Apple’s HomePod is a cautious approach to the connected home

 The new HomePod sounds great. I walked away from WWDC impressed with the full and rich sound the company has managed to get out of such a small form factor. There’s nice hardware on-board and a lot happening on the back end to create an optimal audio experience, including a six-mic array that sonically maps the room the speaker is in. Other smart home hubs like the Echo – and… Read More

The Execs Bashing Trump’s Paris Withdrawal Are Also Funding Climate-Change Deniers

As soon as President Donald Trump announced last week that he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, a flurry of top executives issued statements criticizing the decision as bad for the planet, business and America’s international standing.

But many of those same CEOs have supported ― through either corporate or personal giving ― Republican candidates who espouse climate-change denial. HuffPost asked 15 high-profile executives who publicly denounced the president’s decision if they would stop funding such Republicans deniers. All 15 either declined to commit, or did not respond to the question.

HuffPost asked Tim Cook of Apple, Bob Iger of Disney, Darren Woods of Exxon Mobil, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Art Peck of Gap, Jeff Immelt of GE, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Meg Whitman of Hewlett Packard, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Parker of Nike, Brad Smith of Microsoft, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Marc Benioff of Salesforce and Elon Musk of Tesla about the fundamental conflict between their statements and political giving.

These executives and their companies have collectively given millions of dollars to support members of the only major political party in world that makes denying the scientific consensus on manmade global warming a platform issue.

For some of the companies, the disparity between public stances on climate and political donations is particularly glaring.

In March, Exxon Mobil urged the White House to stay in the Paris Agreement, two months after adding a climate scientist to its board of directors. But the oil giant for years has been the fourth-biggest corporate donor to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who so vehemently rejects the science behind global warming that he once brought a snowball to the Senate floor to prove a point. The firm ― which for decades funded a Big Tobacco-style disinformation campaign to undermine evidence that burning fossil fuels caused climate change ― continued to pay millions to groups that deny global warming as recently as last year.  

Facebook’s political giving tells a different story than its founder and CEO’s denunciation of Trump’s decision. In the 2016 election cycle, Facebook’s political action committee contributed $146,500 to Republican U.S. House members, compared with $139,500 to Democratic members. In the Senate, where Democrats had a credible shot at retaking the chamber, the PAC gave $140,500 to Republican senators, compared with $90,500 for Democrats.

A spokesman for Facebook referred HuffPost to a section of the company’s code of conduct stating that “Facebook PAC considers whether an individual candidate’s policy stances are consistent with Facebook’s public policy agenda and business interests, particularly the individual’s commitment to fostering innovation and an open Internet,” as well as the politician’s rank in his or her party or committee.

Facebook gave to 37 Republican senators. Regardless of the views of these individual senators, Republican control of the Senate enables Trump to confirm climate change-skeptical appointees to key cabinet positions and block any major climate change policy action.

Of JPMorgan Chase’s $1,337,951 in campaign contributions last year, $441,333 went to Republican candidates ― but the bank channeled over 67 percent of its donations to political action committees to right-leaning groups. The company cut off direct financing to new coal mines last year, but so far has not adopted new rules to curtail funding to coal-fired power plants and existing mines. 

PepsiCo has been inching away from climate science deniers since 2012, when the food and beverage behemoth cut off funding to groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and the right-wing Heartland Institute. Yet nearly half of Pepsi’s political giving from its corporate PAC in 2016 went to foes of former President Barack Obama’s climate agenda, a Reuters analysis found last September.

In some cases, the companies that have donated heavily to Democrats have gone out of their way to signal from the top that they support Republicans. For example, Apple employees donated just $181,369 of their total $1,265,383 in campaign contributions last year to Republicans, according to public data collated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, meanwhile, personally hosted a fundraiser for Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Disney CEO Bog Iger and Tesla CEO Elon Musk both withdrew from Trump’s business advisory council over their disagreement with the president’s decision on the Paris Agreement.

JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon took a different tack and said he would continue to serve on the president’s advisory group. “I absolutely disagree with the Administration on this issue,” Dimon told CNBC last week. “But we have a responsibility to engage our elected officials to work constructively and advocate for policies that improve people’s lives and protect our environment.”

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Covfefe aside, late-night tweets are bad news

Beware the late-night tweeting.

However amusing the typos, staying up to share 140 character quips can throw you off your game the next day—whether that’s going to your 9-to-5, playing on an NBA team, or, you know, running the free world.

According to preliminary data from a study of 112 professional basketball players and 30,000 of their tweets, nocturnal Twitter usage linked to poor performance in next-day games. After tweeting between 11pm and 7am, players scored on average one fewer point and saw a 1.7-percent drop in their shooting accuracy than they did in games that did not follow late-night or early-morning tweeting. The Twitter-fatigued players also saw their playing time drop by two minutes.

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U.S. Congress plans self-driving car legislation to speed rollout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress is working on national self-driving vehicle legislation that could replace state-by state rules and make it easier for automakers to test and deploy the technology, senior U.S. House and Senate lawmakers told Reuters on Tuesday.

Dollar Tree countersues Dollar Express, alleges funds siphoned

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. discount retailer Dollar Tree Inc filed a countersuit against Dollar Express on Tuesday, alleging that the smaller company’s private equity owners siphoned off funds and failed to pay for $50 million in goods and services.

Man charged with threats to Jewish groups to plead guilty: U.S. prosecutor

(Reuters) – A former U.S. journalist is expected to plead guilty to a cyberstalking charge related to making bomb threats against Jewish organizations in the United States in a plot to get revenge against his ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said in letter filed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

Morneau says new infrastructure bank to shield taxpayers from project risks

OTTAWA — The federal finance minister came to the defence Tuesday of the Liberals’ promised, $35-billion infrastructure bank, insisting it would create less risk for taxpayers than if the government shouldered the financial burden for projects alone.

The infrastructure bank is a key component in the Liberals’ economic growth strategy. It’s designed to use public funds as leverage to attract billions more in private investment for large projects, such as rail lines, bridges and transit systems.

By looking beyond government funds to finance a project, Finance Minister Bill Morneau argued Ottawa would shift more of the risk to private investors and put them on the hook for the majority of cost overruns. Government would take on a smaller role, he added.

Taxpayers would feel some pain as well if a project were to generate added costs, but it would be minimal compared to the bill taxpayers would have to foot if the project was funded entirely from public coffers, he said.

“The essence of the infrastructure bank is it will allow us to complete infrastructure in this country with less risk — it’s actually de-risking infrastructure projects,” Morneau told The Canadian Press.

“We’ve off-loaded some of the risk to those (private) investors, which can only be positive for Canadians. … We’ve made sure that we do more projects, we find outsiders to take on that financial risk and we assure that over the long term there’s a contract that provides certainty for Canadians.

“We see it as a win-win-win.”

Morneau’s remarks come amid constant criticism from political rivals over the soon-to-be-launched infrastructure bank. Opponents on the left and the right have accused the government of putting taxpayer dollars at risk in order to lure private investment, details of which have been outlined in internal government documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

The Trudeau government has faced repeated calls to slow down its plans amid concerns the government is rushing through the legislation to create the bank without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Morneau said the government has discussed the proposal at length: through the economic advisory council, the fall economic statement and in the March budget. He also said he has talked about the bank at parliamentary committees and in the House of Commons.

“There’s been a significant amount of time spent discussing this and that the approach that we’ve taken will allow us to get on with project by project to build confidence in this institution over time,” said Morneau, who also believes the government has provided enough clarity on how the bank will work.

“My sense is that people understand that there’s a demand from Canadians to have infrastructure that has the ability to meet their needs — whether it’s public transit infrastructure, or affordable housing across our country, or wastewater systems that deal with climate change impacts — and that we should get on with it.”

The bank would look to fund projects that are too costly for governments, too risky for the private sector to cover alone, and which generate revenue to provide a return on investment for all involved.

All proposals would require government approval before the agency could strike a financing deal and funding would flow on a project-by-project basis. The rate of return to private investors will be tied to their share of the risk — the bigger the risk, the bigger the payoff.

Once a project is completed, the ownership of whatever is built would be split between the different levels of government involved and the private investors based on their financial stakes in the project, Morneau said.

Even if the government takes a hit to its financial stake in a project, there may be benefits through construction, engineering and planning jobs, as well as productivity gains that provide economic gains over and above the government’s investment, Morneau said.

“Since we don’t have the projects yet to consider, we can’t very well argue that this is going to have this specific advantage,” Morneau said.

“We’re not going to over-promise and under-deliver. Instead we’re going to take a project on based on the merits of the project and then show people that it’s going to make sense.”

The Canadian Press

UK’s May says ready to curb human rights laws to fight extremism

SLOUGH, England (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday she would be willing to weaken human rights protections to make it easier to deport or curb the movements of suspected militants who there is not enough evidence to prosecute.