The news at a glance
Energy: Florida excluded from drilling expansion
The Trump administration this week ruled out drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Florida, reversing a week-old policy, “after strong opposition from the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott,” said Hiroko Tabuchi in The New York Times. Last week, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he was opening nearly all U.S. coastal waters to new offshore gas and oil drilling, a policy shift that exposes “more than a billion acres” to energy leases. “Republican and Democratic governors” on both coasts sharply criticized the move, saying drilling would imperil tourism and harm the environment, but Zinke said drilling restrictions put in place under the Obama administration “had cost the country billions of dollars in lost oil and gas revenue.”
“Blue states would be justified in thinking that the administration was targeting them for punishment,” said Philip Bump in The Washington Post. In granting an exemption to Florida, which voted for Trump and where the president maintains his Mar-a-Lago resort, Zinke cited the fact that its “coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” Lawmakers in California, where offshore drilling has been off-limits for decades, responded by arguing their state’s coastline also drives tourism, “raising the question of why Florida should be exempted but California might not be.”
Tech: Investors press Apple on child tech addiction
“Two activist investors are urging Apple to take steps to curb how addictive iPhones are to children,” said Ben Popken in NBCNews.com. In a letter to the tech giant, billion-dollar investors Jana Partners and a powerful California pension fund declared, “Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do.” The letter quickly ricocheted around Silicon Valley, where “the unsettling allure of technological dependence has been a bugbear for parents and commentators.”
Autos: Toyota and Mazda plan Alabama plant
“Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda have chosen the state of Alabama for a $1.6 billion joint-venture auto plant,” said Tom Krisher in the Associated Press. Located in Huntsville, the plant will employ up to 4,000 people and manufacture roughly 300,000 vehicles a year. “Toyota and Mazda are forming a capital alliance and splitting the cost for the plant equally.” Alabama was selected mostly because of “lower wages and to avoid the United Auto Workers union,” which has a stronger presence in Northern states. The factory is set to open in 2021.
Tech: White engineers sue Google for discrimination
Two former Google engineers this week filed a class-action lawsuit claiming the company “unfairly discriminates against white men whose political views are unpopular with its executives,” said Connie Loizos in TechCrunch.com. James Damore, who was fired last August after posting a memo to an internal Google message board dismissing Google’s diversity initiatives and suggesting that women are not equally represented in tech because of biological differences, alleges the company singles out and punishes employees who express views “deviating from the majority view.” David Gudeman, another former engineer who left Google in 2016, has joined him in the suit.
Economy: Black unemployment hits record low
“Black unemployment fell to 6.8 percent in December, the lowest ever recorded by the U.S. Labor Department since it began tracking the black unemployment rate in 1972,” said Heather Long in The Washington Post. White unemployment is currently 3.7 percent. Black unemployment peaked at 16.8 percent in 2010, but has “steadily declined since.” The previous all-time low was 7 percent in 2000. In addition to the rate of employment, African-Americans “lag far behind whites on pay, wealth, and homeownership.”