Angelo Young

Is It Time to Break up Amazon?

Let’s get this over with first: It’s an understatement to say consumers love shopping on

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Trump’s Bellicose Trade Rhetoric May Nix the Benefits of His Corporate Tax Cut and End the Second-Longest Expansion

Janet Yellen, the former head of the Federal Reserve who stepped down earlier this year, once declared that economic expansions don’t die of old age. Her remark has become a popular slogan among economists when they’re asked whether the U.S. is long overdue for a recession.

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America's Cities Are Screwed

From a bird’s-eye view, the U.S. economy is looking very expansionary. The jobless rate is at near record lows while gross domestic product is rising. Retail sales are up while a measure of confidence among small business owners just hit a 34-year high.

But as the adage goes, all economics is local. One part of the country can enjoy the fruits of national economic growth, while another languishes in opioid addiction, poverty and falling wages.

When it comes to municipal finances, the same rules apply. With 16 states and thousands of local public entities fiscally worse off than they were just before the Great Recession, the march toward higher interest rates and the threat of global trade wars with U.S. neighbors and allies could make things worse for struggling state and local governments.

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Will Medicare Be Dead in 8 Years?

If you want to know something that annoys the hell out of young working-age Americans, just look online at how much the media devotes to blaming them for their financial stresses.

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Why an AT&T Antitrust Victory Could Spark a Battle for Most of Rupert Murdoch’s Empire

Like the nemeses from a fantasy drama, a game of thrones is playing out in the world of digital media, and by summer we could witness an epic battle erupting between titans vying for control of a media kingdom currently ruled by Rupert Murdoch.

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The Trump Administration Is Making the Puerto Rico Tragedy Exponentially Worse

Seven days. That’s how long it’s been since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, yet many communities are still stranded and waiting to receive any aid from the outside world.

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Even a Fox News Host Is Getting Death Threats After Criticizing Donald Trump

You know President Donald Trump has gone too far when even hosts at his favorite news channel think he’s gone too far. And the hosts themselves are learning quickly what it’s like to be on the receiving end of threats from hardcore members of Trump’s base.

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Donald Trump Is Afraid of Steve Bannon, and That's Why He Won't Fire Him: Report

Steve Bannon has built a lucrative career as an outspoken advocate and defender of white male privilege, but his strategy of pandering to the nation’s inner nationalist-racist demon that helped Donald Trump win the presidency is increasingly becoming a problem for the administration.

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Why Is Donald Trump Jr. Receiving National Security Documents?

Technically speaking, Donald Trump Jr. has no official government role, yet he apparently still receives sensitive White House documents — sometimes even before his father does.

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President Trump Is Now Trying to Suck up to Robert Mueller

In a sudden about-face, Trump has sent a warm message of “appreciation” to FBI special counsel Robert Mueller, who stepped down from his lucrative position at a Boston-based law firm to take on the role of investigating whether Russians colluded with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential race.

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Google Employee's Viral Anti-Diversity Manifesto Confirms Your Worst Fears About Tech-Bro Culture

The recent leak of an “anti-diversity” manifesto penned by an unidentified Google software engineer has reignited the furor over the U.S. tech industry’s diversity problem.

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How Social Media Is Dumbing Down Our Society

In our digital era of smartphones and social media, it seems nearly everyone suffers from communication overload. Less than 15 years ago, most netizens had just one or two email accounts, texting was tedious and costly, and mobile phones were primarily used to make, well, phone calls.

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Can Anyone Find an Economist Who Thinks Trump's Tax Cuts Will Pay for Themselves?

Republicans have long preached the gospel of supply side economics, the theory that says cutting taxes and stripping away costly, safety-oriented regulations leads to higher tax revenue from increased economic activity, which leads to more goods and services, greater competition and lower consumer prices.

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Trump Terrifies Wall Street: Professional Investors Are Panicking - Should You?

It’s been a wild ride for markets this week, thanks in part to FBI Director James Comey’s surprise announcement last week about the discovery of new emails related to Hillary Clinton’s email server controversy, which, if polls are any indication, improved Republican Donald Trump’s chances to win the White House on Tuesday. Investors are bracing for what could be the most volatile post-election trading day ever.

According to a Credit Suisse analysis of index options (financial derivatives that allow investors to bet on the future value of a market index), the benchmark S&P 500 index of America’s biggest companies could rise or fall by 3.3 percent on Wednesday in reaction to the election results. Such an election-related swing in the market would be unprecedented, well above the average 1.1 percent move that follows a normal presidential race. Other estimates are less sanguine: Citi analysts warn of an immediate 5 percent drop should Trump win the election. Others suggest the decline could be even greater.

As Election Day approaches, anxieties are running high, leading to one of the longest selloffs of stocks in the S&P 500 index since the financial crisis eight years ago. Friday’s upbeat monthly U.S. jobs report, which showed robust gains in both hiring and wage growth, helped to lift U.S. markets during intraday trading, but the S&P 500 ended Friday down a slight 0.17 percent, its ninth consecutive decline and the longest losing streak since 1980.

The U.S. election jitters aren’t limited to the U.S.: Asian and European stock markets fell Friday, too, while the benchmark Euro Stoxx 600 shed 3.5 percent this week, touching its lowest level since July. This scramble sent the VIX, a widely watched index that rises when market volatility is high, above 22 points on Friday, up from 13 over the past five weeks, its highest point since Britain voted in June to leave the European Union.

Safe-haven bets — low-yield, highly stable investments — have risen, too. U.S. Treasury funds gained $2.3 billion in five days, the largest influx of cash since the first week of July following the Brexit vote, as investors fled volatile markets to the safety of low-yield U.S. government debt. On Friday, the price of a troy ounce of gold was up about $30 from Monday (gold prices tend to rise when investors are on edge).

All of this is classic “risk-off“ behavior, where investors flee riskier bets like low-rated corporate or high-yield municipal bonds. Clearly, the investment professionals are spooked — but what does this mean for average investors?

“It think it’s good to close your ears,” said Bill Stone, chief investment officer at PNC Financial Services Group. “Politics bring in a lot of emotion and bringing those emotions into investment decisions is not likely to help you, frankly.”

Stone says there are many factors that help determine how investments react to election outcomes, but reacting to the immediate results is likely to do more harm than good. It’s better to assess the situation after the initial reaction to see if there’s a need to shift investments. For example, energy and bank stocks could be adversely impacted by a Clinton victory and a Democratic takeover of the Senate. Health insurance stock would take a hit if Trump wins and the Republicans retain control of the Senate, which boosts the chances of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

But interestingly, Stone looked at historical data and found that markets tend to perform better under gridlock situations, when Congress and the White House are controlled by different parties. The reason for this goes back to uncertainty — radical policy decisions that could impact the markets are unlikely if neither party can implement its agenda without the other.

A Trump victory would clearly create the most uncertainty, and the most post-election panic. But if you own any equities, it’s best to hold back and wait until the volatility of the election settles before assessing the options. 

By some measures, Trump’s bold propositions — such as starting trade wars with China and Mexico and crippling the U.S. budget with massive tax breaks for the rich — would be a disaster for the U.S. and global economies. But Trump would need Congress to support him, and it’s unlikely that the GOP has the appetite to rally behind his more radical proposals, like rounding up and deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, erecting a $25 billion wall between the U.S. and Mexico, or punishing U.S. companies for investing abroad.

“Trump can says what he’s going to do, but he can’t do it because the Republicans aren’t likely support him,” Stone said. “There are some things presidents can do on their own, but there’s a lot they can’t do.”

As one of the most unusual and tumultuous presidential campaigns in U.S. history winds down, the best advice for the average investor right now is to turn off the 24-7 financial news cycle, wait for markets to settle down from their current freakout and breathe a sigh of relief that at least this ridiculous election cycle is almost over.

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Fancy This: McDonald’s Actually Thinks People Will Buy Its Pesto Caprese Sandwich

For decades, fast-food restaurants were a mainstay of the American eating experience to such a degree that the McDonald’s Golden Arches were as much an indelible symbol of the United States as Lady Liberty.

“The major brands are in a share war,” Larry Light, CEO of the consulting firm Arcature and McDonald’s global chief marketing officer from 2002 to 2005, told Salon. “When there’s a rising tide they can rise together, but now it’s a battle for market share.

Added Light: “Plus there’s increased competition from the so-called better burger category and you also have new varieties of brands and new categories like two-minute customized pizza. It’s a much more competitive world.”

Today, consumers have an overwhelming amount of choices, with fast food offerings ranging from the fare of older stalwarts like Burger King and McDonald’s to that of more recent entries like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Shake Shack. The newcomer firms are smaller and have lured customers with fresher ingredients and a perception that their food is better, fresher and less processed. This has forced the traditional big brands to find ways to lure customers back to their stores with new offerings. And this drive for innovation is sending the companies into areas that some say they have no business occupying: First offering healthier fare and now serving “upscale” food.

McDonald’s recently tested in Southern California a Caprese sandwich layered with grilled chicken, baby spinach, kale and pesto cream cheese and sliced mozzarella while Wendy’s is trying out bacon cheeseburgers with truffle oil sandwiched between two croissant halves.

“The Truffle Bacon Cheeseburger and Bacon Truffle Fries sound like menu items that play to Wendy’s brand positioning within the quick-service industry: ‘a cut above’ traditional fast food, yet still fully within fast food,” wrote Nomura equities research analyst Mark Kalinowski in a research note earlier this week.

But the effort by big fast food companies to add upscale ingredients is borderline heresy for some industry watchers.

“If I’m going for high-end food or something exotic I’m not going to McDonald’s or Wendy’s,” Harold Kestenbaum, a franchise lawyer and former executive at the pizza chain Sbarro, told Salon. “I don’t know what’s going in their heads and why in the world they would even try that kind of thing. I don’t know if it’s desperation or what.”

It looks a lot like desperation.

Last year McDonald’s overall global sales fell 7 percent to $25.4 billion, according to its last annual report, while Wendy’s reported a global sales decline of 6 percent to $1.9 billion in 2015.

Right now Wendy’s and McDonald’s are grappling with anemic growth in same-store sales, an important retail measure that gauges traffic to older restaurants.

Overall, the number of restaurants in the U.S. fell by 1 percent in the first three month of the year, according to a report this week by industry tracker NPD Group, citing “stalled traffic growth experienced by the foodservice industry over the past several years.”

Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at Yale University, said efforts by big fast food companies to change up their menu items—as well as introducing antibiotics-free meat into their supply chains—is an effort to improve the perception of fast food in the minds of younger Americans.

“The launch of more upscale menu items will go a long way in slowly updating the beliefs [millennials] have about these establishments,” Dhar said in an email to Salon. “It’s not only about a market for these new premium items but can they change the overall perception” of the industry?

These giant fast food companies have lost their way and need to recognize themselves for what they are: massive operations focused on speed, consistency and low prices. “The core idea of McDonald’s has been convenience, good taste, fast, friendly and accurate,” Light said. “When I think of McDonald’s do I think of pesto cream cheese, baby spinach, kale and sliced mozzarella? Not only does this increase menu complexity, it increases operational complexity, it slows down services, increases the odds of an error in the order, and it confuses the brand.”

And that’s not even considering the question of whether the food tastes any good. Probably because we all know the answer.

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When Pork Flies: The F-35, the Pentagon's $1.1 Trillion Flying Money Pit, Is (Sort of) Ready for Duty

Twenty years since the Pentagon began taking bids from defense contractors, the F-35 fighter jet—the most expensive weapon ever made—is finally ready to see active duty over the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Marine Corps expects to deploy 16 of the stealthy high-tech warplanes early next year at Iwakuni Air Station in Japan. From there, U.S. pilots will begin testing the jets in regular noncombat operations from the Navy’s USS Wasp amphibious assault vessel in what one commanding general has described as the “school of hard knocks.”

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Someone Invented a $50 EpiPen, When Will It Arrive? A Conversation with the Doctor Who Invented It

How much is a potentially lifesaving medicine worth? The question is easy to answer for number-crunching drug company CEOs: as much as they can get away with charging.

But for people depend on the drugs to survive, the answer is more difficult. Patients struggle with ever-rising health care bills and insurance premiums while lawmakers have failed for years to reel in costs.

The latest outrage over the astronomically high prices that Americans fork out for health care is centered on the EpiPen, the screwdriver-handle-sized injection device used to stave off the effects of severe allergic reactions to certain foods and insect stings.

The injector, which millions of Americans depend on, was invented in the 1970s by engineer Sheldon Kaplan, who died seven years ago in modest surroundings amid obscurity. But Kaplan’s patent made its way into to Netherlands-based drugmaker Mylan, which since 2007 has jacked up the price of the spring-loaded injector from $57 a shot to $300. Mylan’s price hikes recently raised the ire of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and last week New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation into Mylan’s “potentially anticompetitive” sales contract with school systems.

The high price also caught the attention of Dr. Douglas McMahon. The 38-year-old allergy specialist in St. Paul, Minnesota, has been thinking about how to improve on the EpiPen and to do so in a way that’s affordable. Inspired to practice his specialty by his own food allergy — which as a child kept him out of sports and from visits to friend’s homes —  McMahon saw that the EpiPen device was not only overpriced for what it does but also was too big to be easily carried in a pocket. For the past couple of years, he has been tinkering with injection-device components in his lab. And the result of his work is AllergyStop, an injection prototype  that’s small enough to fit on a key chain. McMahon claimed his device is as effective as the EpiPen and can be marketed and sold for about $50.

But even though McMahon’s device has been production ready for the past two months, the steps he must take to get the device approved will cost him about $2 million and it will potentially take him years to go through all the hurdles required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for possible approval of his invention . McMahon spoke to Salon about his invention and his experience trying to deliver it to the market.

Is anyone currently using the AllergyStop injector?

My device is completely functional. It’s safe. I use it. But I don’t use it in my practice. To do all the tests the FDA requires, and to wade through the process, it’s going to be a couple of years.

What makes your injection device different from the existing options?

It’s very compact. It fits on a key chain. But to make it so compact, the needle is not attached to the device. So the patient does have to put the needle on with a little twist. It’s an extra step, but we’ve timed patients on it and it’s still very fast.

I think the cost of the device and the size will encourage more people to carry it. Studies by and far show that people hardly ever carry their injectors with them all the time.

It sounds like a pretty straightforward invention. What have been the challenges to bringing it to market?

It’s been a tough process. At night I’m talking to businesspeople about trying to get funding. In the early mornings I’m talking to FDA advisers.

It’s a big problem in medicine right now. People say all these costs are so high, and I can kind of see why. I have a unique perspective of being a physician taking a device through the market and seeing this long, tedious process. I know there needs to be steps and regulations, but it seems like it’s a little too much.

Where are you in this process right now?

We have a patent pending. We have all of our plans in step and we’re in the process of lining up a manufacturing company. We’re currently going through the bids.

The next step is to have the manufacturer fill the device with the medicine and then have it sit there. We need to run tests to make sure the medicine stays potent and sterile over time.

Once it all looks stable, we submit [our prototype] to the FDA. We’re going to be able to do an abbreviated process, but it will still take months to go through it. We also need to arrange the funding.

Let’s talk a bit about the high cost of health care in the U.S., where patients pay the world’s highest prices. As a doctor and inventor trying to bring a device to the marketplace, how do think we should solve this price problem?

Allow competitors to get into the market faster. Obviously if someone invents something and patents it, you want them to have some rights. But I think the FDA process and the regulations are very stringent.

We’re not 100 percent certain, but we were told by an FDA adviser that the outer case of our device, which never touches the medicine – it’s just a protective case – that it needs FDA approval. And we’re thinking, why in the heck does something like that need FDA approval? It’s just a lot of regulatory steps.

Do you think these regulatory hurdles are there purely to ensure patient safety? Or is there something else at play aimed at protecting big companies with lucrative patents from competition?

I wonder about that. Other people have tried to get into the epinephrine [injector] market and they don’t. And you wonder, Why not, what’s going on? I don’t have proof of any shady things going on, but you do kind of wonder why there haven’t been more people able to come into the market with more affordable alternatives.

The EpiPen two-pack costs $600 in the U.S. and $85 in France. And this is true about a lot of drugs and medical devices, which wind up costing more in the U.S. than elsewhere. Are American consumers getting gouged so that companies can offset the lower profit margins they make elsewhere?

I wouldn’t doubt it. Some of it is because the U.S. has more stringent regulations, which would add to the cost. But yeah I think we are helping other countries keep their costs lower. And other countries don’t have the health insurance issues we have.

Is there anything else an average person should know about your experience in trying to bring down the price of a lifesaving device?

A lot of people don’t realize the cost and time it takes. We were ready to basically launch our device a couple of months ago, but we were told we had to do our own tests, like how the medicine handles temperature changes, that others have already done.

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'I'm in a Union - You're Welcome': How Having Strong Labor Unions Helps Everyone Who Works Earn More

Millions of Americans today earn less than their predecessors did 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation, and a big reason for that is declining private-sector union membership—which has dropped from a third of all private-sector employees to just 6.7 percent today.

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Will Health Insurance Companies Succeed Where the GOP Couldn't - in Killing Obamacare?

Congressional Republicans have tried in vain over the years to repeal or overturn all or part of the Affordable Care Act — President Barack Obama’s keystone legislation that has given more than 20 million Americans health insurance coverage in the world’s costliest health care market — since it was signed into law in 2010. But where GOP has failed time and again, private insurers may be succeeding.

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