Monthly Archives: July 2016

Many Republicans are embracing Donald Trump’s fierce trade rhetoric

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Donald Trump.
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Sara D. Davis/Getty Images

Many Republicans are moving closer to Donald Trump’s trade platform, breaking with decades of their party’s orthodoxy on the issue.

Trump has championed a fierce anti-free-trade agenda along the trail. The Republican presidential nominee frequently rips the North American Free Trade Agreement as the worst trade deal in history and has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is pending congressional approval, will continue the “rape of our country.”

Traditionally, Republicans have been on the side of unrestricted free trade with foreign nations.

Take Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa, for example. Branstad’s state relies heavily on exports for its rich agricultural economy. In 2011, he wrote a letter to President Barack Obama asking his administration and Congress to enact pending trade agreements, estimating that the agreements would add roughly 5,000 jobs in the beef, pork, and poultry industries in his state. In 2015, Branstad, along with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa, led trade missions to South Korea and Brazil, with Branstad saying in a release that his state had “reaped benefits” from such missions.

Speaking with Business Insider at the Republican convention, the longest-serving governor in US history labeled Trump’s position as “not really antitrade – he’s just anti-stupid decisions.”

“And what I take it is as constructive criticism that we need to cut a better deal that treats America better,” he said at a lunch for the Iowa delegation in Cleveland, adding: “We got to continue to break down barriers. We need free trade. It’s absolutely critical for agriculture and for job growth.”

He mentioned Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, and his prior defense of free trade as proof that Trump’s position would not be too far from his own.

“So I believe that Trump understands that we need to do a better job of protecting America’s interests, but that doesn’t mean we don’t negotiate and try to get the best agreements we can get,” he said. “We just got to quit doing stupid things like the Iran deal and some of these things.”

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Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Chinese leader’s visit to the US late last year.
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Getty Images.

Just this week, Trump hammered Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for flipping her position on TPP from when she was secretary of state, saying that she “lied” about it and insisting that she would pass the landmark trade agreement among pacific-rim nations while in office.

The strong position against America’s trade agreements is more typical of the country’s left wing. During this week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, some of the strongest anti-Clinton sentiment at the convention came from supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont cheering “no TPP” and holding up signs that said the same.

“I think in the end of the day, with the choice between the Democratic stand and our stand, I think people like farmers and businesses that are interested in this understand that Trump’s a better choice,” Branstad said. “Now, I understand and I think there’s some validity to the criticism that he’s made.”

Rob Portman, a Republican Ohio senator who is locked in a tough reelection bout against Ted Strickland, a former Ohio governor, is more connected to free trade than pretty much anyone else in Washington. Portman was a huge proponent of NAFTA and of the Central American Free Trade Agreement while he served in the House. And Portman served as the US trade representative under President George W. Bush.

He has found himself frequently under attack from Strickland, who voted against NAFTA while he served in the House, for his support of free trade.

With Trump in town for the Republican convention last week, Portman, who is supporting Trump, was asked by reporters how his position on free trade could jibe with Trump’s. He said both he and Trump had “pushed back on China.”

“I’ve pushed back on Republicans as it relates to China,” he said, adding that the Senate Finance Committee, of which he’s a member of, has had “some success” with “cracking down on Chinese imports.”

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Rob Portman.
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AP

Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee echoed some of Portman’s sentiment, saying that Trump and his supporters were for “free and fair trade” but just didn’t like “what we have with China.”

“I think that what we hear from people and Mr. Trump is right in-line with people, and that is if they are for free and fair trade,” she said. “Indeed, you know people like to be able to manufacture for export.

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Marsha Blackburn.
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AP

“What they don’t like is what we have with China, where we have a $380-million-dollar-a-year trade deficit,” she continued. “They’re tired of jobs going overseas, and the money for products on our shelves is going overseas.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, one of Trump’s top supporters, told Business Insider on the floor of the convention that he thought his fellow colleagues were moving closer to positions held by Trump and himself on trade. During his convention speech last week, Sessions said Trump would help end “Obamatrade.”

“The data that’s coming in that I don’t think a lot of our people knew,” he said. “The economic models that predicted how the trade agreements would work have not been accurate. They’re very flawed.”

“I mean I voted for the trade agreements too in the past, but I think the American people are getting wise,” he said. “They felt it before the Wall Street and academic economists felt it.”

He called for all of America’s trade agreements to be “bilateral” – negotiated solely between the US and one country on a deal-by-deal basis.

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Jeff Sessions.
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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, another early supporter of Trump, said he didn’t think TPP was going to be making it through Congress in a Trump presidency.

“He has said and I take him at his word that he will renegotiate them to make them fair for America,” Shuster told Business Insider at a breakfast for the Pennsylvania delegation last week in Cleveland.

The chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said that, while he “can’t speak” for all of his fellow House Republicans, people he is close to have “always been very leery of these free trade agreements.”

“It happens under Republican presidents, but it’s really happened under this one,” he said. “We need a fair deal.”

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Bill Shuster.
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey agreed with Shuster. He told Business Insider that he thought Obama’s biggest problem was that he wanted “to get deals done at all costs.”

The congressman – the only Republican from New Jersey’s House representation attending the Cleveland convention – said the new platform language on trade in a post-nominee Trump world was not all that different from where the party had been in the past.

“All it does is say that trade for trade’s sake is not … it’s trade that’s good for America, trade that creates jobs here at home, trade that doesn’t allow places to take advantage of us,” he said. “I support that, that is what we need, and by the way we haven’t had that. We have a president who wants to get deals done at all costs. So we can say he got the deal done, and we’ve had bad political deals and bad trade deals as a result.”

Shuster’s fellow Pennsylvania congressman Rep. Keith Rothfus also expressed “doubts” that TPP would be approved, adding that he was “one of the Republicans who was very concerned with where the Trade Promotion Authority was going under this president.”

He also said he lacked confidence that Obama was able to get the best deal done for America.

“I think Donald Trump will be looking out for that,” he told Business Insider last week. “Look, 95% of the consumers are outside of the United States, 75% of the wealth is outside the United States, we’ve got to be engaged in the world, and I would expect that Donald Trump would be looking for places for our products.”

Reid rips ‘spineless’ GOP leaders in blistering statement for not withdrawing endorsements of Trump

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid blasted Republican leaders for failing to revoke their endorsements of Donald Trump after the GOP nominee criticized the pair of Gold Star parents who slammed him at the Democratic National Convention.

“Senator McConnell and Speaker Ryan approvingly spoke at Donald Trump’s convention, endorsed Donald Trump for president and believe he is mentally fit to sit in the Oval Office,” Reid said.

The Nevada Democrat added: “Occasional statements that do nothing to repudiate Donald Trump’s words and actions are spineless. Anything short of revoking their endorsements is cowardice.”

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan released statements Sunday expressing disapproval of Trump’s remarks on the Khan family, but they stopped short of withdrawing their endorsements.

“This shouldn’t be hard,” Reid said. “Donald Trump is a sexist and racist man who insults Gold Star parents, stokes fear of Muslims and sows hatred of Latinos. He should not be president and Republican leaders have a moral responsibility to say so‎.”

Trump suggested Sunday morning that he could not understand why he was earning scorn for questioning the Khan family.

“I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond?” the Republican nominee for president asked in a tweet.

Khizr and wife Ghazala Khan offered a powerful rebuke to Trump on the final night of the DNC. In an eight-minute speech, delivered by Khizr, the family questioned whether the New York businessman had ever read the US Constitution or sacrificed anything for his country.

Trump hit back on Saturday, suggesting Ghazala was not permitted to speak because of her Muslim religion. The billionaire further argued that he had indeed sacrificed for his country, saying he created jobs.

Trump’s remarks were immediately condemned and the billionaire eventually began walking them back. In a Saturday night statement, he called the Khan’s son a “hero to our country” and tried to shift the issue to “the real problem” which he argued was “the radical Islamic terrorists who killed him.”

Khizr Khan said Sunday that Trump’s questions about his wife represent the “height of ignorance.”

Ghazala Khan also wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post saying she didn’t speak at the DNC because she finds it too painful to think about her son.

“Without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain,” she wrote.

Tony Robbins has a simple rule he recommends all managers should follow

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Tony Robbins.
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Taylor Hill/Getty

When you’re managing a team, you may find your discussions consistently being dominated by your most outspoken employee, or even yourself, with your employees eagerly agreeing with all of your conclusions.

This, of course, is not the most productive scenario.

Performance coach Tony Robbins recently visited Business Insider’s New York office for a Facebook Live Q&A, and he addressed this particular problem. A viewer asked, “How can I turn my team from followers into collaborators?”

“You have to make the environment safe,” Robbins replied. “I know that sounds corny as s—, but people have to feel like they can share ideas and the ideas aren’t going to be attacked and destroyed.”

Robbins is well-known for his best-selling books and seminars, but in addition to running his own companies, he’s personally coached executives like Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff.

“Most great creativity comes out of brainstorming all kinds of ideas and in all our environments and all of our companies, we have a simple rule: In the brainstorming stage, you can’t make any negative comments,” Robbins said.

“There are no bad ideas,” he said. “Because a bad idea can often trigger you to think of something that is actually a good idea. The secret is not to stop the flow and just get everything out as fast as you can.”

Teams comprising followers rather than collaborators are ones where employees are afraid of rejection, of hurting their standing within their company. It’s the manager’s responsibility, Robbins explained, to explicitly state that self-censorship in creative discussions will only limit their impact. It’s also up to the manager to keep the more headstrong members of the group from interrupting their colleagues or crushing their ideas as soon as they’re presented.

“If you show people that they’re heard, that their ideas get implemented, if it’s safe, you usually can get a much higher level of participation than most companies do,” Robbins said.

You can watch the full Q&A below.

Author of new Silicon Valley tell-all says this is what outsiders most often get wrong about Mark Zuckerberg

To Antonio García Martínez, the former Facebook employee who wrote the new Silicon Valley tell-all “Chaos Monkeys,” the 2010 Academy Award-winning film “The Social Network” is a piece of pure fiction loosely inspired by actual events.

And though the film about the birth of Facebook, directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin, came out six years ago, Martínez still thinks it’s silly how it shaped so many Silicon Valley outsiders’ view of its subject, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Martínez spent 2011 to 2013 as the company’s first ad-targeting product manager, where he would report to chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, and though he didn’t work as closely with Zuckerberg as he did with Sandberg, he said he was able to get enough of a feel for who Zuckerberg was as a person.

While he has observed Zuckerberg grow into a more capable leader in the years since he left, Martínez thinks Zuckerberg is essentially the same person he met back in 2011, and he told Business Insider the public consistently got two main things wrong about Zuck.

He’s not ‘the sneaky, loser, little dips—‘ portrayed in ‘The Social Network’

Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of Zuckerberg as a conniving, backstabbing, severely socially awkward introvert made for great drama, but it’s just not who Zuck is, Martínez said.

Sure, he added, Zuckerberg “doesn’t exactly make a lot of eye contact,” isn’t a great speaker, and gets unnaturally obsessed with certain details, but that’s par for the course in Silicon Valley. It’s not as if he’s some sort of evil “Rain Man,” though.

“In fact, on the contrary, he’s actually very alpha male and very dominant,” Martínez said. “He’s the sort of guy who, if you challenge him that he can’t do 100 push-ups, he’ll bet a million dollars that he can, and he’ll win.”

Martínez said that Zuckerberg was not a blowhard who liked to throw his weight around but that “the claws will come out very suddenly,” like the time when Martínez was in a meeting with him and Zuckerberg interrupted an overly long explanation with, “Just shut up and answer the question.”

He truly believes in his mission

One of the reasons “Chaos Monkeys” is so interesting is that it tears apart the press-release-friendly optimism of Silicon Valley, but Martínez insists that when Zuckerberg talks about Facebook’s mission to connect every person in the world, he’s not putting a fake sheen over old-school capitalist greed.

“That really is his life’s mission, and that’s what he does,” Martínez said.

He called the subplot in “The Social Network” that showed Zuckerberg starting Facebook as a way to meet girls to be “utter bulls—” not based on anything factual. In a Facebook question-and-answer session in 2014, Zuckerberg said he found this aspect of the movie to be especially hurtful because it undermined what he had dedicated his life to.

Martínez pointed to the recent news that Facebook successfully tested its drone project Aquila, which is meant to bring free high-speed internet to the poorest parts of the world. “He’s not doing it for money, because like, the monetization in those countries is zero,” Martínez said.

When you read Martínez’s book or talk to him, you’ll see that he has plenty of gripes with Facebook and Silicon Valley in general, but at the end of the day he has plenty of respect for Zuckerberg.

What it’s like to work for the Valley’s most secretive startup, Palantir

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Palantir employees.
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Glassdoor/Palantir

One of the most prominent startups in Silicon Valley, Palantir, has been in the news a lot the past few months.

Palantir was cofounded by one of the Valley’s most powerful, and most colorful, VCs, Peter Thiel. With Thiel’s backing, Palantir has raised nearly $2 billion in investment.

As of late last year, investors valued the company at $20 billion, making it the third-most-valuable Bay Area tech startup behind Uber and Airbnb.

But Thiel himself may have valued the company at far less, $12.7 billion, BuzzFeed recently reported. And despite a reported $1.7 billion in “bookings” in 2015 (revenue under contract), Palantir may not be profitable, Bloomberg reports.

And it seems that Palantir is now experiencing a higher rate of employee turnover than it has in years gone past, though its cofounder and adviser Joe Lonsdale argues that turnover is still less than 10%, on par with typical tech companies.

So here’s a closer look at what its like to work at Palantir these days, based on employee reviews from Glassdoor, posts on Quora, and other sources.


Palantir is less of a startup and more of an established company. It was launched in 2004 and had about 1,500 employees by 2015.

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Palantir cofounder and Valley powerhouse VC Peter Thiel.
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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times

Source: The New York Times


It is known as one of the most secretive companies in the Valley, partly because of the work it does. It helps organizations sift through vast amounts of data. It is used by government and spy agencies to find terrorists, by law enforcement to find criminals, and by corporations for things like fraud detection and computer security.

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REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The CIA was an early investor and customer. The NSA and FBI are also customers. People who work in security, law enforcement, and with classified info do tend to value the ability to keep a secret, so security tech firms like Palantir tend to attract a certain secretive type of person.

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Thomson Reuters

In a recruitment video, one employee described the culture as “geeky,” another as “just a little awkward,” and another as “embracing the weirdness.”

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Palantir CEO Alexander Karp.
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YouTube/Screenshot

Source: YouTube/Palantir


The flip side of all that geeky awkwardness is that employees also describe their culture as “smart,” a “meritocracy,” and filled with “challenging,” meaningful work.

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Palantir employees.
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Palantir/Glassdoor

For instance, employees say they are working to fight terrorism, slavery, money laundering, and chronic homelessness.

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Thomson Reuters

To give you an idea of the type of geekiness: Employees say the company’s mission is to “save The Shire,” and they wear that on T-shirts, too. That’s a “Lord of the Rings” reference. In “LoTR,” the Hobbits go off to fight an evil lord called Sauron. They’re from a small country town in a outlying province called the Shire.

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eBay

The name Palantir is also a “LoTR” reference. It refers to a magical “seeing stone” that lets you see what’s happening in faraway lands.

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New Line Cinema

Palantir has a reputation for hiring a lot of younger programmers, often straight from school, and paying them typically high Valley wages, though not as high as companies like Facebook or Google.

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Glassdoor/Palantir

Source: Reddit, Glassdoor


Palantir is known for paying programmer interns well, too, an average of $7,645 monthly.

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m01229/Flickr

Source: Glassdoor


Palantir offers plenty of Valley style perks like free breakfast, lunch and dinner, dry-cleaning/laundry and gym reimbursement.

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Beefsteak/Facebook

However, it doesn’t do any 401K matching. Instead Palantir offers stock options (a little tougher to get for new employees now that the company has grown so big) and lets them sell up to 10% of their stock, up to a maximum of $425,000, each year on secondary markets. Some employees used this to buy houses.

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Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Source: The Wall Street Journal


The biggest complaint employees have is the lack of work/life balance. “Most people I know work 60 hours a week. Standard not extreme,” wrote one employee.

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Flickr/Peggy2012creativelenz

Source: Glassdoor


“For some reason they still expect employees to be in the office after dinner on Friday,” wrote one programmer who said he turned down a job offer to work there.

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Flickr/Sarah Marriage

Source: Reddit


Palantir prefers its employees live closer to the office and pays a housing stipend to help. Some people say the housing stipend doesn’t stretch far enough in expensive Palo Alto, but works better for New York.

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Palantir’s office in Palo Alto.
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Palantir

Another common complaint was inexperienced management. Some people were frustrated by a lack of strategy, leadership, and people-management skills. Others like it. “You pretty quickly get responsibility thrown at you,” writes one who does.

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Flickr/bottled_void

Source: Glassdoor


Palantir doesn’t do a good job in managing its own reputation, other employees complain. “Palantir sucks at talking to the media. Hell, they take pride in it. This means that there’s so much misinformation about the company,” writes one person. For instance, Palantir was embroiled in a WikiLeaks scandal in 2011.

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http://wikileaks.ch/

Source: Reddit, Forbes


Palantir employees say they work at a “meritocracy” where talent and achievement is awarded over office politics, so the structure is fairly decentralized. Some teams work on all kinds of fun and crazy stuff, others not so much. “I know people who will never leave the company and those that barely lasted two months.”

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Palantir employee.
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YouTube/Palantir

Source: Reddit


Another common complaint is that, while the projects can be meaningful, the work itself can be dull. There’s a lot of scripting and admin work. “There’s a very good chance you’re sacrificing interesting work for interesting outcomes,” says one person.

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Flickr/Alper Çuğun

Source: Reddit


All in all, employees are more satisfied than not with the company. It has a 4.1 star rating on Glassdoor, out of five stars. Plus, 86% approve of their CEO and 78% would recommend Palantir to a friend.

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Palantir CEO Alexander Karp.
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Getty / Scott Olson

Mitch McConnell distances himself from Donald Trump’s criticism of the father of a Muslim veteran

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Mitch McConnell speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell distanced himself slightly from Donald Trump’s criticism of the father of an American Muslim soldier killed defending his unit in Iraq.

In a statement on Sunday, McConnell praised Khizr Khan’s family for its sacrifice despite Khan’s brutal critique of Trump’s rhetoric about veterans and previous proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the US.

“Captain Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans I’m grateful for the sacrifices selfless young men like Captain Khan and their families have made for the war on terror,” McConnell said.

“All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services. And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khan’s and families across the country that a travel ban on members of any religion is simply contrary to American values.”

Following his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week, Khan has repeatedly called on Republican leaders in Congress to denounce Trump.

Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Khan specifically singled out McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, warning them that history would “not forgive” either if they did not stand up to the real-estate magnate.

“It is their moral obligation. History will not forgive them. This election will pass, but history will not forgive them,” Khan said.

For his part, Trump has questioned the legitimacy of Khan’s arguments, asking whether the Clinton campaign wrote Khan’s speech and wondering why his wife was silent onstage at the DNC.

In a statement released Saturday evening, Trump said that while Capt. Humayun Khan was a “hero,” his father had “no right” to question Trump’s understanding of the US Constitution.

“While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things,” Trump said.

The problem with relying on Russia to fight terrorism in Syria

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Vladimir Putin speaks during a personal send-off for members of the Russian Olympic team at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, July 27, 2016.
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REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Donald Trump repeated his suggestion this week that the US should partner with Russia to fight the terrorist group ISIS, but experts say there are problems with this proposal.

“There’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly as opposed to the way they are right now so that we can go and knock out ISIS together with other people and with other countries,” Trump said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with people? Wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along, as an example, with Russia? I’m all for it. And let’s go get ISIS.”

It wasn’t the first time Trump had suggested using Russia to help take out ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh). He’s also been often criticized for his perceived praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who isn’t commonly thought to be a friend of the US.

And it’s not just Trump. The US and Russia are preparing to announce a military cooperation plan, known as the Joint Implementation Group. The effort was spearheaded by Secretary of State John Kerry and will see the US sharing military intelligence with Russia to target terrorist groups in Syria.

But experts say that relying too much on a military solution to terrorism won’t solve the problem in the long run.

“The Islamic State is not only a military problem and it is not essentially a military problem. It’s a political problem,” Robert Ford, a senior fellow with the Middle East Institute and US ambassador to Syria between 2010 and 2014, told Business Insider.

He explained: “It came out of anger and frustration and chauvinism within Sunni Arab communities from Lebanon to Iraq that feel besieged and aggrieved. Partnering with Russia militarily might help cede territory from the Islamic State, but it won’t deal with the underlying grievances. It’ll turn [ISIS] into an insurgency instead.”

And already Russia hasn’t been reliable on the battlefield against ISIS. Analysts have noted that for months, most Russian airstrikes in Syria targeted moderate rebels that oppose the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“In the fall of 2015, Russia intervened militarily in Syria on the pretext of fighting ISIS terrorism,” Fred Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former special adviser for transition in Syria under then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, told Business Insider via email.

“Instead it has focused militarily on Syrian rebel units opposed to both Assad and ISIS, even hitting units equipped by the US to fight the latter. Secretary of State John Kerry is desperately trying to persuade Russia to align its actions with its words.”

Another concern is Russia’s alliance with the Assad regime. If the US were to fully embrace Russia, it could send a message to Syrians that we’re not serious about ousting Assad, a brutal ruler whose forces have been known to massacre civilians.

ISIS uses Assad’s violence to recruit people – the Sunni terror group markets itself as a protector of Sunnis, who are often targets of the Assad regime.

“When the Americans say they’re trying to find a way to get Assad to step aside, that at least undercuts some of the ISIS narrative,” Ford said. “But when you team up with the Russians, that makes the Islamic State narrative look more plausible. It would show Syrians that we don’t really care about their suffering. … It would just show that the Americans lack credibility when they say they are unhappy with the shelling of civilians.”

The Assad regime could also interpret a US embrace of Russia as a tacit message that the US is OK with him remaining in power.

“That may be not what the Americans’ message is intended to be, but that’s how it will be understood,” Ford said.

Still, Trump may be right to say he wants to mitigate tensions between the US and Russia.

“I think all Americans in general would like to have a relationship that’s not confrontational with Russia,” Ford said. “No one wants World War III.”

Hof made a similar point, noting that President Barack Obama made it a priority to establish friendlier relations with Russia when he took office in 2009.

But Ford said “the real question is how do you deter the Russians from plunging into little adventures, probes that end up going very bad,” like the seizure of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

“I think that there are a lot of questions right now about American deterrent capabilities,” Ford said. “When you then engage in these kind of questionable efforts to cooperate with the Russians, who have different strategic objectives in Syria, it calls into question your credibility, your willingness to be tough. And there’s a cost to failure.”

Science says couples are deluded about how likely they are to cheat on each other

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Cheating is rarer than you think — but it happens.
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Timothy Marsee/Flickr

Humans are notorious for thinking they’re better than everyone else.

When asked to rate themselves on attractiveness, intelligence, driving ability – you name it – they consistently say they’re above average, which obviously isn’t mathematically possible.

So it makes sense that people also believe their relationships are healthier than other folks’.

Specifically, people think their own romantic partner has a much lower chance of cheating than the average member of the opposite sex.

That’s according to recent research, cited on Science of Relationships, from the University of Calgary and McMaster Children’s Hospital. For the study, researchers recruited about 200 university students who’d been involved in heterosexual dating relationships for at least three months.

Those participants filled out an online questionnaire related to their beliefs and expectations about infidelity. (The researchers note that they didn’t explicitly define the term “infidelity,” so participants were left to use their own interpretations.)

Participants reported that they believe there’s about a 42% chance that the average person of the opposite sex either has cheated on their partner or will do so at some point.

But when it came to their own partners, participants estimated that there was about a 5% chance that their partner had already cheated on them and about an 8% chance that they would cheat on them in the future.

So how many participants said they’d actually gone and done it – cheated on their partner? 9%.

Interestingly, even though these couples were dating, and not married, they were just as confident (some might say delusional) in the stability of their relationships as married couples surveyed in other studies.

These findings jibe with other research that found, even after years of dating, couples don’t know each other nearly as well as they think they do. So you might think everything is peachy keen in the relationship, when in fact your partner’s feeling lonely or frustrated.

Perhaps the most important insight to come out of this research is that even though nearly every person surveyed said it was important that their partner doesn’t cheat on them, fewer people said they’d talked about infidelity with their partners.

Less than two-thirds had talked about what constitutes cheating, but even fewer said they’d reached an agreement with their partners about it.

Maybe we hedge the subject because it doesn’t occur to us that our partner could possibly stray; or maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what we’ll find out when we broach the topic. Either way, it helps to remember that your partner, like everyone else’s partner, is human, and there’s a chance – albeit a small one – that they’ll be unfaithful at some point.

As the write-up of this study on Science of Relationships concludes: “[T]he findings do highlight the degree to which people are motivated to really want to believe their relationships and partner is better than others. And that wishful thinking may blind individuals to real warning signs.”

Tesla has to overcome a major problem for its massive new Gigafactory to succeed

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The Gigafactory, under construction.
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Bob Tregilus

Tesla held a grand opening for its $5 billion Gigafactory in Nevada last week.

This massive facility, which will have the largest footprint of any building in the world when complete, is critical to achieving CEO Elon Musk’s lofty goal of building 500,000 vehicles annually by 2018.

That many cars will require more lithium-ion batteries than are currently available.

By all recent accounts, Gigafactory 1 is an impressive, huge, still-under-construction space filled with industrial robots and Tesla vehicles. The partnership with Panasonic and the state of Nevada is slated to employ 6,500 people.

And it’s an integral means to an end for Musk’s overarching vision, Tesla’s Master Plan: Accelerate the end of humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels by attacking major challenges, such as carbon emissions into the atmosphere, at a monumental scale.

But if Tesla is going to succeed with the Gigafactory, and the future Gigafactories it want to build around the world, it needs to overcome a problem – one that we’re familiar with from its current factory, in Northern California.

Get better at building cars

Tesla has the capacity to build 500,000 vehicles a year at its Fremont, California, plant. But last year it barely managed to build 50,000. This year, it will probably struggle to build 80,000 to 90,000. Meanwhile, it has reservations for 375,000 units of its forthcoming Model 3 mass-market car, which was unveiled earlier this year and should arrive by 2017.

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Tesla’s Fremont factory.
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Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

This is the biggest mystery about Tesla: Why can’t the company get better at building cars?

Any other major automaker with almost 400,000 pre-orders for a vehicle that should be relatively simple to build would be rolling sheet metal in a matter of months.

Tesla’s argument is that it has to improve its manufacturing capabilities. It has made some moves to that end this year, bringing on a former Audi executive to oversee car building and proposing that the Model 3 will be far simpler to construct than the Model X SUV, the complicated design of which led Musk to admit that Tesla had been guilty of “hubris” in creating it and that they probably shouldn’t have built it the way it was engineered.

We can give them the benefit of the doubt in this point. But we should also note that with the opening of the Gigafactory, Tesla has just added yet another manufacturing challenge to its already overfull plate.

Is making batteries different from making cars?

Lithium-ion batteries aren’t as difficult to construct as Tesla’s vehicles. In theory, the Gigafactory’s output should be limited only by time, physical scale, and the available lithium supply. But that oversimplifies the problem, because Tesla will obviously have to participate in managing Gigafactory production.

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A lithium mine in Chile.
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Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Tesla has thus far shown itself to be bad at managing production (and making money, but that’s beside the point at this stage of the company’s growth).

The past 50 years of the industrial economy have been ruled production management philosophy called “lean” production. “Lean” production was a system so perfected by Toyota that the rest of the auto industry copied it. In fact, Tesla’s factory used to be a collaboration between Toyota and General Motors, called NUMMI, to perfect these systems in the US.

Tesla’s approach is different – a throwback to the pre-war era of “vertical integration,” symbolized by Henry Ford’s legendary River Rouge plant, where trains loaded with iron ore rolled up to one side of the factory and finished cars rolled out the other.

Vertical integration enables Musk and Tesla to have control of every aspect of production, but it also means that they’re responsible for managing that production themselves, rather than managing a system of producers who feed in to Tesla.

No other choice

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The Model 3.
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AP Photo/Justin Pritchard

Tesla has had to operate this way because it is in an outlier in car manufacturing. Electric vehicles are still unpopular. They are, of course, exciting to onlookers, but consumers have yet to shift to them in droves. Tesla is the only carmaker whose fate is tied to the electric model. If it wants to get as big as it says it can get, batteries are a limiting factor.

Nobody else would even consider doing something as risky and out-there as the Gigafactory. They would assume a battery supply chain would develop at some point, to service demand – if that demand ever actually showed up.

That’s the lean way.

The Gigafactory looks like it may propose fewer issues than Tesla’s car factory despite the Gigafactory’s enormous scale. It’s going to be more like a printing plant than a car factory: Once a lithium-ion template is established, it’s just a matter of ensuring that the “machine,” as Musk now calls it, can crank away and make its targets.

However, it is yet another manufacturing challenge for Tesla, and the company’s history with that aspect of its business has been checkered. Tesla has no trouble innovating. Its biggest problems are with building those innovations at a scale that can change the world.

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Skye Gould/Tech Insider

This GIF shows the camera really does add 10 pounds — here’s why

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Dan Vojtech

It’s a comforting thought: The camera adds 10 pounds. After all, it means that the “you” that you see in photographs is not actually your best self. In real life, you’re better: You’re more attractive and slimmer.

And it turns out that this age-old line isn’t just a tale that we spin to make ourselves feel better about bad group photos. The camera really does add 10 pounds. Or some cameras do at least.

According to Gizmodo, the focal length of a camera can flatten out your features, which can make you look a little bit bigger. Then, of course, there’s barrel distortion, which is when a camera lens can cause straight lines to appear curved. This has the effect of plumping you up, making you look, well, kind of fatter.

But it’s not just a one-way street. These same effects can actually cause other lenses to make you appear thinner!

To highlight the incredible way that focal length can affect the shape of the face, photographer Dan Vojtech stitched together a series of nine portraits that he took at 20 mm, 24 mm, 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 70 mm, 105 mm, 150 mm, and 200 mm.

viaGIPHY

viaGIPHY

Vojtech kept the camera close with the wide-angle lens and farther away with the telephoto lens, so that the face was framed the same in every shot. Because of this, the GIF above shows what’s known as the “Hitchcock zoom.”

Wide-angle lenses, as their name implies, have a super-wide field of view, which can create something called a fish-eye effect – your face will appear bloated in the middle and stretched on the outside. The wide field of view can also cause objects closer to the camera to appear larger, while making objects further away seem smaller.

Telephoto lenses, on the other hand, will make you appear a little bit thinner. You’ll be somewhat flattened, with the width of your foremost features, such as your nose, being slightly compressed.

So what’s the best way to avoid the extra pounds packed on (or zapped away) by your deceitful camera?

According to PetaPixel, 85 mm to 135 mm lenses are usually recommended for portraits. These lenses produce less distortion, so that you can avoid looking thinner or fatter in photographs.

After all, the “real you” is the “best you.” Or something like that.