US businesses versus Trump

Donald Trump may be starting to find out that what may seem simple clampdowns on travel for ‘security’ reasons can have wide ranging effects that the new White House strategists may not have foreseen.

Trump now has more than a few judges opposing his travel restrictions, he now has many large US businesses challenging him legally.

The companies include Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook,Twitter, Intel, eBay, Netflix, Uber, Amazon and Expedia.

RNZ: Apple, Google, Facebook among 100 firms opposing Trump’s travel ban

Apple, Google and Microsoft have joined a legal brief opposing US President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban, arguing it “inflicts significant harm on American business.”

The brief was signed by nearly 100 companies including Facebook, Twitter, Intel , eBay, Netflix and Uber, as well as non-tech companies such as Levi Strauss and Chobani.

The document is an amicus brief, which allows parties not directly involved in a case but who feel they are affected by it, to give their view.

Mr Trump’s executive order, the most contentious policy move of his first two weeks in office, faces crucial legal hurdles. It had temporarily barred entry to the United States by people from seven mostly Muslim countries, as well as suspending the US refugee programme.

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday blocked the move, and the Trump administration has a deadline on Monday (6pm Tuesday NZT) to justify the action.

“The order represents a significant departure from the principles of fairness and predictability that have governed the immigration system of the United States for more than fifty years,” the brief from the companies stated.

“The order inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth as a result,” it added.

“Immigrants or their children founded more than 200 of the companies on the Fortune 500 list.”

Immigrants and especially the next generation are often cited as a major terrorism risk, with scant evidence beyond a few isolated examples.

On the other hand, in reality land, immigrants and their families have been a huge part of American success for a long time.

US tech companies, which employ many foreign-born nationals, have been among the most vocal groups in speaking out against Mr Trump’s travel order. and Expedia, both based in Washington state, supported the Seattle lawsuit, asserting that the travel restrictions harmed their businesses.

It’s not just those who are directly restricted that cause problems. The uncertainties about entry to the US and about immigration is likely to cause many more people to reconsider the US as a destination.

Unforeseen effects and unintended consequences may end up becoming big issues for a very inexperienced White House.

And Trump’s habit of shooting from the hip at anyone who criticises him or opposes what he is trying to do may lead to mayhem, including a significant loss of business confidence in the US.

May: Trump “100% in favour of Nato”

In a visit to the White House UK Prime Minister Theresa May says that Donald Trump is 100% in favour of Nato.

From the Guardian: Donald Trump ‘100% behind Nato’, says Theresa May at joint White House press conference

Donald Trump starts. He says the UK/US relationship has been a force for peace. We pledge our support for this relationship, he says.

He says the US respects the UK’s right to self-determination.

A free UK is a blessing to the world, he says.

Trump calls May “Madam Prime Minister”.

Great days lie ahead for our two peoples, he says.

He thanks May for coming. It has been a great honour.

On torture and on Russia:

Q: You say torture works, you have praised Russia, you suggest there should be punishment for abortion. What do you say to people worried about you?

Turning to May, Trump jokes: “This was your choice for a question.”

Trump says General Mattis, the new defence secretary, has said he does not believe in torture. He does not necessarily agree, Trump says. But he say Mattis will over-ride Trump on this. Trump will rely on him. But Mattis is the “general’s general”.

He says he does not know President Putin. He hopes they have a good relationship. He wants them to go after Isis together. How the relationship works out, he doesn’t know. Sometimes he thinks he will like someone, and he doesn’t like them at all. And sometimes he likes people he did not expect to like.

On Mexico:

Trump says he thinks he has a good relationship with the Mexican president. But the US cannot continue to lose jobs. The US will renegotiate trade deals. That will be good for both countries. His call with the Mexican president today was very friendly. They will negotiate over the coming months.

What happened publicly yesterday between the US and Mexican presidents didn’t look like good relationships.

Q: You say we will have a good trade deal, and you support Nato. But you keep changing your position. And how will the two of you get on because you are so differrent?

Trump says he thinks he and May can get on. He says he is not as brash as people think.

He denies changing his stance. His views on trade have been the same for years. When he visited Scotland he said Brexit would happen. He was scorned in the press. But it happened, he says.

Brexit will be good for the UK, he says. It will be able to make its own trade deal.

He had a bad experience in his business life getting approvals from the EU.

(Is this a reference to the planning application in Ireland that he spoke about in his interview with Michael Gove?)

May says she and Trump want to put the interests of ordinary people first, the people who feel the odds are stacked against them. She and Trump both feel that these people deserve a fairer deal.

Perhaps May will be keeping an eye on Twitter and listening to see what Sean Spicer has to say over the next day or two.


Trump versus media, continued

It hasn’t taken long for tensions to surface between president-elect Donald Trump and the media. Trump has just visited the White House to have a chat with Obama and a look around.

Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

His relationship with the White House Correspondents’ Association hasn’t started well.

White House Correspondents Association: Trump decision to leave DC without informing press could leave Americans “blind” during crisis


Trump may not know how things are expected to work yet. Or this could be the beginning of an uneasy and possibly contentious relationship between Trump and the media.

Trump owes his success to the attention given him by the media, but he indicated during the campaign a large amount of friction as well, when the media didn’t perform how he liked.

Trump’s apparently conciliatory conversion regarding Obama and Clinton does not seem to apply to media.

UPDATE: An NBC News reporter got a response from Trump on registration of Muslims and got a chilling response: Donald Trump Says He’d ‘Absolutely’ Require Muslims to Register

Donald J. Trump, who earlier in the week said he was open to requiring Muslims in the United States to register in a database, said on Thursday night that he “would certainly implement that — absolutely.”

Mr. Trump was asked about the issue by an NBC News reporter and pressed on whether all Muslims in the country would be forced to register. “They have to be,” he said. “They have to be.’’

When asked how a system of registering Muslims would be carried out — whether, for instance, mosques would be where people could register — Mr. Trump said: “Different places. You sign up at different places. But it’s all about management. Our country has no management.’’

Asked later, as he signed autographs, how such a database would be different from Jews having to register in Nazi Germany, Mr. Trump repeatedly said, “You tell me,” until he stopped responding to the question.

 More than a bit ominous.

Studies on medical cannabis “mostly poor quality” but prospects for change

It was interesting to see this posted on the United Future Facebook time line – Studies Supporting Use of Medical Marijuana are Mostly Poor Quality, Researchers Find.

The White House has just announced that it will be relaxing some of its strict regulations on marijuana research, making it easier for scientists to conduct clinical studies on the drug.

This could not have come at a better time, it seems, as a comprehensive review of 40 years of human trials that examined its potential use in treating a variety of ailments has suggested that high-quality evidence supporting its therapeutic use is lacking.

With its increasing popularity, now is the time to critically evaluate its effectiveness in clinical settings, which is precisely what a team of researchers from the University of Bristol recently set out to do.

As described in the journal JAMA, the team set out to review the benefits of cannabinoids in the treatment of various diseases or symptoms. Almost 80 randomized clinical trials were included in the study, which revealed that the majority found an improvement in symptoms with the use of cannabinoids. While this may sound positive, they actually found that most of these associated health improvements were not statistically significant.

Some study successes:

Of those that were considered to be of moderate quality, support was found for the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis.

And some failures:

But for sleep disorders, weight gain in HIV infection, Tourette’s syndrome, and nausea due to chemotherapy, studies reporting improvements with cannabinoid use were considered to be of low quality.

An obvious need for more comprehensive studies.

So if the studies aren’t good enough, why is medical marijuana so widely used to treat certain diseases? The FDA actually requires a minimum of two randomized clinical trials of adequate quality before a drug can be approved for a specific medical condition, but it seems that many cannabis studies have slipped through the net. But as pointed out by anaccompanying editorial, this arguably reflects difficulties in conducting clinical studies on the drug due to its classification as a Schedule 1 drug.

It’s difficult to adequately study drugs that are illegal and use of them is prosecuted.

The take-home message from this review is therefore not that marijuana has no place in modern medicine, but that there is a clear need for more robust studies into its use, especially given the fact that more governments are now contemplating its legalization as a medicinal or recreational drug.

Shane responded to this on facebook:

Part of the issue is that public policy has outstripped the science due to restrictions in place. Many people are now well aware of its medical potential for things such as intractable epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, neuro degenerative conditions such as MS and MND, and my particular interest, chronic pain. The science is coming in to back up these conditions, but if we wait for 100% certainty of the science, people will needlessly suffer, Charlotte Figi would be dead without MC, of that we can be nearly certain, As well as as the countless chronic pain patients in the USA who have avoided overdosing on opiates with medical cannsbis as a safer alternative. A middle ground must be found to serve the public interest while those suffering wait impatiently for the science to catch up.

If there’s relatively low risk (especially compared to other drugs) and the chances of some benefits then more liberal controls make sense.

The costs of wars

If you wondered why the US economy is struggling, it’s not just the domestic mess:

Cost of war at least $3.7 trillion and counting

(Reuters) – When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America’s wars.

Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project “Costs of War” by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies.

It’s an academic estimate, but whatever the total it is huge and growing.

In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, spending on the conflicts totaled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion.

Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.

The White House says the total amount appropriated for war-related activities of the Department of Defense, intelligence and State Department since 2001 is about $1.3 trillion, and that would rise to nearly $1.4 trillion in 2012.

Researchers with the Watson Institute say that type of accounting is common but too narrow to measure the real costs.

Some of the sombre human tally:

  • Killed: 224,000 to 258,000 people
  • Civilians: 125,000 civilians in Iraq killed
  • Wounded: 365,00 people
  • Displaced: 7.8 million people
  • Affected  indirectly:  from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition.

What has all this bought? We probably won’t know how “successful the ME wars have been for another 5-10 years, once the US has pulled out.