Fearing Trade War, Some US Farmers Worry About Trump China Tariffs

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a memo paving the way for major tariffs on Chinese imports. It’s part of Trump’s plan to crack down on China’s theft of intellectual property. But many U.S. farmers are worried the tariffs will prompt China to retaliate against their products. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh and Bill Gallo report on what some fear could be just the start of significant trade friction between Washington and Beijing.

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US Steel, Aluminum Tariffs Activated; Some Countries Exempt

The White House announced late Thursday which countries will be temporarily exempt from the tariffs on steel and aluminum that go into effect Friday.

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump announced 25 percent tariffs on steel coming into the country and 10 percent tariffs on imported aluminum.

The countries winning the temporary exemptions are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and the member countries of the European Union.

Exemptions to be monitored

The White House says it is in ongoing discussions with all the exempted countries and will “closely monitor” their steel and aluminum imports.

The president will decide by May 1 if he will continue the exemptions, “based on the status of discussions” with the countries. The EU will negotiate for its member countries.

European Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Friday he welcomed Trump’s decision to suspend the EU from the tariffs. He added, however, that while the decision represents progress, talks with the U.S. still need to go forward.

Trump said in proclamations issued Thursday night that steel and aluminum articles “are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States …”

The administration has said that retaining a domestic steel and aluminum manufacturing capacity is a matter of national security in order to build everything from tanks to rockets, as well as critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants.

Japan said it should also be exempt from the metals tariffs since its steel and aluminum exports do not pose a threat to the national security of the U.S.

“We have repeatedly told the U.S. side that steel and aluminum imports from its ally Japan will not adversely affect America’s national security and that Japan should be excluded,” Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary said Friday. Japan is the closest ally of the U.S. in Asia.

Opponents of Trump’s action see the tariffs as undermining the rules-based global trading system and using national security disguised as protectionism that will encourage other countries to resort to the same premise to protect their domestic markets.

The White House has rejected that argument, contending that the U.S. “is the freest-trading nation in the world” and arguing that the rules-based trading system, under the 23-year-old World Trade Organization with 164 member states, “is not working very well for the American people.”

TPP replacement signed

Trump announced his plans for the tariffs earlier this month, just hours after 11 other countries formalized, in Chile, a revised agreement that reduces tariffs and cut trade barriers among the member countries.

Known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement (CPTPP), it replaces the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) from which Trump withdrew the United States.

The countries that joined the TPP successor are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Trump boasted that trade wars “are good and easy to win” after his surprise announcement to levy the tariffs on the two metals.

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Indian Airliner Makes History with Flight to Israel via Saudi Airspace

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel with the inauguration Thursday of an Air India route between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.

Air India 139 landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport after a flight of about 7½ hours, marking a diplomatic shift for Riyadh that Israel says was fueled by shared concern over Iranian influence in the region.

“This is a really historic day that follows two years of very, very intensive work,” Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in a radio interview, adding that using Saudi airspace cut travel time to India by around two hours and would reduce ticket prices.

Israel not recognized

Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines, does not recognize Israel.

Riyadh has not formally confirmed granting the Air India plane overflight rights. While the move ended a 70-year-old ban on planes flying to or from Israel through Saudi airspace, there is as yet no indication that it will be applied for any Israeli airline.

The Air India Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner entered Saudi airspace around 1645 GMT (12:45 p.m. EDT) and overflew the kingdom at 40,000 feet for about three hours, coming within 60 km (37 miles) of the capital Riyadh, according to the Flightradar monitoring app. It then crossed over Jordan and the occupied West Bank into Israel.

The airliner had earlier flown over Oman, according to Flightradar. Officials from Oman, which also does not recognize Israel, could not be reached for comment.

El Al sees unfair advantage

Israel’s flag carrier El Al, excluded from the Saudi route, says its Indian competitor now has an unfair advantage.

El Al currently flies four times a week to the Indian city of Mumbai. Those flights take around 7 hours and 40 minutes, following a Red Sea route that swings toward Ethiopia to avoid Saudi airspace.

If El Al planes were to fly on to New Delhi, a destination El Al has said it might be interested in, they would require another two hours, and significantly more fuel.

Interviewed on Israel’s Army Radio, Levin voiced confidence that El Al would eventually be allowed to use Saudi airspace.

“You know, they said the Saudis wouldn’t let any flight pass. So here, the Saudis are permitting it. It is a process, I think. Ultimately this (El Al overflights) will happen too,” he said.

Asked if any other foreign airlines might follow Air India by opening routes to Tel Aviv over Saudi Arabia, Levin said he has been in negotiations with Singapore Airlines and a carrier from the Philippines, which he did not name.

“They are certainly showing readiness and desire to fly to Israel, and I don’t know if they will also receive permission like the Indian airline,” he said.

Singapore Airlines did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Saudi officials could not immediately be reached.

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Toys R Us Founder Charles Lazarus Dies at 94

Just a week after the empire he started announced it is shutting down, Toys R Us founder Charles Lazarus died at 94.

“There have been many sad moments for Toys R Us in recent weeks and none more heartbreaking than today’s news about the passing of our beloved founder,” the company said Thursday.

No cause of death was given.

Lazarus, a World War II veteran, started Toys R Us in 1948 as a single store in Washington, D.C., selling baby furniture.

At customer requests, he soon expanded his line to include toys and began opening large stores the size of supermarkets, devoted to toys and bicycles.

Toys R Us and its massive selection became a favorite of suburban American families.

Toys R Us opened stores all over the world before Lazarus stepped down as the head of the company in 1994.

In recent years, Toys R Us found itself struggling to compete with other large stores, especially with the onslaught of such online retailers as Amazon.

It declared bankruptcy last year, and announced last week it was shutting down its remaining stores.

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Zuckerberg Apology Fails to Quiet Facebook Storm

A public apology by Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg failed Thursday to quell outrage over the hijacking of personal data from millions of people, as critics demanded that the social media giant go much further to protect user privacy.

Speaking out for the first time about the harvesting of Facebook user data by a British firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Zuckerberg admitted Wednesday to betraying the trust of its 2 billion users and promised to “step up.”

Vowing to stop data leaking to outside developers and to give users more control over their information, Zuckerberg also said he was ready to testify before US lawmakers — which a powerful congressional committee promptly asked him to do.

With pressure ratcheting up on the 33-year-old CEO over a scandal that has wiped $60 billion off Facebook’s value, the initial response suggested his promise of self-regulation had failed to convince critics he was serious about change.

“Frankly I don’t think those changes go far enough,” Matt Hancock, Britain’s culture and digital minister, told the BBC.

“It shouldn’t be for a company to decide what is the appropriate balance between privacy and innovation and use of data,” he said. “The big tech companies need to abide by the law, and we are strengthening the law.”

In Brussels, European leaders were sending the same message as they prepared to push for tougher safeguards on personal data online, while Israel became the latest country to launch an investigation into Facebook.

The data scandal erupted at the weekend when a whistle-blower revealed that British consultant Cambridge Analytica had created psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users via a personality prediction app, developed by a researcher named Aleksandr Kogan.

The app, downloaded by 270,000 people, scooped up their friends’ data without consent — as was possible under Facebook’s rules at the time.

‘Breach of trust’

Facebook said it discovered last week that Cambridge Analytica might not have deleted the data as it certified, although the British firm denied wrongdoing.

“This was a major breach of trust and I’m really sorry that this happened,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with CNN, after publishing a blog post outlining his response to the scandal.

“Our responsibility now is to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

With Facebook already under fire for allowing fake news to proliferate during the U.S. election, Zuckerberg also said “we need to make sure that we up our game” ahead of midterm congressional elections in November, in which American officials have warned Russia can be expected to meddle as it did two years ago.

Cambridge Analytica has maintained it did not use Facebook data in the Trump campaign, but its now-suspended CEO boasted in secret recordings that his company was deeply involved in the race.

WATCH: Facebook Under Fire for Data Misuse

And U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, is reportedly looking into the consultant’s role in the Trump effort.

‘Abused and misused’

Zuckerberg’s apology followed a dayslong stream of damaging accusations against the world’s biggest social network, which now faces probes on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Washington on Thursday, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urged Zuckerberg to testify without delay, saying a briefing a day earlier by Facebook officials had left “many questions” unanswered.

“We believe, as CEO of Facebook, he is the right witness to provide answers to the American people,” said a statement from the panel, calling for a hearing “in the near future.”

America’s Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating Facebook over the scandal, while Britain’s information commissioner is seeking to determine whether it did enough to secure its data.

On Thursday, Israel’s privacy protection agency said it had informed Facebook of a probe into the Cambridge Analytica revelations, and was looking into “the possibility of other infringements of the privacy law regarding Israelis.”

Meanwhile, European Union leaders were due to press digital giants “to guarantee transparent practices and full protection of citizens’ privacy and personal data,” according to a draft summit statement obtained by AFP.

A movement to quit the social network has already gathered momentum — with the co-founder of the WhatsApp messaging service among those vowing to #deletefacebook — while a handful of lawsuits risk turning into class actions in a costly distraction for the company.

World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee described it as a “serious moment for the web’s future.”

“I can imagine Mark Zuckerberg is devastated that his creation has been abused and misused,” tweeted the British scientist.

“I would say to him: You can fix it. It won’t be easy but if companies work with governments, activists, academics and web users, we can make sure platforms serve humanity.”

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Trump Launches Action Toward Imposing Tariffs Against Chinese Imports

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday, initiating actions to consider imposing tariffs on a long list of nearly 1,300 Chinese imported products worth about $60 billion.

The move could limit China’s ability to invest in the U.S. technology industry, setting the stage for a possible trade war with Beijing.

The decision to take action is a result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative to determine whether Beijing’s trade practices may be “unreasonable or discriminatory” and that may be “harming American intellectual property rights, innovation or technology development.” After a seven-month investigation, the USTR found the policies were in violation.

At the signing ceremony, Trump said, “We have a tremendous intellectual property theft going on.”

He said the U.S. wants reciprocal trade and tariff deals with China and other countries. 

“If they charge us, we charge them the same thing,” Trump said at the White House ceremony.

He also blamed the “unfair Chinese trade practices” for the U.S. trade deficit with China, which has reached a record $375 billion on his watch.

WATCH: Fearing Trade War, Some US Farmers Worry About Trump China Tariffs

China’s response

China’s Commerce Ministry on Friday proposed a list of 128 U.S. products as potential retaliation targets, according to a statement on its website.

It plans a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork imports and 15 percent tariffs on American steel pipes, fruit and wine, the statement said.It also plans to take legal action against the U.S. under the World Trade Organization framework.

The statement did not go into greater detail.

U.S. agricultural products, particularly soybeans, have been flagged as the biggest area of potential retaliation by Beijing. The Commerce Ministry said China last year bought about $3 billion worth of the goods affected by the higher tariffs.

China urged the U.S. to resolve the trade dispute via dialogue.

Asian stock markets took a dive on the news, with Japan’s Nikkei index sliding as much as 3 percent in early Friday trade.

Campaign promises

Trump campaigned on promises to bring down America’s massive trade deficit — $566 billion last year — by rewriting trade agreements and cracking down on what he called abusive commercial practices by U.S. trading partners.

The investigation concluded that China “uses foreign ownership restrictions, including joint venture requirements, equity limitations, and other investment restrictions, to require or pressure technology transfer from U.S. companies to Chinese entities.”

Trade associations representing a wide range of the business community said they largely agree with criticism of China’s intellectual property practices, but criticized the tariffs as a poor remedy that could ultimately harm U.S. businesses and raise prices for consumers.

Earlier this week, some of the largest American retailers and tech companies, including Walmart and Apple, urged Trump to carefully consider the impact the tariffs would have on consumer prices.

“As you continue to investigate harmful technology and intellectual property practices, we ask that any remedy carefully consider the impact on consumer prices,” a coalition of more than 40 business groups, led by the Information Technology Industry Council, said Sunday in a letter to the president.

“As the industry closest to consumers, retailers know firsthand how high tariffs will hurt American families,” the letter continued.

The prospect of a trade war sent markets plummeting, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 724 points, almost 3 percent, its biggest drop in six weeks.

Global trade conflagration

Bloomberg Economics estimates a global trade conflagration could wipe $470 billion off the world economy by 2020.

The Trump administration has said it is simply taking long-overdue action following years of unfair Chinese trading practices that they argue previous administrations have insufficiently countered.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s hawkish top trade adviser, said the administration had decided on the tariffs in lockstep and said the U.S. opted to take tariff actions after dialogues with China over the past 15 years have failed to produce significant changes in Chinese behavior.

Thetariffs will be subject to a 15-day comment period before the U.S. Trade Representative finalizes the move. Other measures, including new restrictions on Chinese investment in the U.S., will take longer.

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Trump Takes Action on Chinese Imports

U.S. President Donald Trump signed a document Thursday setting the stage for an estimated $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports that could quickly lead to a trade war with Beijing.

The U.S. leader targeted China’s alleged years-long theft of U.S. intellectual property, imposing new restrictions on Chinese investment in the U.S. that mirror regulations that American companies face when they invest in China.

“We have a tremendous intellectual property theft going on,” Trump said.

He said the U.S. wants reciprocal trade and tariff deals with China and other countries.

“If they charge us, we charge them the same thing,” Trump said at the White House.

Trump, throughout his 14-month presidency, often has praised Chinese President Xi Jinping and cited his good relationship with him. But Trump also has often complained about the U.S.’s $375 billion annual trade deficit with China as reason enough to impose new restrictions. Trump said that with the increased tariffs he hopes to cut the trade deficit with China by $100 billion annually.

China will retaliate

Ahead of Trump’s announcement, China vowed that it would retaliate.

“China will not sit idly to see its legitimate rights damaged and must take all necessary measures to resolutely defend its legitimate rights,” the Commerce Ministry in Beijing said in a statement.

The prospect of a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies rattled stock markets in the U.S., with the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 key stocks falling more than 1.5 percent.

 The U.S. trade actions come partly in response to what U.S. officials say is the theft and improper transfer of American technology to Chinese companies.

The Chinese commerce ministry said ahead of the meeting that China opposes unilateral U.S. trade actions and hopes the two countries can find a mutually beneficial solution through dialogue.

U.S. officials spoke to reporters Wednesday about their months-long investigation under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 of Beijing’s trade practices.

China has long been considered by many in the international community to have contravened fundamental principles of global trade, despite joining the World Trade Organization in 2001.

There have been a “number of specific failings by China to live up to its WTO obligations,” a U.S. Trade Representative official said in a background briefing for reporters.

WATCH: What is a tariff?


Section 301 trade tool

The last time the Section 301 trade tool was wielded was two decades ago by the administration of President Bill Clinton against Japan to pry open that country’s automotive sector.

China has been “ripping off” the United States, Trump has emphasized numerous times in public remarks during which he has harshly criticized his predecessors for not doing anything about it.

Trump in January hit the Chinese-dominated solar panel and cell industry with tariffs. Earlier this month, he launched global tariffs on steel and aluminum (from which Canada and Mexico were quickly given indefinite exemptions), a move China’s commerce ministry said it “strongly opposed.”

Bracing for an anticipated harsh reaction from China against Trump’s announcement, one U.S. official said, “We recognize the potential gravity of the situation here.”

Depending on the severity of the measures taken by Trump, stock markets in Asia and elsewhere could be roiled, according to market analysts.

Trade groups representing American retail giants, such as Walmart, and tech companies, including Apple, warn that sweeping tariffs would raise prices for consumers in the United States and might not do much to reduce the trade deficit.

Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report

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Designed in California, Made in China: How the iPhone Skews US Trade Deficit

U.S. President Donald Trump often tweets from his iPhone about pressuring China to address its $375 billion trade surplus with the United States. But a closer look at the Apple smartphone reveals how the headline figure is distorted.

The big trade imbalance – at the heart of a potential trade war, with Trump expected to impose tariffs on Chinese imports this week – exists in large part because of electrical goods and tech, the biggest U.S. import item from China.

Apple Inc’s iPhone, however, illustrates how a big portion of that imbalance is due to imports of American-branded products – many of which use global suppliers for parts but are put together in China and shipped around the world.

Take a look at the iPhone X. IHS Markit estimates its components cost a total of $370.25. Of that, $110 goes to Samsung Electronics in South Korea for supplying displays. Another $44.45 goes to Japan’s Toshiba Corp and South Korea’s SK Hynix for memory chips.

Other suppliers from Taiwan, the United States and Europe also take their portion, while assembly, done by contract manufacturers in China like Foxconn, represents only an estimated 3 to 6 percent of the manufacturing cost.

Current trade statistics, however, count most of the manufacturing cost in China’s export numbers, which has prompted global bodies like the World Trade Organization to consider alternative calculations that include where value is added.

The impact on export data of just the iPhone could be major.

Apple shipped 61 million iPhones to the United States last year, data from researchers Counterpoint and IHS Markit show, spending $258 on average to make each iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

Using a rough calculation that implies the iPhone 7 series added $15.7 billion to the U.S. trade deficit with China last year, about 4.4 percent of the total. That’s also about 22 percent of the $70 billion in cell phones and household goods the U.S. imported from China.

“With an iPhone, where China is just the final assembler, most of the value [contributed by China] is just the labor rather than the components themselves,” said John Wu, an economic analyst with a U.S.-based think tank, the Information & Innovation Foundation.

‘Collateral damage’

Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics research at Oxford Economics, notes that U.S. companies’ using global supply chains to manufacture products in China means other economies would be caught in the crossfire of a trade war.

“That is an important reason why U.S.-China trade friction will cause ‘collateral damage,’ especially in other Asian economies,” he said, adding that in value added terms, the U.S. trade deficit with China was only $239 billion last year, 36 percent lower than the headline number.

For its part, Apple has responded to Trump’s concerns with a pledge to bring some suppliers to the United States. It said in January it planned to pay $55 billion to U.S. suppliers this year.

Over the last decade, Apple shipped 373 million iPhones, worth $101 billion by manufacturing value, in the United States, according to researcher StrategyAnalytics.

The iPhone’s contribution to U.S. trade deficits is almost certain to have grown sharply alongside higher retail prices and shipments.

But the manufacturing value does not include the intellectual property value Apple adds through engineering and design work done in its headquarters in Cupertino, California, as well as margins taken by distributors.

The iPhone X has a manufacturing cost of about $400, an $800 wholesale cost, and a $1,200 retail unsubsidized cost, according to analysts.

Siri, Apple’s “digital assistant,” reflects the challenge of knowing exactly where the value of an iPhone comes from – even if it’s put together in China. If users ask Siri where she is from, the response is: “Like it says on the box… I was designed by Apple in California.”

The closely intertwined manufacturing ecosystem has led to warnings that a trade war would be painful for all sides.

Forty-five U.S. trade associations representing some of the largest U.S. companies urged the president on Sunday not to impose tariffs on China, warning it would be “particularly harmful” to the U.S. economy and consumers.

Retailers and shoemakers, including Wal-Mart Inc and Nike Inc, also sounded the alarm on Monday over concerns the plans would result in higher consumer prices.

A 10 percent tariff levied on Chinese electronics imports would slow the growth of U.S. output by $163 billion over the next 10 years, and a 25 percent tariff would slow output by $332 billion, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

Kuijs wrote that both sides would likely show restraint.

All-out economic war, he added, “would cause major economic damage globally.”

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Experts: Uber SUV’s Autonomous System Should Have Seen Woman

Two experts say video of a deadly crash involving a self-driving Uber vehicle shows the sport utility vehicle’s laser and radar sensors should have spotted a pedestrian, and computers should have braked to avoid the crash.

Authorities investigating the crash in a Phoenix suburb released the video of Uber’s Volvo striking a woman as she walked from a darkened area onto a street.

Experts who viewed the video told The Associated Press that the SUV’s sensors should have seen the woman pushing a bicycle and braked before the impact.

Also, Uber’s human backup driver appears on the video to be looking down before crash and appears startled about the time of the impact.

“The victim did not come out of nowhere. She’s moving on a dark road, but it’s an open road, so Lidar [laser] and radar should have detected and classified her” as a human, said Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles.

Sam Abuelsmaid, an analyst for Navigant Research who also follow autonomous vehicles, said laser and radar systems can see in the dark much better than humans or cameras and that the pedestrian was well within the system’s range.

“It absolutely should have been able to pick her up,” he said. “From what I see in the video it sure looks like the car is at fault, not the pedestrian.”

The video could have a broad impact on autonomous vehicle research, which has been billed as the answer to cutting the 40,000 traffic deaths that occur annually in the U.S. in human-driven vehicles.

Proponents say that human error is responsible for 94 percent of crashes, and that self-driving vehicles would be better because they see more and don’t get drunk, distracted or drowsy.

But the experts said it appears from the video that there was some sort of flaw in Uber’s self-driving system.

The video, Smith said, may not show the complete picture, but “this is strongly suggestive of multiple failures of Uber and its system, its automated system, and its safety driver.”

Tempe police, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the Sunday night crash, which occurred outside of a crosswalk on a darkened boulevard.

The crash was the first death involving a fully autonomous test vehicle. The Volvo was in self-driving mode traveling about 40 mph (64 kph) with a human backup driver at the wheel when it struck 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, police said.

The lights on the SUV did not illuminate Herzberg until a second or two before impact, raising questions about whether the vehicle could have stopped in time.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week that the SUV likely would not be found at fault.

But Smith said that from what he observed on the video, the Uber driver appears to be relying too much on the self-driving system by not looking up at the road.

“The safety driver is clearly relying on the fact that the car is driving itself. It’s the old adage that if everyone is responsible no one is responsible,” Smith said. “This is everything gone wrong that these systems, if responsibly implemented, are supposed to prevent.”

The experts were unsure if the test vehicle was equipped with a video monitor that the backup driver may have been viewing.

Uber immediately suspended all road-testing of such autos in the Phoenix area, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

An Uber spokeswoman, reached Wednesday night by email, did not answer specific questions about the video or the expert observations.

“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones. Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can,” the company said in a statement.

Tempe police have identified the driver as 44-year-old Rafael Vasquez. Court records show someone with the same name and birthdate as Vasquez spent more than four years in prison for two felony convictions — for making false statements when obtaining unemployment benefits and attempted armed robbery — before starting work as an Uber driver.

Tempe police and the NTSB declined to say whether the Vasquez who was involved in the fatal crash is the same Vasquez with two criminal convictions.

Attempts by the AP to contact Vasquez through phone numbers and social media on Wednesday afternoon were not successful.

Local media have identified the driver as Rafaela Vasquez. Authorities declined to explain the discrepancy in the driver’s first name.

The fatality has raised questions about whether Uber does enough to screen its drivers.

Uber said Vasquez met the company’s vetting requirements.

The company bans drivers convicted of violent crimes or any felony within the past seven years. Records show Vasquez’ offenses happened before the seven-year period, in 1999 and 2000.

The company’s website lists its pre-screening policies for drivers that spell out what drivers can and cannot have on their record to work for Uber.

 Their driving history cannot have any DUI or drug-related driving offenses within the past seven years, for instance. They also are prevented from having more than three non-fatal accidents or moving violations within the past three years.

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Toy Company CEO Leads Effort to Save Toys R Us

Toy company executive Isaac Larian says he and other investors have pledged a total of $200 million in financing and hope to raise four times that amount in crowdfunding in order to bid for up to 400 of the Toys R Us stores being liquidated in bankruptcy.

The unsolicited bid still faces many hurdles, including finding other deep-pocked investors and getting a bankruptcy judge to agree to it. But this is the first public plan to keep the cherished toy brand in existence in the United States.

Such a long-shot move would also greatly benefit Larian’s primary business. He’s CEO of Bratz doll-maker MGA Entertainment, which relies on Toys R Us for nearly 1 in every 5 sales.

​Good for the industry

Larian says he and the other investors, which he declined to name, believe salvaging part of the Toys R Us business will be good for the toy industry, customers and workers. They’re interested in more than half the 735 U.S. stores Toys R Us plans to liquidate, and want to be able to use the valuable brand name.

And they’re hoping the outpouring of affectionate nostalgia when Toys R Us announced its plans — #SaveToysRUs has been a trend on social media — translates into pledges toward their $1 billion goal.

Toys R Us sought court approval last week to liquidate its remaining U.S. stores, threatening the jobs of about 30,000 employees and spelling the end for a chain known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores, sing-along jingle and Geoffrey the giraffe mascot.

The store has an iconic place in American culture, said Larian. “We can’t just sit back and just let it disappear.” Larian, who is a billionaire, is using his own money, not MGA funds, for the bid.

No debt

Why might Larian be successful with a retail chain struggling to stay relevant in the age of Amazon? For one thing, Larian wouldn’t have the massive $5 billion in debt that hampered the current owner of Toys R Us. He also says the toy industry needs a big chain like Toys R Us, where children can touch and feel the toys and toymaker’s can test new products.

The chain’s liquidation will have a “devastating effect” on the toy industry, said Larian, who estimates that 130,000 jobs in the U.S. could be lost when you include layoffs at suppliers and logistic operations. He said a total Toys R Us liquidation could mean MGA would have to lay off workers at an Ohio plant that makes the Little Tikes toy vehicles. That brand accounts for 25 percent of MGA total sales, and Larian says only Toys R Us really had enough room to display the cars. It’s harder to ship such bulky items on Amazon.

The Toys R Us troubles have hurt big toy makers like Mattel and Hasbro, which have been key suppliers to the chain. MGA, based in Van Nuys, California, is the world’s largest privately held toy company. The planned liquidation would have a bigger impact on smaller toy makers that rely more on the chain for sales.

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