All in Business

Sprint and T-Mobile Agree to Merge

If Trump’s administration’s antitrust regulators let the $26.5 billion merger agreement between T-Mobile and Sprint, the U.S. wireless industry will be reduced to three major players. The two have been considering combining for years, but a 2014 attempt fell apart because of resistance from the Obama administration. If the companies are combined, it will be called T-Mobile and will have about 127 million customers. The combination would allow them to compete with both AT&T and Verizon better. The deal with have to be reviewed by both the FCC and Justice Department.

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Amazon to Raise Price of Prime

Amazon announced that they will raise the annual cost of their Prime membership from $99 to $119 annually during a call with investors on Thursday.  The new price will go into effect on May 11 and will begin applying to Prime renewals on June 16.  Amazon cited the increase in value of Prime due to new services such as Prime Video as reason for the change.  Earlier in the month, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, told shareholders that the company has increased Prime membership to over 100 million paying members. 

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Snapchat's Struggles Continue

As Snap continues to make adjustments within its Snapchat app, its stock continues to take a nosedive. Snap (SNAP) stock closed down 7% yesterday, putting it more than 15% below the price when it went public last year. These recent adjustments have drawn criticism from different celebrities as well, including Kylie Jenner and Rihanna. Investors have doubts that Snapchat will ever reach Instagram's user count, especially with Instagram continuing to roll out many similar features of Snapchat. However, Snapchat isn’t the only social media platform drawing skepticism from investors, as Twitter stock fell yesterday despite the company reporting revenue and profit that topped projections.

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FDA Says Juul-ing is NOT Cool

Following months of complaints from politicians, school administrators and parents, federal agencies have begun cracking down on underage use of the popular e-cigarette brand Juul. As of Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to 40 retail and online stores. This is part of a nationwide effort against the illegal sale of Juul to minors. Juul has become popular among teenagers thanks to its semblance to a small flash drive, making it easy to vape in school and in public. Apparently, the San Francisco-based company monitors all retailers to ensure they follow the law.

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Research Shows Youtube Ran Ads From Extremists

According to a recent CNN investigation, Youtube has run ads from over 300 companies and organizations that promoted white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda. Popular companies like Adidas, Amazon, Hershey, Netflix, and more may even have unknowingly helped these channels because of the advertisements they paid for. Some of these companies have paused its advertising buy on Youtube because of this. Further fueling the fire, this is not the first time Youtube has put major companies’ ads up against controversial or extremist content. It brings many to question Youtube’s ability to protect companies’ advertisement integrity.

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Starbucks Stores to Close for Anti-Bias Training

On May 29, Starbucks will close its more than 8,000 stores to provide anti-bias training to 175,000 employees after an incident where two African-American men were arrested at one of the stores last week. The incident, whereby the men were arrested after asking to use the Starbucks restroom, has prompted outrage. After the employee refused them because they had not purchased anything, the men sat down, were asked to leave, and then the police were called. The arrest scene was recorded in a video which has been viewed over 10 million times on Twitter.

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Bad Eggs

Salmonella has claimed yet another batch of food products we love, the largest since 2010.  Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Indiana are recalling over 200 million eggs they believe to be contaminated with salmonella.  The eggs were shipped from one of their farms in North Carolina to stores and restaurants across nine states (Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia).  According to the FDA, 22 cases of illnesses stemming from salmonella across these states have been reported thus far.

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Federal Reserve Eyes Interest Rate Increases

The economy is just about as strong as it has ever been since the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, and the Federal Reserve has taken notice and plans to act accordingly.  According to the minutes from their March meeting, the Federal Reserve plans to continue their raising of target interest rates, this time from 1.5% to 1.75%.  The target rate helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards, and other borrowing which in effect slows down or speeds up the growth of the economy.  Worries of an American trade war with China also came up in the meeting of top economic authorities, which coupled with the inflation rate will likely determine the Federal Reserve’s future decisions.

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Bank of America Says Goodbye to Certain Gun Makers

Bank of America, one of America’s largest financial institutions, announced that it will stop giving loans to gun manufacturers that make military grade firearms for civilian use. In light of the series of mass shootings that have been carried out with AR-15-style guns in the last decade, the bank said that it wanted to contribute in any way they could to “reduce these mass shootings.” Bank of America did not name any specific customers it has worked with, but the decision nevertheless stands as the latest statement by an American business in the gun-control debate. The bank will continue to service firearm retailers, but military grade firearm manufacturers for civilians are off the table.

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U.S. and China Exchange Tariffs, Fears of Trade War Increase

This week, the United States and China announced a new round of tariffs in what some economists fear could result in a trade war. On Tuesday, the US Trade Representative announced tariffs on roughly 1,300 Chinese goods, taking strong aim at China’s growing high-tech exports. In retaliation, China announced tariffs on more than 100 American imports ranging from soybeans to planes and automobiles. The Chinese ambassador to the United States stressed negotiations were preferable, but China would be forced to fight back against any new tariffs. The President then tweeted that the United States cannot lose from a trade war with China as it was already lost “many years ago”. The new Chinese tariffs target regional economies with high Trump support such as farming states and manufacturing plants in the South.

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President’s Tweets Costing Amazon

Since President Trump began attacking Amazon on Twitter last week, Amazon’s stock has dropped 5% and the company’s market value has declined by $37.4 billion.  Trump has accused Amazon of costing the US Postal Service Money and not paying its fair share of taxes.  However, Amazon pays the same rate as other bulk shippers and pays sales tax in all states with one instated.  Trump has expressed that his dislike for Amazon is due to its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.  In his tweets, the president referred to Bezos’ two companies as “This Post Office scam” and “the Fake Washington Post.” 

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The War to Build a 5G Network

Recently, the Council on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) blocked a hostile takeover of technology giant Qualcomm by its Singapore based rival Broadcom. CFIUS cited national security concerns as Qualcomm competes heavily in building the latest 5G network against Chinese based Huawei. They fear a takeover by Broadcom could result in reduced research and development for the American company as it competes abroad. In response, the Chinese government stalled Qualcomm’s bid to takeover NXP Semiconductors as tensions between the two nations heighten over tariffs on Chinese goods, including high-tech sectors. Chinese Huawei and American Qualcomm are the only two fierce competitors building a global 5G network.

 

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Zuckerberg to Testify Before Congress

Multiple news sources are now reporting that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans on complying with the request of many senators to testify before congress regarding the company’s handling of customer data.  His testimony will come before the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in the coming weeks.  This comes following the revelation from whistleblowers that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica acquired the personal data of over 50 million Facebook users.  Zuckerberg now faces the daunting task of restoring public trust in his company, and a public hearing in congress could help his cause. 

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U.S. Imposes Tariffs on China, An “Economic Enemy”

In the strongest trade action he has yet taken, Trump announced tariffs on $60 billion worth of Chinese goods in retaliation for China’s said use of “pressure and intimidation to obtain American technology and trade secrets.” China promptly countered Trump’s decision with a tariff on about $3 billion worth of American goods. The trade triggered incredible drops in world markets, as the Standard & Poor dropped 2.5 percent and the Dow Jones fell 2.9 percent, reflecting fears of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. The move follows Trump’s campaign promise to retaliate against countries who do not give the U.S. more fair trading deals. Several American brands, like Gap and Levi’s, have expressed concern that the China tariffs will ultimately punish Americans with higher prices on the goods the U.S. imports from China.

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Fed Hikes Interest Rates

With economic outlook brightening, the Federal Reserve unanimously voted to raise interest rates. This move indicates to Wall Street that the newly appointed Chairman of the Board, Jerome Powell, will continue the Fed’s post-recession plan of gradual rate hikes. The decision comes as recent economic data shows an improving economy with low unemployment and rising wages. The Fed also revised their growth outlook to 2.7% from 2.5% for 2018.  These hikes will raise the federal funds rate, used to determine interest rates for borrowing, to 1.5-1.75%. The Fed is on par to raise rates three times this year but revised to add an additional rate hike next year. Jerome Powell’s role is to keep the economy in a healthy growth range, without triggering a recession, by manipulating the ability to borrow money within the United States.

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Alexa's LOLing

A number of Amazon Alexa users have reported hearing an unprompted laugh from their  devices over the last couple of days. The laugh happens randomly, when the device is not in use or in response to a request to turn on or off lights.  This has startled many owners and led them to believe their devices are haunted.  Amazon however says these worried customers need not worry, as they are currently ironing out the issues.  As if the advanced artificial personalities of robots aren’t creepy enough…

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West Virginia Teachers' Strike Pays Off

For the past nine days, West Virginia’s teachers have participated in a statewide strike that has shut down public schools to demand better pay and health insurance relief, and on Tuesday the state House and Senate passed a bill giving all state workers, including teachers, a 5 percent pay raise. West Virginia has among the poorest paid teachers in the country, with salaries averaging about $45,000 a year. Mitch Carmichael, the president of the conservative state Senate, told the strikers that a state task force would address their health insurance woes. He also stated that revenue for the raises would come from budget cuts, but did not go into detail. With this bill passing, it appears school will be back in session.

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Trump, Tariffs, and Threats of Retaliation

Recently, the Trump administration, much to the discontent of businesses and congressional republicans, announced a sharp tariff on imported steel and aluminum. The administration said the tariffs would have a negligible effect on US consumers and promote American manufacturing. The administration also cited national security concerns for these tariffs, most notably the Chinese flooding the market with these metals. But many US allies, such as Canada and the EU, are not exempt from this tariff and will be negatively affected. With the threat of retaliation from many countries, business groups are arguing that the move will hurt American businesses that depend on the global trade network. Such a move, they say, could spark a trade war where no one wins.

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Ubering to the Doctor's Office

You’ll soon be able to take an Uber ride from your home to the doctor’s office without the Uber app. Uber is teaming up with health care to provide transportation to and from any medical appointment, the company announced Thursday. The doctor’s office will have the option to schedule a ride for their patient immediately or up to 30 days in advance. Now people without smartphones can become Uber customers, as the company will send ride information through a text or a call to a landline. 100 health care organizations, have already tested Uber Health. The service will be rolled out to other health care organizations with time.

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Georgia Punishes Delta for Ending NRA Discount

The Georgia Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill rescinding tax breaks for Delta Airlines after the airline company announced it was ending discounts offered to National Rifle Association members. The tax break would have been a $50 million exemption on jet fuel. Delta’s announcement came in the wake of the recent Parkland school shooting and stated that the decision was in the interest of staying neutral in the national gun debate. This puts Delta in the ranks of several other American companies who have ended relationships with the N.R.A. Georgia governor Nathan Deal is expected to sign the bill and make it official. Meanwhile, Virginia’s governor tweeted Delta to say they’re welcome there anytime. Delta is one of Georgia’s biggest employers, so it remains to see how the company will respond.

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