Afghanistan: Donald Trump Continues America’s Longest War

President Trump’s plan to send thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and emphasize “killing terrorists” over “nation building” put to rest any notion that he intends to wind down America’s longest war.

Trump was short on detail during his first prime-time speech since addressing Congress in February. He didn’t say how many soldiers will join the 8,400-strong U.S. force already in Afghanistan, leaving that specific for the Pentagon to sort out. Nor did he elaborate on the most provocative component of his new strategy: Putting more pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring the Taliban.  

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2018 elections could become a GOP family feud

Look for Republican incumbents on Capitol Hill to face a wave of primary challengers in 2018 if by year’s end they cannot deliver two key campaign promises: Obamacare repeal and tax reform.

It’s very early in the election cycle so many potential challengers are waiting to see how 2017 ends. There’s time for congressional Republicans to mitigate their legislative shortcomings, but the clock is ticking. Continue reading “2018 elections could become a GOP family feud”

Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?

Apple faces a huge test next month. The world’s largest company will unveil an updated edition of its flagship product, the iPhone. The question is, can Apple’s latest model “wow” consumers and investors alike?

Apple’s near-term success rides on the fate of the new phone. The iPhone first came on the scene in 2007 and has become Apple’s profit engine, accounting for a whopping 60%-70% the company’s sales. Much of Apple’s ecosystem, from apps to music, stems from the device. The new phone debuts in early September and starts shipping soon after. Here’s what to expect: Continue reading “Will Apple’s Next Smartphone Be a Hit?”

Sizing Up Heating Fuel Supplies Ahead of Winter

It’s only August, but it’s not too early to check in on the supply of the heating oil, propane and natural gas that that will start warming homes and businesses in a few short months. Especially since consumers could face notably higher heating costs this coming winter than what they have paid recently.

Like every other product, the price of heating fuel is determined by supply and demand. Demand, of course, depends on the weather, and thus can swing wildly from one winter to the next. Supply, on the other hand, is easy to gauge now. Continue reading “Sizing Up Heating Fuel Supplies Ahead of Winter”

Conflict Still Unlikely in North Korea Nuclear Standoff

Don’t panic yet: The U.S. is not on the brink of war with North Korea, even after a heated exchange between the two countries that culminated with Pyongyang threatening to put Guam, a strategically important U.S. territory that hosts several American military bases, in the crosshairs.

Heated exchanges are routine in U.S.-North Korean relations. Pyongyang regularly threatens to turn Seoul, the capital of South Korea, into a “sea of fire.” This time, the stakes are higher — as are the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang — but the old rule of thumb still holds: Kim Jong-un knows that any needless military provocation could result in the destruction of his regime, which means he’s unlikely to take such a drastic step.

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Who Profits from Cord Cutting?

There’s no end in sight to paid TV customers joining the cord cutters in droves. The media business, reeling from the upheaval, is racing to adjust to this swift disruption that is rerouting billions of dollars in advertising, subscriptions and programming fees from traditional TV firms to tech giants and others.

A new set of winners is likely to emerge in the aftermath of the shake-up as incumbents try to ward off rising startups and tech behemoths. Count on even more turmoil over the next five to 10 years as new technology emerges, from virtual reality to next-generation 5G wireless, that further upends the way people consume media.

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North Korea Puts New York in Range

North Korea made another major leap forward in its nuclear program over the weekend, successfully launching a new missile that experts say puts most major U.S. cities, from Los Angeles to New York, in range.

Like most of the Hermit Kingdom’s recent breakthroughs, this one came sooner than expected. North Korea still has several additional steps to master before it officially has the ability to conduct a nuclear attack on the U.S. But American intelligence officials now think North Korea will be able to field a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as next year. Just a few months ago, the consensus estimate was somewhere between five and ten years. 

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Republican Senators Strive for Unity on Health Care Bill

After coming within one vote of total failure today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was able to rally Republicans to at least allow a floor debate over altering the Affordable Care Act. Until ailing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced late yesterday he would return to Washington sooner than expected, after being diagnosed with brain cancer, to participate in the procedural vote, it looked like the Senate would break for August recess without even considering some sort of GOP Obamacare repeal or replacement plan.

But even though the one-time Republican presidential nominee provided McConnell the much-needed momentum that for months had eluded him, it is entirely unclear whether enough support exists to get any sort of repeal bill through the Senate, let alone a comprehensive package. Continue reading “Republican Senators Strive for Unity on Health Care Bill”

Congress Rebukes White House on Russia Sanctions

Congress will send a strong message to Donald Trump Tuesday, when the House of Representatives is expected to approve a new package of Russia sanctions: Try easing penalties on Moscow, and you’ll have to answer to us. 

The bill, part of a broader deal that also includes new sanctions on Iran and North Korea, nearly came up short. After breezing through the Senate on a 98-2 vote, it encountered a swarm of opposition in the House.

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After Health Care, Congressional Republicans Pivot to Tax Reform

While Senate Republicans torpedo the GOP’s latest attempt at unraveling President Obama’s signature health care law, House Republican budget writers are trying to keep the party on track to deliver its other top agenda item: Tax reform.

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN) yesterday unveiled her first fiscal blueprint as head of the panel once led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). In addition to spelling out the party’s spending priorities, Republicans plan to use the budget resolution as a vehicle for overhauling the tax code. Senate Republicans can advance legislation on simple-majority votes — and avoid potential Democratic filibusters — only if they use the procedural workaround known as budget reconciliation. And they need an approved budget resolution before they can invoke reconciliation to pass a tax bill. Continue reading “After Health Care, Congressional Republicans Pivot to Tax Reform”