North Korea ended two months of relative calm with a bang this week, launching its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet in defiance of U.S.-led efforts to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear progress.
The missile reportedly traveled more than 2,800 miles into space – ten times higher than the International Space Station – flying for more than 50 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. Experts say it is another major leap forward in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, potentially putting the entire U.S. mainland in range, including Washington, D.C.
Continue reading “Don’t Panic About North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch. (But Still Worry)”
There is growing likelihood on Capitol Hill that the Senate will pass its version of the Republican tax reform package this week, as party leaders offer changes in a scramble to win over a half-dozen holdouts.
It’s still difficult to predict the outcome with certainty, as ongoing horse trading is changing the dynamics of the tax reform landscape by the hour. But the belief among Senate Republicans that they’ll get the necessary votes for passage is much stronger than it was yesterday. Continue reading “GOP Optimism Grows For Tax Bill”
In a big win for internet providers, federal telecom regulators are ditching utility-style internet rules. As we predicted in July, the five-member Federal Communications Commission will ditch the net neutrality rules that went into effect in 2015. They will split along party lines, with the Republican majority voting to do away with the 2015 framework at the FCC’s upcoming December meeting.
The Obama-era rules, implemented when Democrats had a 3-2 majority on the commission, barred web providers from blocking or throttling lawful content. They also banned so-called fast lanes—special agreements between web providers and content makers to speed up their data. Continue reading “Internet Regulation Food Fight Far from Finished”
The Justice Department moved this week to block AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Now, the courts must decide the fate of the blockbuster deal that, if approved, would give America’s largest telecom company control over a media empire that includes CNN, HBO and other cable staples.
Will the merger go through? Flip a coin. This isn’t how antitrust cases of this kind normally proceed. The Justice Department regularly blocks transactions it deems “anti-competitive,” among them AT&T’s 2011 bid to acquire rival T-Mobile. But so-called “vertical mergers,” which involve firms operating at two different levels of an industry, have a better record of success.
Continue reading “Justice Dept. Trumps Blockbuster AT&T, Time-Warner Deal on Antitrust Grounds”
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is set to lose some of its potency. Although Republicans—who have opposed the agency since its inception—will succeed in extracting some of its teeth, the GOP won’t be able to totally defang it.
Now that CFPB Director Richard Cordray is stepping down at the end of the month, President Trump, a critic of the consumer watchdog, is free to nominate a more business-friendly replacement. The administration also will work with congressional Republicans, many of whom want to dismantle the agency, to revamp its structure and refocus its mission. Continue reading “Consumer Watchdog Down But Not Out”
The oil market has been nothing if not volatile this autumn. At the beginning of September, the price of benchmark West Texas Intermediate hovered near $47 per barrel after spending most of the summer trading in the mid-$40s. Then suddenly, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, WTI went on a tear, shooting up to $57 per barrel by early November: A tidy 21% gain at a time when oil demand tends to be low.
Had crude finally begun a sustained rebound after several years of depressed prices? Many oil bulls seemed to think so. Or at least, many did until earlier this week, when WTI dropped sharply after the International Energy Agency issued a prediction that global oil demand will grow more slowly next year than previously expected. Are oil prices just taking a breather before the next leg up? Or did this week’s drop mark the end of the autumn rally? Continue reading “Where Do Oil Prices Go Next?”
Congressional Republicans’ push to overhaul the tax code is centered around two basic principles: Providing corporations with a big tax cut while helping average Americans. But like almost every major issue lawmakers tackle, competing House and Senate bills aimed at achieving these goals aren’t as simple or clear-cut as their authors want the public to believe.
Independent analyses of the tax plans undercut the GOP’s rosy predictions for how much middle-income earners would benefit (especially the House version). Although Senate Republicans’ measure is akin to the one House Republicans are preparing to approve this week, they take significantly divergent paths. If both bills pass intact, Republicans will have to broker a compromise among themselves to advance final legislation to President Trump’s desk. Such an endeavor would be messy and contentious, with success far from guaranteed. Continue reading “Sizing Up The GOP Tax Plans”
As you relax over the holiday weekend, pay close attention to what’s happening in Lebanon. Tensions are rising in this perennial Middle East battleground, with potentially big implications for the stability of an already unstable region.
The trouble began Saturday when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was threatened by the Iran-backed militia-cum-political party Hezbollah. Continue reading “Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon”
Here’s something the oil market hasn’t seen lately: A price rally.
After falling as low as $46 per barrel on Aug. 30, when Hurricane Harvey forced Gulf Coast refineries to shut down, benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil has soared to about $57 per barrel. The price run-up reflects several factors: Improving economic growth around the world; hints from OPEC that its current policy of limiting crude exports will continue for longer than first scheduled; and turmoil in Saudi Arabia, where several high-ranking officials and members of the royal family have been arrested on corruption charges. (Anything that threatens the internal stability of OPEC’s largest oil producer is bound to raise concerns about potential interruptions in crude shipments.) Continue reading “U.S. Oil Exporters Cash in on Higher Prices, Strong Demand”
The race to make driverless car service a reality is revving up. Carmakers are ramping up investment in an array of technologies fundamental to autonomous vehicles. The industry poured more than $80 billion into self-driving technology recently, according to a tally by the Brookings Institution spanning August 2014-June 2017. It’s a full-fledged spending spree on everything from artificial intelligence software to sensors to computer chips.
“Every manufacturer in the world wants to be an early mover—or at least avoid competitive disadvantage,” notes the Brookings report. Investments by car companies, tech giants and venture capitalists will only accelerate. The whole industry is riding on more than a decade of development, steep price drops on sensors and other key hardware and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software. Carmakers know they are also competing outside of their industry—against Apple, Google and China’s Baidu to name a few—on the technology front. Continue reading “The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear”