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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 390)

China Poised to Buy More From U.S., at the Expense of U.S. Allies

Westlake Legal Group 22china-trade-01-facebookJumbo China Poised to Buy More From U.S., at the Expense of U.S. Allies United States International Relations United States Economy United States Trump, Donald J Politics and Government International Trade and World Market Economic Conditions and Trends Customs (Tariff) China

DAVOS, Switzerland — When the United States and China reached a temporary truce in their costly trade war last week, many wondered how Beijing could live up to its commitment to buy $200 billion more of American-made goods over two years. Surely, critics said, China will either renege on the deal, or it will switch to buying products from American farms and factories that it is currently purchasing from other countries.

In the halls of Davos this week, where global leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum to discuss fraying international ties, two realities were becoming clear: China plans to honor the deal, and everybody except the United States may be about to lose a lot of business.

The United States and China are already gearing up for the sale of tens of billions of dollars in American-made products to Chinese buyers in the coming months, according to people familiar with the thinking of officials in both countries. If carried through, that would strengthen President Trump’s election-year claims of achieving victory in his trade war with Beijing.

The two sides are also clear on what that means for other countries. China could pull off those purchases only if it stops buying a lot of farm products and merchandise from countries in Europe, Latin America and East Asia. Many of those countries are American allies, and some are not pleased at the prospect of losing China and its giant economy as a consumer of their exports.

In public, American officials have sought to reassure allies. “It is a great fear. Many of them have expressed it to me,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a news conference in Davos on Thursday. “I think it is unfounded.”

He cited the example of China purchasing more American oil and gas, with which European suppliers do not compete.

Political shifts or economic turmoil in either country could upset plans for China to buy more American goods. Still, should China soon begin to purchase the billions of dollars of American goods at the expense of Washington’s allies, it would highlight a central irony of the trade truce.

The United States has long complained that Beijing controls the levers of Chinese trade and uses them for political advantage. State-run grain companies buy American soybeans. State-run airlines buy Boeing planes. When Beijing is displeased with Washington, it can shift those purchases elsewhere, hurting American workers. The United States has called for the Chinese government to relax its grip and allow freer, fairer trade.

Freer, fairer trade would have made last week’s deal virtually impossible, however. Chinese businesses would not and could not buy $200 billion more in American grain, energy and equipment over two years unless they were told to by Beijing. The trade pact allows Chinese buyers to go elsewhere if American goods are more costly than products from other countries, but Beijing can tell state-run companies that they have more than profitability to think about.

European and Latin American countries that won business when China cut off American purchases could lose that new business. The American businesses that lost those sales would get them back and then some.

American allies have other reasons to dislike the trade pact. The agreement locks in place 25 percent American tariffs on a wide range of high-tech, Chinese-made goods subsidized by Beijing, from electric cars to commercial aircraft to farm equipment.

That could divert Chinese exports of manufactured goods to markets in Europe and elsewhere. European countries want to make and sell their own electric cars and Airbus aircraft, instead of being flooded with Chinese alternatives at prices held artificially low through government subsidies.

The so-called Phase 1 deal is the latest sign of the Trump administration’s unilateral approach to trade and China.

Many trade experts have long urged the American government to put up a united front with European companies and others that have complained about China’s trade practices. Instead, the United States has picked trade fights with allies like Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Japan and Europe. It has rejected international agreements that could have challenged China, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord, and worked to undermine the enforcement abilities of the World Trade Organization, the global trade referee.

“In a worrying return to 19th century practices of managed trade, the ‘shopping list’ imposed by the deal could be seen as going against the rules-based international trading system,” said Joerg Wuttke, the president of the European Chamber of Commerce in China.

For now, Chinese willingness to buy American goods could cover a wide range of industries.

The published text of last week’s agreement sets clear numerical targets for large increases in American exports to China in four categories: manufactured goods, agriculture, energy and services. But officials have described an unpublished annex that specifies large increases in a long list of subcategories.

Many of the subcategories highlight products that China currently imports from Europe and East Asia, in the case of manufactured goods, or Latin America, for many agricultural goods. The trade agreement does almost nothing to change China’s rules so as to increase its total purchases of foreign goods, instead leaving it to the Chinese government to reallocate orders toward American exporters.

Over the past quarter century, China has managed its trade so that it has fairly consistently sold about $4 worth of goods to the United States for each $1 of goods that it bought. China’s trade with Europe has been more balanced, in part because Europe has often been seen as a politically safer choice in Beijing given China’s often rocky relationship with the United States.

But in the last several months, China has concluded that its huge trade imbalance with the United States has become a source of danger and instability, people familiar with the bilateral relationship said in interviews while insisting on anonymity because of political sensitivities. The imbalance has produced demands from the United States for fundamental changes in the Chinese economy, like an end to many subsidies, that are unacceptable, they said.

Beijing’s conclusion, the people said, is that the trade imbalance with the United States must be narrowed sharply this year and next. While that narrowing may hurt the interests of companies and farmers in Europe and elsewhere, those affected by it should realize that they enjoyed extra sales to China over the past two years during the trade war with the United States, they added.

Beijing has already begun ramping up its broad interagency process for managing trade to make sure that American companies receive the extra orders promised under the agreement. In speeches, Chinese officials emphasized that they want to keep commitments to buy imports, although they have publicly glossed over the extent to which the Phase 1 agreement with the United States will divert trade away from other countries.

“Openness has become a trademark of today’s China,” said Han Zheng, a vice premier and one of the seven members of China’s ruling Standing Committee of the Politburo, in a speech at Davos on Tuesday.

Despite the potential loss of business, some American allies like Japan say the greater economic certainty created by the deal is beneficial. Although Japan is likely to lose some export orders to the United States, it nonetheless welcomed the agreement, said Takeshi Niinami, a member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policy council who is also the chief executive and president of Suntory Holdings, a big beverages company.

The trade deal eases tensions between the United States and China and improves political stability and security in East Asia, Mr. Niinami said. It makes it easier for Japan, one of America’s closest allies, to invite President Xi Jinping of China for a possible visit this year, he said.

China has a strong incentive to abide by the agreement. With its economy slowing, Beijing is trying to revive consumer and investor confidence at home by emphasizing that the trade war is over.

The pact will allow the United States to scrutinize its monthly trade figures to see whether the surge in American exports to China has begun. So the Trump administration could restart the trade war with a unilateral imposition of tariffs on Chinese goods if China’s purchases falls short.

In interviews over the past month, people familiar with Chinese policymaking have made clear that Beijing officials do not want to intervene in the presidential elections in November. Indeed, their hope is that the trade deal will make China less of a political punching bag during the campaign this year.

But if the American trade deficit with China does narrow precipitously this year, Mr. Trump may well cite that as a success — particularly in Rust Belt states where trade has been a particularly potent political issue for several decades. Those regions have also tended to be crucial swing states in recent presidential elections.

Mr. Trump spoke enthusiastically about Mr. Xi in Davos on Tuesday, repeating that he was a good friend.

“He’s for China, I’m for the U.S., but other than that we love each other,” Mr. Trump said.

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They Changed the Way You Buy Your Basics

At 6:15 in the morning on March 6, 2012, Michael Dubin woke up and checked his computer. He was puzzled by what he saw — actually, by what he didn’t see. Before going to bed, he had posted a video about his start-up, a company that virtually no one had ever heard of.

But his venture’s website wasn’t working. Even though everything had been set the night before, the site had crashed. So he hopped into the shower before heading to sort things out at the cramped office he shared at a start-up incubator with other entrepreneurs who couldn’t afford to rent space themselves.

Dubin was 33 years old. He was at this point an unsuccessful — well, failed — entrepreneur. A few years earlier, after the financial markets’ meltdown, he got laid off from a digital marketing job at Time Inc.’s “Sports Illustrated Kids” and applied to Columbia, New York University, UCLA and a few other business schools to get an MBA, but he was turned down. By all of them.

Frustrated, he moved to Los Angeles, where he stayed rent-free at a cousin’s apartment while deciding what he wanted to do. After leaving Time, he did some consulting work for friends who had a holiday decorations business. Then he worked at a digital marketing firm in Los Angeles, developing and placing promotional videos online. After less than a year, he departed after a disagreement over the company’s strategy.

His family and friends wondered if he’d ever find something he was both good at and liked.

Now Dubin was working on his most ambitious idea yet. Or perhaps quixotic would be a better word to describe it. His start-up was named Dollar Shave Club. It would take on Gillette by selling blades — purchased from a South Korean supplier at just half the price of Gillette’s. He had already spent more than a year’s time on it, but the business had gotten off to a slow start.

What happened the morning of March 6 would change that, thanks to his start-up’s one-minute, thirty-three-second video. The good news was that the video was going viral, and a whole lot of people had been watching it. The bad news was that so many people were trying to watch it that the computer server was crashing at times, or sluggish when it worked.

The tech company managing the Dollar Shave Club website had put an expert to work trying to fix the problem. Then a second. Then a third, with little success. At 10:30 that morning, it sent an unnerving email to Dubin: “We have been working for three hours already to keep it working stable.”

Dubin was in a panic. After all his false starts, this was his chance.

What he didn’t know at the time, what no one knew, was that the humorous video would humble one of the most dominant consumer companies in the annals of American business. Painstakingly written and rewritten over months, and then shot in a single day at a cost of just $4,500, it became an instant classic thanks to a now famous punch line: “Are the blades any good? No,” he says with a deadpan delivery, pausing briefly before adding: “Our blades are [expletive] great!”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_167603412_3c1f9abd-28c4-4207-878c-2d58cba7f6fc-articleLarge They Changed the Way You Buy Your Basics Warby Parker Start-ups Harry's Dollar Shave Club

Michael Dubin in an ad for Dollar Shave Club.Credit…Dollar Shave Club

Against all odds, Dollar Shave Club would go on to succeed wildly, with annual sales approaching $200 million when it was acquired by Unilever for $1 billion in 2016.

Dubin helped usher in a business model for 21st century entrepreneurs to take on previously unassailable consumer brands: Technology had the potential to change the world of physical goods and the way brands are created. He recognized that technology and globalization were leveling the playing field. You didn’t need to start with a big advertising budget to get the attention of consumers. You didn’t need a manufacturing plant. You didn’t need to spend millions of dollars on research and development. You didn’t need a retailer to carry your product.

By targeting a corporate giant’s weakness — high prices or inconvenience or a stodgy image — a clever start-up with the right strategy, the right message and the right product value could create a new national brand virtually overnight. All this was happening at a time that more consumers in their twenties and thirties were up for grabs. They lived digital lives, so were accustomed to — happy to! — buy things online.

Not long ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that a start-up company could take significant sales from Gillette, the giant global corporation that had long controlled 70 percent of the country’s sales of razors.

Astonishingly, Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s, a rival launched a year later, have done just that. By 2018, the two start-ups together had grabbed nearly 14 percent of U.S. razor blade sales.

The direct-to-consumer brand revolution is one of the most dominant forces in the retailing business today. It began with a handful of start-ups, then grew to dozens, then hundreds — from mattresses (Casper) to bras (ThirdLove) to electric toothbrushes (Quip) to vitamins (Ritual) to tampons (Lola) to luggage (Away) to sneakers (Allbirds) to makeup (Glossier) to hair color (eSalon) to pet food (Farmer’s Dog) — and even thousands, counting the brands filling the endless digital aisles and shelves of Amazon Marketplace.

Between 2013 and 2017, some $17 billion in sales shifted from big consumer brands to small brands — and that was before many of the latest start-ups began getting traction. This trend is likely to strengthen in the coming years, thanks in large part to the continued growth of sales on Amazon. In 2018, small and medium-size companies sold $160 billion in goods on Amazon, up from just $100 million in 1999, a 1,600-fold increase. While some of those companies are reselling products made by others, many of them, including Amazon itself, are creating their own new brands.

Entrepreneur Jeffrey Raider has observed the brand revolution from a front-row seat. He started not one, but two, direct-to-consumer unicorns before he reached his mid-30s. He co-founded Harry’s in 2013 and sold it to Edgewell for $1.37 billion six years later. Earlier, he had co-founded Warby Parker, which is worth $1.75 billion.

Harry’s and Warby Parker, along with Dollar Shave Club and many of the other new successful direct-to-consumer brands, share a strategy: Each saw an opening to challenge entrenched market leaders with quality products at a much lower price. In Raider’s view, however, what catapulted each to become a billion-dollar brand is an obsession with connecting with the customer. Everyone who joins the staff of Harry’s, no matter what the job, has to spend a day working in the call center as part of the customer experience team. Raider and his co-founder, Andy Katz-Mayfield, themselves spend several hours each month listening to customers’ complaints or suggestions. Among these was an odd inquiry that they heard from about 100 customers in Harry’s first year.

“People were calling us all the time, saying, ‘Hey, can I get one of those little plastic covers that go over the blade?’” Raider recalled. “And we’re like, why?” From the start, Harry’s had included a blade cover — a small, rigid plastic piece that snaps snugly over the razor cartridge — when it shipped a customer’s first order, to protect the blade from getting dull. Many people threw the cover out or lost it, only to decide later that it might have been nice to use while traveling, not just to shield the blade but also to protect their fingers from getting nicked when they reached into their toiletry kit. “Since I travel a lot, and the razor goes into my travel kit, I would like to get another. I don’t need another handle/blade set. Is the blade guard alone available?” one customer wrote in an email.

So, in 2015, Harry’s began selling a replacement Travel Blade Cover for $1. It may seem insignificant, and indeed it brings in only a tiny amount of revenue, but Raider points to it as something that signals to customers that Harry’s cares about what they have to say. And that helps to build loyalty that will last for a long time, which is one of the things that makes for a successful and enduring brand.

Yet Raider understands that the proliferation of start-up brands has fragmented the consumer product business, and that could make it harder than ever to create mass brands in the mold of Serta or Victoria’s Secret or Gillette.

In the old world, once a popular mass-market brand was established, it could count on a long reign. In the new world, this is no longer true. Brand loyalty is declining as never before. One report on the 100 top consumer product brands found that 90 percent had lost market share in recent years.

The decline in brand loyalty, of course, has helped power the rise of the new direct-to-consumer brands

This development hasn’t gone unnoticed by Neil Blumenthal, another founder of Warby Parker. “It’s never been cheaper to start a business, although I think it’s never been harder to scale a business,” he says. Warby Parker is the most prominent new eyewear brand, but its market share is still less than 5 percent. And in the years since it sold its first pair of eyeglasses, in 2010, other start-ups have launched well over a dozen new online eyeglass brands.

Many of the newcomers are copycats with essentially the same business model as Warby Parker, but others are niche players, such as Lensabl, which will make prescription lenses for your frames so you don’t have to buy new ones — “Our Lenses, Your Specs” — or Pixel, which sells eyeglasses with a pigment in the lenses, so they filter out “blue light” from computer screens, which can cause eye strain; or Topology, which makes frames custom-fitted to your face using an iPhone’s 3-D scan technology.

How many of these start-ups will succeed? To some, the constant influx of new entrants offering eyeglasses and other products underscores that the direct-to-consumer frenzy has elements of a bubble — much like the dot-com boom of the 1990s, with venture capital firms financing rival brands that are chasing the same customers. But while not all will survive, it’s possible that many will.

The good news for brands, new and old, is that the market for consumer products isn’t just tens of billions or even hundreds of billions of dollars a year, but several trillion dollars a year in the United States alone. That leaves plenty of room for start-ups, with the most successful ones joining the billion dollar brand club. After all, they could be a $1 razor blade and a one-minute, thirty-three-second video away from making it happen.

This was adapted from “Billion Dollar Brand Club: How Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, and Other Disruptors Are Remaking What We Buy,” which will be published on January 28 by Henry Holt and Company.

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California driver in Mercedes-Benz leads police on chase, dies after 100 mph, 330-foot jump over river

A California driver fleeing from police died after launching his Mercedes-Benz sedan over the San Joaquin River at nearly 100 miles per hour, according to multiple reports.

The car traveled roughly 330 feet across the river, stunning local police. As the silver Mercedes descended, it reportedly took the tops off trees, before crashing and rolling into an upright position.

“In my 20 years, I’ve never seen a vehicle travel close to that distance,” California Highway Patrol (CHP) spokesman Mike Salas told Fresno’s KFSN-TV. He added that it traveled “approximately 337 feet.”

SMALL PLANE CRASH IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA AIRFIELD KILLS 4, OFFICIALS SAY

David Callahan, 58, was killed on impact, the outlet said. He was the only person in the vehicle.

Before the fatal crash, Callahan was reportedly being pursued by Fresno police around 8:30 a.m., failing to pull over after they noticed his swerving car — which almost struck a patrol car, the outlet said. CHP said an incident at his home may have prompted his agitated mental state.

“They were able to find that some issues were going on at the house that may have contributed to him leaving erratically from his residence,” Salas told the station.

Last July, Fresno police were called to his family’s residence after Callahan’s wife said he was using drugs and pushed her, according to the outlet.

FAMILY OF KRISTIN SMART, WHO VANISHED 23 YEARS AGO, TOLD BY EX-FBI AGENT TO BE PREPARED FOR NEWS

Westlake Legal Group california-mercedes California driver in Mercedes-Benz leads police on chase, dies after 100 mph, 330-foot jump over river fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime fox-news/auto fox news fnc/us fnc David Aaro article a05c15fa-b3e3-5e3d-bb92-29cc4ec9274b

First-responders were called out to the river at the intersection near Dickenson and Herndon (Google Maps)

A witness near the incident said Callahan made a U-turn before sending his vehicle airborne.

“Like at a hundred miles per hour, he cleared the whole d— river,” Bryan Zollars told Fresno’s KSEE-TV.

Friends of the victim told KFSN they were “confused as to why he did what he did,” adding that Callahan was a generous person.

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“What may have been going through his mind to drive this fast?” CHP Officer Matt Zulim asked, according to the outlet. “And to do what he did in his car today. … He jumped the San Joaquin River. It’s an absolute tragedy. You never want to see someone die — especially in this fashion.”

An investigation by the CHP is ongoing

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-4eb69353be634e9cae2f263d325da56a California driver in Mercedes-Benz leads police on chase, dies after 100 mph, 330-foot jump over river fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime fox-news/auto fox news fnc/us fnc David Aaro article a05c15fa-b3e3-5e3d-bb92-29cc4ec9274b   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-4eb69353be634e9cae2f263d325da56a California driver in Mercedes-Benz leads police on chase, dies after 100 mph, 330-foot jump over river fox-news/us/us-regions/west/california fox-news/us/crime fox-news/auto fox news fnc/us fnc David Aaro article a05c15fa-b3e3-5e3d-bb92-29cc4ec9274b

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Tanker Plane Fighting Australia’s Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Westlake Legal Group rts2xu0s-4b53a4623273df1b8b8bda3915b4133342369086-s1100-c15 Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

An air tanker operated by Canada-based Coulson Aviation drops fire retardant on the Morton Fire burning in bushland close to homes at Penrose, south of Sydney, Australia, earlier this month. Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters hide caption

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Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters

Westlake Legal Group  Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

An air tanker operated by Canada-based Coulson Aviation drops fire retardant on the Morton Fire burning in bushland close to homes at Penrose, south of Sydney, Australia, earlier this month.

Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters

Three firefighters helping fight Australia’s bushfires were killed Thursday when the C-130 tanker aircraft they were operating crashed south of the capital, Canberra.

“Tragically, there appears to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area,” Shane Fitzsimmons, the Rural Fire Services Commissioner for New South Wales state, said at a news conference.

He said the tanker “impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground.”

“There is no indication at this stage of what’s caused the accident,” he added.

Fitzsimmons said all three aboard the airplane were U.S. residents, but he declined to name them pending notification of the families.

The crash, which occurred near Cooma, northeast of the Snowy Mountains, comes as Australia continues fighting massive bushfires fueled by record-setting temperatures. A fire southeast of Canberra, one of several firefighters are battling, has engulfed nearly 1,000 square miles and is considered out of control.

Westlake Legal Group ap_20023207620981-4105c4819d2d9097addfa7dfeb292dfc990305e4-s1100-c15 Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Flames from the Morton Fire consume a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Noah Berger/AP hide caption

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Noah Berger/AP

Westlake Legal Group  Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Flames from the Morton Fire consume a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday.

Noah Berger/AP

“The fire season is still far from over and today we’ve seen, again, tragic consequences, where three people have lost their lives,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Our thoughts and prayers and heartfelt condolences go to their families,” she said.

Berejiklian said more than 1,700 volunteers were in the field helping fight the fires.

“We can’t thank enough people who continue, notwithstanding those conditions, to put their lives at risk,” she said.

The C-130 Hercules, a converted military transport, was operated by Canadian-based Coulson Aviation. The aircraft was on a firebombing mission.

“It’s just a ball of flames…over,” a nearby plane reportedly radioed flight control after witnessing the crash.

Coulson, which temporarily suspended its tanker flights as a mark of respect and to re-assess safety precautions, said it would send a team to the crash site to assist in the emergency operations.

“The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were three fatalities,” the company said in a brief statement emailed to Reuters.

Since September, 32 people have been killed as a result of the bushfires, including more than a dozen firefighters.

The bushfires, which have scorched an area larger than the state of Pennsylvania, have also killed an estimated 1 billion animals and destroyed 2,500 homes.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, Day 2: Schiff warns of Russian attack, the need to protect 2020 election

Good morning and welcome to Fox News First. Here’s what you need to know as you start your day …

Schiff warns of Russian attack on US mainland, the need to protect 2020 election in Day 2 of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial
The Russians could attack the U.S. and removing President Trump from office is necessary to preserve the integrity of the 2020 election. Those were the claims Wednesday from Democrat Adam Schiff on Wednesday during Day 2 of Trump’s Senate impeachment trial.

The lengthy arguments from Schiff and other House Democrats broke little new ground, if any. Trump’s lawyers sat by, waiting their turn, as the president blasted the proceedings from afar, jokingly threatening to face off with the Democrats by coming to “sit right in the front row and stare at their corrupt faces.”

The challenge before the House impeachment managers was clear. Democrats were given 24 hours over three days to prosecute the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress against Trump. They must try win over not just fidgety senators sitting silently in the chamber but also an American public that’s deeply divided over the president and his impeachment in an election year.

Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, sought to keep the stakes high in his arguments. He suggested at one point that military aid to Ukraine was essential so the U.S. would not have to fight Russians at home.

“As one witness put it during our impeachment inquiry, the United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there, and we don’t have to fight Russia here,” Schiff said, drawing rebukes from commentators across the political spectrum.

Schiff attracted the most criticism, however, for later arguing that Trump must be removed from office by the Senate — rather than by voters in the 2020 election — saying it was impossible to be sure the 2020 election won’t be compromised. Click here for more on our top story

Other developments in Trump’s Senate impeachment trial:
– Biden says he won’t be part of witness deal some Democrats reportedly eyeing
– Got milk: GOP pols drink dairy on Senate floor, following strict impeachment rules
– Trump posts record-breaking number of tweets in one day

Westlake Legal Group c259916e-AP20023176892859 Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Day 2: Schiff warns of Russian attack, the need to protect 2020 election fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 6f6fec61-563b-5f20-a46e-2ad198cdcc7f

Firefighters battle the Morton Fire as it consumes a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. (AP Photo (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

3 Americans battling Australian wildfires killed in C-130 crash 
Three American firefighters died in a water tanker plane crash Thursday while battling wildfires in Australia, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed.

Rural Fire Service officials said they had located the plane, a C-130 Hercules, that crashed in the snowy Monaro region of New South Wales state. Coulson Aviation in the U.S. state of Oregon said in a statement that one of its C-130 Lockheed large air tankers was lost after it left Richmond in New South Wales with retardant for a firebombing mission. It said the accident was “extensive” but provided few other details.

The victims were not immediately identified. Click here for more

Westlake Legal Group SchoolChoice012320 Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Day 2: Schiff warns of Russian attack, the need to protect 2020 election fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 6f6fec61-563b-5f20-a46e-2ad198cdcc7f

Kendra Espinoza of Kalispell, Montana, center, stands with her daughters Naomi and Sarah outside the U.S. Supreme Court, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)

Supreme Court justices spar over major school-choice case
The Supreme Court appeared closely split during oral arguments Wednesday in a case with potentially major implications for the school choice movement, as the justices — including Chief Justice John Roberts, who presided over President Trump’s impeachment trial the previous night until 2 a.m. — sparred with the lawyers and each other.

The case, Montana Department of Revenue v. Espinoza, centers around a tax-credit scholarship program passed in May 2015 that gave Montanans up to a $150 credit for donating to private scholarship organizations, helping students pay for their choice of private schools. The state’s revenue department made a rule banning those tax-credit scholarships from going to religious schools before the state’s Supreme Court later struck down the entire law. Click here for more. 
 
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#TheFlashback: CLICK HERE to find out what happened on “This Day in History.”
 
SOME PARTING WORDS

Sean Hannity slams lead House impeachment manager Adam Schiff’s arguments at President Trump’s Senate trial, saying the California congressman “looked like a lunatic.”

Not signed up yet for Fox News First? Click here to find out what you’re missing.
 
Fox News First is compiled by Fox News’ Bryan Robinson. Thank you for making us your first choice in the morning! Enjoy your day! We’ll see you in your inbox first thing Friday morning.

Westlake Legal Group Schiff012320 Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Day 2: Schiff warns of Russian attack, the need to protect 2020 election fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 6f6fec61-563b-5f20-a46e-2ad198cdcc7f   Westlake Legal Group Schiff012320 Trump's Senate impeachment trial, Day 2: Schiff warns of Russian attack, the need to protect 2020 election fox-news/columns/fox-news-first fox news fnc/us fnc article 6f6fec61-563b-5f20-a46e-2ad198cdcc7f

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This Day in History: Jan. 23

On this day, Jan. 23 …

1962: Jackie Robinson is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. 

Also on this day:

  • 1368: China’s Ming dynasty, which would last nearly three centuries, begins as Zhu Yuanzhang is formally proclaimed emperor following the collapse of the Yuan dynasty.
  • 1789: Georgetown University is established in present-day Washington, D.C.
  • 1845: Congress decides all national elections would be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
  • 1932: New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
  • 1933: The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the so-called “Lame Duck Amendment,” is ratified as Missouri approves it.
  • 1950: The Israeli Knesset approves a resolution affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • 1962: Tony Bennett records “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in New York for Columbia Records.
  • 1964: The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, eliminating the poll tax in federal elections, is ratified as South Dakota becomes the 38th state to endorse it.
  • 1968: North Korea seizes the U.S. Navy intelligence ship USS Pueblo, commanded by Lloyd “Pete” Bucher, charging its crew with being on a spying mission; one sailor is killed and 82 are taken prisoner. (Cmdr. Bucher and his crew would be released the following December after 11 months of captivity.)
  • 1978: Rock musician Terry Kath, a key member of the group Chicago, accidentally shoots himself to death following a party in Woodland Hills, Calif.
  • 1989: Surrealist artist Salvador Dali dies in his native Figueres, Spain, at age 84.
  • 2005: Legendary “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson dies in Los Angeles at age 79.
  • 2009: President Barack Obama quietly ends the Bush administration’s ban on giving federal money to international groups that performed abortions or provided information on the option.
  • 2009: New York Gov. David Paterson chooses Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, after Clinton is appointed U.S. Secretary of State by President Obama.
  • 2018: LeBron James, at 33, becomes the youngest player in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points, during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 114-102 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.  
Westlake Legal Group JackieRobinson012320 This Day in History: Jan. 23 fox-news/us/this-day-in-history fox news fnc/us fnc article 48b0fd72-831d-5226-bcc7-00e40f43fcf2   Westlake Legal Group JackieRobinson012320 This Day in History: Jan. 23 fox-news/us/this-day-in-history fox news fnc/us fnc article 48b0fd72-831d-5226-bcc7-00e40f43fcf2

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Wuhan Beyond the Coronavirus: Steel, Cars and Spicy Noodles

Westlake Legal Group 23wuhan-explainer-1-facebookJumbo Wuhan Beyond the Coronavirus: Steel, Cars and Spicy Noodles Wuhan (China) Economic Conditions and Trends Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) China Automobiles

If Wuhan could be compared to an American city, it might be Pittsburgh — a much bigger, much hotter Pittsburgh.

Wuhan, an industrial city in central China, straddles a river, the Yangtze. It is home to a troubled and declining steel industry. It is a university town filled with college students.

The comparisons don’t go much further. Wuhan has a population of more than 11 million people, the equivalent of 36 Pittsburghs. In terms of college students alone, roughly one million are enrolled there, according to government figures. Summer temperatures can approach 100 degrees, with heavy humidity. Its traditional dish, and one of China’s favorite noshes, is a pungent pasta concoction called reganmian, or “hot dry noodles.”

Wuhan is also the epicenter of a viral outbreak that is worrying the world. On Thursday, Chinese officials sharply limited travel to and from the city in an effort to contain a coronavirus that so far has killed 17 people and infected hundreds more. The restrictions hit the city at the peak of the travel period for the Lunar New Year holiday, meaning many residents may miss their families and loved ones this week.

Wuhan embodies China’s rise as a global economic power, in all its complexities. Disposable income per person soared more than sixfold between 2002 and 2018, according to government figures compiled by CEIC Data, an information provider. The area is home to vast automotive factories making cars for General Motors, Nissan, Honda and other global and local brands. The city has become a popular destination for foreign investment.

The Chinese government thinks so highly of the city’s image that Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, met Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India there two years ago. The two walked along the city’s East Lake, building what Chinese state-run media came to call the Wuhan spirit between the two regional rivals.

The boom has come with problems. Heavy pollution has provoked protests. Its streets are often clogged with traffic. Its steel factories, long a backbone of the local economy, have struggled along with the rest of the inefficient industry in China with overcapacity and pollution problems, leading Beijing to combine the state-owned local giant, Wuhan Steel, with another company.

Wuhan has long been a center of commerce in China thanks to its position along the Yangtze River, a major trade route, and it remains a key transportation hub, leading some in China to compare it to Chicago. It was also the site of one formative event in Chinese history: a military mutiny in 1911 that led to the collapse of the Qing dynasty and ushered in the Republic of China.

Wuhan held a special place in the heart of Mao Zedong, who famously took a swim in the Yangtze there in 1966 to show his vitality. This was at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, which tore Wuhan apart as it did other cities.

As China took off in the modern era, local leaders tried to burnish its image and show Wuhan taking part in the country’s rise. They explored adopting a slogan and considered “Great River, Great Lake, Great Wuhan” and “River Capital of the East, Livable Wuhan,” among others.

They settled on “Wuhan, Different Everyday!”

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Tanker Plane Fighting Australia’s Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Westlake Legal Group rts2xu0s-4b53a4623273df1b8b8bda3915b4133342369086-s1100-c15 Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

An air tanker operated by Canada-based Coulson Aviation drops fire retardant on the Morton Fire burning in bushland close to homes at Penrose, south of Sydney, Australia, earlier this month. Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters hide caption

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Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters

Westlake Legal Group  Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

An air tanker operated by Canada-based Coulson Aviation drops fire retardant on the Morton Fire burning in bushland close to homes at Penrose, south of Sydney, Australia, earlier this month.

Dan Himbrechts/Dan Himbrechts/AAP Image via Reuters

Three firefighters helping fight Australia’s bushfires were killed Thursday when the C-130 tanker aircraft they were operating crashed south of the capital, Canberra.

“Tragically, there appears to be no survivors as a result of the crash down in the Snowy Monaro area,” Shane Fitzsimmons, the Rural Fire Services Commissioner for New South Wales state, said at a news conference.

He said the tanker “impacted heavily with the ground and initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground.”

“There is no indication at this stage of what’s caused the accident,” he added.

Fitzsimmons said all three aboard the airplane were U.S. residents, but he declined to name them pending notification of the families.

The crash, which occurred near Cooma, northeast of the Snowy Mountains, comes as Australia continues fighting massive bushfires fueled by record-setting temperatures. A fire southeast of Canberra, one of several firefighters are battling, has engulfed nearly 1,000 square miles and is considered out of control.

Westlake Legal Group ap_20023207620981-4105c4819d2d9097addfa7dfeb292dfc990305e4-s1100-c15 Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Flames from the Morton Fire consume a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday. Noah Berger/AP hide caption

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Noah Berger/AP

Westlake Legal Group  Tanker Plane Fighting Australia's Bushfires Crashes, Killing Crew Of 3

Flames from the Morton Fire consume a home near Bundanoon, New South Wales, Australia, on Thursday.

Noah Berger/AP

“The fire season is still far from over and today we’ve seen, again, tragic consequences, where three people have lost their lives,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.

“Our thoughts and prayers and heartfelt condolences go to their families,” she said.

Berejiklian said more than 1,700 volunteers were in the field helping fight the fires.

“We can’t thank enough people who continue, notwithstanding those conditions, to put their lives at risk,” she said.

The C-130 Hercules, a converted military transport, was operated by Canadian-based Coulson Aviation. The aircraft was on a firebombing mission.

“It’s just a ball of flames…over,” a nearby plane reportedly radioed flight control after witnessing the crash.

Coulson, which temporarily suspended its tanker flights as a mark of respect and to re-assess safety precautions, said it would send a team to the crash site to assist in the emergency operations.

“The accident is reported to be extensive and we are deeply saddened to confirm there were three fatalities,” the company said in a brief statement emailed to Reuters.

Since September, 32 people have been killed as a result of the bushfires, including more than a dozen firefighters.

The bushfires, which have scorched an area larger than the state of Pennsylvania, have also killed an estimated 1 billion animals and destroyed 2,500 homes.

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With talk of ‘sleazebags,’ impeachment debate outside Senate turns rough

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6125501109001_6125504797001-vs With talk of ‘sleazebags,’ impeachment debate outside Senate turns rough Howard Kurtz fox-news/columns/media-buzz fox news fnc/media fnc e2e1a7c1-afef-5ce9-8aeb-87afae348ec7 article

It was 1 in the morning, long after most of the country had gone to sleep, that the chief justice of the United States scolded both sides in the impeachment trial.

It was time to return to “civil discourse,” John Roberts said, because “they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

Good luck with that.

OUTRAGED SPEECHES MARK IMPEACHMENT TRIAL’S DEBUT AS MCCONNELL PARTIALLY RETREATS

The raw acrimony of the first day’s marathon hearing faded somewhat Wednesday as Adam Schiff and the Democrats made their lengthy opening statements in the Senate. But outside the chamber, plenty of people weren’t playing by Marquis of Queensbury rules.

Trump used his signature street talk when asked about impeachment during interviews and pressers at the gilded retreat in Davos.

“First of all, Jerrold Nadler,” he said, the congressman whose Judiciary committee brought the articles of impeachment. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s a sleazebag.”

Not the worst insult ever uttered in New York, where the two clashed for years over Trump’s building projects, but not the usual presidential rhetoric.

The president also went off on one of his favorite targets — the media — when asked about the trial.

“The press is so dishonest, so corrupt. I read it all the time. Stories, I don’t mind bad stories. I deserve a bad story sometimes, but when I do something great or good, let it be written about good…

“And hopefully everybody is going to sort of learn a lesson. People got Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of me and it turned out they were totally wrong. Other people, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, a lot of great people, a lot of great writers. They got it right. They didn’t get Pulitzer Prizes, but they got it right.”

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A couple of clarifying points: Broadcasters like Hannity and Rush aren’t eligible for Pulitzers, which are awarded for print and online work. And yes, the New York Times and Washington Post were awarded such prizes for their reporting on the Russia investigation, which may have been flawed but was not fake just because the probe led to no charges against Trump and his inner circle.

But Republicans have no monopoly on trash talk.

Hillary Clinton is getting a whole lot of attention for dissing her 2016 rival, Bernie Sanders, in a forthcoming Hulu documentary. “Nobody likes him,” she said. “Nobody wants to work with him.”

The former secretary of state got some flak from her own side for such undiplomatic comments that threatens to reignite the feud between their respective followers. She had to walk back her deflection of a question on whether she’d endorse Bernie by saying of course she’ll back the eventual nominee.

Sanders, for his part, made a joke about his wife usually liking him and asking his staff to show restraint rather than getting into a likability spitting match with his former foe.

But the other man who ran against her couldn’t resist. “When Hillary says nobody likes him, nobody likes her. That’s why she lost, nobody liked her,” Trump told Maria Bartiromo.

Such is the level of 2020 campaign discourse these days.

Meanwhile, the president said he’d like John Bolton to testify at the trial — though a Washington Post piece about a Bolton-for-Hunter Biden witness trade seems to be going nowhere — before quickly walking it back.

“The problem with John is that it’s a national security problem,” Trump said. As national security adviser, he was privy to Trump’s private views of world leaders, and the president implied such testimony would breach executive privilege.

“And I don’t know if we left on the best of terms. I would say probably not, you know?” That was pretty candid; Trump is concerned that Bolton’s ouster could lead him to damaging testimony on Ukraine.

There is the impeachment debate inside the Capitol and the debate echoing through the media, and they are operating by very different rules.

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6125501109001_6125504797001-vs With talk of ‘sleazebags,’ impeachment debate outside Senate turns rough Howard Kurtz fox-news/columns/media-buzz fox news fnc/media fnc e2e1a7c1-afef-5ce9-8aeb-87afae348ec7 article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6125501109001_6125504797001-vs With talk of ‘sleazebags,’ impeachment debate outside Senate turns rough Howard Kurtz fox-news/columns/media-buzz fox news fnc/media fnc e2e1a7c1-afef-5ce9-8aeb-87afae348ec7 article

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When the Tech Backlash Turns Dangerous: Fake Calls for a SWAT Team

Westlake Legal Group 01swatting-facebookJumbo When the Tech Backlash Turns Dangerous: Fake Calls for a SWAT Team Social Media police Mosseri, Adam Krebs on Security Hoaxes and Pranks Facebook Inc Cyberharassment Computers and the Internet

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the first week of November, the police in San Francisco and New York responded to a series of telephone calls claiming that hostages were being held in the homes of Adam Mosseri, a senior Facebook executive.

The calls appeared to be coming from inside the homes. Officers arrived in force and barricaded the streets outside. Twice. But after tense, hourslong standoffs, they realized the calls were hoaxes. There were no hostages, and no one in the homes had called the police.

Mr. Mosseri was one of a number of tech executives who have been targeted recently in so-called swatting incidents. Swatting is online lingo used to describe when people call the police with false reports of a violent crime of some sort inside a home, hoping to persuade them to send a well-armed SWAT team.

These incidents have become more common in communities rich with tech companies and their billionaire executives, like the Bay Area and Seattle, according to six police departments contacted by The New York Times.

Exact numbers are unclear, the police say, because there is no central repository of information for these sorts of attacks. But as online discourse has become more combative and more personal, some in the industry aren’t surprised that tech executives — the people who decide what is posted on and who is barred from social media — have become regular targets.

Swattings have spiked at Facebook in particular, according to local police departments and security officials at the company, which in recent years has cracked down on false accounts, threatening language and other types of content that violates its rules. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding the attacks.

Mr. Mosseri declined to comment, and a Facebook spokesman, Anthony Harrison, said in a statement that “because these things deal with security matters and our employees, we are unable to comment.”

“Like any other type of crime, when the cost is zero and the deterrent is very low, you’ve created a perfect opportunity for people to pour time and resources into that crime,” said Brian Krebs, a swatting victim who writes a widely read blog, Krebs on Security.

The attacks have been aided by forums that have sprung up both on the public internet and on the camouflaged sites of the so-called dark web. These forums name thousands of people, from high-ranking executives to their extended families, who could be targets, providing cellphone numbers, home addresses and other information. Some even discuss techniques that can be used — like cheap, online technology that can spoof a phone number and make the police believe a 911 call is coming from a target’s home.

In the eight months since one online forum was started, nearly 3,000 people have joined.

“Who should we do next?” read one message on the forum last month. The responses included gun emojis — the symbol, in swatting forums, for an attack in which the police were successfully called to the target’s home. Many of the responses were laced with profanity, as well as suggestions for ex-girlfriends who should be swatted.

One forum names at least two dozen Facebook employees as potential targets. They range from executives to product engineers. Some forum participants said that they had been barred from Facebook or Instagram, and that Facebook employees were fair game because they “think they are god.”

On another forum, new names of potential swatting victims are added daily. With each new entry, there is — at a minimum — a home address. Some entries contain more details, including the best time of day to catch the person at home or information about the children’s school.

“Lol, sick,” read many of the replies.

Swatting started in the combative world of online gaming. It was a way to terrorize someone more famous, get even with a rival or retaliate against someone with different political views.

Provoking a heavily armed police response presents obvious risks. Last year, a 26-year-old California man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for calling in dozens of fake emergency calls, including one that led to the fatal police shooting of a Kansas resident, Andrew Finch.

Because few people carrying out swattings are ever caught, the police and tech companies can only guess at their motivations. They have seen, however, a correlation between removals of large numbers of accounts for threatening behavior or hate speech and what they believe to be retaliatory attacks against the executives responsible.

While more police departments are recognizing the threat, some have already found practical solutions. In Seattle, people who believe they are at risk of being swatted can include their information and that of their families on a police registry. When an emergency call about a potential threat comes in, the police check to make sure the home isn’t in the registry. If it is, they call the home first to see if they can reach someone inside, and check with neighbors to see if there are any corroborating reports of shots fired or other disturbances.

“The registry is a voluntary thing we created, and it is a small but effective step for people who know they are at risk of being targeted,” said Carmen Best, the police chief of Seattle. “Swatting is not a new thing. It’s been around for a long time, and it weaponizes our 911 system. It’s a lot more than a hoax or a prank.”

In addition to the registry, the Police Department has trained 911 operators to pick up cues to potential swatting in calls, Chief Best said. It has also begun educating officers on the importance of responding to questionable calls with a limited amount of force.

Seattle’s approach is unusual. None of the other police departments contacted by The Times had a similar registry, or had even heard of the idea, despite the recent swattings against tech executives in their jurisdictions.

Because swattings are largely organized online, the people behind them can live anywhere in the world. And despite numerous attempts to create federal legislation banning the practice, there is no specific statute that allows swatting to be investigated and prosecuted as a federal crime.

Facebook, Google and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on measures they have taken to protect their employees from swatting. In recent months, all three companies have held discussions with employees who they believe are at risk.

They have asked those employees to take added precautions, such as not publicly giving their whereabouts or listing information about their family. The tech companies have also privately let the local police know when certain high-profile executives are at risk, according to police departments in the Silicon Valley area.

The home of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was permanently flagged as high risk, said one Facebook security expert, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Facebook, Google and Twitter informally share information about potential swattings, giving warnings to one another if they spot a threat on their platforms, the expert said.

In an attack on another Facebook executive last year, police officers encircled the man’s home in Palo Alto, Calif., after being told that he was at risk of harming himself and his family. The incident was resolved without anyone getting hurt.

Facebook had flagged the executive as a likely target for swatting, and had taken precautions to protect him and his family. The police still sent a SWAT team.

“Anyone can be at risk of being swatted, but people who work in tech are at a particular risk,” Chief Best said. “We have to get a foothold on this, before more people get hurt.”

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