Morning Read 4/28: Israel’s population continues to rise

Destination cities like Tel Aviv contribute to Israel's rising population [Israel Tourism]
Destination cities like Tel Aviv contribute to Israel’s rising population [Israel Tourism]

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INTERNATIONAL


ON ISRAEL’S 69TH BIRTHDAY, POPULATION REACHES 8.68 MILLION

As the country prepares to celebrate its 69th birthday, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday that the Jewish state today has 8.680 million citizens, 10 times more Jews than at its founding.

According to the report, the Jewish population represents 6.484 million residents – 74.7% of the total population – and the Arab population stands at 1.808 million people, 20.8% of the country’s inhabitants.

The remaining 4.5%, approximately 388,000 people, represent non-Arab Christians and people of other religions, as well as those with no religious affiliation, the vast majority of them from the former Soviet Union.

The report cited that at the founding of the state in 1948, there were 11.5 million Jews in the world, of whom 6% were living in Israel. In contrast, in 2015 there were 14.411 million Jews in the world, 43% of whom were living in Israel. The country is rapidly approaching the tipping point where the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel.

The data also revealed that the Jewish state’s population is expected to hit over 15 million by 2048 – Israel’s 100th birthday.

Since last year, the country’s population grew by some 159,000 people, marking a 1.9% increase, the report found.

In addition, the figures showed that 174,000 babies were born this past year, while 44,000 deaths were recorded.

With regard to aliya, some 30,000 immigrants arrived this past year.

According to the report, three-quarters of Israel’s Jewish population are Sabras, native-born Israelis. This figure is more than double the percentage in 1948.

Among the Jews living in Israel, some 44% identified as secular, 24% identified as traditional but not religious and 11% identified as religious, while 9% identified as ultra-Orthodox.

In contrast, among the non-Jewish population, 52% identified as religious, 23% as “not so religious,” 21% as secular and 4% as very religious.

This year’s report also compared today’s Israel and the newborn state in a number of areas.

For example, in 1948 Israel had only one city – Tel Aviv – with more than 100,000 residents. (Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv in 1950.)

Today, 14 cities have populations of more than 100,000 residents, of which eight – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod, Petah Tikva, Netanya and Beersheba – have more than 200,000 residents.

The report found that in 2016, the GDP stood at NIS 1.2 billion – 46 times greater than in 1950, when Israel’s GDP stood at NIS 25.6b.

Furthermore, the data showed that in 1955, Israel faced a 7.2% unemployment rate compared to 4.8% in 2016. [JPOST]

Congressman: In Israel, Trump will announce embassy move

WASHINGTON — Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday that US President Donald Trump will announce the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem when he visits Israel at the end of May, fulfilling a campaign promise he appeared to walk back after assuming office.

Trump’s planned visit — his first to the Jewish state — coincides with Jerusalem Day, when Israel will celebrate 50 years since the reunification of the city under Israeli control after the 1967 Six Day War.

“What better time could there be to announce the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem than when you are over here celebrating with our Israeli friends this very important 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem?” DeSantis said.

Israeli officials confirmed on Thursday that Trump’s team is planning a visit on May 22-23. Jerusalem Day starts on the evening of May 23. The White House told The Times of Israel that it is “exploring” the visit, but did not flesh out any further details.

“I think the announcement of that trip is a signal that it is more likely to happen than not, and will send a powerful signal to other countries around the world that America is back and will stand by our allies and will not let folks cower us into not doing the right thing,” added DeSantis.

The Florida congressman’s remarks were made at an event on Capitol Hill launching the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, a group made up of several staunchly pro-Israel Republicans. [ToI]

Israeli missile downs Syrian drone over Golan Heights

A Patriot missile intercepted a Syrian drone that entered Israeli airspace on Thursday evening, the army said.

According to the IDF, the missile successfully downed the unmanned aerial vehicle over the Golan Heights.

“The IDF will not allow any breach of Israel’s airspace and will act against any attempt of infiltration,” the army said in a statement.

According to the IDF, the Syrian UAV was under “full [Israeli Air Force] surveillance” while it was in Israeli airspace.

It was not initially clear if the aircraft was Russian or Syrian, but the army later confirmed that it was Syrian. [ToI]

Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.[REUTERS]

Trump demands Seoul pay for THAAD

U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that South Korea could pay for an advanced U.S. missile defense system could test the strength of the alliance between Seoul and Washington at a time of rising tensions with North Korea, analysts said on Friday.

In an exclusive interview, Trump told Reuters on Thursday that he wants South Korea to pay for the $1 billion Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.

The remarks come as South Korea heads into a presidential election that will likely elect liberal front-runner Moon Jae-in, who has said the next administration in Seoul should have the final say on the deployment of THAAD. Moon’s campaign office said the deployment of THAAD should be immediately suspended until then.

THAAD’s job is to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile in its final phase of flight. A battery comprises four parts: the truck-mounted launcher, eight anti-missile “interceptor” missiles, a radar system and a fire control system connecting it to U.S. military commanders.

Seoul said the decision to deploy THAAD was ultimately a military decision taken by the United States.

“He’s using THAAD as a guinea pig to test the relationship,” said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul.

“Trump seems to be testing South Korea’s commitment to the Korea-U.S. alliance. I wonder if Trump’s saying this because he already thinks Moon will win,” Kim added.

In an interview with Reuters, Trump also said he will either renegotiate or terminate what he called a “horrible” free trade deal with South Korea. [REUTERS]

China threatens North Korea with sanctions if nuclear tests persist, Tillerson says

China has threatened Pyongyang with sanctions if the rogue government continues to disregard calls to stop conducting nuclear tests, which are seen as a provocation to its regional neighbors and the U.S, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

Tillerson, in an interview with Fox News on Thursday, said that China’s commitment to implement sanctions on their own accord and that North Korea is aware.

“We know that China is in communications with the regime in Pyongyang,” Tillerson said. “They confirmed to us that they had requested the regime conduct no further nuclear test.”

Although China’s foreign ministry did not immediately comment on the secretary’s remarks, a spokesman said that Beijing remains committed to employing sanctions imposed under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The potential for joint pressure on North Korea comes just as tensions in the region reach new heights. Earlier Thursday, the senior U.S. Navy officer overseeing military operations in the Pacific said the crisis with North Korea is at the worst point he’s ever seen.

“It’s real,” Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He added that although U.S. intelligence agencies are unsure how far along North Korea’s nuclear missile program is but he has no doubt that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un intends to fulfill his pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the United States. [FOXNEWS]


NATIONAL


Two U.S. Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

Two U.S. Army servicemembers were killed and another wounded during a late night operation in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Thursday, following the death of an American soldier there earlier this month.

The U.S. military has escalated its engagement in the country since the Trump administration took office in January, increasing airstrikes against the Taliban and Islamic State and more frequently sending out soldiers on operations with their Afghan counterparts.

Further details surrounding their deaths weren’t immediately known. An official with the international military coalition in the country said the soldiers were Army Rangers.

The two “were killed in action last night in southern Nangarhar, Afghanistan, during an operation against ISIS Khorasan,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said in a statement, referring to Islamic State’s affiliate in the country. “Their identities, service, and unit affiliations are being withheld pending next of kin notification.”

The latest deaths come as the White House debates the U.S. military’s request for more troops to fight resurgent Taliban and Islamic State threats in Afghanistan. [WSJ]

Senate Confirms R. Alexander Acosta as Labor Secretary

R. Alexander Acosta, the dean of Florida International University College of Law and a former United States attorney, was confirmed as labor secretary by the Senate on Thursday, becoming the only Latino in President Trump’s cabinet.

The confirmation of Mr. Acosta, 48, completes Mr. Trump’s cabinet and comes at a crucial moment for the president, as he nears the 100-day mark in office. In the 60-to-38 vote, eight Democrats and one independent voted in favor of Mr. Acosta. [NYT]

United Airlines reaches settlement with passenger dragged from plane

United Airlines and the passenger who was dragged from a Chicago flight earlier this month have reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum, they said on Thursday, in the carrier’s latest step to contain damage from an incident that sparked international outrage.

Viral videos of Dr. David Dao being dragged down the aisle of a United jet and Chief Executive Oscar Munoz’s handling of the incident touched off a public outcry, prompted calls from congressmen for new industry regulation, and led United’s board of directors to reverse an agreement to make Munoz company chairman in 2018.

United said earlier on Thursday that it would offer passengers who give up their seats up to $10,000, reduce overbooking of flights and no longer call on law enforcement officers to deny ticketed passengers their seats.

Southwest Airlines also said on Thursday that it would end overbooking of flights.

Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor, was injured when Chicago aviation police removed him from his seat and then dragged him from the plane to make space for four crew members on the flight from O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky. [REUTERS]


LOCAL


Gov. Cuomo rolls up in FDR’s 1932 Packard for Kosciuszko Bridge ribbon cutting ceremony

Gov. Cuomo invoked the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and brought along the former President’s car — to open the new Kosciuszko Bridge Thursday.

Cuomo arrived at the bridge’s ribbon cutting ceremony driving Roosevelt’s 1932 Packard, which the governor recently had removed from a state museum and restored.

The governor said he wanted to “bring the spirit” of Roosevelt to the new bridge, which his administration is hailing as the first major span built in the city in 53 years.

“That spirit is what made New York, New York and that’s the spirit that we have to rekindle in this state,” Cuomo said.

The new bridge, constructed at a cost of $555 million, is the first of two spans being constructed to replace the 78-year-old Kosciuszko Bridge which spans Newtown Creek and connects Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with Maspeth, Queens.

Once the existing bridge is removed, the second bridge, intended for Brooklyn-bound traffic, will be constructed in its place. It is projected to open in 2020.

Traffic on the new span started flowing at 11:30 p.m. Thursday. It will carry traffic in both directions until the second bridge is constructed. [DN]

NYPD launches court-ordered body camera program

Dozens of Upper Manhattan cops hit the streets with body cameras on Thursday as the NYPD launched the first phase of a new, court-ordered pilot program for the devices.

“I’m totally convinced now that this is the way forward,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill.

“I truly believe that these cameras have the potential to de-escalate and that the footage captured will overwhelmingly benefit everyone involved.”

The cameras were given to about 60 cops working the 4 p.m. to midnight shift in the 34th Precinct. Around 1,200 cameras will be deployed throughout the city in the coming weeks.

By 2019, all 22,000 patrol cops will be wearing the devices, officials said.

A federal judge ordered the body-camera program in 2013, after finding that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics had wrongly targeted minorities.

Cops are required to turn the cameras on when they’re using force, making arrests or summonses, interacting with emotionally-distressed or criminally-suspicious people, searching property or people, and responding to crimes in progress. [NYP]

Security lines at JFK Airport are about to get much faster

WASHINGTON — Passengers are moving through Newark Airport security checkpoints a lot quicker since the installation of new TSA smart lanes — and similar relief is on the way at JFK, a top Port Authority official said Thursday.

“These screening lanes can move people through more quickly – about a 30 percent improvement in throughput,” Jeanne Olivier, who is in charge of security operations New York’s three regional airports, told The Post.

“That’s a very good thing. However, we see that [they] are not requiring fewer screeners.”

United Airlines funded the 17 Automated Screening Lanes, which use modern technology and larger bins, in partnership with the TSA.

By the end of May, passengers at John F. Kennedy airport will get 19 of the smart lanes, funded by Delta and American airlines.

Olivier was in Washington to testify before a House Homeland Security panel on the progress of the lanes and to ask Congress to keep up funding for TSA and airport security.

The smart lines still require the same number of TSA screeners to operate, she said. It’s not yet clear if passenger confusion about how to use the new screening system is preventing a reduction in manpower.

“Don’t cut back on screeners,” Olivier said. “The passenger traffic is growing and it’s going to continue to be important.”

The smart lanes were an outgrowth of major embarrassing backups at airports during the last spring break. [NYP]


POLITICS


Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life

He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

A wealthy businessman from New York, Trump assumed public office for the first time when he entered the White House on Jan. 20 after he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an upset.

More than five months after his victory and two days shy of the 100-day mark of his presidency, the election is still on Trump’s mind. Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.” [REUTERS]

Pentagon inspector general launches Flynn investigation

The Pentagon’s inspector general is now investigating Michael Flynn over payments he received from foreign governments after retiring from the Army, according to documents released Thursday by the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

The documents also show the Defense Intelligence Agency warned Flynn after his 2014 retirement as the agency’s director that he was barred from accepting payments from foreign governments.

The intelligence agency informed President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser in a letter that, as a retired military officer, he was still subject to the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars government officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments.

Flynn was notified in the letter that he was prohibited from the “receipt of consulting fees, gifts, travel expenses, honoraria, or salary … from a foreign government unless congressional consent is first obtained.”

In a letter dated earlier this month, the Pentagon’s IG informed the House Oversight Committee it was investigating the matter.

“Earlier this week, the White House refused to produce even a single document in response to the bipartisan document request that I sent with our Republican chairman,” Cummings told reporters Thursday. “There is obviously a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer rejected that argument and sought to shift blame onto the Obama administration for giving Flynn a security clearance.

“General Flynn was a career military officer who maintained a high level security clearance throughout his career in the military. His clearance was last reissued by the Obama administration in 2016 with full knowledge of his activities that occurred in 2015,” Spicer said at Thursday’s press briefing. [POLITICO]

House Seeks Charges Against Company CEO Over Clinton Emails

WASHINGTON—The Republican chairman of the House Science Committee has asked the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against the chief executive of a company that managed Hillary Clinton’s private email server for alleged obstruction of a congressional investigation.

In a referral to the Justice Department stemming from the long-running controversy over Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, Rep. Lamar Smith (R, Texas) alleged that Treve Suazo, chief executive of Platte River Networks, failed to produce documents, made false statements and obstructed a congressional investigation.

“Platte River Networks, a company hired by former Secretary Hillary Clinton, has deliberately withheld requested materials from the Committee and refused to comply with lawfully issued subpoenas,” Mr. Smith said in a statement. “With a new administration in place, I am hopeful that the Department of Justice will appropriately respond to the referral. We cannot allow companies with valuable information to stonewall us in our oversight efforts,”

An attorney for Platte River Networks said it has cooperated with the long-running government investigations into the matter surrounding Mrs. Clinton’s private server and believed that the Justice Department would take no action on the matter. [WSJ]

Republicans won’t vote on ObamaCare repeal bill this week

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) confirmed Thursday night that GOP leadership will not bring a revised ObamaCare repeal bill to the floor this week.

White House officials had been pushing for a vote by President Trump’s 100th day in office on Saturday, but it was clear Thursday night that the 216 GOP votes needed to pass the healthcare bill had not materialized.

At least 21 Republicans had come out against the bill, with many more undecided. Leaders can only afford 22 GOP defections.

“We are not voting on healthcare tomorrow or Saturday,” McCarthy told reporters after a nearly two-hour leadership meeting in Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office in the Capitol.

McCarthy downplayed the healthcare development, saying leaders had been discussing the short-term stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown.

The House is expected to pass a one-week continuing resolution (CR) on Friday, buying bipartisan negotiators more time to pass a bill to fund the government for the rest of the 2017 fiscal year.[THEHILL]

Trump has a red button on his desk that orders Coke

President Trump often has his finger on the button in the Oval Office — but for soda, not nuclear strikes.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Trump revealed the purpose of a “red button” on his desk, which apparently is used to summon a butler with a Coke for the president.

“With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president,” the AP reported.

The news was met with jokes on social media and television. Stephen Colbert, host of CBS’ The Late Show, joked that Trump was “turning the Oval Office into an eight-year-old’s drawing of a dream treehouse.”

Trump also mentioned the button during an interview with the Financial Times in the Oval Office.

When a reporter asked Trump whether it was the “nuclear button,” he pressed it to order some Cokes, then joked: “Everyone does get a little nervous when I press that button.” [THEHILL]

Lewandowski’s firm appears to offer Trump meetings

A firm co-founded by Donald Trump’s original campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appears to have been pitching clients around the world by offering not only policy and political advice, but also face time with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and senior members of their administration, according to documents and interviews.

A document provided to an Eastern European politician by an international consulting firm that Lewandowski co-founded this year promises to arrange “meetings with well-established figures,” including Trump, Pence, “key members of the U.S. Administration” and outside Trump allies.

The previously unreported firm, Washington East West Political Strategies, was created by Lewandowski and fellow Trump campaign veteran Barry Bennett — as well as an Azerbaijani oil executive and an American political consultant who works extensively in Russia — to prospect for political business in Eastern Europe. And Lewandowski and Bennett have created different firms with other partners to prospect in the Middle East, Canada and Central America, Bennett said.

The Washington East West Political Strategies document boasts that its clients will benefit from its partners’ ability to “leverage” their “trusted relations with the U.S. Administration,” as well as European parliamentarians and leading Western journalists.

Lewandowski did not respond to requests for comment. [POLITICO]


CULTURE


In Muslim Indonesia, tiny Jewish community keeps its head down

TONDANO, Indonesia (AFP) — In a remote corner of the Indonesian archipelago, a modest synagogue stands in a tiny Jewish community that has found acceptance despite rising intolerance in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

The red-roofed building on Sulawesi island is the only synagogue in the nation of 255 million people. Here, unlike other parts of the country, the Jewish community feel safe to practice their faith openly.

“We can wear the kippah in the mall or anywhere we want, it’s not a problem,” Yobby Hattie Ensel, a Jewish leader from the nearby city of Manado told AFP.

In Tondano, the “Shaar Hasyamayim” synagogue sits close to several churches and residents of different religions live, work, and worship alongside each other without incident.

Indonesia has long been praised for its moderate, inclusive brand of Islam — and this enclave of diversity is a testament to that.

But across the archipelago, intolerance has risen in recent years as more conservative forms of Islam have become popular, driven by increasingly vocal hardline groups.

Tensions in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians, spill over here and deepen religious divides.

Outside the safe haven on Sulawesi, those who refuse to hide their faith have faced hostility.
Yaakov Baruch, an Orthodox Jew who runs the Tondano synagogue, revealed how he was threatened with death in a Jakarta busy mall as he walked along with his wife.

“From a few floors up, they shouted at me ‘Crazy Jew’,” he told AFP, adding the group of men then ran towards him and demanded he remove his skullcap.

“They said to me: ‘We don’t want you to use your kippah in this country. If you continue to use it, we’ll kill you.’”

In 2013, the country’s only other synagogue in the city of Surabaya was demolished. It had been the site of anti-Israel protests for years, and was sealed off by hardliners in 2009 and left to decay.

Secret worship

Indonesian rabbi Benjamin Verbrugge concedes any flare-up of tensions in the Middle East provokes hostility towards the local faithful.

“Problems between Israelis and Palestinians are a liability for me — when someone is stabbed there, it makes me uneasy here,” he said.

Faced with such open hostility, the Jews in the capital worship in secret.

Last month Verbrugge, head of the United Indonesian Jewish Community (UIJC), held celebrations for the festival of Purim, traditionally one of the most joyous days in Judaism’s calendar, hidden in a small hotel room with a handful of fellow worshipers.

The UIJC estimate there are around 200 practicing the faith in the country, believed to be the descendants of traders from Europe and Iraq who came to Asia to trade. The organization was set up to bring the nation’s Jews together.

The Jewish population in Indonesia is believed to have peaked at around 3,000 in the years before World War II, according to Rotem Kowner, a professor from the University of Haifa in Israel.

The fact that those remaining are scattered across the archipelago means Verbrugge has to defy rules that forbid Jews from using electrical gadgets on the Sabbath to lead group prayers online via the LINE messaging app.

The small community also faces more practical challenges, such as the fact kosher food is not widely available in Indonesia, said Phinechas, a local convert to Judaism.

“I try my best to be a good Jew but I can’t manage it 100 percent,” he added.

Increasing intolerance

Faith-based tension has been mounting in Indonesia, undermining its pluralist reputation.

Christian churches and mosques where Muslim minorities pray have been closed due to pressure from hardliners. Shiites and Ahmadis — regarded as heretics by some Sunnis — have been forced from their homes in mob attacks and on occasion even killed.

Successive governments have been criticized for failing to tackle the radicals for fear of being accused of attacking Islam.

Due to their small number and the fact most live in the shadows, the nation’s Jews have not been a major focus of radical Islamic anger in Indonesia and have largely escaped the serious attacks directed at other minorities.

But having a low profile also brings problems.

According to the law, freedom of worship is guaranteed for all religions, including Judaism, but in practice Jews cannot be honest about their faith.

Authorities allow Indonesians to put six different religions on their all-important ID cards — Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.

ID cards are vital for accessing government services, and for doing things such as registering marriages and births, meaning most Jews lie and put “Christianity” on the documents.

The religious affairs ministry said in 2013 people who do not follow one of the six authorized faiths can choose to put nothing on their cards, but Indonesian Jews AFP interviewed had all put “Christian” to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

Despite the challenges, Indonesian Jews nevertheless insist they are an integral part of the nation.

Baruch said: “[The] Jewish community of Indonesia, we were in this country far before the country was born. It means we are part of this country as well.” [ToI]


FINANCE


Microsoft’s cloud business is growing almost twice as fast as Amazon’s, with Google far behind

Amazon still owns the cloud. But earnings reports on Thursday from the e-retailer as well as rivals Microsoft and Alphabet show that the battle is in its early days and competition is fierce.

In a rare confluence of events, all three companies reported quarterly results on the same day, giving investors an abundance of data on the state of cloud computing:

Amazon Web Services is the clear leader and the only one of the three companies that provide a clean number for its cloud infrastructure business. Amazon said AWS revenue surged 43 percent in the quarter to $3.66 billion. Multiply that by four, and you get an annualized run rate of $14.6 billion.

Microsoft wraps its Azure business into a division called Intelligent Cloud, which includes various other servers and cloud services. In total, that business grew 11 percent to $6.8 billion. While Microsoft doesn’t break out Azure’s revenue, it does offer up a growth number. In the quarter ended March, sales jumped 93 percent. Microsoft also said that its full Commercial Cloud business now has an annualized run rate of $15.2 billion, but that business also includes Office 365, not just the Azure infrastructure service.

The Google Cloud Platform remains a laggard and is such a small portion of Alphabet that the company didn’t even mention the business in its earnings release. Of Google’s $24.5 billion in first-quarter revenue, $21.4 billion came from advertising. However, sales in the rest of the company jumped 50 percent to $3.1 billion, and a big part of that increase was clearly from new cloud-computing clients.

AWS’s fingerprints were all over Amazon’s earnings report, with the acronym showing up 44 times.

In addition to disclosing revenue and the unit’s 24.3 percent operating margin, Amazon referred to a host of new AWS products like Amazon Chime for making online meetings easier and contact center technology called Amazon Connect. The company also said that AWS has regions opening up this year in France and China and that the cloud division “collaborated with NASA to deliver the highest resolution video ever broadcast live from space.”

According to Synergy Research Group, AWS controlled 40 percent of the public cloud services market as of early February, compared to 23 percent for Microsoft, IBM and Google combined. [CNBC]

Amazon Posts Bigger-Than-Expected Increase in Profit

Amazon.com Inc. posted a 41% rise in first-quarter profit, even as the company is spending heavily on everything from international expansion to video content.

Earnings rose to $724 million, or $1.48 a share, from $513 million, or $1.07 a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected earnings, excluding one-time items, of $1.12 a share.

Sales of $35.71 billion, up from $29.13 billion, were within Amazon’s own forecast of $33.25 billion to $35.75 billion and above analysts’ expectations of $35.3 billion.

Amazon’s shares rose 4.1% in after-hours trading after finishing up 1% at $918.38 on Thursday. The stock has risen about 22% year-to-date through the close.

The Seattle-based online retailer has long plowed most of its profits back into product development, warehouse expansion and delivery infrastructure. In recent periods Amazon had shown some spending discipline, but the company has entered a new phase of heightened investment by expanding overseas, bolstering its shipping operations and broadening its video content.

Analysts expect the phase to last at least through mid-2018, in part due to Amazon’s promise to hire 130,000 U.S. workers during that time frame. [WSJ]

Sitt’s Thor trying to get out of $43M Bronx deal: sources

Joseph Sitt’s Thor Equities is trying to exit a hard contract to pay $42.5 million for a large Bronx rental building, sources told The Real Deal.

Thor entered contract in September for the six-story, 280,000-square-foot, 182-unit property at 975 Walton Avenue, in what was poised to be one of the largest recent single-building deals in the borough. The closing price would come out to about $150 per square foot.

But in the seven months since signing the contract, Thor has had trouble closing the deal, sources said.

A source close to Thor said the firm doesn’t expect to enter litigation and hopes to work out an agreement with the seller, Brooklyn investor Benzion Kohn. Another source said Kohn is unwilling to release Thor from the contract.

A Thor spokesperson declined to comment, and Kohn could not be immediately reached.

The 975 Walton property, a short walk from Yankee Stadium, has sold twice since 2010, when it sold for $11.3 million. Kohn then bought it from Irving Langer’s E&M Associates for $31 million in April 2015. [TRD]

04/28/2017 10:33 AM by David Kinzer
Tags: Morning Read

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