‘Extreme vetting’ for those entering US; US GDP growth misses forecast with 1.9% growth in Q4; Apple to join AI research group

1 ‘Extreme vetting’ for those entering US (Sabrina Siddiqui in The Guardian) Marking a draconian shift in US policy, Donald Trump has issued an executive order that will deny refugees and immigrants from certain Muslim-majority countries entry to the US.

With a simple stroke of his pen, the president issued what he dubbed “extreme vetting” measures intended to “keep terrorists out” of the US – the details of which were even more severe than had been expected.

Trump’s unprecedented action will indefinitely close US borders to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Syria and impose a de facto ban on Muslims traveling to the US from parts of the Middle East and North Africa by prioritizing refugee claims “on the basis of religious-based persecution”.

The action puts in place a 90-day block on entry to the US from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. It is unclear whether the measure would apply to citizens of those countries on trips abroad who already have permission to live and work in the US.

It suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days, and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria, where the nearly six-year war under Bashar al-Assad’s regime has led to more than 500,000 civilian deaths and created the displacement of an estimated 11 million Syrians. It also caps the total number of refugees entering the US in 2017 to 50,000 – less than half the previous year’s figure of 117,000.

The number of refugees currently arriving to the US is not high by historic standards. In the early 1990s, more than 100,000 refugees were admitted to the country annually. But by 2015, the latest year covered by Department for Homeland Security (DHS) statistics, that figure had fallen to just 69,920 refugees.

The number of refugees admitted to the US increased significantly in 2016, to 96,875, according to the Refugee Processing Center. That figure represents just 0.03% of the US population of 323 million people.


2 US GDP misses forecast with 1.9% growth in Q4 (BBC) The US economy grew at an annual pace of 1.9% in the fourth quarter of last year, according to official figures. That was slower than the 2.2% growth rate economists had been expecting and below third quarter growth of 3.5%.

For the year, GDP rose by 1.6%, the slowest since 2011 and down on 2015 when the world’s largest economy expanded by 2.6%. President Donald Trump has promised to lift GDP growth to 4%, through tax cuts and infrastructure spending. The last time that America’s economy grew at that rate was in 2000, the year of the dotcom boom, when it expanded by 4.1%.

Nancy Curtin, chief investment officer at Close Brothers Asset Management, said the data highlighted how the heightened political climate in the US and Europe had “put a pinch on US growth”.

Full year growth of 1.6% places the US behind the UK, which this week reported that GDP rose by 2% last year. UK output also grew ahead of Germany, the so-called engine room of the European economy, which expanded by 1.9% last year.


3 Apple may join AI research group (Gulf News) Apple Inc is set to join the Partnership on AI, an artificial intelligence research group that includes Amazon.com Inc, Google, Facebook Inc, International Business Machines Corp and Microsoft Corp.

Apple’s admission into the group could be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the situation. Representatives at Apple and the Partnership on AI declined to comment.

When the non-profit organisation was announced in September, it anticipated gaining additional members. Apple, Twitter Inc, Intel Corp and China’s Baidu Inc were among noticeable absentees at the time. While the introduction of the Siri virtual assistant in 2011 gave Apple an early presence in AI for consumers, it has since lost ground to rivals such as Google and Amazon.



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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