Donald Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde Approach to Syria

Keeping up with President Trump’s constantly evolving position on Syria isn’t easy. Just ask his generals.

Earlier this month, the president called for a quick end to America’s military involvement in Syria, arguing the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops currently in the country should be out within six months. Alarm bells sounded at the Pentagon, whose top brass informed the president such a drastic move would jeopardize the ongoing fight against the Islamic State. Continue reading “Donald Trump’s Jekyll and Hyde Approach to Syria”

Gasoline Prices Nearing Multiyear Highs

If you fill up your car’s gas tank with any regularity, you don’t need me to tell you that prices at the pump are on the rise. AAA reports that the national average price of regular unleaded now stands at $2.72 per gallon, up from $2.54 a month ago and $2.41 this time last year. (That national average contains a lot of regional variability. In California, for instance, regular sells for $3.55. In South Carolina, just $2.49.)

Will the run-up keep going? And just how high will prices get? Continue reading “Gasoline Prices Nearing Multiyear Highs”

Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s pending retirement wasn’t unexpected. Given the raucous, de-centralized nature of the House Republican Conference, as well as the unpredictable, often strained relationship between GOP leaders and President Trump, his announcement this week that he won’t seek re-election was already in the works. The speakership, once the most coveted prize on Capitol Hill, has become a thankless job that some qualified potential candidates now shun. Ryan himself didn’t want the gig, reluctantly accepting the assignment in 2015 out of a sense of party loyalty after then-Speaker John Boehner’s ouster left the conference in turmoil.

Ryan’s self-imposed exile sets off a chain-reaction. For starters, Republicans are struggling to retain control of the House next year. Heading into its toughest campaign season in a decade with a lame-duck leader won’t make things easier for them. Continue reading “Paul Ryan’s Exit Upends House GOP”

How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown

The backlash against big tech isn’t going anyway anytime soon. Of all the tech titans bracing for impact, Facebook has the most to lose from increased scrutiny and new regulations in the U.S. and around the world.

The most recent firestorm was sparked by a massive data leak that exposed up to 87 million users to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook was caught flatfooted by the intensity of condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Continue reading “How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown”

Old Fault Lines Threaten Historic Trump-Kim Summit, Despite Optimism

The U.S. and North Korea are inching toward a historic summit to discuss the fate of North Korea’s nuclear program, one that could potentially see the first-ever meeting between a U.S. president and North Korean supreme leader.

The idea originated through a game of diplomatic telephone. North Korea reportedly invited President Trump to meet with Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un during an inter-Korean dialogue last month. South Korea in turn relayed the invitation to the White House, and Trump, to the surprise of many, accepted. The summit is scheduled to be held sometime in May. Continue reading “Old Fault Lines Threaten Historic Trump-Kim Summit, Despite Optimism”

Be on the Lookout for IRS Impersonators

Taxpayers, beware. While the tax filing season winds down, fraudsters continue duping unsuspecting taxpayers by posing as IRS officials. Seniors and newer immigrants are particular targets of the scam that the agency says is one of the most reported frauds in the nation.

In this scam, fraudsters contact victims via phone, mail or email pretending to be an IRS agent and demand immediate payment of allegedly owed back taxes. They frequently threaten victims with arrest, foreclosure or other adverse legal action. Scammers often instruct their victims to wire money or use a prepaid debit card. Continue reading “Be on the Lookout for IRS Impersonators”

Who Profits from the New Space Race?

The new space race’s leaders will start emerging over the next 12 to 18 months. Investors in space have wagered that cheaper rocket launches, better small satellite hardware, upgraded antenna equipment and other advances will transform the industry and bring satellite broadband, Earth imaging and other services to a new slate of businesses and consumers. The buzz has lured an estimated $10 to $15 billion of venture capital into space companies over roughly the last 10 years.

Nearly 5,000 small satellites are planned for launch over the next decade, according to North Sky Research, a space market research firm. That’s far more launched per year than past years. The optimism underscores the promise of cheaper, more reliable access to space. Continue reading “Who Profits from the New Space Race?”

Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses

Robots that work alongside humans are hitting factory floors in earnest. Falling costs and expanding capabilities are bringing robotic coworkers to more plants. Unlike traditional industrial robots, these so-called collaborative robots don’t need large safety cages to protect workers. Many of the robots are small, allowing them to fit into tight spaces. And their arms are getting more rugged so that they can be used in harsh environments.

Robot subscription services are spurring adoption. For a monthly fee, companies can rent robots instead of ponying up well north of $100,000 to purchase and install an industrial robot. In these “robots-as-a-service” agreements, customers get a multipurpose robot that can be up and running in days, compared to weeks for traditional systems. The subscription includes training, installation and regular software updates. Continue reading “Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses”

Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation

The last major legislative train of the year is about to leave Capitol Hill and a lot of high-profile cargo will be left behind.

Lawmakers had hoped to attach several significant and unrelated provisions to a massive government funding bill that Congress will address later this week. The $1.3-trillion omnibus bill is the last major “must pass” piece of legislation that Congress will take up until the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, so lawmakers from both parties and chambers had hoped to use it as a vehicle to address everything from shoring up Obamacare’s health insurance markets to new gun control measures, immigration reform and protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Continue reading “Odds Fade For Last-Minute Flurry Of New Legislation”

China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership

China is ramping efforts to topple America’s high-tech dominance. Beijing wants to take the lead in an array of advanced technologies, ranging from artificial intelligence to medical equipment. It faces challenges, of course, but it is methodically gaining ground on the U.S. and developed nations. Whether China succeeds or fails at its lofty goals, ripple effects will continue to sweep across the globe. The most innovative U.S. companies along with U.S. tech experts are sounding the alarm about China’s growing aspirations.

The technologies in China’s crosshairs require massive amounts of capital, research and innovation. In addition to AI and medical gear, there’s also industrial robots, electric vehicles, aerospace equipment, satellites, electric power equipment, telecom gear and agricultural machinery. “Today the China challenge is pointed directly at U.S. advanced industries, many of them critical to our defense industrial base,” writes Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a recent article. Continue reading “China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership”