Macro Links April 2nd – “Maybe Someone Dies”

Macro Links April 2nd – “Maybe Someone Dies”

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FACEBOOK, TESLA

‘Maybe someone dies’: Facebook VP justified bullying, terrorism as costs of network’s ‘growth’ – The Washington Post

“Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies,” company vice president Andrew Bosworth wrote in the memo, according to BuzzFeed News, which published it Thursday. “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

Facebook Employees in an Uproar Over Executive’s Leaked Memo – The New York Times

The fallout at the Silicon Valley company has been wide. According to two Facebook employees, workers have been calling on internal message boards for a hunt to find those who leak to the media. Some have questioned whether Facebook has been transparent enough with its users and with journalists, said the employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. Many are also concerned over what might leak next and are deleting old comments or messages that might come across as controversial or newsworthy, they said.

Facebook memo outlines ‘ugly truth’ behind its mission – FT

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, distanced himself from the memo, saying that “most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with it strongly”. “We’ve never believed the ends justify the means,” Mr Zuckerberg said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “We recognise that connecting people isn’t enough by itself. We also need to work to bring people closer together. We changed our whole mission and company focus to reflect this last year.”

Zuckerberg disavows memo saying all user growth is good – Reuters

“Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things. This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We’ve never believed the ends justify the means,” Zuckerberg said in a statement.

Here are the internal Facebook posts of employees discussing the leaked memo – The Verge

After publishing the memo, Bosworth deleted his original post. “While I won’t go quite as far as to call it a straw man, that post was definitely designed to provoke a response,” Bosworth wrote in a memo obtained by The Verge. “It served effectively as a call for people across the company to get involved in the debate about how we conduct ourselves amid the ever changing mores of the online community. The post was of no particular consequence in and of itself, it was the comments that were impressive. A conversation over the course of years that was alive and well even going into this week. “That conversation is now gone,” Bosworth continued. “And I won’t be the one to bring it back for fear it will be misunderstood by a broader population that doesn’t have full context on who we are and how we work.”

Facebook and Google are becoming too big to be governed, French president Macron warns – Independent

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, has warned that Google and Facebook are becoming too big to be governed and could face being dismantled. Internet giants could be forced to pay for the disruption they cause in society and submit to French or European privacy regulations, he suggested. In an interview with the magazine Wired, the president warned that artificial intelligence (AI) would challenge democracy and open a Pandora’s box of privacy issues.

Tesla Driver Died Using Autopilot, With Hands Off Steering Wheel – Bloomberg

Computer logs recovered from the Tesla driven by Wei Huang, 38, show he didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the sport utility vehicle collided with a highway barrier in California and caught fire on March 23, according to a blog post the company published late Friday. “The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” Tesla said in the post. The driver had “about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view” of the concrete highway divider and an already-crushed crash cushion that his Model X collided with, according to the company. “But the vehicle logs show that no action was taken.”

Fatal Tesla Crash Raises New Questions About Autopilot System – The New York Times

The accident renews questions about Autopilot, a signature feature of Tesla vehicles, and whether the company has gone far enough to ensure that it keeps drivers and passengers safe. “At the very least, I think there will have to be fundamental changes to Autopilot,” said Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst who focuses on self-driving technology. “The system as it is now tricks you into thinking it has more capability than it does. It’s not an autonomous system. It’s not a hands-free system. But that’s how people are using it, and it works fine, until it suddenly doesn’t.”

Tesla Looked Like the Future. Now Some Ask if It Has One. – The New York Times

In just the past week, Tesla’s troubles have intensified. Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the company’s credit rating, concerned that it was burning through cash. Those worries have grown so dire that some analysts are asking whether the company could run out of money by the end of the year. “I’ve said for some time that Tesla is far from a sure bet, or a stable company for that matter,” said Clement Thibault, a senior analyst at Investing.com. “Tesla has been living on borrowed time and money for quite some time.”

Tesla’s ‘transformative year’ is hitting a brick wall – The Washington Post

As Musk dreams of Mars voyages, he is struggling with the more prosaic mission of assembling a passenger car here on Earth. And in explaining a series of production misses over the past two years, some analysts say Musk has undermined his own credibility by repeatedly overpromising.

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SPY POISONING, RUSSIA FLEXING

Russian ex-spy says he was on Kremlin ‘hit list’ along with poisoned Skripal – NBC News

The former Russian double agent got a terrifying message on his birthday: He was on a Kremlin hit list along with Sergei Skripal, another ex-spy who weeks later was poisoned with a nerve agent in a case Britain blames on Vladimir Putin’s government. “Be careful, look around, something is probably going to happen,'” the former agent, Boris Karpichkov, says an old friend told him on the telephone in mid-February. “It’s very serious, and you are not alone.”

Russia ramps up retaliation to UK action over spy poisoning – FT

Russia has ordered the UK to drastically slash its diplomatic presence in the country, as Moscow ramps up its retaliation in a deepening row over the poison attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. The UK must cut the total number of staff at its diplomatic missions in Russia to match the number of Russian diplomats and support staff in the UK, the Russian foreign ministry said on Friday.

‘Satan 2’ nuclear missile again test-launched by Russia, as Putin brags of ‘invulnerable’ arsenal | Fox News

A new intercontinental ballistic missile hailed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as being able to fly over the North or South Poles and strike any target in the world reportedly was test-launched for the second time Friday.

Russia tests its new nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile – CNBC

Russia tested its new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the second time on Friday, the country’s defense ministry said in a tweet. The nuclear weapon called Sarmat will replace the current Soviet-era missile called Veovoda. Russia’s ministry of defense tweeted a video showing the ICBM taking off.

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Bitcoin Breaches $7,000 in Downbeat End to Dismal Quarter – Bloomberg

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency by market value dropped below the $7,000 mark Friday morning in Asia, the first time it’s breached that level since early February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It fell as low as $6,912 before rebounding, trading at $7,094 as of 7:50 a.m in Hong Kong. The moves took the token’s losses in 2018 to a whopping 50 percent, and other digital assets, including rivals Ripple and Litecoin, slumped more.

18J02 - BITCOIN BREAKS BAD

Chile’s State-Owned Bank Cutting Ties with Crypto Exchanges – CoinDesk

Chile’s state-owned bank has dumped three cryptocurrency exchange clients, according to a local media report. Banco del Estado de Chile informed Orionx, CryptoMKT and Buda.com that their accounts would be closed in 10 days, the newspaper El Mercurio reported Thursday. The move came after Canada’s Scotiabank and Brazil’s Itaú said they would be closing the accounts of the three exchanges.

Telegram Raises $1.7 Billion in Coin Offering, May Seek More – Bloomberg

Telegram Group Inc., an encrypted messaging app seeking to create its own cryptocurrency, has increased the proceeds from the world’s largest initial offering to $1.7 billion, according to a regulatory filing. Telegram raised $850 million from 94 investors in March in addition to $850 million it gained in February, and “may pursue one or more subsequent offerings,” the British Virgin Islands-registered firm said in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

AirAsia Planning Cryptocurrency-Based Rewards Program – CoinDesk

Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia is launching a cryptocurrency-based rewards program. AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes told Nikkei Asian Review that its frequent-flyer rewards program is being converted into a cryptocurrency platform called BigCoin. The move is part of a broader effort to improve the airline’s digital services and move the company toward a cashless system.

Riot Blockchain Acquires Futures Brokerage After Crypto Pivot – CoinDesk

Riot Blockchain, a former biotech company that pivoted to cryptocurrency last year, has acquired a registered futures brokerage. In a filing this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it acquired 92.5 percent of Miami-based Logical Brokerage Corp and “intends to investigate launching a digital currency exchange and a futures brokerage operation within the United States,” though it is unclear if or when such an exchange would launch.

Singapore Launches Blockchain Challenge with Funding Prizes – CoinDesk

Singapore’s government is launching a challenge that will reward successful blockchain projects with funding. In an announcement Thursday, Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said the challenge aims to boost blockchain innovation as part of a wider goal of the digital transformation in the city state.

Major Polish Bank To Implement Blockchain Document Storage System – Coin Telegraph

A Polish major bank PKO Bank Polski has recently announced their partnership with Blockchain company Coinfirm to provide a DLT-based storage and verification system for bank documents, TechCrunch reported on March 29. The recently signed agreement aims to bring Blockchain technology to PKO’s banking system via the Trudatum tool developed by Coinfirm. The system will provide customers with a secure means to access documents containing information regarding regulations, transactions, fees, and commissions.

Arizona Bitcoin Trader Convicted for Crypto Money Laundering – CoinDesk

An Arizona bitcoin trader been convicted for using the cryptocurrency to launder the proceeds of drug deals. Thomas Mario Costanzo, who goes by Morpheus Titania on Twitter and operated a peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange website, was found guilty of charges of five money laundering by a federal jury in Phoenix on March 28, according to a Justice Department announcement.

Audi Is Exploring Blockchain For Its Distributional Network – Coin Telegraph

German Ingolstadt-based car manufacturer Audi is testing Blockchain technology for its physical and financial distribution processing, Cointelegraph auf Deutsch reported today, March 30. With its new solution, Audi aims to increase the security and transparency in its global supply chains. The car manufacturer released a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) of its Blockchain system last year, after successfully testing the technology based on IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric. Due to positive feedback, Audi’s management decided to advance the project beyond the PoC stage.

Cisco Imagines Group Chats on a Blockchain in Patent Filing – CoinDesk

Cisco is looking at blockchain technology as a way to make confidential group messaging easier and more secure, public filings show. In a patent application released Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the company described how a blockchain could enable people to form groups spontaneously and share files and other information while keeping track of membership. This would solve “common problems” faced by ad-hoc messaging teams, Cisco said, namely: “how group membership is established, communicated, updated, and secured from unauthorized tampering … in the context of dynamic, decentralized, and self-organizing groups.”

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FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES

Dollar Headed for Another Quarterly Decline – WSJ

The dollar headed for its fifth straight quarterly decline Friday, after a three-month stretch that saw gains in the yen and euro. Expectations of accelerating growth and tightening monetary policy abroad have spurred investors out of the dollar and into currencies of the European Union and Japan in recent months. The euro is on track for a 2.7% increase against the dollar this quarter, while the yen is set to gain around 6%.

China is reportedly taking the first steps to pay for oil in yuan: Sources – CNBC

China is taking its first steps towards paying for imported crude oil in yuan instead of the U.S. dollar, three people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, a key development in Beijing’s efforts to establish its currency internationally. Shifting just part of global oil trade into the yuan is potentially huge. Oil is the world’s most traded commodity, with an annual trade value of around $14 trillion, roughly equivalent to China’s gross domestic product last year. A pilot program for yuan payment could be launched as early as the second half of this year, two of the people said.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trade war escalates as China says it will impose tariffs on 128 U.S. exports, including pork and fruit – The Washington Post

The Chinese government plans to immediately impose tariffs on 128 U.S. products, including pork and certain fruits, a direct response to President Trump’s recent moves to pursue numerous trade restrictions against Beijing. If U.S. goods become more expensive in China, Chinese buyers could opt to purchase products from Europe, South America or elsewhere, though White House officials have routinely discounted the likelihood of this. Beijing’s move could force Trump to decide whether to follow through on expansive trade restrictions he had hoped would crack down on China even if Beijing is now threatening to harm U.S. companies that rely on Asian markets for buyers.

China imposes additional tariffs in response to U.S. duties on steel, aluminum – Reuters

China has slapped extra tariffs of up to 25 percent on 128 U.S. products including frozen pork, as well as on wine and certain fruits and nuts, in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminum and steel, China’s finance ministry said. The tariffs, to take effect on Monday, were announced late on Sunday and match a list of potential tariffs on up to $3 billion in U.S. goods published by China on March 23.

China slaps new duties on US nuts, pork, fruit and wine – FT

The highest additional tariffs of 25 per cent will be imposed on top of existing duties on imports of US scrap aluminium and various kinds of frozen pork, the statement said. An added 15 per cent tariff will apply to dozens of US foods including fresh and dried fruits such as cherries, nuts such as almonds and pistachios, and wine and various kinds of rolled steel bars.

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BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION

14 Million Visitors to U.S. Face Social-Media Screening – The New York Times

Nearly all applicants for a visa to enter the United States — an estimated 14.7 million people a year — will be asked to submit their social-media user names for the past five years, under proposed rules that the State Department issued on Friday. The proposal covers 20 social media platforms.

U.S. visa applicants to be asked for social media history: State Department – Reuters

The proposal, if approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), would require most immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants to list all social media identities they have used in the past five years. The information will be used to vet and identify them, according to the proposals, which would affect about 14.7 million people annually. The proposals support President Donald Trump’s promise to institute “extreme vetting” of foreigners entering the United states to prevent terrorism.

Businesses Beg for More Low-Skill Visas, Putting White House in a Bind – WSJ

Demand for low-skilled worker visas for the summer season starting Sunday is again far outstripping supply, with the Trump administration forced to choose between helping firms seeking more visas or trying to save those jobs for Americans. The White House warned some lawmakers not to kick the decision to the Department of Homeland Security as they did in 2017, congressional aides said. “We did not want the discretion,” an administration official said. Nonetheless, DHS is now under pressure from the business community to provide more visas after the spending bill authorized the department’s Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to offer tens of thousands of extra visas if she sees fit.

Trump Infrastructure Speech in Ohio – Lies About the Wall, Bump Stocks, Iraq War – Esquire

Infrastructure Week is one of the great running gags of this administration. It always seems to be Infrastructure Week, but President Business Deals is almost constitutionally incapable of staying on-topic. That’s how we got such a remarkable Trumpian spectacle in Ohio on Thursday. The speech was ostensibly about infrastructure, although it was really about his 2016 election victory, how no one had heard the word “trillion” until recently, how no one knows what community college is, and so much more that was irrelevant, untrue, or all of the above. Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale was there to document the oratorical carnage, which was so extensive he had to timestamp each incident.

‘No more DACA deal,’ Trump says as he threatens to ‘stop’ NAFTA if Mexico doesn’t better secure border – The Washington Post

President Trump spent his Easter morning on an anti-immigrant tirade, declaring Sunday that there would be no deal to legalize the status of undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” and threatening to exit the North American Free Trade Agreement unless Mexico increases border security. Trump thrust the future of millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children into peril by promising “NO MORE DACA DEAL,” and he directed congressional Republicans to pass tough anti-immigration legislation.

Shulkin says he did not leave office willingly, setting up fight over his successor – The Washington Post

Whether Shulkin resigned or was fired would have bearing on who leads the Department of Veterans Affairs until the president’s nominee, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, is confirmed by the Senate. According to federal statutes, the departure of a Senate-confirmed secretary elevates the department’s deputy secretary to that position until a permanent replacement arrives. But VA’s deputy secretary, Thomas G. Bowman, has already been passed over by a White House that has wanted to overhaul the department’s leadership.

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GUN CONTROL, SHOOTINGS, MARIJUANA, OPIOIDS

Stephon Clark Was Shot 8 Times From Behind or the Side, Family-Ordered Autopsy Finds – The New York Times

Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was killed by the Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard, was shot eight times from behind or the side, according to a private autopsy commissioned by his family. The autopsy concluded that Mr. Clark’s death was not instantaneous, taking an estimated three to 10 minutes, raising questions about why Mr. Clark was not given more immediate medical care after the shooting.

Noor Salman Acquitted in Pulse Nightclub Shooting – The New York Times

The acquittal by a federal jury of Noor Salman, the widow of the man who gunned down dozens of people at the Pulse nightclub two years ago, handed federal prosecutors on Friday the rarest of defeats: a loss in a terrorism case. The outcome was even more striking because the not-guilty verdict came from jurors in Orlando, Fla., where Omar Mateen’s rampage left 49 people dead and 53 others injured, the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

David Hogg to John McCain: Why do you take so much money from the NRA? – AZ Central

David Hogg, the Parkland shooting survivor who has become a high-profile gun-reform advocate after the Feb. 14 mass murder of 17 people, on Friday turned his attention to Sen. John McCain, the top recipient of National Rifle Association money in Congress. “Why do you take so much money from the NRA?” Hogg, 17, asked in a reply to a McCain Twitter message about the Phoenix-area “Rio Reimagined” redevelopment project that was launched Friday. McCain’s office could not immediately be reached for comment, and McCain had not responded to Hogg’s question on Twitter.

Vermont Legislature Passes Gun-Control Bill – WSJ

The Vermont Senate passed a bill that will heighten restrictions on firearms, including raising the purchasing age to 21 for many people and banning high-capacity magazines.

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RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE, TRUMP WORLD

Oleg Deripaska’s jet arrived in US after meeting between Manafort, Kilimnik – Business Insider

A private jet belonging to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska arrived in the US shortly after a meeting between the then-chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign and a mysterious Russian operative who has now become the center of the Russia controversy, Vice News reported Friday.

FBI questions Ted Malloch, Trump campaign figure and Farage ally | US news | The Guardian

A controversial London-based academic with close ties to Nigel Farage has been detained by the FBI upon arrival in the US and issued a subpoena to testify before Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Ted Malloch, an American touted last year as a possible candidate to serve as US ambassador to the EU, said he was interrogated by the FBI at Boston’s Logan airport on Wednesday following a flight from London and questioned about his involvement in the Trump campaign.

Behind the chaos: Office that vets Trump appointees plagued by inexperience – The Washington Post

An obscure White House office responsible for recruiting and vetting thousands of political appointees has suffered from inexperience and a shortage of staff, hobbling the Trump administration’s efforts to place qualified people in key posts across government, documents and interviews show. At the same time, two office leaders have spotty records themselves: a college dropout with arrests for drunken driving and bad checks and a Marine Corps reservist with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking.

Wall Street Journal staffers accuse editor of suppressing story – POLITICO

Wall Street Journal staff members circulated an anonymously written email on Thursday accusing “a senior editor” – which some later identified as editor-in-chief Gerry Baker — of suppressing a story and accompanying graphic because they were too liberal. A Journal spokesman denied that the editor had suppressed the story.

Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says case against Trump ‘grows stronger’ – CNBC

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, said Thursday that her legal battle against President Donald Trump is getting help from an unusual source: David Schwartz, the attorney for Trump’s own personal lawyer. And Avenatti is not alone in that view. A number of other legal experts said that Schwartz’s comments Wednesday night in a TV interview may have both damaged Trump’s case and put Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen at risk of ethical sanctions.

Poll: Young people strongly oppose Trump | TheHill

Most younger Americans oppose President Trump’s agenda and majorities call him “racist,” “dishonest” and “unfit” to be president, according to a poll released Friday by The Associated Press. Just 33 percent of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 approve of the president’s performance in office, 9 points lower than the average of all adults in the same poll this month. In addition, more than 6 in 10 younger Americans say Trump “is a racist” and is “generally dishonest,” while 60 percent exactly say he is “mentally unfit” for the office of the president.

Dem senator: It’s likely that Trump will fire Mueller | TheHill

Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) said on Friday that he believes that President Trump is likely to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, saying that the recent ousters of top administration officials make such a move all the more probable.

McCabe legal defense fund raises nearly $400K in less than a day | TheHill

The official legal defense fund established to help fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe raised nearly $400,000 in just one day. A GoFundMe page was set up by friends on Thursday to raise $250,000 for McCabe’s legal defense. More than $386,000 was donated in just 17 hours. As of Friday morning, almost 9,000 people had contributed.

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KOREAN PENINSULA, MIDDLE EAST, NUCLEAR WEAPONS

China uses economic muscle to bring N Korea to negotiating table – FT

“China has effectively turned off the petroleum taps flowing into North Korea,” said Alex Wolf, economist at Aberdeen Standard Investments and a former US diplomat in China. “From the data available . . . it appears that the North Korean economy is under a great deal of pressure and this has undoubtedly contributed to North Korea’s change in policy. “It is Chinese ‘maximum pressure’ that may be bringing a change in North Korean policy.”

Trump to Putin: ‘If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win’: report | TheHill

President Trump reportedly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last week that if the two Cold War foes were to reignite the arms race, the U.S. would come out on top. NBC News reported Thursday that Putin’s claim of new nuclear-capable weapons that can reach the United States “really got under the president’s skin,” according to one official. “If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win,” Trump reportedly told his Russian counterpart.

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INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS

U.S. Annual Inflation Posts Strongest Increase in Nearly a Year – WSJ

Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics, noted that as the slump in cellphone prices from last March washes out of the data, it is likely the core annual inflation rate will move up to 2% in March. It would only require a 0.2% month-over-month increase for core inflation to edge up to 2%, he said. “Admittedly, just as the weakness last spring proved to be temporary, inflation could fall back below the Fed’s target, particularly after a run of very strong gains,” Mr. Ashworth said. “However, we think the bigger risk is that it continues to climb further above 2%.”

Famous for hoarding cash, Chinese families are now racking up debt on an unprecedented scale | South China Morning Post

Chinese families with their long tradition of saving money are now accumulating debt at a rate never been seen before, according to data compiled by a state-backed think tank in Beijing. But the National Institution for Finance and Development also said mounting debt was not a concern because Chinese households still had far more savings than debts. The country’s household leverage ratio – or the ratio between debt incurred by families and gross domestic product – surged to 49 per cent at the end of last year from 17.9 per cent at the end of 2008, going up about 3.5 percentage points annually, the think tank said in a report released on Thursday.

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VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS

Safe Haven Assets Are Moving Strangely: Why That Should Worry Investors – WSJ

With many investors intent on paring risk, “the normal correlations you expect to see don’t work so well,” said Said Haidar, head of New York-based Haidar Capital Management, which manages nearly $428 million. It’s the latest sign that financial markets may be navigating uncharted territory as years of central bank stimulus start to wind down while long-dormant volatility returns and borrowing costs rise. Corporate earnings have been strong, but growth and inflation remain tepid and face threats like possible disruptions to global trade.

US stocks hit by first quarterly losses since 2015 – FT

The S&P 500 was hit by its first quarterly losses since 2015 as questions over global trade and regulation of technology companies — its star sector — weighed on company share prices. The index, which is made up of the US’s biggest listed companies, has performed better than stock markets in other developed economies, but it has fallen 1.2 per cent this year.

VIX Up 81% Shows Extent of Stock Market Pain in Jarring Quarter – Bloomberg

With the White House spoiling to reorder the global trade hierarchy and the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, the word on Wall Street is: get used to the swings. “Think about all the waves and stress caused on the surface of the water when a boat is changing directions,” said Michael Cuggino, president and portfolio manager at the Permanent Portfolio Family of Funds in San Francisco. “You have a transitory period of changing directions in monetary policy and growth expectations. As investors try to sort through that, that creates volatility.”

Volatility Roars Back With Biggest Quarterly Rise Ever – WSJ

A measure of volatility in U.S. stocks had one of its biggest quarterly rises ever, reflecting growing investor concerns about inflation, rising interest rates and global trade tension. The Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, surged about 80% during the first quarter after the measure of equity-market turbulence slid for three years. Loose central-bank policies and steady economic expansion world-wide suppressed price swings in markets during that streak.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

North Korea: Why Kim Jong Un came in from the cold – FT

The visit, initially shrouded in secrecy with the Chinese capital on lockdown, was seen by experts as an attempt to mend Pyongyang’s frayed ties with Beijing — its principal backer — ahead of a possible summit between Mr Kim and US president Donald Trump in May. But to others it signalled something more: the dictator’s growing confidence in his hold on power — a position that he has for years meticulously strengthened through a series of political, economic and military policies that are becoming synonymous with his reign. “The trip to China marks a major change in his operating mode and it signals that he does feel that his control . . . is secure enough for him to be away from his headquarters for a few days,” says Hank Morris, an adviser at Erudite Risk in Seoul. “That in itself is meaningful.”

Why Would Walmart Want to Buy an Insurer? The Retail Squeeze – WSJ

“The company is of such scale that the opportunities for future expansion in the U.S. are limited,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, a consulting firm. “Moving onto this turf would give Walmart a whole new arena in which to expand,” at a time when retail margins are under pressure, he said. Still “the risks of becoming entangled in the complex U.S. health-care industry are considerable,” Mr. Saunders added.

Wooing Saudi Business, Tabloid Mogul Had a Powerful Friend: Trump – The New York Times

A dinner at the White House helped David J. Pecker, whose company owns The National Enquirer, showcase his connections as he sought to expand into Saudi Arabia. The intersection of the tabloid publisher with the Saudis, enhanced by the White House visit, is a previously untold chapter in the long, symbiotic relationship between the president and Mr. Pecker, which was forged in the 1990s. At the time, Mr. Trump was celebrating a real estate comeback after his casino bankruptcies and was both the subject and the source of much gossip in New York.

U.S. Can’t Win a Trade War Against China By Itself – Bloomberg

There’s a flaw in Trump’s logic. He appears to have an outdated and exaggerated view of how big a role the U.S. plays in the global economy. By overestimating American economic power, he’s also greatly overestimating his chances of compelling China to change its trade practices. The U.S. can inflict a lot of pain on the Chinese economy. It still may not be enough. Trump would have a much greater chance of succeeding if he coordinated his efforts with other major Chinese trading partners, nearly all of whom are U.S. allies. Close friends Japan, South Korea and Germany are all top 10 destinations for Chinese exports. If these countries took similar action against China as Trump, they could squeeze leaders in Beijing with much greater force.

What Might Happen to Mexico If Nafta Gets Wiped Away – Bloomberg

Mexico isn’t sitting around waiting for Nafta to be renegotiated. The country has free-trade agreements with dozens of countries and is looking to modernize or expand agreements with other partners. Mexico recently joined 10 other countries, including Australia, Japan and Canada, in signing a successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It also expects soon to finish updating its existing free-trade agreement with the European Union. China is also on Mexico’s sights. Government officials recently toured Shanghai to meet with infrastructure, energy, automotive and mining executives.

Rick Gates Could Be More Dangerous Than Trump’s Allies Thought | Vanity Fair

Gates’s testimony could prove crucial as Mueller seeks to determine what role, if any, the Trump campaign played in Russian election meddling. Gates, who served as Manafort’s No. 2 and worked on Trump’s inaugural committee after the election, was a key member of the Trump campaign at critical points. “Was he in the strategy meetings? No. But he was an implementer,” one person said of Gates to CNN. This person added that if there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, “He would be the kind of person who would probably know that.”

Ralph Peters: Why I left Fox News – The Washington Post

With my Soviet-studies background, the cult of Trump unnerves me. For our society’s health, no one, not even a president, can be above criticism — or the law. I must stress that there are many honorable and talented professionals at the Fox channels, superb reporters, some gutsy hosts, and adept technicians and staff. But Trump idolaters and the merrily hypocritical prime-time hosts are destroying the network — no matter how profitable it may remain.

Joy Reid: The Republicans Are Clinging Frantically to Power – The Daily Beast

The Republican Party is building a wall. Not the one Donald Trump promised his supporters Mexico would pay for (and then American taxpayers would pay and now, apparently, the U.S. military). The GOP is desperately seeking to build a wall around its power, fearing its imminent erosion as a host of forces: demographic, cultural and political, come barreling its way.

SpaceX gains official approval to launch high-speed satellite Internet service – The Washington Post

SpaceX has received official permission from the U.S. government to launch a fleet of satellites designed to beam high-speed Internet signals down to Earth. The decision marks a major milestone for chief executive Elon Musk as he pursues a dream of putting 12,000 small satellites into low Earth orbit, connecting rural and developing parts of the world to the Internet. In more-connected areas, the technology could inject a new competitor into markets that have historically been dominated by one or two Internet providers — potentially driving down prices, increasing speeds and improving service.

The President is Compromised and Everyone Knows It – Washington Monthly

Everyone knows. Everyone. The only question is the details and proving the case. And yet, day after day rolls by in which a president who is obviously compromised by a hostile foreign power that committed massive felonies to put him in office, still continues to occupy the Oval Office not just as a placeholder, but as a wrackful whirlwind of destruction of decency and democratic norms.

Bahrain’s Biggest Oil Find Since 1932 Dwarfs Reserves – Bloomberg

Bahrain, the smallest energy producer in the Persian Gulf, discovered its biggest oil field since it started producing crude in 1932, according to the country’s official news agency. The shale oil and natural gas discovered in a deposit off the island state’s west coast “is understood to dwarf Bahrain’s current reserves,” Bahrain News Agency reported, without giving figures. The country currently pumps about 45,000 barrels of oil a day from its Bahrain Field, and it shares income from a deposit with Saudi Arabia that produces about 300,000 barrels a day, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Big box stores are dying. What do we do with all the bodies? | Popular Science

The big box store’s meteoric rise is matched only by its rapid decline. Architects, urban planners, and activists are now searching for ways to repurpose these retail giants. William Leddy, of Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects in San Francisco, is a proponent of adaptive reuse, which refers to the process of repurposing existing architecture for a new purpose. Leddy acknowledges the limitations of big box stores, but still believes vacant storefronts are still brimming with potential. “These cavernous volumes are so adaptive to so many functions,” he says. “You could imagine a new and lively semi-urban environments starting to develop.” Just one idea? Turn ghost stores into vibrant housing.

At Uber, a New C.E.O. Shifts Gears | The New Yorker

Khosrowshahi is now tasked with transforming this unwieldy, ambitious enterprise into a more traditional company, without sacrificing the attributes that made it successful in the first place. An Uber investor told me, “One of the words that was common parlance at Uber was ‘fierce.’ I love that word. But it can absolutely be taken too far.” The question, he said, is “How does Dara preserve the positive aspects of the culture and change the aspects that are in desperate need of changing while still competing fiercely?”

In Balkans, Britain rejoins battle for influence – POLITICO

The West is fighting back against Russia in a battle for influence in the Balkans. But although the European Union has renewed its interest in the region, the latest charge is being led by Britain. Seven years after shutting down in Belgrade, the BBC on Monday reopened its Serbian language service, launching a website and unveiling partnerships with local media outlets. The move is part of a broader soft-power struggle in the Balkans, particularly Serbia, where pro-Russian media have been pumping out fake news stories — such as a recent piece from Kremlin-backed Sputnik claiming that NATO was preparing to conduct military exercises in Bosnia and Herzegovina using depleted uranium.

The average American is much better off now than four decades ago – Alternative stats – Economist

The past four decades have been hard for many Americans. Trade and technology have upended the labour market, and many low-skilled men have left the workforce. Economic growth has been weak in non-coastal states, and the top few percent take home a greater share of all income. Wage growth, by any measure, has been far lower than in the post-war decades. But the idea that the typical American is little better off than four decades ago does not withstand scrutiny.

In the Battle for the American West, the Cowboys Are Losing – WSJ

Ranchers who rely on public land to raise their cattle say they have shrinking access to wide open spaces, grass and water because of an array of regulations. Over the last four decades, the number of cows grazing on public lands has dropped by nearly half. In some cases, government officials curb grazing to protect natural resources from damage caused by cattle, and create preserves for threatened species. In others, officials close land to ranchers to give more access to the public for hiking and other activities that fuel the fast-growing recreation industry. As frustrations peaked, in extreme instances, some cowboys have taken up arms against the government for what they say are overly restrictive policies.

Many Americans Try Retirement, Then Change Their Minds – The New York Times

“We definitely see evidence that retirement is fluid,” said Kathleen Mullen, a RAND senior economist and co-author of its American Working Conditions Survey. “There’s less of the traditional schedule: work to a certain age, retire, see the world. We see people lengthening their careers.” A Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports that observation. It reported that the proportion of Americans over age 65 who were employed, full-time or part-time, had climbed steadily from 12.8 percent in 2000 to 18.8 percent in 2016. More than half were working full time.

Germany Courts Workers With Sausages and Cheap Housing – Bloomberg

The scramble for qualified workers has become an existential issue for companies across Germany, which are offering enticements ranging from overseas sojourns and ski outings to subsidized housing and sausage platters. After years of robust growth, unemployment has dropped to a record low of 5.4 percent, and the country has 1.2 million unfilled jobs—nearly equivalent to the population of Munich. Manufacturing, construction, and health care are particularly stretched, and 1 in 4 businesses may have to hold back production as a result of the labor crunch, the European Union reports.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

New York City’s Sewage Shipment Runs Afoul in Rural South – WSJ

This is a little-seen part of daily life in America. Big cities produce more waste than they can dispose of. So all across the country, pipes, trucks and trains carry waste elsewhere to be incinerated, dumped or used as fertilizer. The mayors of West Jefferson and Parrish went to Montgomery on Wednesday to meet with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to seek help removing the New York City waste from their towns and assurance that no more will arrive at the nearby landfill. They say they don’t have answers yet. The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

US Midwest factory sector gauge skids to lowest level in a year – FT

Factory activity in the Midwest grew at the slowest rate in more than a year this month, according to a closely watched survey that highlights patchy US economic data covering the first quarter. The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago’s purchasing managers’ index declined to 57.4 in March from 61.9 in February. That came in well below the forecast of economists in a Reuters poll of 62, although it is still above the 50 lines that separates expansion and contraction.

18J02 - MIDWEST MANFACTURING

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Inflows to Japanese equities funds near five-year high – FT

Investors put the most net cash into Japanese equities funds in nearly five years in the latest week ahead of the end of the country’s fiscal year. Inflows totalled $5.8bn, according to EPFR Global, the most since the second quarter of 2013, shortly after the election of Shinzo Abe created great anticipation for “Abenomics”.

Eager for calming news, investors look to earnings – Reuters

A robust earnings period would bring back the focus on fundamentals and possibly put a floor under prices, supporting views that the 9-year-old bull market will go on, strategists said. “It’s going to be earnings,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist and senior portfolio manager at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York. “The market has given up so much that earnings can start to redirect attention back into a market that has gotten much cheaper relative to where we were.”

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

GE Is Now Smaller Than Netflix – Bloomberg

General Electric Co., once the world’s largest company by market value, is now smaller than all of the FANG stocks. GE fell below the least valuable of the four, Netflix Inc., four weeks ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gap between them closed Friday at $17.1 billion. The rest of the FANG — Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Google’s owner, Alphabet Inc. — ended last week with market values at least four times GE’s $113.5 billion.

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DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS

NYSE Is in Advanced Talks to Buy the Chicago Stock Exchange – Bloomberg

The New York Stock Exchange is in advanced talks to buy the Chicago Stock Exchange, potentially scooping up the smaller venue after its sale to another buyer collapsed, according to people familiar with the matter. A deal valuing the Chicago Stock Exchange at $50 million to $100 million could be announced as soon as next week, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public.

Is Gibson, a Totem of Guitar Godhead, Headed for Chapter 11? – The New York Times

Gibson’s problems are not hard to diagnose. The company’s longtime chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, wanted to diversify by turning Gibson into what he has called a “music lifestyle company” — basically a consumer electronics business that sells headphones and hi-fis as well as guitars. He made a splashy purchase of the audio and home entertainment division of Netherlands-based Royal Philips in 2014, and then ran headlong into the collapse of the euro. It was a disaster. Mr. Juszkiewicz, in an interview, didn’t sugarcoat it.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Einhorn’s Main Hedge Fund Down 14% This Year After March Drop – Bloomberg

David Einhorn’s main hedge fund at Greenlight Capital fell about 1.9 percent in March, extending its loss this year to 14 percent, according to a client update seen by Bloomberg. Einhorn’s fund added to its losses despite a selloff in several technology companies at the end of March, including Amazon.com Inc. and Netflix Inc. The money manager has been shorting a group of technology stocks, including those companies, which he’s described as a “bubble basket,” though Friday’s letter didn’t list his current investment positions.

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

As shale wells grow longer, buyouts attract hemmed in oil producers – Reuters

This week, U.S. shale producer Concho Resources Inc said longer horizontal wells are among the factors spurring its $8 billion deal for rival RSP Permian Inc, with well spacing and sharing infrastructure needs also playing roles. RSP Permian controlled the land adjacent to its own in many cases. The average length of U.S. shale wells has grown by roughly 1,500 feet, or 25 percent, in the past three years to 7,213 feet, according to RS Energy Group, an energy investment data provider. Producers are drilling longer shale wells – some exceed three miles – to extract more crude from each well.

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COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS

US farmers to plant less corn, soyabeans in 2018 – FT

US farmers have retrenched in the face of low agricultural prices by setting plans to plant less corn and soyabeans this year, sending grain prices higher. A government survey released Thursday showed farmers intended to plant 88m acres with corn this year, down 2 per cent from the spring of 2017. Soyabeans will cover 89m acres, down 1 per cent on year. This would mark the second year in history that US farmers would plant more soyabeans than corn, a reflection of strong demand for products made from the versatile oilseed, such as livestock feed. Yet analysts had expected to see soyabean acres at a record 90.9m acres.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Mumbai beach goes from dump to turtle hatchery in two years | World news | The Guardian

Versova has undergone what the United Nations has called the “world’s largest beach cleanup project” over the past two years, transformed from a shin-deep dump yard for plastics and rubbish to a virtually pristine piece of coastline. The man who leads the ongoing cleanup operation, the lawyer Afroz Shah, said he started anticipating the turtle hatchings two months ago when farmers on the southern end of the two-mile (3km) beach reported seeing turtles in the sand.

Court Dismisses Exxon’s Effort to Block Climate Investigation – The New York Times

A federal judge has dismissed a case brought by Exxon Mobil against the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts that might have blocked investigations into Exxon’s research and public statements about climate change. The state attorneys general were investigating whether the company had fraudulently misled investors and the public about climate change and about what effects climate change might have on its business.

British man catches ‘worst ever’ case of super-gonorrhea on trip to Asia – Yahoo

A British man has contracted what doctors have described as the world’s ‘worst-ever’ case of super-gonorrhea on a trip to Asia. The man, who has not been named by Public Health England, could not be treated with the antibiotics usually used for the sexually transmitted infection. He had a regular partner in the UK, but contracted the bug after a sexual encounter with a woman in South East Asia. The ‘first choice’ antibiotic treatment – a combination of azithromycin and ceftriaxone – has failed to treat the bug, in a world first.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

Turkey Calls France a Terrorism Host After Macron Meets Kurds – Bloomberg

Turkey accused France of being a host for terrorism after President Emmanuel Macron met a delegation of Kurds from the Syrian Democratic Forces and praised their efforts in stabilizing areas in the northern parts of the country. “If it’s accurate, the statement on mediation between Turkey and SDF amounts to crossing the line,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. “Those who yesterday hosted terrorists at the highest level once again should know this is only an expression of enmity against Turkey.”

Turkey’s Erdogan hits out at Macron over Kurdish talks offer – FT

Turkey would never negotiate with “terrorists”, Mr Erdogan said, accusing the French president of meddling in Turkish military operations in Syria after Mr Macron on Thursday met and pledged support to members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-dominated group that has fought against Isis alongside the US-led coalition that includes France.

Israeli Military Kills 15 Palestinians in Confrontations on Gaza Border – The New York Times

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along Gaza’s border with Israel on Friday to vent their pent-up frustration in a protest that quickly turned violent, with Israeli forces killing 15 at the border fence. As many as 30,000 arrived at tent encampments early Friday on Gaza’s side of the fence to stage what was billed as the start of a peaceful, six-week sit-in. They were protesting against Israel’s longstanding blockade of the territory and in support of their claims to return to homes in what is now Israel.

Thailand Bus Fire Kills 20 Migrant Workers From Myanmar – The New York Times

Twenty migrant workers from Myanmar were killed when their bus caught fire in northwestern Thailand early Friday, the police said. The workers were traveling to a factory district near Bangkok when their chartered bus was engulfed in flames around 1:30 a.m. in Tak Province. The bus was carrying 47 people, and 27 escaped, Colonel Krissana said. But 20 others were killed in the fire, which incinerated the double-decker bus and left it a charred shell on the roadside.

Trump tells advisers he wants U.S. out of Syria: senior officials – Reuters

Trump is spending Easter weekend at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate. During a speech in Richfield, Ohio on Thursday, he revealed his desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and turn over security to regional countries. He said that based on allied victories against Islamic State militants, “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon.” “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out,” Trump said. “We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.”

Two Service Members, One British and One American, Killed in Syria – WSJ

An American and a British service member of the U.S.-led coalition in Syria were killed by an explosive in the country’s north, the American and British militaries said.

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PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

Czechs extradite alleged Russian hacker to US – AP

The Czech Republic extradited a Russian man to the U.S. to face charges of hacking computers at LinkedIn, Dropbox and other American companies, an official said Friday. Yevgeniy Nikulin was flown to the U.S. overnight, Justice Ministry spokeswoman Tereza Schejbalova said. Nikulin denies he’s a hacker. His defense attorney claimed his case is politically motivated in the U.S.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

How Will the Midterm Elections Play Out? Watch Pennsylvania – The New York Times

Democrats appear to be in position to flip at least three, and perhaps as many as six, of Pennsylvania’s 18 House seats, according to strategists from both parties. That could represent a quarter of the 24-seat gain they need nationwide to take control of the House. “Pennsylvania will be the epicenter of the political world this fall,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in the state. With so many seats in play, he predicted that “gobs of money” would flow in.

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SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY

JPMorgan’s $8 Billion Jury Loss to Widow Faces Massive Reduction – Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase & Co. will probably face a judgment of no more than $90 million in a lawsuit claiming mismanagement of an estate that initially brought a jury verdict of $8 billion in punitive damages. A Dallas jury in September awarded excessive punitives and duplicate actual damages, the widow and children of Max Hopper, a former American Airlinesexecutive, said in court filings.

Starbucks coffee in California must have cancer warning, judge says – Reuters

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said in a decision dated Wednesday that Starbucks and other companies had failed to show there was no significant risk from a carcinogen produced in the coffee roasting process, court documents showed. Starbucks and other defendants have until April 10 to file objections to the decision. Starbucks declined to comment, referring reporters to a statement by the National Coffee Association (NCA) that said the industry was considering an appeal and further legal actions. “Cancer warning labels on coffee would be misleading. The U.S. government’s own Dietary Guidelines state that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle,” the NCA statement said.

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RETAIL APPAREL, SPECIALTY, DINING, BIG BOX

Amazon HQ2 could go to Virginia, ‘the bullseye of America’s internet’ – Business Insider

Evidence is mounting that Amazon could select Northern Virginia — and specifically a site near Dulles International Airport — as the location of its next headquarters, dubbed “HQ2.” Amazon has quietly been expanding its presence near the proposed site, which spans 26 acres of largely undeveloped land on the border of Loudoun and Fairfax counties. The company just put a new headquarters for its rapidly growing cloud service, Amazon Web Services, less than 3 miles from the site. And within a 10-minute drive is a sprawling 44-acre plot of land where Amazon is planning to build a massive 600,000-square-foot data-center campus. The site certainly makes logistical sense: It’s adjacent to Dulles International Airport and steps from an under-construction Metro station that will provide a straight shot to Washington, DC, and nearby suburbs.

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AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Sends Ten More Iridium Satellites to Orbit – Bloomberg

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. launched a rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications Inc. satellites to orbit early Friday, its fifth in a series of eight launches contracted for the communications company as it builds its NEXT constellation network. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast at around 7:13 a.m. local time. SpaceX has signed on to deliver 75 Iridium satellites to orbit in total. SpaceX said on Twitter about an hour after launch that all 10 satellites had been deployed.

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MISCELLANEOUS

‘I’m back’: Arnold Schwarzenegger awake, in stable condition after heart surgery, spokesman says – The Washington Post

Schwarzenegger’s first words after waking from the procedure were “I’m back,” according to Ketchell. “So he is in good spirits,” he added. Schwarzenegger, 70, underwent a planned procedure Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to replace a pulmonic valve that was originally replaced in 1997 for a congenital heart defect, Ketchell said in a statement.

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