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April 28, 2014
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For everyone who wants the United States to become a (bigger) manufacturing powerhouse again — so, most people in the U.S., and every member of Congress — a recent report from the Boston Consulting Group is a mixed blessing. On Friday, BCG released its rankings of cost competitiveness in manufacturing around the world, and the U.S. came in second place, after China. It is now more cost effective to produce goods in the U.S. than Brazil, the report found.

The U.S., along with Mexico, is one of the BCG's "rising stars" of global manufacturing, for having "significantly improved relative to nearly all other leading exporters across the globe." At least 300 companies have brought their manufacturing back to the U.S. from overseas, because "it just makes economic sense," BCG senior partner Hal Sirkin, a co-author of the report, tells Yahoo News. "The gap is closing and, when you add the transportation costs, it makes a lot more sense for a lot of products to be made in the U.S. than in China."

That sounds great, right? But remember what made China so alluring to manufacturers in the first place — low labor costs, lax environmental standards, and overworked factory workers? Here's BCG's explanation for why the U.S. is back in the manufacturing game:

The key reasons were stable wage growth, sustained productivity gains, steady exchange rates, and a big energy-cost advantage that is largely driven by the 50 percent fall in natural-gas prices since large-scale production of U.S. shale gas began in 2005. [BCG]

Another way of saying that: Fracking, foreign exchange rates, and that "stable wage growth," which Reuters calls "a euphemism for the fact that, in inflation-adjusted terms, industrial wages here are lower today than they were in the 1960s even though worker productivity has doubled over the same period of time." The only one of those factors that isn't controversial is the stronger yuan.

As this chart from The New York Times shows, the jobs that have been created in the post–Great Recession recovery have skewed toward the low end of the pay scale:

Most manufacturing jobs pay pretty decently, especially compared with fast food service. But as we celebrate the return of the American manufacturing sector, it's worth remembering that it's only partly because "Made in China" is becoming more expensive — "Made in the USA" is also becoming cheaper, for better and for worse.
Peter Weber

6:58 a.m. ET
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The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating a Tennessee real estate company with personal and financial ties to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), The Wall Street Journal reports, and the federal investigators are separately looking into the relationship between Corker and the firm, CBL & Associates Properties Inc. Corker has made millions of dollars through trading CBL stock, some of that profit originally improperly undisclosed in congressional filings; authorities have reportedly found no evidence that Corker committed wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for Corker, Micah Johnson, blamed the "baseless charges against Senator Corker" on the nonpartisan group Campaign for Accountability, which told The Journal that unfortunately "we don’t have the ability to tell the FBI or SEC what to do." Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and member of the Banking Committee, has a long history with CBL and the Lebovitz family that owns it, and CBL insists that nobody at the firm passed Corker insider information. So long as his 70 trades of CBL stock — several trades worth more than $1 million — were not based on inside information, Corker's trading is allowed under congressional ethics rules. Peter Weber

5:58 a.m. ET

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel has "played a lead role in bankrolling" Hulk Hogan's lawsuits against Gawker, the first of which ended with a $140 million judgment against Gawker over its publishing of a sex tape starring the wrestler and his friend's wife, Forbes reported Tuesday night, citing "people familiar with the situation." Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, also held personally liable by the Florida jury, speculated to The New York Times earlier Tuesday that perhaps someone in Silicon Valley was funding the Hogan lawsuits and a group of new ones against Gawker and some of its writers, all brought by Los Angeles lawyer Charles Harder.

"If you're a billionaire and you don't like the coverage of you, and you don't particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it's a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases." Denton said. Unlike the rich and famous in New York and L.A., he reasoned, Silicon Valley's elite isn't used to the glare of tabloid press. And Thiel would seem to have a motive for revenge; Gawker Media's defunct Valleywag site outed him as gay in 2007, and in 2009 he said, "Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of al Qaeda," with the "psychology of a terrorist." Thiel did not respond to Forbes' request for comment, and Forbes notes that "it is not illegal for an outside entity to help fund another party's lawsuit."

Thiel is maybe the only person in Silicon Valley who supports Donald Trump, but "regardless of his politics, this news should disturb everyone," says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. "People talk a lot about the dominance of the 1 percent or in this case more like a tiny fraction of the 1 percent. But being able to give massive political contributions actually pales in comparison to the impact of being able to destroy a publication you don't like by combining the machinery of the courts with anonymity and unlimited funds to bleed a publication dry. We don't have to go any further than Donald Trump to know that the incredibly rich often use frivolous litigation to intimidate critics and bludgeon enemies." You can learn more in the Forbes report below. Peter Weber

4:59 a.m. ET
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Back in January, when he was having a fight with Fox News, Donald Trump skipped out on a Fox News–sponsored presidential debate and held his own rally and fundraiser for charities dedicated to military veterans. "We just cracked $6 million! Right? $6 million," he said at the Iowa event. And "Donald Trump gave $1 million." That wasn't true until Monday night, David A. Fahrenthold says at The Washington Post, after Fahrenthold had taken to Twitter to try to ascertain how many veterans' charities had received any money from Trump.

On Monday night, Trump called the home of James Kallstrom, chairman of the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, and pledged $1 million, according to Kallstrom's wife. When Fahernthold asked Trump over the phone on Tuesday why it took him four months to follow through on his pledge, Trump said, "You have a lot of vetting to do." Fahrenthold suggested that perhaps Trump had only taken action because reporters were asking him about his pledge, and Trump shot back: "You know, you're a nasty guy. You're really a nasty guy. I gave out millions of dollars that I had no obligation to do." Trump also said that the fundraiser had rounded up about $5.5 million total, and that, despite the assertion of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, no major pledgees had dropped out, though "some of them came through very late."

Trump said he would have his staff send The Washington Post a list of groups that received the donations, but hadn't as of Tuesday night. Veterans' groups have been trying to figure out how to apply for some of the remaining millions, since there is no application process. But at least one group has been contacted since Monday, the Boston Wounded Vet Bike Run, founded by Andrew Biggio. Biggio told The Post that a Trump campaign worker had called him out of the blue on Tuesday to ask for the nonprofit's phone number, and that he hadn't applied for any of the money. However, he did suggest how he got on Trump's radar: "I served in Iraq with Donald Trump's bodyguard's son." You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

3:36 a.m. ET

Congress has an approval rating of 14 percent, and Seth Meyers has some theories about that. On Tuesday's Late Night, he took a break from the media-consuming presidential campaign to focus on what Congress is not doing. "Obstruction in Congress has been on full display in recent months, with Senate Republicans refusing to even hold hearings on President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland," and House Republicans short-changing anti-Zika funding and playing fast and loose with House rules to thwart an LGBT anti-discrimination bill.

Meyers mocked the Democrats' "lame" recent move to hold mock hearings on Garland, but he spent most of his time focused on the GOP. "So Republicans have basically paralyzed the government, they can't even perform basic constitutional functions or respond to public health emergencies, and maybe the worst is, Republican obstruction has become completely normalized," he said. "No one even questions it anymore." But of course, the presidential race is still the big news, and Meyers found a way to work Donald Trump in at the end. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:56 a.m. ET
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After weeks of speculation, House Speaker Paul Ryan will endorse his party's presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, unidentified senior Trump campaign sources tell ABC News. Ryan is the highest-ranking Republican official, and his endorsement would widely be seen as a sign that the Republican Party is uniting after its divisive primary. The Trump sources did not say when this endorsement would happen, but ABC's Brian McBride noted that Ryan has a press briefing on Wednesday. If Ryan does not endorse Trump then, he will certainly get questions about it. Peter Weber

2:36 a.m. ET
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On Wednesday, the Afghan Taliban confirmed the death of its leader, Mullah Akthar Mansour, killed in a U.S. drone strike, and named his replacement, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. The statement was the Taliban's first confirmation of Mansour's death. Akhundzada, a Mansour deputy believed to be 45 to 50 years old, is the former chief of the Taliban courts and is considered more of a religious scholar than military commander; he is responsible for most of the fatwas, or religious edicts, from the Taliban. "Haibatullah Akhundzada has been appointed as the new leader of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) after a unanimous agreement in the shura," or supreme council, the Taliban said, "and all the members of shura pledged allegiance to him."

Akhundzada was not considered a front-runner to replace Mansour, The New York Times reports, especially since another Mansour deputy, Sarajuddin Haqqani, had been running the day-to-day military operations for the Taliban. But the Taliban leaders meeting in Quetta, Pakistan, apparently wanted a lower-profile consensus candidate, recalling that former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar's reclusiveness kept him alive for many years. Peter Weber

1:51 a.m. ET

In Albuquerque on Tuesday, Donald Trump held his first campaign rally in almost two weeks, and he used his speech to criticize Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), the first Latina governor and current head of the Republican Governors Association. "You've got to get your governor to do a better job," he told the crowd of about 8,000. "She's not doing her job." He added, "Hey, maybe I'll run for governor of New Mexico." Martinez has declined to endorse Trump, and she and other state GOP leaders did not attend the rally.

Trump's rally was interrupted several times by protesters, but the real drama was happening outside the convention center.

Protesters outside the venue threw plastic bottles, burning Donald Trump T-shirts, and rocks at the police, and rushed a police barricade, trying to force their way into the Trump rally. The police fired pepper spray and threw smoke grenades into the scrum. Several Albuquerque police officers were injured by flying rocks, the police department said, and at least on person was "arrested from the riot." A glass door was broken, and the police said it appeared to have been hit by a pellet gun.

This was Trump's first visit to New Mexico. It was not the first violent protest outside a Trump rally. Peter Weber

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