Apple Shares: More Analyst Downgrades Take a Bite Out

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It’s been a case of kick Apple shares while they’re down as more analyst downgrades hurt the stock on Wednesday when Guggenheim Partners lowered its rating on the tech giant from “buy” to “neutral,” citing that a 5% decline in iPhone units will occur in 2019. Guggenheim forecasted that a subsequent increase in prices would […]

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Slow Burn for Marijuana ETF After Post-Midterm Election High

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It’s been a slow burn for ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEArca: MJ) as it has fallen 16% in the last five days after it rallied to a November high last week following the U.S. midterm elections. MJ was down about 5% on Tuesday as of 12:15 p.m. ET as U.S. equities have been put through another […]

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US adds new sanctions on Cuba tourist attractions

The Trump Administration is adding new names to a list of Cuban tourist attractions that Americans are barred from visiting.

The 26 names range from the new five-star Iberostar Grand Packard and Paseo del Prado hotels in Old Havana to modest shopping centers in beachside resorts far from the capital. All are barred because they are owned by Cuba’s military business conglomerate, GAESA.

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Travel to Cuba remains legal. Hundreds of US commercial flights and cruise ships deliver hundreds of thousands of Americans to the island each year. And nothing prevents the government from funding its security apparatus with money spent at facilities that aren’t owned by GAESA and banned by the U.S. But the sanctions appear to have dampened interest in travel to Cuba, which has dropped dramatically this year.

Boeing didn’t disclose control feature eyed in Indonesia crash, U.S. pilots say

Boeing didn’t tell airline pilots about features of a new flight-control system in its 737 MAX that reportedly is a focus of the investigation into last month’s deadly crash in Indonesia, according to pilots who fly the jet in the U.S.

Pilots say they were not trained in new features of an anti-stall system in the aircraft that differ from previous models of the popular 737.

The automated system is designed to help pilots avoid raising the plane’s nose too high, which can cause the plane to stall, or lose the aerodynamic lift needed to keep flying. The system automatically pushes the nose of the plane down.

How could something like this happen? We want to be given the information to keep our pilots, our passengers and our families safe.– Jon Weaks , president of Southwest Airlines Pilots Association

But if that nose-down command is triggered by faulty sensor readings — as suspected in the Lion Air crash — pilots can struggle to control the plane, which can go into a dive and perhaps crash, according to a Boeing safety bulletin and safety regulators.

The bulletin included new details on how to stop a runaway series of events from leading to a crash, pilots say.

“It is something we did not have before in any of our training,” said Dennis Tajer, a 737 pilot and spokesperson for the pilots union at American Airlines. “It wasn’t in our books. American didn’t have it. Now I have to wonder what else is there?”

Jon Weaks, a 737 captain and president of the pilots union at Southwest, said he couldn’t recall a similar omission in a Boeing operating manual.

“I was not pleased. How could something like this happen? We want to be given the information to keep our pilots, our passengers and our families safe,” he said.

Weaks said he is satisfied “we have been given, finally, the correct information.”

More than 200 planes delivered

The MAX is the newest version of the twin-engine Boeing 737. More than 200 have been delivered to airlines worldwide, including American, Southwest and United.

Boeing chairman-CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Tuesday that the Chicago-based company remains confident the MAX is a safe airplane. He said Boeing did not withhold operating details from airlines and flight crews.

“We ensure that we provide all of the information that is needed to safely fly our airplanes,” Muilenburg told Fox Business Network. He said Boeing bulletins to airlines and pilots “point them back to existing flight procedures” to handle the kind of sensor problem suspected in last month’s crash.

Boeing chairman-CEO Dennis Muilenburg, interviewed on the Fox Business Network in New York on Tuesday, said the company remains confident the MAX is a safe airplane. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

A Southwest spokesperson said the new automated manoeuvring system was not included in the operating manual for MAX models. An American spokesperson said the airline was unaware of some new automated functions in the MAX, but hasn’t experienced nose-direction errors. A United spokesperson said Boeing and the FAA do not believe additional pilot training is needed.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency directive last week to airlines, telling them to update cockpit manuals to include instructions for how pilots can adjust flight controls under certain conditions.

“The FAA will take further action if findings from the accident investigation warrant,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday.

Deadly crash

On Oct. 29, Lion Air Flight 610 plunged into the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all189 aboard.

John Cox, a former 737 pilot and now a safety consultant to airlines, said Boeing’s steps since the crash “have been exactly correct. They have increased pilot awareness, they have reminded them of the proper procedure to disable (the automatic nose-down action), which stops the problem.”

Indonesian investigators say the Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 experienced malfunctions with sensors that indicate the angle of the nose on four recent flights, including the fatal one.

The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. and Indonesian investigators are increasingly focusing on the way the plane’s automated control systems interact. They are also questioning whether the FAA and Boeing adequately analyzed potential hazards if the systems malfunction and send faulty data to the plane’s computers, according to the newspaper.

Reckless rhetoric is the real threat to public faith in Florida recounts: Keith Boag

The vaunted framers of the U.S. Constitution never anticipated the kind of destructive debacle of a Senate race unfolding in Broward County, Fla., this week.

They had no reason to expect the haggling about undervotes and overvotes, the obtusely designed ballot, the accusations of bad faith and conflicts of interest, to say nothing of the interventions of President Donald Trump and his baseless Twitter hysteria about a stolen election.  

That’s because James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and the other framers didn’t even prescribe a popularly elected Senate. They recoiled at the idea of sharing power with ordinary folk, fearing the hoi polloi would just screw things up (see The Federalist Papers #10). So the constitution they produced directed state legislatures to choose their own U.S. senators.

Statewide popular elections for the U.S. Senate are relatively modern and didn’t fully evolve until after the 17th Amendment was passed in 1913.

But as they evolved, U.S. elections still kept more space for raw politics than has survived in many other modern democracies — including Canada — and that appears to be a big part of the problem we’re seeing now.

Canadian way

Elections Canada is the independent supervisor of elections, and independent provincial boundary commissions oversee the drawing of electoral districts across the country. That seems to work for Canada, at least by comparison to the U.S.

In the U.S., almost everything that matters in elections is controlled in each state by the party in power.

Rick Scott, governor of Florida and Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, ignored Nelson’s call for him to recuse himself from the recount process. (Reuters)

And so in Florida, last week’s midterm elections were overseen by Ken Detzner, a former hired gun for the state’s beer industry who was appointed secretary of state by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott, who is now also the Republican candidate for the Senate in the election under review, remains Detzner’s boss even while Detzner supervises the recount that will decide whether Governor Scott becomes Senator Scott — to which the other candidate, Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, effectively replied: You’re kidding me, right?

Nelson has accused Scott of “using his power as governor to undermine the voting process.”

“He’s thrown around words like voter fraud, with no proof,” Nelson told a news conference in Washington on Tuesday.

The latter part is certainly true. Scott and other Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have encouraged Americans to believe there’s something rotten going on in Broward County.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, left, on the trail with gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis. Rubio has alleged there have been rampant violations of election laws in Florida, but legal authorities in the state have found no evidence of any offences. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

But even Nelson admits the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the secretary of state have not been bullied into following the governor’s lead. Nelson told reporters both offices had investigated and found no credible evidence of voter fraud in the election.

Nevertheless, he concluded, the setup is ripe for corruption and Scott must recuse himself.

“Mr. Scott cannot oversee the process in a fair and impartial way and he should remove himself from the recount process.”

Scott ignored him.

Scott is also effectively overseeing the recount in the gubernatorial race to elect his successor, but that race is less controversial and has reportedly been all but conceded by Democrat Andrew Gillum to Republican Ron DeSantis.

Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, trails his Republican rival, Ron DeSantis, by more than 30,000 votes. The deadline for the results of the machine recount is Thursday. (Jennifer Lett/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/ Associated Press)

It’s churlish to expect Scott to be thrilled about a recount in an election that he appeared to have won a week ago. But the machine recount is showing the race is much tighter than first thought and so it’s likely to push the process to its next stage — a hand recount.

Some in the pundit class have declared Nelson an almost hopeless long shot, and in doing so, have made Scott’s complaints about the recount look suspicious — which isn’t helpful to anyone.

Republicans challenge whether the recount should have proceeded at all, but now that it’s happening, it appears to be following clearly defined rules that are not out of step with what happens in other states. And it is those rules that have determined Nelson’s shot is close enough to be taken seriously.

So the effect of both Scott’s and Nelson’s tactics, as well as the media questioning whether Nelson even has a chance, is to undermine public confidence in the fairness of the election.

Trump revives 2016 tactic

And that, again, is to say nothing of the president’s behaviour, so let’s get to that.

Trump has not only tweeted — without any evidence — that many ballots in Florida are missing or forged, he has also called for the recount to stop and for Scott to be declared the winner.

“An honest vote count is no longer possible,” he claimed with utter disregard for the millions of voters who might think otherwise and for the military servicemen and women whose votes are still to be counted.

In fundraising emails, Trump accuses the Democrats of trying to steal the election and “miraculously finding bins of votes” — again, without evidence — while at the same time begging for tens of thousands of dollars for the recount fight.

Trump has made shamelessness and hyper-partisanship his White House brand, so nothing new there.

U.S. President Donald Trump, seen here speaking with DeSantis and Scott, seems to have revived a tactic from his 2016 campaign: Claiming the election is rigged in anticipation of a result that could go against him. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

The Florida Senate seat might be a valuable “flip” for Republicans that will bolster their majority for the tough fight coming in the 2020 election, so it’s worth their attention.

But it’s hard not to notice that Trump has revived his 2016 tactic of trying to discredit the voting system and claim fraud and skullduggery in anticipation of a result that might go against him.

The midterm elections are not all settled, but the 2020 campaign is well underway.

Why tech giants don’t invest tax cuts in American jobs: Don Pittis

More than $100 billion US in tax cuts that were supposed to “make America great again” went into the pockets of well-off investors in U.S. tech companies, according to new research by one of the world’s most influential business newspapers.

Just as tech share prices show signs of weakness, there are growing worries that instead of investing those tax breaks into something that would last, much of that cash has just been gambled on what economist John Maynard Keynes described as casino capitalism.

“When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done,” Keynes wrote in his groundbreaking 1936 opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

Markets run amok

Canadian Keynes scholar Jean-Philippe Rochon is sure that when Americans look back at the tax money removed from public revenue and used for the sole purpose of creating a temporary jump in share prices, there will be profound regret.

“We live in an era of capitalism gone amok,” says Rochon, an economics professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., and a founding editor of the Review of Keynesian Economics. In casino capitalism, he says, “What goes up must come down.”

Certainly if shares were to continue their recent declines, all that money removed from government revenue and used to bid up stocks using share buybacks and dividend payments could simply disappear into thin air. Meanwhile, taxpayers will be left with a bigger national debt and increased calls for cuts to public spending to balance the budget.

As Keynes observed, the purpose of capitalist markets is not to make a fortune in a matter of weeks or months on stock speculation, but instead to raise money for wise and productive investment in the economy.

North America has lost jobs because of high wage costs, but even in lower wage places such as China, companies are investing in automation technology. (Reuters)

And that was exactly what was supposed to happen with the tax cuts. 

As sold to the American public, giving the tech giants a tax break would encourage them to bring their money home from overseas tax shelters and allow them to invest in the U.S.

Instead of making iPhones in China, for instance, Apple could spend the money on the research and the machinery to create North American jobs.

While the U.S. might have had trouble competing on wages, even companies in China are automating their factories. According to President Donald Trump’s MAGA rationale, there is no reason why those factories, the new technology to run them, and the high-paying jobs to make it all happen could not be located in the U.S. instead of China.

In fact, the name of the bill said it all. When the tax-cutting legislation was presented to Congress at the end of last year it was introduced as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Yet, despite the plunging U.S. unemployment rate, jobs continue to go abroad while investors get rich on speculation.

‘Good for shareholders’

“Most companies are using cash to buy back stock and make acquisitions, rather than invest in new facilities,” Allianz investment manager Walter Price told the Financial Times. “I think this is good for shareholders and management.”

In theory, the money that goes to buybacks could eventually return to the economy, and certainly some of it does. For example, shareholders might sell their stocks and spend the money on restaurant meals, recirculating the cash into the economy. Or they could take the money and use it to hire people for a startup business.

Failure to invest in the future

But according to Rochon, in a “financialized” economy neither of those things tend to happen. The very rich who own most of the stock don’t circulate much of their wealth into the real economy. And when they sell shares, rather than investing in something entrepreneurial, they tend to use the money to buy some other financial investment in hope of further speculative returns.

Rochon says short-termism compounds the problem. Rather than waiting for a long-term investment to pay off at five to seven per cent a year, shareholders and managers — who are paid bonuses tied to their stock price — want to see shares rise now. Share buybacks solve that dilemma.

This photo from the New York Stock Exchange in 1947 shows bulletin clerk Dolores Hennessy changing bid and ask prices. By then, the market had begun to recover from the so-called casino capitalism of the 1920s and ’30s. (Dan Grossi/Associated Press)

“These companies are going to have a problem,” he says. “We’re going to see old technology, the need for reinvestment, and we’re going to look back and say, ‘We should have invested 20 years ago instead of buying back.'”

What applies to the individual companies applies to the wider economy as well. Failure by the private sector to invest in new U.S. technology, new U.S. plants, new robots and new jobs will mean the U.S. will find it harder to compete with global challengers, including China.

And any of the buyback money that disappears as share prices fall might just as well have been left in the public purse to invest in things like infrastructure and health care and education for the poorest — things that really could make America great again.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis 

Calgarians vote against 2026 Winter Olympics bid

Calgarians have voted against a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The No side won with 56.4 per cent of the vote, according to the unofficial result of the non-binding plebiscite.

A total of 304,774 people cast ballots across the city, with 171,750 voting against a bid and 132,832 in favour of the Games. According to the city, 46,620 people voted in the advance polls and 8,001 mail-in ballots were received.

By comparison, 387,582 people had voted at the end of last fall’s municipal election. That was equal to a 58 per cent voter turnout, according to Elections Calgary. 

The official result will be made available at 3 p.m. Friday, with results by riding posted Thursday at noon.

The result means a loss of $700 million in funding from Alberta for the Games — as the money was contingent on the outcome of the plebiscite — but the bid still faces an official vote by city council before the bid corporation is officially dissolved.

“The people have spoken, the people have spoken in big numbers, and the people have spoken clearly. And this is very clear direction for where we go from here,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who added he was personally disappointed in the result.

Nenshi said council will vote Monday, likely in favour of suspending the bid.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi confirmed he will not be supporting the Olympic bid going forward, given the results of Tuesday night’s plebiscite. (CBC)

The plebiscite result came after weeks of acrimonious debate that played out both in the council chambers and across the city.

On Oct. 30, a funding proposal finally arrived, months later than expected. The following day, council voted to halt the process, but fell just short of the super-majority requirement, allowing it to limp forward for two weeks until the plebiscite.

Nenshi said he disagrees that Olympic talks were divisive.

“I gotta tell you, I reject that thinking. Because what we had is passionate people talking about the future of the community,” he said.

‘We did the best we could’

Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Ricardo Miranda said in an emailed statement the province would respect Calgarians’ decision.

“Today was a success because Calgarians were given the opportunity to have their say on whether to proceed with an Olympic bid. This decision was never an easy one,” he wrote.

Calgary 2026 CEO Mary Moran, centre, and Yes Calgary 2026 organizer Jason Ribeiro embrace following the Olympic bid plebiscite result announcement Tuesday evening. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The bid corporation said in the statement it would begin to wrap up operations and prepare final accounting reports to its three government funding partners, as well as compile material that could be used in a possible future bid for a major sporting event.

“The Olympic motto states that ‘the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle,'” said Mary Moran, CEO of the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation, in an emailed statement.

Moran said it had been a challenge trying to get the three levels of government aligned on funding expectations.

“I wish we did it sooner but we did the best we could with what we were dealt,” she told media following the result announcement.

A Calgarian arrives to vote in a plebiscite on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, in on Nov. 13. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Coun. Jeff Davison, one of the bid’s supporters, wrote on Facebook given the plebiscite result, he would not be supporting the bid going forward.

“I think people have had enough of this establishment telling us what to do, and what to think,” added Coun. Sean Chu, a prominent opponent of the bid.

The province spent $2 million hosting the plebiscite, and $10 million was spent on bid preparations out of a $30 million pool from the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

Members of the Yes campaign react to the results of a plebiscite on whether Calgary should proceed with a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics on Tuesday evening. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Bid corporation board chair Scott Hutcheson thanked volunteers and athletes that championed the bid, as well as the three level of governments for funding that got the bid this far.

“If we didn’t try to do this, shame on us. We did our best,” said Hutcheson.

“I think what we need to do today is reflect on what went right, what went wrong, go back to the drawing board.”

With Calgary likely out of the running, that leaves just Stockholm and a joint Italian bid from Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in the running for the 2026 Winter Games.

Bids will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee in January, with a host city being chosen in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June.

The plebiscite was the first time in a Calgary election that electronic vote tabulating machines were used, instead of hand-counting ballots. 

Prince Charles at 70: Will he meddle as king? He says no, but he’s had a lot of practice

Prince Charles has been predestined for one job since the age of three — and he’s had plenty of time to think about the way he’ll shape the role.

The heir to the throne turns 70 on Wednesday, still waiting to be king, although no one except him can say for sure what kind of monarch he will be.

But the Prince of Wales has left plenty of clues about what is important to him. And the clearest indicators of that may be at an 800-hectare (2,000-acre) estate he was instrumental in restoring in the Scottish countryside.

At Dumfries House, south of Glasgow, patrons can get to know rare breeds of pigs, turkeys and chickens, enjoy an organic meal fit for a royal and learn to use a professional-grade sewing machine.

Prince Charles speaks with Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips, left, and farm manager Jim Holden during a visit to the Morrisons’ Farm at Dumfries House on Oct. 25, 2010. (Danny Lawson/PA WPA/Getty Images)

They’re all activities that reflect priorities Charles has focused on for years, including conservation and employment training.

As much as he was devoting time to those personal priorities over the decades, the headlines following Charles have more often focused on his connection to his sons, Princes William and Harry, and on the ups and downs of his love life — married first to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and since 2005, to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

And yet, most of his adult life has been dedicated to charity work and campaigning for his favourite issues, including the ones that lie at the heart of what’s happening at Dumfries House.

“Some of the things that we’re doing here, he was saying 30 or 40 years ago,” Kenneth Dunsmuir said.

As executive director of the Prince’s Foundation, Dunsmuir keeps in regular contact with Charles. The prince visits the estate at least six times a year and has a say in every major decision.

Charles’ long-held views on sustainability, community development and architecture form the guiding principles of everything that goes on here.

“The special thing about Dumfries House is that you can actually physically see what he was talking about all in one place,” Dunsmuir said in an interview.

Saving a piece of British history

In the mid-1700s, the Earl of Dumfries had the mansion built and outfitted with a virtually unparalleled collection of fine Thomas Chippendale furniture.

The estate stayed in the family’s hands until it was put up for sale in 2007. Christie’s auction house in London was commissioned to sell the furniture. One bookcase was estimated to be worth about $8 million.

Crews carefully loaded trucks with the ornate goods and headed south until, famously, a call came to turn around.

Prince Charles had heard about the sale and reached an agreement to stop it from falling into private hands.

Kenneth Dunsmuir, executive director of the Prince’s Foundation, says Charles is ‘almost impatient to make a difference to people’s lives.’ (Lily Martin/CBC)

He brokered a deal worth £45 million (more than $90 million Cdn at the time) to restore the estate and turn it into a centre for employment, education and sustainability. Nearly half the funds came from his charitable foundation.

“I hoped that present and future generations would be able to visit and enjoy the different facets of life and times of a bygone era,” Charles wrote in an open letter.

Now, the venue is booked every week for weddings and other events. Schoolchildren learn about organic farming and meet endangered species. Scots dumpy hens, Crwllwitzer turkeys and Tamworth pigs are among the animals kept safe on these grounds.

“The actual breed itself can be valuable, in terms of how it’s adapted to certain conditions or environments,” Charles explained in a recently aired BBC documentary, Prince, Son and Heir: Charles at 70.

“I just think it’s right that we should keep these gene pools going.”

Dumfries House employs nearly 300 people, making it one of the biggest job creators in East Ayrshire, a relatively high-unemployment area in Scotland.

“I was jobless and I was a single mom,” Kim Monaghan said while preparing sandwiches in the Dumfries House kitchen.

Kim Monaghan says a five-week training program she took at Dumfries House gave her ‘a lot of confidence and a lot of belief’ in herself. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Monaghan signed up for a five-week training program and got a job afterwards. Other courses focus on textile manufacturing and sustainable building techniques such as masonry and brickwork.

“The course gave me a lot of confidence and a lot of belief in myself,” Monaghan said.

That was one of Charles’s goals in setting up the Prince’s Trust and Prince’s Foundation, two distinct charities focused on sustainability, youth and employment.

In 1976, the trust represented the prince’s first major foray into his own charity work, with the aim of helping at-risk youth in Britain get ahead as the country struggled with high unemployment. He founded the organization with his £7,400 severance pay (nearly $14,000 Cdn at the time) after leaving the Royal Navy.

‘Impatient to make a difference’

Dunsmuir, the foundation’s chief executive, describes Charles as being “almost impatient to make a difference to people’s lives.”

“To ultimately have a monarch with that [as] part of his DNA,” Dunsmuir said, “would be phenomenal.”

The Prince of Wales is the longest-serving heir to the throne in British history. And he’s hardly remained silent during the 66-year wait that began when his mother Elizabeth became Queen on Feb. 6, 1952.

As a staunch campaigner for the environment, he began warning of the dangers of plastic waste as early as 1970, long before it became a mainstream concern.

“The sustainability of the entire harmonious system is collapsing,” he said in a keynote speech at St. James’s Palace in 2009. “In failing the Earth, we are failing humanity.”

Charles gets “so frustrated” when “you’ve been banging the drum for this long and still no one listens,” his younger son Harry said in the BBC documentary.

Charles also sparked controversy with his outspoken advocacy against some forms of modern architecture.

Prince Charles meets young chefs participating in the Get Into Cooking program at Dumfries House on May 31, 2011. (James Glossop – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

As London’s National Gallery was set for a major extension in 1984, he was invited to speak at a gala event for the Royal Institute of British Architects.

He famously stunned the crowd by comparing the extension plan to “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”

The design was scrapped. The institute declared the speech “a discourtesy to architectural history.”

The ‘meddling’ prince

The National Gallery episode highlights what Charles’s critics see as instances where his campaigning can go too far.

The Queen, by comparison, does not voice her private opinions in public. Britain may not have a written constitution, but it’s understood the monarch will remain politically neutral.

Some observers wonder whether the prince will be able to rein in his advocacy once his mother dies and he ascends to the throne.

“He’s dealing with stuff that a lot of politicians find sometimes a little bit sensitive,” leading British environmentalist Jonathon Porritt said. He has advised Charles on environmental issues for decades.

In 2015, the prince was shown to have secretly lobbied the British government, with the London press raising concerns of undue influence.

The U.K.’s Supreme Court allowed the release of Charles’s letters to cabinet ministers — known as “black spider memos” because of his spirally handwriting.

Karen Tommy is a student at Dumfries House LVMH Textile Training Centre, where traditional sewing production skills are taught with an aim of keeping the Scottish textile industry alive and getting locals into employment. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Throughout the 27 letters written in 2004 and 2005, Charles advocated for singular issues such as alternative medicine and a badger cull.

“Constitutionally speaking, he’s going to have to be much more careful about how he articulates some of these things” when he becomes king, Porritt said.

Charles also expressed concern about the equipment given to British soldiers sent to Iraq in 2003.

As king, he would have cautioned the prime minister of the day, Tony Blair, against hurriedly deploying troops to the U.S.-led invasion, according to Robert Jobson’s new biography Charles at Seventy: Thoughts, Hopes and Dreams.

“Those meetings would have been harder for the prime minister because he still has a role to play to explain to the king why he wants to take the country to war,” Jobson, a longtime royal reporter, told CBC News.

“I don’t think it would have been that easy.”

Ahead of his 70th birthday, Charles used his clearest language yet to dismiss concerns that he would be a “meddling” king.

“The idea somehow that I’m going to go on in exactly the same way, if I have to succeed [the Queen], is complete nonsense,” he told filmmaker John Bridcut in the Charles at 70 documentary.

What if?

The possibility that the future monarch would set off a constitutional crisis is explored in Mike Bartlett’s 2014 play, King Charles III.

Presented last week at the ADC Theatre, part of the University of Cambridge — the prince’s alma mater — the play is set in a not-too-distant future in which the Queen is dead.

As king, Charles provokes a national outrage by withholding approval for a government bill and ultimately dissolving the British parliament.

The tale sparked real controversy in Britain when the BBC aired a TV version in 2017, complete with images of the Queen’s casket and Diana portrayed as a ghost.

British Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told The Mail on Sunday viewers would find it “distasteful” and that it “denigrates and undermines our Royal Family.”

“We don’t know whether it’s going to go down like that,” said Ferdinand Holley, the 21-year-old law student who played Charles at Cambridge.

“Having said that, I do worry about what will happen when the Queen dies. Charles is an opinionated figure.”

Ferdinand Holley had the lead role in Mike Bartlett’s 2014 play King Charles III when it was presented recently at the ADC Theatre at the University of Cambridge. (Lily Martin/CBC)

The fictional tale sees Charles abdicate and William accede to the throne — an unlikely scenario that some Britons would like to see become a reality.

Two separate polls published last year in The Sun and The Daily Express found that more than half of U.K. respondents would prefer to see the Duke of Cambridge become the next monarch.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft, a longtime writer on politics and history, says skipping the Prince of Wales as monarch “would be for the best.”

Opinion polls in the U.K. consistently rank Charles as among the least popular members of the Royal Family.

And, Wheatcroft points out, the prince would be nearly 80 when he succeeds the Queen if she lives to be her mother’s age. Queen Elizabeth II is 92; the Queen Mother died at 101.

“The great secret of the constitutional monarchy is that the monarch has no opinions,” Wheatcroft said at his home in Bath, England.

“I’m not trying to be ominous, [but] the monarchy might not survive the reign of King Charles III.”

iPad Pro 2018 review: The best tablet ever is still stuck in computer limbo

Every time I have reviewed Apple’s iPad Pro, the end conclusion has been nearly identical: The iPad Pro is the best tablet money can buy, but despite Apple’s commercials and marketing spin, until there are significant changes to its software, it’s not a full-on computer replacement.

With each iPad Pro release, Apple has made headway toward converting its top of the line tablet into a well-rounded computer, and this year’s crop of iPad Pros is no different.

The amount of technology tucked into the 2018 iPad Pro is fascinating yet disappointing at the same time.

Truth be told, the iPad Pro is a tablet that, in some cases, can pull off being a computer with ease. But, at the end of the day, the iPad Pro is still just a tablet. Not that that’s a bad thing. Let me explain.


Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Top ZDNET Reviews

The new iPad Pro is hands down the best-designed iPad the company has released. The flat sides, reminiscent of the iPhone 5, are only 5.9 mm thick.

Apple sent me the 12.9-inch model, but it also announced an 11-inch model. The 12.9-inch model has a footprint of 11.04 x 8.46 x 0.23-inches and weighs 1.39 pounds, whereas the 11-inch model is 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.23-inches and weighs 1.03 pounds.

Also: Apple iPad (2018) review: The best gets even better

I’ve been asked a few times about how the larger iPad Pro feels when carrying or holding it. Balanced is the only word that comes to mind. It’s easy to hold and manage without feeling like it’s overbearing. It’s far more comfortable to hold than the previous-generation iPad Pro.

Both devices use the same LCD display technology Apple used in the iPhone XR. Both devices have a Liquid Retina display with 264 pixels per inch.

As with the most recent iPhone’s, Apple has removed the home button from the iPad Pro. Instead, a small black bezel surrounds the display. Tucked behind the bezel on top of the device is Apple’s True Depth camera system with facial recognition.

Due to the nature of using the iPad Pro in multiple orientations, as opposed to the iPhone primarily unlocked in a portrait orientation, the iPad Pro’s Face ID system works in portrait or landscape.

The True Depth hardware itself is identical to what’s used in the iPhone. Apple had to retrain its Neural Engine to work with the various positions that the True Depth camera can be used in. Apple’s Neural Engine is used for machine learning tasks and is found in the most recent crop of iPhones.

A sleep/wake button is found on top of the iPad Pro, with volume up and down buttons nearby on the right side of the housing. That same side is also where the new Apple Pencil magnetically connects to the iPad Pro for charging and initial pairing. The right side is also where the SIM card slot is on the LTE model.

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The bottom of the iPad Pro has a new type of charging port. Instead of using its own proprietary Lightning port, Apple has made the switch to USB-C. Included in the box with the iPad Pro is an 18W USB-C wall adapter and a USB-C to USB-C cable.

There are four speakers on the iPad Pro, two on the top and two more on the bottom. Apple has redesigned the speakers to fit into the thinner housing but has figured out a way not to sacrifice quality. In fact, I don’t remember the previous generation iPad Pros’ speakers sounding this good.

On the back of the iPad Pro is a 12-megapixel camera, protruding out from the iPad’s housing. It’s the only blemish on the new iPad Pro’s design. However, the camera bump is required because the camera module itself is behind the display of the iPad Pro, instead of the bezel.

Also on the backside of the new Pro is the Smart Connector, used to connect the iPad Pro to accessories such as Apple’s $199 Smart Keyboard Folio. The three dots provide power and data throughput for the keyboard. The Smart Keyboard Folio is redesigned for the new iPad Pro’s and now has two different viewing angles.


Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

By using USB-C, Apple has opened the door for more accessories and peripherals to connect to and interact with the iPad Pro without the need for some sort of connector or dongle. Then again, you’re likely going to need some sort of USB-C to USB adapter to connect some things.

Keep in mind, however, that the iPad Pro is using USB-C with USB 3.1 generation 2 speeds. But it doesn’t support Thunderbolt 3. So, for example, you can connect the iPad Pro to the 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 4K display with a USB-C cable, but you cannot connect it via USB-C to the 27-inch version of the same monitor, because it requires Thunderbolt support. Instead, you’ll need an adapter and an HDMI cable or a USB-C to Thunderbolt 3 adapter.

Shortly after setting up the iPad Pro, I spent an afternoon connecting various types of devices to the iPad Pro, either directly or via an adapter and posting the result on Twitter.

Also: Here’s the iPad Pro that professionals really want

I was able to use a Blue Yeti microphone, import photos from a GoPro camera via a direct USB-C connection, power and use a mechanical keyboard, connect an external display, and import photos from my Fuji mirrorless camera.

I wasn’t able to use a mouse (expected, but had to try), import files from a USB drive or an external hard drive, or use an Xbox controller to play Minecraft.

I also tested the output of the iPad Pro when using it to charge another device, like your iPhone. After connecting multiple devices, I never saw the iPad Pro go over 5V/1.5A of output. Meaning it’s not the fastest charging method, but it’s surely enough to charge an iPhone when you need the added battery life.

The new iPad Pro now supports external monitors at up to 5K resolution. Currently, when the iPad Pro is connected to a monitor, there are two scenarios for how it’s used: Either everything you do on the iPad Pro is mirrored to the display, or apps can use the monitor to display relevant information.

Apple’s iMovie app was recently updated with iPad Pro and monitor support. Users can either mirror the editing screen on the monitor, or with the tap of a button, they can use the display to show the finalized project.

I can see this functionality being useful in educational settings, but in its current state, I don’t see myself ever sitting down and connecting the iPad Pro to a monitor. There’s just no true benefit. You’re still forced to look at and touch the iPad Pro’s display for any input. Support for a mouse or trackpad would be needed to eliminate the need for looking at the iPad’s screen, and that’s just not possible right now.

Overall, the transition away from Lightning to USB-C is a good thing. USB-C accessories are relatively common, whereas using the Lighting port required dedicated devices or adapters and dongles; neither of which were consumer friendly.

The new Apple Pencil

Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Apple revamped the Apple Pencil for the new iPad Pro. The new $129 Pencil looks slightly different than the first generation model, thanks to its matte white finish and a flat edge that breaks up the otherwise round housing.

That flat side is the portion of the Pencil that magnetically attaches to the side of the iPad Pro. When attached, a brief animation plays, displaying the current battery percentage of the Pencil.

The magnetic connection serves two purposes: Not only does it give you a place to keep your Pencil within easy reach, but it also wirelessly charges the Pencil. Apple won’t say what wireless charging standard — if any — the company is using, but we do know that you can’t place the Pencil on a Qi wireless charging pad and charge it. Your only option is to use the iPad Pro.

Also: Hands-on with Apple’s new iPad Pro and MacBook Air

Zero arguments can be made about the charging method used for the first-generation Apple Pencil being better. Not only did it look ridiculous to stick the end of the Pencil into the Lightning port of the iPad Pro, but it felt dangerous. Wireless charging the Apple Pencil while simultaneously giving you a place to store it makes sense.

In addition to wireless charging, the Apple Pencil is now touch sensitive. Roughly the bottom fifth of the Pencil reacts to a double-tap on the Pencil. Using this gesture, apps can do things like switch between tools or provide more options on the screen.

Apple’s Notes app supports this feature out of the box, with the default behavior of switching between the currently selected tool and the eraser. So, if you make a mistake while jotting down a note or sketching, a quick double-tap on the Pencil switches to the eraser, with another double-tap going back to the drawing tool you had selected.

Also: How to use Apple Pencil: 21 features, tips, and tricks

Image editing app Procreate was recently updated with Apple Pencil 2 support and has a wide range of features and options that can be triggered with the gesture based on the tool you’re currently using.

The upgrades to the Apple Pencil are something users will find worthwhile, especially when upgrading to the new iPad Pro.


Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The iPad Pro uses Apple’s latest 7nm A12X bionic processor and supports up to 1TB of storage. Although storage options start at 64GB, with 256GB and 512GB variants also available.

Apple promises a battery life of up to 10 hours, or 9 hours when using a cellular data connection over Wi-Fi. I’ve consistently hit the 10-hour mark when using the iPad Pro — both as my main device throughout a day, and when using it as a supplemental device. It’s not much of a surprise, battery life with the iPad has never really been an issue.

Performance wise, Apple and journalists alike have touted benchmarks faster than several Macs and PC laptops. That performance is evident when using the iPad Pro. Apps open quickly, videos are exported with ease, and there’s an overall smoothness to the iPad Pro that exudes speed.

Also: New iPad Pro rivals 2018 MacBook Pro’s performance, say benchmarks

I bounced between apps, used multiple apps in slide over and split screen mode, and typed until I was out of things to say, and felt right at home doing so on the iPad Pro.

For me, the iPad Pro is the perfect device to write on, since it forces me to focus on the task at hand. The new keyboard is comfortable to use, on a desk or on my lap.

I used the Apple Pencil to jot notes during a conference call, and occasionally sketch some stick figures to test out the double-tap gesture. Thankfully, it puts the eraser a double-tap away. Trust me, you don’t want to see my drawings.

I still remain impressed by the lack of latency between the Pencil moving across the screen and when the digital ink shows up. It appears in real time, and exactly where I wanted it to.

The display is sharp, bright, and colors look accurate to my eyes.

Face ID — used for tasks such as unlocking the iPad Pro, approving App Store or Apple Pay purchases, unlocking password managers or banking apps — is just as fast as it is on the iPhone XS Max.

After a couple of days of testing, I all but forgot that the new iPad Pro has Face ID. I walk up to my desk, double-tap the spacebar, and the lock screen disappears, leaving me to continue where I left off. The entire process takes a split second and requires no real thought on my part.

Using the iPad Pro for the past week reminds me of how much I enjoy the overall experience iOS provides when used in a way that it mimics a computer. But it’s, of course, still not quite a computer.

Computer limbo

Mobile Safari.

Right now, that’s my biggest gripe about the iPad’s software. Apple still uses mobile Safari on the iPad Pro, meaning most websites you visit are showing you the mobile version of the site. Mobile websites are fine on a phone, but not on a 12.9-inch tablet. Or an 11-inch tablet, for that matter. Indeed, mobile sites mean that buttons are bigger and easier to touch — important factors on a touchscreen device — but they’re often misaligned and, at times, look downright ugly.

But it’s not layout issues or too much white space that I take issue with — it’s the fact that the iPad Pro is faster than most Macs and nearly all laptop PCs, and yet, it’s somehow not capable enough to run a desktop-class web browser?

Giving users a desktop browser would expand the overall capabilities of the iPad Pro, opening up tools for professionals who rely on websites — full websites — to work.

Also: Does the new iPad Pro signal the end for the Lightning port on the iPhone?

For example, I can’t use ZDNet’s content management system (CMS) in mobile Safari. In turn, I can’t publish stories. So, I can’t work from an iPad.

Perhaps Apple has hoped that websites and developers would build an app that mimics the website, with the added bonus of being optimized with deep integration in iOS. I get that line of thinking, but realistically, that’s a lot to ask from businesses.

If Adobe can bring the full Photoshop engine to iOS and the new iPad Pro, surely Apple can bring the full Safari experience the iPad.

The heart of Google’s Chrome OS is a desktop browser with zero compromises. Once you close the tabs, you’re left with Android apps (and now Linux apps). There’s a tablet-like feel to Chrome OS, especially when using Android apps, but then you launch Chrome, and the device is instantly on par with any other desktop platform.

Google is working hard at backfilling the void of what a browser can’t do by adding Android and Linux apps. It’s time for Apple to do the same, but with Safari.

I’ve focused a lot on just the browser, but there are many different areas that need improvements or complete overhauls before Apple’s computer replacement vision for the iPad Pro can be fully realized.

For instance, add a true download manager that doesn’t leave users guessing what the next step is, and revamp the home screen so that it doesn’t waste space with the outdated app icon grid. Or what about support for multiple users? What about Apple’s own professional-grade video editing tools? Where are the features and apps that justify the “Pro” in the iPad Pro’s name?

Hopefully, iOS 13 will address most of the software issues the iPad Pro currently faces — but the full public release is just under a year away, when it’s likely we will have newer, even more powerful iPad Pros.


Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The new iPad Pro is the best tablet I have ever used. But the same can be said about each year’s release. Apple has worked for years on the technology in the new iPad Pro, from Face ID to the Liquid Retina display to the wireless charging required for the new Apple Pencil — it’s all impressive tech.

The starting price of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is currently at $999 or $799 for the 11-inch model with 64GB of storage. And that’s without the Apple Pencil or a keyboard. The overall cost of the iPad Pro has never been higher.

Also: Peak iPad Pro: The end of major advances?

At $1,327 for a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with the Smart keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil, it’s far from an impulse purchase. That’s what the $329 iPad is for.

I think the justification for the iPad Pro’s price all comes down to properly set expectations. Walking the line of proclaiming the iPad is a computer, but not really a computer, is confusing for consumers.

The iPad Pro is as powerful as a computer and can even complete common computing tasks with ease. But it’s still a tablet with software issues and a largely mobile experience.

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