It’s August, which means most people aren’t paying attention to the news — so you get extra Brownie points when you do. Read up on the top stories in business and tech, and feel superior heading into Monday.
What’s Up? (July 28-Aug. 3)
The Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Wednesday by a quarter of a percentage point, the first decrease since the recession. The expected decision was still debated — rate cuts are meant to encourage borrowing and spending, and the United States economy is already humming along and adding jobs at a good clip. The Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, explained that the rate cut was a preventive measure, meant to counteract slowing global markets and ever-increasing trade tensions between the United States and China. (More on that in a minute.) But the reduction disappointed its biggest proponents, like the markets and President Trump, who were hoping for even more. Most people won’t see much impact in their mortgages or other loans, at least not for a while.
Caught on Camera
The New York Police Department has been using arrest photos of children, some as young as 11, in a facial recognition database that compares the mug shots with crime scene images. The police say they’re using technology just to identify suspects, which is, after all, their job. But evidence shows that the software has a higher risk of false matches with younger faces. Not to mention, these are minors — usually a protected group within the justice system. Civil rights groups say it’s just another example of the Police Department’s ability to use powerful surveillance tools without public knowledge.
All It Takes Is One
Another day, another data breach — but this one has a twist. Capital One found that a hacker had compromised the personal information of more than 100 million people, making it one of the largest-ever data thefts from a bank. Now for the surprise: The suspect is a not a shadowy foreign actor but a 33-year-old software engineer in Seattle who used to work for Amazon. She stands accused of stealing 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers through a single weak spot in Capital One’s security software. The bank said it was “unlikely that the information was used for fraud or disseminated by this individual,” but customers should monitor their accounts anyway.
What’s Next? (Aug. 4-10)
If you thought last week’s trade talks with China might go somewhere, sorry. It now looks as if they only made a bad situation worse. Mr. Trump announced on Thursday that he would impose a 10 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion in Chinese goods, starting in September. This would join the existing 25 percent tariff on $250 billion in imports, which began in May. The president said the levies were a response to China’s failure to keep its promise to buy more American agricultural products and to stop selling fentanyl (an opioid) to the United States. China is likely to reciprocate with its own punitive measures soon. The news battered markets around the world.
Meanwhile, in Detroit
The second Democratic presidential primary debates took place over two nights last week, and all 20 candidates agreed on one point: The economy may look strong from a numbers standpoint, but it’s nowhere near good enough for most Americans who are still struggling to make ends meet. What to do about it, however, was a point of contention, particularly between progressives (Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders) and moderates (Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar). Expect more stump speeches on the cost of health care, as well as tax cuts and trade wars, as the candidates parry before the next debate in September.
Galaxies on Display
Samsung is expected to unveil its latest generation of devices in Brooklyn on Wednesday, including a new version of the Galaxy Note 10 phone, possibly in more than one size. The new design is said to feature a camera lens that’s specially placed for selfies. (No word on whether it erases double chins.) But the Galaxy Fold — a futuristic phone that’s meant to open and close like a book — will probably remain under wraps after design flaws delayed its introduction this year.
Big hotel chains, including IHG (which owns Holiday Inn and InterContinental), are banning mini bottles of bath products. Bulk dispensers are not only better for the environment, they’re less expensive, too. Not so cheap: Jeffrey Epstein’s legal fees. The sex trafficking case against the disgraced financier became even more sordid after reports surfaced that he had been dabbling in a eugenics scheme. And Amazon is under scrutiny from the Pentagon, which delayed an all-but-certain award of a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the company after Mr. Trump — an open critic of Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos — said he had heard of “tremendous complaints” from its competitors.