Amazon will pay $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row

Amazon will pay $0 in federal income taxes for the second year in a row.

Amazon, which doubled its profits and made more than $11 billion in 2018, won’t pay any federal income taxes for the second year in a row, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reported on Wednesday.

The company will not be required to pay the standard 21 percent income tax rate on its 2018 profits, and is claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which ITEP describes as a “a tax rate of negative 1 percent.”

Amazon drew ire in 2018 for not paying federal taxes on its $5.6 billion in profits the year before, which was made possible due to tax credits and stock-based compensation, reports Politifact. Last year was the first time Amazon paid no federal income tax whatsoever.

From 2011 to 2016, Amazon payed federal income tax at a rate of 11.4 percent — less than half of the national rate of 35 percent. Due to President Trump’s corporate-friendly tax cuts, Amazon will pay any deferred or postponed taxes at the lowered rate of 21 percent rather than the previous rate of 35 percent, per Politifact.

Based out of Washington state, which has no income tax, Amazon has also been free from state filings on income. Marianne Dodson

sure jan
Bill Cosby claims he was imprisoned for his ‘political beliefs,’ compares himself to Martin Luther King Jr.

2:46 p.m.
Bill Cosby in a bizarre statement released from jail insists he’s exactly like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.

Cosby, who was sentenced to three to 10 years in a maximum security prison after being found guilty on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, released a statement through his representative on Wednesday saying he “will never have remorse” for his crimes. The comedian has denied allegations of sexual assault by dozens of women and was found guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.

Cosby said that a “low-life district attorney and a corrupt judge needed me guilty” because of their “political aspirations,” also claiming that he was locked up because of “my political beliefs, my actions of trying to humanize all races, genders, and religions.” Now, Cosby says, he has “a temporary residence that resembles the quarters of some of the greatest political prisoners,” including Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Nelson Mandela. “I stand upright as a political prisoner and I smile,” he concludes. “The truth is strong!”

Bill Cosby says he is a political prisoner and compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela in a new statement from his press representative Andrew Wyatt.

— David P Gelles (@gelles) February 13, 2019

This statement comes following an equally strange interview Cosby’s spokesperson, Andrew Wyatt, gave to NBC10, in which he said that, “despite the circumstances,” Cosby finds prison to be an “amazing experience.”

spy game
U.S. accuses former Air Force intelligence specialist of spying for Iran

2:43 p.m.

Department of Justice/AP
The U.S. is charging one of its own former Air Force intelligence specialists with espionage, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Monica Witt, 39, who was born and raised in Texas and was in the Air Force from 1997 until 2008, defected to Iran in 2013. The indictment states that during her tenure in the Air Force, Witt had access to “top secret national defense information.” She also handled classified projects as a government contractor in her post-Air Force career from 2008 to 2010.

Among the specific charges, Witt is accused of revealing the code name and mission of a highly classified Defense Department Special Access Program. She is also accused of aiding Iranian intelligence with hacking and identity theft efforts, which targeted her U.S. military colleagues.

Jay Tabb, the FBI’s executive director for national security, said that Witt “is known to have appeared on Iranian media outlets” and “made statements critical of the U.S. government” before she defected. In 2012, the FBI warned her that the Iranian government could recruit her, to which she replied that she would refuse to hand over any information she acquired through her military work.

The indictment also charged four Iranians with conspiracy, computer intrusions, and identity theft. All five individuals are believed to still be in Iran. Read the full indictment at NPR. Tim O’Donnell

it might be getting too crowded
Why the Democrats’ expanding 2020 field makes an upset more likely

1:35 p.m.
Things might chaotic get for the Democrats in 2020, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver showed. As more and more candidates enter the running, he argues, the more challenging it will be for establishment Democrats to break through the fold. Silver anticipates the number of “major candidates” landing somewhere between 17 and 24 before all is said and done (though only nine have officially entered the ring at this point), which would constitute the largest primary field in history.

When looking at data back to 1972, Silver considered two things — how many candidates campaigned in each primary and whether or not the party elites were able to push their preferred candidate to the forefront. The table below shows that, historically, the larger the pool, the more likely it has been for a dark horse to secure the nomination, with President Trump’s 2016 victory as the most striking example.

What’s happened in the past when fields are this large?

You’ve wound up with Trump, McGovern and Carter, all deeply unconventional nominees who lacked support from the party establishment.

— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) February 13, 2019

While it still remains unclear who Democratic elites might back, national polls generally have former Vice President Joe Biden (who may not even run) in the lead. But with more than half the expected field yet to even announce their candidacy, these polls probably have very little long-term significance, and history tells us predicting the eventual nominee could become even more difficult. Tim O’Donnell

tread lightly
The Breaking Bad movie will reportedly arrive on Netflix before its TV debut

1:34 p.m.

Kevin Winter / Getty Images
When it’s time for the Breaking Bad movie to premiere, Netflix will be the first ones who knock.

The streaming service will be releasing the upcoming Breaking Bad film, which will also air on AMC, The Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday. Interestingly, though, the report says that Netflix will actually have first-run rights, meaning the movie would premiere on Netflix prior to its airing on AMC.

This is a major get for Netflix, which currently streams Breaking Bad but previously debuted episodes after they aired for the first time on AMC. Deadline notes that creator Vince Gilligan in the past has thanked Netflix for Breaking Bad’s success, as its presence there helped the show attract legions of fans who were able to binge it and catch up between seasons.

We don’t yet know a lot about the Breaking Bad movie, but the Reporter confirms previous reporting that it will be a sequel to the original series and will revolve around Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman and his “quest for freedom” after being kidnapped. Gilligan is expected to write and direct it, but the film doesn’t yet have a release date. Brendan Morrow

Art of the Deal
Trump will likely agree to $1.3 billion in border funding. He rejected $1.6 billion last year.

1:09 p.m.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Trump looks set to sign a budget deal that doesn’t come close to including the amount of border wall funding he’s asked for — or even as much as he’s rejected in the past.

Trump intends to sign a new budget agreement from Congress that will avert a government shutdown, CNN reported Wednesday. He had expressed dissatisfaction with the bill, and understandably so; he’d been for weeks asking for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, and this bill only includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing.

But The Washington Post points out that Trump could have had much more if he had just quit while he was ahead. After all, a spending bill produced by the Senate in June 2018 included $1.6 billion for 65 miles of fencing. Trump rejected this amount, wanting $5 billion instead. Now, not only is he ending this whole standoff without $5 billion, he’ll receive even less than the original $1.6 billion he was offered, after his insistence on the funding sparked the longest-ever partial government shutdown.

Trump, though, will likely spin this agreement as not being a show of defeat because he plans to fund the wall in other ways, including by redirecting money from elsewhere within the federal government like disaster relief funds. The full text of the budget agreement has not yet been released, but Trump on Tuesday said it will be “hooked up with lots of money from other sources.” Brendan Morrow

news from mars
The remarkable life and bittersweet end of NASA’s Opportunity rover

1:02 p.m.
After a remarkable 15 years on Mars, the story of NASA’s Opportunity rover is coming to a bittersweet end.

First launched in 2003 along with its twin Spirit, Opportunity landed on Mars’ surface in Jan. 2004, with a mission that was intended to last 90 days. See Opportunity’s initial launch below:

Both of the “Adventure Twins,” as NASA affectionately dubbed the rovers, made it far longer than anyone expected: NASA ended Spirit’s mission on May 25, 2011, over seven years after it began. And now, Ars Technica reports, NASA is ending Opportunity’s mission, too.

In June 2018, a dust storm on the surface of Mars caused NASA to lose contact with Opportunity; since it operates by solar power, dust blocking out the sun or coating its panels could keep it from turning on. But in the months since then, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has worked tirelessly to try to regain the signal of its lost rover. In all, over 835 commands were sent by the JPL team, in the hopes that wind would clear the solar panels of dust and Opportunity would be able to reboot and function again.

Late Tuesday night, JPL sent one final message: the Billie Holiday song “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Still, there was no response — so this chapter of extraterrestrial exploration is closed. On Wednesday afternoon, NASA is expected to officially end Opportunity’s mission, a whopping 5,352 sols (Martian days) after it began.

Opportunity has provided us with groundbreaking evidence, NASA states, including the stunning fact that at sometime in Mars’ history, the planet may have been suitable for microbial life. It’s also given us stunning views of Mars’ surface, the likes of which had never before been seen by human eyes.

Now, NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight rover will take over the mission. They will have some very impressive wheel tracks to follow.

Read more about Opportunity at Ars Technica, and see more photos from Mars on NASA’s website. Shivani Ishwar

Shut it down
Apple will ‘take a look’ at controversial app that allows Saudi men to track women

12:20 p.m.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will “take a look” at a controversial app in Saudi Arabia that allows Saudi men to track their wives and daughters, reports NPR.

Absher, an app which was created by a subset of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has been distributed on both Apple and Google app stores, with more than one million downloads on the latter platform, per Vice News.

The app says users “can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online,” NPR reports. App users can also receive a notification whenever one of the people they are tracking attempts to use a passport. All women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a male guardian and need permission to travel, per Vice News.

Human rights groups have taken issue with the app, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on Apple and Google earlier this week to remove the app. “It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women,” wrote Wyden in a letter to the companies, “but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government’s patriarchy.”

Cook told NPR he had not heard about the controversy before being asked about it during an interview on Monday. The app has remained available on both platforms as of Wednesday. Marianne Dodson

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