donald Trump political action committee. It’s the latest brand to drift into a blizzard of political vitriol over a perceived stance on the Republican president-elect’s politics.

Linda Bean, who owns a chunk of the closely-held maker of clothing and outdoor recreational goods, is a longtime political donor who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican. She contributed $60,000 to the Making America Great Again LLC, according to the Federal Election Commission. The agency said in a letter dated Jan. 4 that her contribution exceeded the individual donor limit of $5,000, according to the Associated Press. 

After news of the donation emerged, anti-Trump group Grab Your Wallet called for a boycott of L.L. Bean’s products. Founded last October, Grab Your Wallet publishes a list of companies and individuals who support Trump and urges consumers to punish them by withholding their cash.

Freeport, Me.-based L.L. Bean was quick to respond to its appearance on the list, posting a 325-word statement on its Facebook page. In it, Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman wrote that the company has more than 50 family members who are owners, and that no one person speaks for the retailer. He said he was “deeply troubled” that L.L. Bean was being portrayed as a partisan entity. 

“L.L.Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions,” said Gorman. “Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.” His post has racked up more than 4,500 comments in less than a day. Reactions range from outraged shoppers to stalwart defenders of the staid New England brand. When reached Monday, a spokesman for L.L. Bean said it is “both illogical and unfair” to link the personal politics of one family member to the company’s five generations of owners. 


Handout L.L. Bean (Leon Leonwood Bean) as a young man.

There’s been lots of blowback seen by brands that waded into the recent political maelstrom. Trump supporters protested against Starbucks Corp. after its CEO supported Hillary Clinton, and they took off after Kellogg Co. when it pulled advertising from the ultra-right website Breitbart News. The president-elect himself called for a boycott of Macy’s Inc. after the department store dumped his clothing line.

Anti-Trump activists meanwhile pressed for boycotts of retailers that sell daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, including, yes, Macy’s. And New Balance was burned by furious customers (literally in some online videos) after a spokesperson for the shoemaker criticized the Obama administration while coming out in support of Trump’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. (Clinton also opposed the pact.)

Consumers have found more creative ways to battle brands of late. One activist group called Sleeping Giants is trying to change online advertising by informing companies when their advertisements pop up on hate sites filled with false news and white supremacist or neo-Nazi content. So far, Sleeping Giants has contacted more than 1,000 companies with screenshots of their brands alongside hate speech, including Chase and Audi, according to the New York Times.

“People are just searching for a way to fight back, a way to make a difference,” said Dorothy Crenshaw, founder of public relations firm Crenshaw Communications. As she sees it, L.L. Bean handled its situation appropriately by using a calm tone and sticking to the facts without getting too emotional.

With a wide swath of the consumer public riled up before Trump’s impending inauguration, companies need to be more aware than ever about managing their reputation, said Crenshaw. That means thinking hard about what values they want to stand for, and whether those ideals align with their core customers. Politics is a real part of the business environment, she said, and it must be dealt with delicately, not totally ignored. 

“You can’t put your head in a hole, shrink back, and avoid the entire dialogue,” said Crenshaw.

Bloomberg News

A Former Coal Lobbyist Is Running To Chair The Democratic Party

For nearly all of the Obama era, Jaime Harrison has been a lobbyist at the Washington powerhouse Podesta Group. His clients have included some of the industries most reviled by today’s Democrats ― tobacco companies, coal producers and big banks, which he helped defend against new regulations proposed by the Obama administration.

Lobbyists are everywhere in the nation’s capital. Harrison’s career path wouldn’t be unusual ― except he’s currently running to be the next official head of the Democratic Party, which has generally sworn off many of Harrison’s top clients. Harrison’s professional background cuts a sharp contrast with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a progressive congressman who told The Huffington Post last week that he would reinstate President Barack Obama’s ban on lobbyist contributions to the Democratic National Committee, if elected as its next chairman. Harrison opposes such a ban, and generally believes lobbyists are getting a bad rap. In an interview with HuffPost, he was unapologetic about his career choices.

“I don’t think there’s anything I’m embarrassed about,” Harrison said. “You don’t have very many options when you graduate from law school with $160,000 of student loan debt and want to take care of your grandma. That is how I take care of my family … I don’t come from a lot of money.”

Harrison worked for the Podesta Group from late 2008 until he began his run for the DNC chair late last year. He’s been chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party since 2013, and his bid for the national leadership post was initially viewed as something of a long shot. But he has steadily racked up a handful of endorsements over the course of the race. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) ― the third-ranking House Democrat ― was an early advocate of Harrison, who worked as an aide to the congressman before jumping into the more lucrative lobbying world. On Monday, he touted support from Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and John Larson (D-Conn.), along with four members of the DNC ― the 447-member body that will actually vote in February to certify the next DNC Chair.

According to federal lobbying disclosure forms, from the spring of 2009 until the second quarter of 2012 (with a one-quarter break in 2010 and again in 2011), Harrison lobbied on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity ― a front group for big coal companies that worked to undermine Obama’s climate change legislation and subsequent regulations. 

After denying the existence of climate change for years, coal companies abruptly changed course in 2008, tasking ACCCE with responsibility for a new $40 million marketing plan designed to give the industry a friendlier reputation. Greenhouse gasses, the industry now acknowledged, were harmful to the environment. But ACCCE claimed coal wasn’t the problem ― new technologies could clean it up.

Those technologies never really materialized, and ACCCE ultimately paid Podesta nearly $1.2 million over the course of Harrison’s involvement with the coal group. Harrison denies that he did any work to “kill Obama’s energy legislation” for ACCCE. Instead, he says he was seeking “incentives for clean coal technology” and financial assistance for “people in those communities and also something for people who invested money in a corporation that’s going to be shuttered” due to new regulations.

ACCCE, which declined to comment for this article, wasn’t Harrison’s only stint with the coal industry. The Podesta Group also received a total of $160,000 for lobbying work over the final six months of 2010 representing the National Mining Association, which includes Caterpillar, Alliance Coal, the American Coal Council, Arch Coal, Berwind and several coal interest groups. Harrison is listed as one of NMA’s lobbyists on federal disclosure forms.

Another of Harrison’s early lobbying gigs involved tobacco clients. For half of 2009, Harrison worked on a campaign to help tobacco companies fight new legislation moving through Congress that would require tougher, more explicit health warnings on cigarette boxes. Taken together, the three tobacco companies ― S & M Brands, Dosal Tobacco and Xcaliber International ― control the Bailey’s, Tahoe, Riverside, Echo, Edgefield, Exeter, 305, Competidora and DTC cigarette brands. Harrison also worked alongside the Zip-Zap cigarette rolling paper company and the Council of Independent Tobacco Manufacturers Association on the project. All told, tobacco interests paid the Podesta Group about $120,000 over the course of six months, according to the filings.

None of those companies or interest groups would comment on Harrison’s work on their behalf, but Harrison defended working for “small tobacco companies,” which he said would have been “shut down completely” by the new rules. The cigarette industry is heavily concentrated at the top, with 85 percent of the domestic market controlled by Altria, Philip Morris and Reynolds American.

“It’s not that they don’t want to be compliant [with federal rules], but the way that the legislation or regulations are drawn, they’re drawn to impact the larger guys,” Harrison said. “And if they apply to the smaller mom-and-pop-type operations, they’ll be shut down.”

This is a common defense for small players battling reforms. Still, even small cigarette companies make money selling products that kill people.

Harrison also worked on behalf of Bank of America and Wells Fargo as Obama’s Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation was moving through Congress. Both banks received big bailouts from the federal government and spent billions to settle fraud charges tied to bogus mortgages, and both declined to comment for this story. Harrison said he could not recall what policies he lobbied for with the banks.

Harrison would not be the first political operator to move from the lobbying world to the chairmanship of the DNC. Steven Grossman had been president of the nation’s pre-eminent pro-Israel lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, before being elected head of the DNC in 1997. Harrison says Democrats need to stop disparaging lobbyists, many of whom do important work.

“The question I have for a lot of Democrats is, ‘Are we condemning people who can break out of poverty, or do we have to do the jobs that we deem are appropriate to do?’”

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Ford affirms 2017 to be less profitable than 2016

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co on Tuesday confirmed that it would be less profitable in 2017 than last year, even as cross town rival General Motors Co on the same day gave a much more upbeat forecast that surpassed Wall Street expectations.

Gundlach: ‘Trouble for equity markets’ if 10-year yield hits 3 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) – There will be “trouble for equity markets” if the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note moves beyond 3 percent, Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine…

Vancouver-based U.S. REIT City Office nears US$1 billion asset mark, Jefferies lands its first deal

Over the years, a number of real estate investment trusts that are based on foreign assets have found a welcoming market in Canada.

For instance, Milestone Apartment REIT and WPT Industrial REIT both have U.S. assets; Dream Global REIT, whose assets are in Germany, and Inovalis REIT, which owns office properties in France and Germany, have raised lots of capital from Canadian investors — and made regular distributions.

There is at least one company that’s gone the other way: it’s based in Vancouver, it’s listed on the NYSE, and while all of its assets are in the U.S, it does have some Canadian shareholders.

We are referring to City Office REIT, a company formed in 2013, when it was spun out of Second City Real Estate. (The two firms do retain some common management and directors including chief executive James Farrar and Sam Belzberg.) City Office REIT, which is internally managed, has elected to be taxed as a U.S. REIT — and is in the news because it is in the process of raising equity.

After the markets closed Monday, the issuer, whose properties are largely in the southern and western U.S. announced a deal to sell four million shares. Because of strong demand, the issue was upsized to 5 million shares. Before the markets opened on Tuesday, the price was US$12.4 a share — which represented a four percent discount to Monday’s close. The shares (CIO) closed Tuesday at $12.43.

A financing was probably expected given that it has just purchased, for US$46.8 million, an office property in Dallas, helping to propel the REIT toward US$1 billion of assets under management.

It will reach that milestone when it combines the proceeds from the current equity offering — the deal closes Friday — with some debt. It now owns or has an interest in 4.4 million square feet of office properties, based in 18 office complexes comprising 37 office buildings.

When it went public in April 2014 (and raised US$72.5 million), it owned six office complexes (with 16 office buildings) with 1.85 million square feet of net rentable area.

Last July, it welcomed a new shareholder, Wealhouse Capital, a Toronto-based global investment firm, founded in 2008 by Scott Morrison and Scott Burk. The firm, which bought a 9.44 per cent stake, is also associated with James Balsillie, a co-founder of Research in Motion (now Blackberry.)

Jefferies lands its first deal

If the first deal by a new registrant calls for a celebration, then the gang at Jefferies Securities can order the champagne. The firm, which became a member of IIROC last May, a status that allows it to distribute equity issued by Canadian companies into its existing system in the U.S., is one of the four book-runners on the initial public offering by Freshii Inc. CIBC World Markets.

RBC Capital Markets and Robert W. Baird & Co. are the others. (There are four other underwriters.) Freshii, which filed an amended prospectus Monday, is planning to sell 10.9 million subordinate voting shares, though Robert W. Baird and another U.S. firm (Cowen and Co.) are only allowed to sell Class A shares to investors outside of Canada. shares carry one vote, or one-tenth the heft of the Class B shares.

It seems Jefferies was late to the party. When Freshii filed a preliminary prospectus a week before Christmas, only CIBC and RBC, were listed as the co-lead underwriters. Since then, and after due diligence had been completed, Jefferies and the other firms were added to the syndicate.

Financial Post