Macro Links Dec 15th – RIP Net Neutrality

Macro Links Dec 15th – RIP Net Neutrality

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R.I.P. NET NEUTRALITY

F.C.C. Repeals Net Neutrality Rules – The New York Times

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to dismantle landmark rules regulating the businesses that connect consumers to the internet, granting broadband companies the power to potentially reshape Americans’ online experiences.

The agency scrapped the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service or certain content. The federal government will also no longer regulate high-speed internet delivery as if it were a utility, like phone service.

The action reversed the agency’s 2015 decision, during the Obama administration, to better protect Americans as they have migrated to the internet for most communications. It will take a couple of weeks for the changes go into effect, but groups opposed to the action have already announced plans to sue the agency to restore the net neutrality regulations. Those suits could take many months to be resolved.

US regulators approve plan to roll back net neutrality

Led by Trump appointee Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission laid the groundwork last month to officially scrap the 2015 rules. On Thursday, the FCC’s five-person commission approved the order by a 3-2 vote along party lines, ending regulations that were meant to ensure all internet services are treated equally.

How FCC Chair Ajit Pai Fought Net Neutrality to the End | Fortune

A lawyer, Pai has shuttled between government and private-sector jobs for the past two decades. From 1998 to 2001, he worked for the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, focusing on the telecommunications sector. Then, in 2001, he took what has now proved to be a contentious general counsel role at Verizon.

Verizon is of course one of the internet providers that has long been pushing for an end to net neutrality. In 2014, long after Pai stopped working for the company, it was Verizon that successfully won a battle against the FCC’s 2010 attempt to introduce net neutrality via an “open internet order.” By that point, Pai was an FCC commissioner.

FCC repeals net neutrality rules in sweeping act of deregulation – The Washington Post

The move by the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate the telecom and cable industries was a prominent example of the policy shifts taking place in Washington under President Trump and a major setback for consumer groups, tech companies and Democrats who had lobbied heavily against the decision.

Bob Ferguson Says He’ll Sue Over FCC’s Net Neutrality Repeal | Washington News | US News

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says he plans to file yet another lawsuit against the federal government: this one over net neutrality. In a news release, Ferguson said that within days he will challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s vote Thursday to repeal Obama-era rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet. He says the agency failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act.

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DISNEY-FOX MEGADEAL

Disney Agrees to Buy Key Parts of 21st Century Fox in $52.4 Billion Deal – WSJ

Walt Disney said Thursday it agreed to buy most of 21st Century Fox Inc. for $52.4 billion in stock, in a deal that would give Disney a dominant position in movies and sports and help bolster its flagging television business as it prepares to directly challenge digital giants like Netflix Inc.

Disney buys much of Fox in megamerger that will shake world of entertainment and media – The Washington Post

The announcement resets the Hollywood power grid. Disney, the nation’s largest studio by box office returns and the company behind Marvel Studios and the “Star Wars” franchise, is acquiring Fox, the third-largest studio by that metric, known for the blockbuster “X-Men” and “Avatar” franchises as well as a host of mid-budget crowdpleasers and critically acclaimed films.

It also brings brands such as FX, National Geographic and “The Simpsons” into the same fold as ESPN and ABC — all part of Disney’s gamble that a beefed-up company will be better equipped to tackle a slew of Silicon Valley giants.

Disney sees Fox as its next blockbuster in global media fight

Disney’s $4bn acquisition of Lucasfilm five years ago for what increasingly looks like a bargain price set the new money-spinning film series in motion. Mr Iger will be hoping that his latest deal — the $66bn purchase of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets — will turn into a comparable blockbuster.

It is a significantly bigger bet — the largest Disney has ever attempted — but on a call with investors, Mr Iger expressed confidence that it would pay off. The acquisition reflected “a changing media landscape, increasingly defined by transforming technology and evolving consumer expectations”, he said. Bringing the two companies together would create a “multi-faceted global entertainment company with the content, the platforms and the reach” to respond to evolving consumer demand.

17Z15 - FOX DWARFS OTHER DISNEY ACQUISITIONS

Bob Iger Just Got $100 Million in Stock Awards With Fox Deal – Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger received $100 million in stock awards after the company agreed to a $52.4 billion deal with Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc.

The CEO’s annual target compensation will increase 62 percent to $48.5 million, which includes a $20 million bonus and $25 million of stock grants. Iger’s awarded pay last year, which exceeded the target, was $37.7 million, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index.

Rupert Murdoch Is Having His King Lear Moment – The New York Times

Like King Lear confronting his mortality, Mr. Murdoch, 86, is preparing to divide up a lifetime of spoils. And as he moves to sell off wide swaths of his media and entertainment business, he is also throwing into confusion the line of succession and testing the ties that bind the family-run fief.

The $52.4 billion deal — which would not include Fox News, the Fox broadcast network or the FS1 sports cable channel, which will be spun off into a newly listed company — has come about as part of the consolidation sweeping over traditional media companies as they try to fight off threats from Amazon, Apple and Netflix. It also represents a remarkable shift for Mr. Murdoch, a visionary businessman who has long lived by a single credo: Buy, buy, buy.

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RUSSIA DOSSIER, VLADIMIR PUTIN

‘Dirty dossier’ on Donald Trump is probably credible, says former MI6 boss

A dossier of embarrassing allegations about Donald Trump produced by a former British spy “probably” has “some credibility”, the ex-head of MI6 has said. Christopher Steele, himself a former MI6 officer, compiled the dossier in which he claimed Russia held compromising information on the US president which left him vulnerable to blackmail.

At the time, Mr Trump denounced the document as fake news, and its veracity has widely been questioned. But Sir Richard Dearlove, who ran MI6 between 1999 and 2004, told BBC’s Newsnight programme: “I think that there is probably some credibility to the content.. I wouldn’t put it any more forcefully than that.”

Report: CIA Captured Putin’s ‘Specific Instructions’ to Hack the 2016 Election – The Daily Beast

When Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., CIA Director John Brennan and FBI Director James B. Comey all went to see Donald Trump together during the presidential transition, they told him conclusively that they had “captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation” to hack the 2016 presidential election, according to a report in The Washington Post. The intel bosses were worried that he would explode but Trump remained calm during the carefully choreographed meeting. “He was affable, courteous, complimentary,” Clapper told the Post. Comey stayed behind afterward to tell the president-elect about the controversial Steele dossier, however, and that private meeting may have been responsible for the animosity that would eventually lead to Trump firing the director of the FBI.

Vladimir Putin: Donald and I are on first name terms

Vladimir Putin has revealed he and Donald Trump are on first name terms, as the Russian President spoke to the media during his four-hour, end-of-year news conference. “This is how relations should be between people like us,” Mr Putin said to reporters at the marathon annual event.

Putin Backs Trump in Annual News Conference – WSJ

In his remarks, Mr. Putin extended an olive branch of sorts to the Trump administration. The recent stock market performance, the Kremlin leader said, “speaks of investor confidence in the U.S. economy, which means that they trust what President Trump is doing.”

Putin mocks opposition as he swings into campaign mode

Vladimir Putin has swung into campaign mode ahead of the presidential election in March, portraying himself as a guarantor of stability for Russia and saying no opposition politician was fit to challenge him.

At his marathon annual televised press conference on Thursday, Mr Putin told Russians his record was unassailable as he announced he would run for a fourth term as an independent candidate instead of relying on nomination by the ruling United Russia party.

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BITCOIN, ICOs, CRYPTO

Deutsche Bank Says ‘Mrs. Watanabe’ Behind the Surge in Bitcoin – Bloomberg

It’s not drug dealers and tax cheats, it’s Mrs. Watanabe. That term is often used to describe the individual Japanese investor, traditionally a housewife who runs her family’s finances. And that’s who behind the surge in bitcoin, according to a Deutsche Bank AG note Thursday.

“We think that retail investors are shifting from leveraged foreign-exchange trading to leveraged cryptocurrency trading,” analysts led by Masao Muraki wrote.

Japan accounts for about 50 percent of global foreign-exchange margin trading, according to Deutsche Bank. The bank pointed to a Nikkei report saying that about 40 percent of cryptocurrency trading was yen-denominated in October and November and is likely rising since China started to shut down digital-currency exchanges.

First Came Bitcoin. Then Came Bitcoin Lenders | Fortune

The woes of an early bitcoin investor. Until recently, people who paid virtually nothing for the virtual currency and watched it soar had only one way to enjoy their new wealth — sell. And many weren’t ready. Lenders on the fringe of the financial industry are now pitching a solution: loans using a digital hoard as collateral.

While banks hang back, startups with names like Salt Lending, Nebeus, CoinLoan and EthLend are diving into the breach. Some lend — or plan to lend — directly, while others help borrowers get financing from third parties. Terms can be onerous compared with traditional loans. But the market is potentially huge.

This man has made more money trading cryptokitties than investing in his IRA – The Verge

He estimates he’s spent 30 ether in total on the game so far, but his Kitty Portfolio, at the time of the interview, is worth 99 ether — a hypothetical net gain of $42,321.15, not considering transaction fees. He even says that the amount he’s made from the kitties has surpassed the total amount he’s made from his IRA retirement account.

Initial Coin Offerings Surge Past $4 Billion—and Regulators Are Worried – WSJ

Money raised from initial coin offerings has surged past $4 billion for the first time, even as regulators world-wide have escalated warnings about the new form of corporate funding.

An initial coin offering, or ICO, is a method of corporate fundraising that circumvents traditional capital markets. Typically tech startups, many involved in the digital-currency sector, raise money from investors in exchange for newly created digital coins or tokens, which they can trade.

An ICO is often described as being between a traditional initial public offering and crowdfunding. ICOs have attracted celebrities, including Paris Hilton and boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who have marketed coin offerings on social media. But there are risks, and some regulators believe ICOs should be regulated like securities. Some ICOs back companies that don’t have active products or services.

Bank of Canada Head Likens Bitcoin Mania to ‘Gambling’ – WSJ

Bank of Canada Gov. Stephen Poloz said Thursday that bitcoin’s ascent has all “the ingredients of something that could be a significant disturbance” to the financial system. Mr. Poloz said a chart plotting the rise the cryptocurrency resembles “the left hand side of the Eiffel Tower,” and called the hype “extraordinary.”

Ripple’s XRP overtakes bitcoin cash as 3rd largest cryptocurrency | Markets Insider

Ripple’s XRP cryptocurrency has seen a tremendous gain of 78.2% over the past 24 hours, propelling it to a market cap of $32.029 billion and making it the third-largest digital currency. It trails just bitcoin and Ethereum, according to CoinMarketCap.com.

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KOREAS, SAUDI ARABIA

China says war must not be allowed on Korean peninsula

The crisis over North Korea’s weapons programs must be resolved through talks, not war, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday, while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the danger of “sleepwalking” into conflict.

South Korea’s Leader, Meeting Xi Jinping, Seeks ‘New Start’ With China – The New York Times

After more than a year of frosty relations bordering on hostile, South Korea’s leader, Moon Jae-in, pledged a “new start” on Thursday in his country’s dealings with China as he met with President Xi Jinping, a re-engagement that China hopes will lead to stepped-up diplomacy on disarming North Korea.

China, South Korea Leaders Reset Bilateral Ties – WSJ

The leaders of China and South Korea pledged to work together to counter North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, resetting relations that had soured over Seoul’s deployment of an American missile-defense system.

Saudi Arabia unveils $19bn stimulus package for private sector

Saudi Arabia unveiled a $19bn stimulus package on Thursday aimed at supporting the struggling private sector as the government tries to revive an economy battered by low oil prices and austerity measures.

The package was approved by King Salman and includes subsidised loans for housebuyers and developers, fee waivers for small businesses and financial support for distressed companies, the state news agency reported.

It is the first big part of a broader three-year SR200bn ($53bn) stimulus planned by Riyadh as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman tries to balance pushing ahead with an ambitious reform programme with the need to implement tough austerity measures as the budget deficit widens.

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GOP TAX PLAN

Marco Rubio Throws a Wrench Into GOP Tax Bill – WSJ

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) threw a late wrinkle into the GOP’s attempt to complete a tax bill, saying he will vote against it unless the final measure further expands the child tax credit for low-income households.

Rubio to vote against GOP tax bill unless tax credit for working poor is expanded – The Washington Post

“I understand that this is a process of give and take, especially when there’s only a couple of us fighting for it, the leverage is lessened,” Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday in the Senate. “But given all the other changes made in the tax code leading into it, I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase [the child tax credit], and there’s ways to do it and we’ll be very reasonable about it.”

Republicans Hunt for Ways to Pay for Tax Cuts – The New York Times

Republicans plan to unveil a final bill on Friday, with the aim of voting on the legislation early next week and delivering it to President Trump for signing before Christmas.

But many of the changes made to assuage the concerns of businesses and Republican lawmakers are expected to drive up the cost of the bill and will need to be paid for to ensure the legislation does not add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade. On Thursday, Mr. Rubio indicated he would vote no on the bill unless the expanded version of the child tax credit that he and another senator, Mike Lee of Utah, have been pushing was included. That change, which would allow families to claim the child tax credit even if they owe no income taxes, would drive up the cost of the bill even more.

GOP considers letting tax cuts for families expire sooner – The Washington Post

Congressional Republicans are looking at shortening the duration of tax cuts that their plan would give to families and individuals, a leading lawmaker said Thursday.

That change would free up more revenue for additional changes to their tax overhaul, but it could also heighten complaints that the bill prioritizes cuts for corporations over households. Under a tax overhaul bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, tax cuts for all American households would expire at the end of 2025. But Republicans are now considering having those tax cuts expire in 2024.

Last-Ditch Effort to Sway Senator on Tax Bill Involves Personal Pleas – The New York Times

As a group of progressive activists and constituents prepared for a 15-minute meeting on Wednesday with Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, they sat in the lobby of her office and developed a last-ditch strategy to persuade her to vote against the $1.5 trillion tax bill barreling through Congress: tears.

“If Senator Collins actually saw you as a human, saw me as a human, then she wouldn’t pass any of this,” said Ady Barkan, a member of the Center for Popular Democracy, who recently learned he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., and uses a wheelchair.

Ms. Collins, after weeks of wavering, cut several deals with Republican leaders in exchange for going along with the tax overhaul that passed the Senate this month and is on track to be sent to President Trump by Christmas. Among other things, the Senate version of the bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Pence delays Middle East trip in case his vote is needed on tax bill – The Washington Post

Vice President Pence delayed his trip to the Middle East and Germany this weekend and will remaining in Washington for a few extra days in case he is needed to cast a tiebreaking vote on Republican tax legislation, his spokeswoman said Thursday.

Pence was originally scheduled to depart late Saturday for a trip to Egypt, Israel and Germany. He now plans to leave Tuesday, arriving in Egypt on Wednesday for a bilateral meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.

Federal Reserve harbours low expectations for Trump tax cuts

Many economists see the Republicans’ deficit-boosting fiscal package as poorly timed, given the economy is at full employment and US public debt is already heading inexorably higher. Going into the Fed’s meeting, some had expected US central bankers to react by pencilling in a more aggressive path of rate rises in a bid to push back against unneeded and potentially risky stimulus.

Far from seeking to clamp down, however, the Fed stuck to existing median forecasts for three rate rises in 2018 and another two in 2019.

Ms Yellen stressed that the existing “gradual” path of rate rises remained appropriate even with almost all of the Fed’s policymakers now factoring in the effects of the tax cuts, in a sign that officials are happy to bank any extra growth rather than rein it in.

“The Fed in effect pocketed the fiscal stimulus for the time being as an added insurance against weak underlying inflation,” said Krishna Guha, vice-chairman of Evercore ISI, the research group.

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ALABAMA SENATE RACE

White House: Roy Moore Concession ‘Should Have Already Taken Place’

Count the White House out of Roy Moore’s quest to challenge the results of the special election in Alabama. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that Moore “should have already” conceded to Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL).

Jones to Moore: ‘It’s time to move on’ | TheHill

“I understand the frustration a little bit. It is a close race, but I’d say ‘Look, it’s time to move on,’” Jones told NBC’s “Today” when asked what he would tell Moore, whose campaign was plagued by accusations of sexual misconduct.

Alabama Loss Exposes Republican Fissures Amid a Democratic Surge – The New York Times

The once-unimaginable Republican defeat in Alabama’s special Senate election on Tuesday tore open divisions between the party’s establishment and populist wings, inciting bitter recriminations in the Republican Party as Democratic enthusiasm surges — especially in the nation’s cities and affluent suburbs.

While the accusations of child molestation and teenage sexual abuse made Roy S. Moore a uniquely poor candidate, it was not lost on Republicans that Democrats, black and white, had flooded to the polls here just over a month after voters in Virginia overwhelmingly rejected Republican candidates.

Has Support for Moore Stained Evangelicals? Some Are Worried – The New York Times

The editor in chief of Christianity Today did not have to wait for the votes to be counted to publish his essay on Tuesday bemoaning what the Alabama Senate race had wrought.

Whoever wins, “there is already one loser: Christian faith,” wrote Mark Galli, whose publication, the flagship of American evangelicalism, was founded 61 years ago by the Rev. Billy Graham. “No one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.”

The sight of white evangelical voters in Alabama giving their overwhelming support to Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate, despite accusations of racial and religious bigotry, misogyny and assaults on teenage girls, has deeply troubled many conservative Christians, who fear that association with the likes of Mr. Moore is giving their faith a bad name. The angst has grown so deep, Mr. Galli said, that he knows of “many card-carrying evangelicals” who are ready to disavow the label.

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BELTWAY INTRIGUE

Paul Ryan Sees His Wild Washington Journey Coming to An End – POLITICO Magazine

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

Lawmakers Question How Long Paul Ryan Will Stay in Post After Likely Tax Overhaul – WSJ

Many House GOP lawmakers and aides believe Mr. Ryan will leave in 2019 if the GOP loses its control of the House majority in next year’s midterm elections. “I would definitely think we’d have a change” in leadership, said Rep. Dennis Ross (R., Fla.), a senior member of the House whip team.

Lawmakers said it would put Mr. Ryan in a difficult position to downgrade from being speaker to minority leader. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), currently the minority leader, made the shift from House speaker, but has faced recent challenges to her leadership.

Once Unthinkable, Senate Looks Like a Tossup in 2018 – The New York Times

The Democrats got the political version of a miracle on Tuesday. Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama means Democrats have accomplished the most difficult item on their checklist in pursuit of the Senate. A Democratic path is now obvious, and the race for control is basically a tossup, perhaps with a Republican advantage.

It is hard to overstate how surprising this would have seemed a year ago. Democrats needed three states to flip control of the Senate, but they entered the cycle defending 25 seats (two of them independents) to the G.O.P.’s eight. Of those Democratic seats, a staggering 10 of them were in states that chose Donald J. Trump for president, including five that he carried by at least 18 percentage points.

One Less Senate Vote Could Mean More Headaches for GOP – WSJ

The GOP emerged from this week’s Alabama defeat with a 51-49 majority in the Senate, narrowing the party’s already slim room for error in confirming President Donald Trump’s cabinet and judicial nominees, including any future Supreme Court picks. The tight margin will also make it harder for Republicans to pass any partisan legislation beyond the tax bill being finalized this week.

Even with 52 senators, the GOP failed to pass various iterations of health-care legislation that needed only 50 votes, as several tallies came up a vote or two shy amid Republican defections and no Democratic support. On other occasions, Republicans needed Vice President Mike Pence’s help to step in to cast the deciding vote.

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Kentucky Lawmaker Kills Himself Amid Sexual Assault Allegations, Officials Say – The New York Times

A Kentucky state representative accused of molesting a teenage girl killed himself on Wednesday, just two days after the allegations were made public, the authorities said.

Representative Dan Johnson, a first-term Republican, took his life on a bridge in Mount Washington, Ky., according to Sheriff Donnie Tinnell of Bullitt County, who spoke to the local WDRB television station. The county coroner, Dave Billings, said that Mr. Johnson “died of a single gunshot wound” and that it was “a probable suicide.” An autopsy is to be conducted Thursday morning.

Morgan Spurlock: ‘I Am Part of the Problem’ – The New York Times

Morgan Spurlock, the American documentary filmmaker, said in a post published Wednesday that he had committed sexual misconduct in the past, including settling a harassment allegation and cheating on his wives and girlfriends. In a statement posted on Twitter late on Wednesday, Mr. Spurlock said he was making his admissions while watching women publicly accuse high-profile men in a range of industries of sexual misconduct, and saying it was “time for me to be truthful as well.”

“As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder “who will be next?” he wrote in the statement, which was linked to his verified Twitter account. “I wonder, ‘when will they come for me?’”

“You see, I’ve come to understand after months of these revelations, that I am not some innocent bystander, I am also a part of the problem,” Mr. Spurlock said.

Music Mogul Russell Simmons Is Accused of Rape by 3 Women – The New York Times

In recent interviews, four women spoke on the record about a pattern of violent sexual behavior by Mr. Simmons, disclosing incidents from 1988 to 2014. Three of the women say that he raped them.

In each case, numerous friends and associates said they were told of the incidents at the time. The women said they were inspired to come forward in the aftermath of the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, as victims’ stories have been newly elevated and more often believed.

Told in detail about the rape accusations and other misconduct, Mr. Simmons, 60, said in a statement: “I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.” He added: “I have enormous respect for the women’s movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality and power.

Report: NYPD Opens Investigation Into Russell Simmons

The New York Police Department has opened up an investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct against rap mogul Russell Simmons, the Los Angeles Times reports. The police force’s special victims unit has reportedly begun reaching out to the women who have accused Simmons of sexual misconduct, including rape. Simmons has denied the allegations against him and wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday that he will “properly defend himself.” TMZ reported that Simmons took a polygraph test this week relating to the allegations from model Keri Claussen Khalighi that Simmons sexually assaulted her.

Dustin Hoffman Accused of Exposing Himself to a Minor, Assaulting Two Women

Speaking to Variety, the women described predatory incidents involving Hoffman that fit into a pattern of alleged behavior that has emerged in the wake of previous sexual-misconduct claims against the now 80-year-old actor. Representatives for Hoffman did not make him available to provide comment for this story. In a letter to Variety’s owner Penske Media Corp., Hoffman’s attorney Mark A. Neubauer of Carlton Fields Jordan Burt called the accusations against the actor “defamatory falsehoods.”

Netflix Executive Loses Job After Comment on Danny Masterson Rape Allegations – The New York Times

On the sidelines of a children’s soccer game in Los Angeles this month, a Netflix executive reportedly told a woman that people at the company did not believe the rape allegations against Danny Masterson, an actor who was starring in the series “The Ranch.”

Andy Yeatman, the executive, did not know that the woman he was speaking to was one of several who had come forward to accuse Mr. Masterson of rape, HuffPost reported. Shortly after she revealed this, the conversation came to an abrupt end.

On Wednesday, Netflix confirmed that the executive, Andy Yeatman, no longer worked for the streaming service.

Inside the NYT, the Glenn Thrush Scandal Is a Sex-Reckoning Test Case | Vanity Fair

Within the Times itself, the Thrush scandal has created something of a schism. On one side, according to newsroom sources, there is a cohort of young, millennial, New York-based employees for whom the event has been particularly upsetting. These employees, these sources note, are generationally hyper-attuned to issues related to race, gender, and newsroom diversity, which they often discuss on the Times’s internal Slack app. For some within this cohort, there’s a sentiment that the Times should set an example amid our cultural awakening—that it would be hard to keep Thrush employed while continuing to lead the charge in covering the reckoning that has entangled him.

Things are different in the Washington bureau. While there are some who feel deeply uncomfortable with his conduct, the prevailing sentiment among Thrush’s colleagues in D.C. is that he should not lose his job over the contents of the Vox report, according to a half-dozen members of the bureau—men and women—with whom I spoke for this article, in addition to several other well-placed Times figures who are regularly in touch with the bureau. The Vox piece, the logic went, castigated Thrush for “bad judgment around young women journalists,” but did not make any allegations regarding sexual harassment, sexually motivated quid pro quo, sexual assault, or predation. (If any such charges were to come up in the Times probe, many suggested, he would obviously lose his goodwill.) For now, Thrush’s support extends all the way up to bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller, according to people familiar with her thinking. (Reached by phone, Bumiller declined to comment.)

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Bitcoin Barely Rates a Mention Among Top Risks to Financial System – Bloomberg

The U.S. government’s chief watchdog for financial system threats put out its annual list of potential nightmares, and the burgeoning market for digital currencies such as bitcoin didn’t rate much more than a few lines in the 152-page report.

While big names in global finance such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon have publicly warned that cryptocurrencies are doomed to collapse, the Financial Stability Oversight Board isn’t concerned yet. The panel said digital currency’s “current impact on financial stability is likely very limited.”

One thing that may trouble those who have watched the bitcoin market soar in recent weeks and who fear its potential collapse: The council’s report issued Thursday based some of its views on a survey of consumer behavior. From 2015.

Next Year Could Be the Last Time Stock Pickers Rule Investing – Bloomberg

Stock pickers, who once beat markets with their gut instinct and appetite for risk, will be relegated to second place in the minds of investors if money continues to flow into low-cost index funds at the current pace and the market doesn’t crash. There’s plenty of blame for this turnabout: flinty investors obsessed with fund expenses, the surge in exchange-traded funds and active managers falling short of their benchmarks.

It’s all about fees. Even as fees fall, active managers still charge so much more than indexers that they can only win clients with great returns. And that’s not enough for some investors, who are pulling money from active managers with abandon. U.S. active equity funds have suffered outflows every month this year through October, according to ICI.

17Z15 - PASSIVE OVERTAKE

17Z15 - ETF BOOM

China Follows Fed in Tightening, Though Makes Smaller Moves – Bloomberg

China’s central bank edged borrowing costs higher after the Federal Reserve’s decision to tighten monetary policy. Hours after the Fed’s quarter percentage-point move, the People’s Bank of China increased the rates it charges in open-market operations and on its medium-term lending facility, though making smaller adjustments than the U.S. central bank. China also boosted rates on another policy tool, the standing lending facility, according to two people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named as they’re not authorized to talk to media.

China Still Fears the Fed – WSJ

Although the increase was small at just 0.05 percentage point, it still caught economists off guard: They had expected the PBOC to stand pat after the Federal Reserve raised rates Wednesday. Chinese economic data also released Thursday showed year to date investment growth weakening for the fifth month in a row while inflation is cooling—meaning there’s little obvious macroeconomic reason for the central bank to have tightened.

Real returns on nearly every type of Chinese asset have improved over the past year, reducing the incentive for investors to send cash abroad—particularly since the Fed’s hesitance has also pushed down the dollar. Preliminary data shows that average, real returns on assets at Chinese listed firms likely ticked up for the first time since 2013, sending bank and industrial stocks skyward. Real yields on bonds and bank-marketed investment products have also moved higher, thanks to stable consumer prices and the central bank’s squeeze on money market leverage.

Next year is likely to be different. Growth will weaken along with the housing market, now trending firmly downward-—and that will put a dent in a big chunk of the equity market. The Fed is signaling a more aggressive 2018 as well, meaning the dollar could rebound.

That leaves higher interest rates as the main means for the PBOC to ward off a renewed siege of the nation’s capital controls next year. Thursday’s action was a signal that the central bank is probably willing to sacrifice better growth for higher rates next year if the dollar strengthens rapidly.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Ajit Pai just handed Republicans a bag of shit – The Verge

Pai did this regardless of the millions of Americans who flooded the government asking for these protections to remain; regardless of the tens of thousands of fake comments that overwhelmed the FCC’s systems and prompted 12 states attorneys general across the country to demand further investigation; and regardless of the thousands of online businesses telling the FCC that their very survival is threatened by ISPs picking winners and losers. He also did it knowing lawsuits would be instantly incoming; the first ones are already here.

Pai has never sat down and seriously engaged his critics to make a persuasive case that changing these enormously popular rules will somehow increase competition, lower prices, or increase service levels for the vast majority of Americans who have but one or two choices for broadband service. He has never said that he’s actually opposed to blocking or throttling and identified a mechanism under his new rules by which those activities would be even slightly limited. His own FCC CTO wrote a letter saying his rollback went too far and needed some prohibitions against blocking; Pai appears to have brushed that aside.

When Pai and his fellow Republican FCC commissioners do make arguments for this repeal, it is so trivial to dunk on them that lately I’ve just been asking them to stop giving me the opportunity, because it’s so deeply embarrassing. They’re not even trying to make real arguments. They’re publishing shallow op-eds aimed at papering over the real fears of Americans that literally anyone can tear down with a moment’s thought.

When the Republican FCC commissioners slip and actually say what they mean, it’s clear that they actually want the things the public fears: Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said during today’s hearing that he sees clear benefits to paid prioritization, and that he doesn’t support net neutrality legislation in Congress or at the state level.

All of this leads me to wonder how Republicans are going to handle this issue in the coming election year. The public hates the repeal of net neutrality: 83 percent of people in this Washington Post poll support net neutrality when it’s explained to them, including 3 out of 4 Republicans. Republican members of Congress issued letters over the past two days imploring Pai to delay his vote and have suggested their own net neutrality legislation.

How Trump’s skepticism of U.S. intelligence on Russia left an election threat unchecked – Washington Post

Nearly a year into his presidency, Trump continues to reject the evidence that Russia waged an assault on a pillar of American democracy and supported his run for the White House.

The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.

Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.

His administration has moved to undo at least some of the sanctions the previous administration imposed on Russia for its election interference, exploring the return of two Russian compounds in the United States that President Barack Obama had seized — the measure that had most galled Moscow. Months later, when Congress moved to impose additional penalties on Moscow, Trump opposed the measures fiercely.

Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it, administration officials said. Although the issue has been discussed at lower levels at the National Security Council, one former high-ranking Trump administration official said there is an unspoken understanding within the NSC that to raise the matter is to acknowledge its validity, which the president would see as an affront.

Trump’s stance on the election is part of a broader entanglement with Moscow that has defined the first year of his presidency. He continues to pursue an elusive bond with Putin, which he sees as critical to dealing with North Korea, Iran and other issues. “Having Russia in a friendly posture,” he said last month, “is an asset to the world and an asset to our country.”

His position has alienated close American allies and often undercut members of his Cabinet — all against the backdrop of a criminal probe into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

This account of the Trump administration’s reaction to Russia’s interference and policies toward Moscow is based on interviews with more than 50 current and former U.S. officials, many of whom had senior roles in the Trump campaign and transition team or have been in high-level positions at the White House or at national security agencies. Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

Record number of journalists jailed as Turkey, China, Egypt pay scant price for repression – Committee to Protect Journalists

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit another new record in 2017, and for the second consecutive year more than half of those jailed for their work are behind bars in Turkey, China, and Egypt. The pattern reflects a dismal failure by the international community to address a global crisis in freedom of the press.

Far from isolating repressive countries for their authoritarian behavior, the United States, in particular, has cozied up to strongmen such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Chinese President Xi Jinping. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric, fixation on Islamic extremism, and insistence on labeling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. Globally, nearly three-quarters of journalists are jailed on anti-state charges, many under broad and vague terror laws, while the number imprisoned on a charge of “false news,” though modest, rose to a record 21.

In its annual prison census, CPJ found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in relation to their work, a new record after a historical high of 259 last year. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134–or 51 percent–of the total. CPJ has been conducting an annual survey of journalists in jail since the early 1990s.

Bitcoin Made This Man (Briefly) One of the Richest People in America – WSJ

For a company that only started trading on the over-the-counter Pink Sheets market by a reverse takeover of a sports-bra designer this summer, and languished at 1 cent a share with no trading at all until September, there aren’t enough superlatives to express how bizarre this is.

It is yet another sign of the extraordinary popular delusion being created by bitcoin and the rush for everything crypto. Those who missed out on the 17-fold rise in bitcoin this year are piling into anything they can find that is associated with the cryptocurrency boom, even when the price can never possibly be justified by future profits. Just like the dot-com bubble, buyers don’t care because they aim to sell to a bigger fool.

17Z15 - FROM BITCOIN TO BILLIONAIRE

The Republican Nightmare Is Just Beginning

The fear that Republicans could see a replay of the worst Tea Party primary upsets is compounded by the fact that next year’s electoral landscape looks much tougher than it was in 2010.

“In 2018, we’re going to be playing a lot of defense,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former longtime Rubio adviser. “To the extent that we’re defending open seats with flawed candidates, we’re going to see more results like we had last night. Going on offense in 2018 is going to require extraordinary, battle-tested candidates.”

But of course, the dynamics that made it possible for Moore to win the Republican primary in Alabama are unlikely to change by 2018—and the consequences of the GOP nominating a slate of toxic standard-bearers could reverberate well beyond the midterms.

“You are going to have more fringe candidates continue to run,” said Nick Everhart, a Repubican consultant based in Ohio. “And nationally, you’ll inherit their problems as a party unless you distance yourself and say no. That’s the question I have: At what point does the national party have to say, ‘Just because you win the nomination doesn’t make you ours’?”

Millennials Are Screwed – The Huffington Post

We’ve all heard the statistics. More millennials live with their parents than with roommates. We are delaying partner-marrying and house-buying and kid-having for longer than any previous generation. And, according to The Olds, our problems are all our fault: We got the wrong degree. We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need. We still haven’t learned to code. We killed cereal and department stores and golf and napkins and lunch. Mention “millennial” to anyone over 40 and the word “entitlement” will come back at you within seconds, our own intergenerational game of Marco Polo.

This is what it feels like to be young now. Not only are we screwed, but we have to listen to lectures about our laziness and our participation trophies from the people who screwed us.

But generalizations about millennials, like those about any other arbitrarily defined group of 75 million people, fall apart under the slightest scrutiny. Contrary to the cliché, the vast majority of millennials did not go to college, do not work as baristas and cannot lean on their parents for help. Every stereotype of our generation applies only to the tiniest, richest, whitest sliver of young people. And the circumstances we live in are more dire than most people realize.

World’s richest 0.1% have boosted their wealth by as much as poorest half | Inequality | The Guardian

The richest 0.1% of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50% – or 3.8 billion people – since 1980, according to a report detailing the widening gap between the very rich and poor.

The World Inequality Report, published on Thursday by French economist Thomas Piketty, warned that inequality had ballooned to “extreme levels” in some countries and said the problem would only get worse unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance.

The report, which drew on the work of more than 100 researchers around the world, found that the richest 1% of the global population “captured” 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016. And the richest of the rich increased their wealth by even more. The top 0.1% gained 13% of the world’s wealth, and the top 0.001% – about 76,000 people – collected 4% of all the new wealth created since 1980.

“The top 0.1% income group (about 7 million people) captured as much of the world’s growth since 1980 as the bottom half of the adult population,” the report said. “Conversely, income growth has been sluggish or even nil for the population between the global bottom 50% and top 1%.”

TOP

CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

As Fed Tightens, Europe Hangs Loose – WSJ

Central banks in Europe showed continued caution about the region’s economic recovery on Thursday, signaling that they are in no rush to follow the Federal Reserve in steadily raising interest rates despite a rare synchronized expansion across the world economy.

The European Central Bank left its interest rates unchanged, even as its new economic projections forecast strong growth for the 19-nation eurozone through 2020. “The incoming information indicates a strong pace of economic expansion and a significant improvement in the growth outlook,” said Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, in a news conference.

Europe’s Central Bank, Lagging Behind Counterparts, Faces Eventful 2018 – The New York Times

A lot is happening in the world of central banks. In Washington, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates again to brake the sizzling United States economy. And the Bank of England is also in rate-raising mode.

Not so the European Central Bank, which left monetary policy unchanged on Thursday. No one expected Mario Draghi, the bank’s president, to drop any bombshells when he faced reporters after the bank’s final meeting of 2017. But there were lots of questions about what will be coming in the New Year.

It could be a watershed. The central bank’s own economists substantially raised their estimates for eurozone growth, portending an end to the crisis measures that have been in place in the 19-nation common currency area since 2008. That would usher in a new era, with monetary policy returning to normal and the central bank beginning to gently push up interest rates.

Yellen Isn’t Buying Trump’s Talk of an Economic Miracle From Tax Cuts – Bloomberg

The Federal Reserve isn’t buying President Donald Trump’s argument that his tax cut package will lead to a significantly stronger, sustainable expansion of the economy. While the central bank would welcome such a development, outgoing Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested on Wednesday that policy makers generally see the plan as having a modest and mostly short-term impact.

“It’s not a gigantic increase in growth,” she told a press conference after the Fed raised its target for short-term interest rates for the third time this year.

Yellen kept markets calm but 2018 may be rockier

“She’s been really good,” says Angel Ubide, a managing director at Goldman Sachs’ investment management division. “She’s been very good at communicating, and steering the committee down the middle of the road, and that’s good for markets.” The question now is whether this smooth interest rate “normalisation” will continue in 2018 under the incoming chairmanship of Jay Powell.

A BOE Unanimous Rate Vote May Mask Splits on Committee: Chart – Bloomberg

Bank of England policy makers are likely to vote unanimously to leave policy alone on Thursday, but this will mask key splits between policy makers, said Bloomberg economist Dan Hanson. Comments by both Dave Ramsden and Jon Cunliffe suggest they view the vote to raise interest rates in November as premature. While the most hawkish members — Ian McCafferty and Michael Saunders — may argue for more tightening later next year, a sluggish pickup in wages alongside a downward trend in inflation would take the heat off the rate-setting committee to increase the key interest rate again in 2018.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

Americans Spend More Than Expected as Holiday Season Heats Up – WSJ

Americans are spending more this holiday season than analysts expected, fueled by income gains, confidence in the economic outlook, buoyant financial markets and modest inflation.

That includes spending at brick-and-mortar stores such as Walmart Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., which clocked the largest year-over-year November sales increase in seven years. Home-furnishing stores, electronics and appliance stores also posted strong spending numbers, despite competition from online shopping websites, which also posted robust gains.

“It’s an impressive start to the holiday season and probably the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores. “When you put the pieces together, job and wage gains, modest inflation, healthy balance sheet and elevated consumer confidence … there’s an improved willingness to spend.”

17Z15 - RETAIL DATA

Retailers Are Hoping For the Best Christmas Sales Since the Recession – Bloomberg

With consumer spending surging, retailers are hoping for something they haven’t seen since the last recession began a decade ago: a truly great Christmas. The Commerce Department reported better-than-expected U.S. retail sales for November and revised its October figures upward, bringing a fresh wave of optimism to a long-embattled industry.

“We think this marks the beginning of a real and sustained rebound,” Johnson said in an interview. After tracking the 50 largest retailers across 90 major shopping venues, he believes that spending will grow more this season than in any holiday since before the Great Recession began in 2007.

House prices in Chicago suburbs fall as crime rate rises

While many US cities have higher murder rates — last year, Chicago’s was 30 per 100,000, less than half the 59 in St Louis, for example — Chicago’s grew by 59 per cent in 2016, reaching its highest level since the 1990s. While the president’s bad press seems to be having little impact on the city’s mainstream property market, at the top end values have been falling at quite a pace.

U.S. Worker Pay Is Having Its Worst Stretch Since 2009 – Bloomberg

Americans’ paychecks aren’t stretching quite as far. Even though inflation is only gradually picking up, it’s outpacing wages, Labor Department figures showed Wednesday. Adjusted for inflation, average hourly earnings dropped 0.2 percent in November from a month earlier, the fourth straight decline and the longest such period since the second half of 2009 when the economy was clawing its way back from the Great Recession.

17Z15 - US WORKER PAY

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GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA

German Factories Work at Record Speed as Strong 2017 Concludes – Bloomberg

Germany is set to end the year with a further acceleration in economic growth, bolstered by an unprecedented expansion in manufacturing. A Purchasing Managers’ Index of factory activity unexpectedly jumped to 63.3 in December from 62.5 in November, IHS Markit said on Thursday. That’s the highest level since the survey began in early 1996. A composite gauge that also includes services rose to 58.7 from 57.3, the strongest reading in more than six and a half years.

17Z15 - GERMAN EXPANSION

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

JPMorgan Sees S&P 500 Hitting 3,000, Warns on Tech Stocks – Bloomberg

JPMorgan Chase & Co. became the third major bank to predict the S&P 500 Index will rise to 3,000 at the end of 2018, joining Oppenheimer and Evercore ISI. If the benchmark for American equity hits that target, it will have rallied 13 percent from Thursday’s close.

“Expansionary phase of the business cycle, synchronized global earnings momentum, U.S. tax reform should remain supportive of further rotation into value, while continuing to pose risk for low vol and growth stocks,” Dubravko Lakos-Bujas wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Elliott Preps for Potential Fight With Hess, Seeking CEO Ouster – WSJ

Elliott Management Corp. is readying for a potential new fight with Hess Corp., hoping to either remove John B. Hess, its billionaire second-generation chief executive, or push him to consider selling all or part of the energy company.

Elliott, which owns a 6.7% stake in Hess, is also seeking changes in how the company approaches shareholder returns, pushing for a dividend cut in favor of stock buybacks, people familiar with the matter said. The activist has told the company its concerns.

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FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS

Euro Seen Capturing Currency Throne From Dollar Again in ’18 – Bloomberg

After trouncing the dollar this year, the euro is set for a repeat performance in 2018, according to forecasters. Buying the shared currency ranks among next year’s top trades as it’s set to get new momentum from the European Central Bank’s gradual unwind of ultra-loose monetary policy. The euro surged 12 percent for the best Group-of-10 performance against the dollar this year. ING Bank NV is predicting a gain of about 10 percent in 2018.

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

John Burbank’s Passport Hedge Fund Hopes for New Savior in Bitcoin – WSJ

John Burbank made millions spotting a bubble in subprime mortgages before the financial crisis. Now he is circling his next big score: cryptocurrencies.

Mr. Burbank’s San Francisco-based hedge fund Passport Capital plans to pull back from much of its traditional macroeconomic trading in assets like stocks and bonds and launch a new arm that focuses only on cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, according to people familiar with the plans.

Passport has struggled for years to equal its crisis-era success, and now manages a fraction of what was once a roughly $5 billion war chest. Several prospective investors approached about the new venture say the firm’s flagship fund was down double digits last year, and was down again in 2017.

Passport said in a letter to investors late Monday it would close its main fund, having earlier told some investors it expected further redemptions by year-end, a person close to the firm said. In the same letter, Mr. Burbank alluded to “a new area in the coming months which we will communicate about when ready.” That effort is in cryptocurrencies, the people familiar with the plans said. Mr. Burbank wrote: “It’s very important to me to win.”

This Fund Manager Doesn’t Believe in Buffett and Is Buying Everything Crypto – Bloomberg

The portfolio manager, who just completed Fidelity Investments’ most successful Canadian fund launch ever, eschews investing obsessions such as earnings, cash flow and price-earnings ratios and invests at the extremes of the market instead, including Canadian cryptocurrency stocks.

“I focus on the stuff in the tails: really cheap, broken, horrible stories that nobody wants to buy again, and stocks that everybody is excited about but their valuation is so high they can’t bring themselves to buy them,” Schmehl, 46, said in an interview at Fidelity’s Toronto offices. He’s unfazed if those stocks look expensive. “Valuation is an immaterial part of the process for me,” he said. “It’s the least useful piece of information you will ever get because everybody knows what the valuation is.”

Pimco Goes Small to Get Big in Private Equity – WSJ

Pacific Investment Management Co. is betting smaller investors can help propel the bond manager’s big push into private equity, debt and real estate. That is a surprising twist given those markets are usually reserved for pension plans and wealthy families.

The bond manager will launch an online platform allowing financial advisers to pool client money in feeder funds that in turn will invest in Pimco’s lineup of these so-called alternative investments. The firm’s alternative funds, which range from private equity to real estate, ordinarily have a minimum investment of $5 million. Through the platform, clients may invest as little as $100,000, Pimco said.

Harvard Endowment Chief Pushed for Steeper Devaluation of Assets – WSJ

Mr. Narvekar, who started last December, pushed to write down the value of that portfolio and for other changes that lowered Harvard’s return from more than 11% to 8.1%, according to people familiar with the matter. He also pushed for larger write-downs that would have brought the return into the 7% range, given his bearish outlook on some investments, but faced resistance from certain members of the endowment’s board, on which he sits, some of the people said.

New endowment chiefs often have an incentive to write down investments they inherit. Such moves can remove a potential burden if some assets were overvalued or add luster to executives’ own subsequent performance and, sometimes, compensation.

But the magnitude of Harvard’s write-down and the lack of detail disclosed about it have sparked a debate among university and endowment executives, past and present, about whether Harvard inflated past valuations or if Mr. Narvekar was overly aggressive in pushing for write-downs.

TOP

ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR

As Tesla Pursues Solar Profit, U.S. Residential Market Slumps – Bloomberg

Residential solar isn’t white-hot anymore. After a bumper 2015 and a solid 2016, the U.S. residential-solar market is poised to contract 13 percent this year, according to a report Thursday by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The decline reflects a maturing market as companies that spent years chasing rapid growth are now increasingly focused on profitability. The shift also comes as pushback from utilities prompts key states including Arizona and California to revise incentive programs that have been important drivers of consumer demand.

The decline is “really a big deal,” Austin Perea, an analyst at GTM, said in an interview. “For a market nearing maturity, it’s hard to grow by leaps and bounds every year.”

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COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS

Florida Grapefruit Production May Reach 99-Year Low on Storms – Bloomberg

It’s not just the orange groves that were hit hard by Hurricane Irma — Florida’s grapefruit harvest is now projected to fall to the lowest in nearly a century.

Production may only reach 4.65 million boxes in the current crop year, which would be the lowest output since 1919, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast earlier this week. Texas is aiming to shore up some lost output and next year could surpass Florida as the top grapefruit producer for the first time, according to USDA data. Still, the nationwide crop of 14.15 million boxes will be the smallest since 1930, less than half the harvest as recently as 2013.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Alaska is warming so fast, quality-control algorithms are kicking the data – The Washington Post

The temperature in Barrow had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database. It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA’s reports. They’re handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is good only in “average” situations, with no outliers. The situation in Barrow, however, is anything but average.

As Zika Babies Become Toddlers, Some Can’t See, Walk or Talk – The New York Times

As the first babies born with brain damage from the Zika epidemic become 2-year-olds, the most severely affected are falling further behind in their development and will require a lifetime of care, according to a study published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study, the first to comprehensively assess some of the oldest Zika babies in Brazil, focused on 15 of the most disabled children born with abnormally small heads, a condition called microcephaly. At about 22 months old, these children had the cognitive and physical development of babies younger than 6 months. They could not sit up or chew, and they had virtually no language.

How Global Warming Fueled Five Extreme Weather Events – The New York Times

Extreme weather left its mark across the planet in 2016, the hottest year in recorded history. Record heat baked Asia and the Arctic. Droughts gripped Brazil and southern Africa. The Great Barrier Reef suffered its worst bleaching event in memory, killing large swaths of coral.

Now climate scientists are starting to tease out which of last year’s calamities can, and can’t, be linked to global warming.

In a new collection of papers published Wednesday in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, researchers around the world analyzed 27 extreme weather events from 2016 and found that human-caused climate change was a “significant driver” for 21 of them. The effort is part of the growing field of climate change attribution, which explores connections between warming and weather events that have already happened.

Why forests are spreading in the rich world – The Economist explains

Two things are fertilising this growth. The first is the abandonment of farmland, especially in high, parched places where nothing grows terribly well. When farmers give up trying to eke out a living from olives or sheep, trees simply move in. The second is government policy and subsidy. Governments have protected and promoted forests for diverse reasons, ranging from the need for wooden warships to a desire to promote suburban house-building. Increasingly they welcome forests because they are carbon sinks. The justifications change; the desire for more trees remains constant.

The greening of the West does not delight everyone. Farmers complain that land is being taken out of use by generously subsidised tree plantations. (They get subsidies, too, but the ones for tree-planting are especially generous.) Parts of Spain and Portugal are afflicted by terrible forest fires. These burn especially hot in areas with lots of eucalyptus trees—an Australian import that was planted for its pulp but has spread of its own accord. Others simply dislike the appearance of conifer forests planted in neat rows. They will have to get used to the trees, however. The growth of Western forests seems almost as inexorable as deforestation elsewhere.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

Parliament Demands Greater Say Over Brexit, Defying Theresa May – The New York Times

Conservative rebels, led by Dominic Grieve, a lawmaker and a former attorney general, feared that without a specific, legal, guarantee of a vote, Parliament might find itself being bypassed at the last minute.

Brexit: Inside the UK’s messy deal to secure an amicable divorce

That late-night call to County Fermanagh marked a coda to a three-week political thriller, a race to a Brexit deal with fateful misunderstandings, sleepless diplomacy and brutal brinkmanship. Agreement had been secured, ending the fraught first phase of EU exit talks. But the fumbled execution almost brought Mrs May’s government crashing down. With EU leaders set to endorse the historic divorce pact at a summit today, the Financial Times has interviewed more than a dozen key participants who helped cut the deal — then rescue it from the brink.

Britain has more illusions to shed on Brexit

Hurrah! Lunatics are not altogether in charge of the asylum. The UK government has almost entirely accepted the EU’s terms for the divorce. Yet nearly nine months have been wasted since the triggering of Article 50 by Theresa May on March 29. This leaves about as much time in which to wrap up a deal on the transitional arrangement and at least the outline of the future relationship. Extremely difficult decisions lie ahead.

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EUROPE

EU poised to punish Poland over judicial overhaul

Poland’s new premier expects Brussels to deliver an unprecedented formal warning next week over Warsaw’s plans to overhaul its judiciary, widening the EU’s faultline over the rise of authoritarianism in some member states.

Mateusz Morawiecki, who took over as prime minister this week, said on Thursday that he expected Poland to face sanction for allegedly breaching EU laws and values.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

At Least 6,700 Myanmar Rohingya Killed In Single Month, Aid Group Says : The Two-Way : NPR

At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in what has been described as “ethnic cleansing” in Myanmar’s Rakhine state over a one-month period between August and September, according to the international aid group Doctors Without Borders.

“The numbers of deaths are likely to be an underestimation, as we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don’t account for the families who never made it out of Myanmar,” Dr. Sidney Wong, MSF’s medical director, was quoted by The Guardian as saying.

Wong said the majority of those killed were shot, others were either burned or beaten to death. “We heard reports of entire families who perished after they were locked inside their homes, while they were set alight,” Wong said.

As China Courts Neighbors, New Images Show More Building in Disputed Waters – WSJ

China has built more infrastructure on artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea in the past year, including underground tunnels and radar installations, even as it has sought to repair relations with other claimants, according to an analysis of fresh satellite images.

Australian Lawmaker Quits Amid Questions Over China Ties – The New York Times

The senator, Sam Dastyari, of the opposition Labor Party, said on Tuesday he would not return to Parliament next year. His announcement follows months of intense media scrutiny in which he has fended off accusations that he pushed China’s foreign policy interests after taking money from Chinese-born political donors.

Casualties Surge From Land Mines and Improvised Explosives – The New York Times

Casualties from land mines and similar booby-trap explosives increased for the second consecutive year in 2016, to the highest level since a treaty banning such weapons of war took effect in 1999, a monitoring group said Thursday.

ISIS stole U.S.-supplied rockets weeks after they arrived in Syria, report says – The Washington Post

The Islamic State may stand alone in its brutality in Iraq and Syria, where it orchestrated civilian massacres and suicide bombings and salted people’s homes with thousands of improvised explosives. But a new report, three years in the making, describes the group as shrewd manufacturing and logistical planners who moved weapons, munitions and bombmaking materials throughout the war zone on a scale unprecedented for a terror organization.

U.S. F-22s fired warning flares at Russian planes in close call over Syria, Pentagon says – The Washington Post

A pair of U.S. jets intercepted two Russian fighter aircraft over Syria on Wednesday, the Pentagon said, the kind of highly dangerous yet constant encounter that is occurring with more regularity despite agreements between the countries to avoid potentially deadly mistakes. Officials say Russians violate U.S.-controlled airspace six to eight times a day over Syria.

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PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

Critical infrastructure threat as new malware is identified

A US cyber security firm has warned countries to urgently upgrade the IT security of their critical infrastructure after identifying a new form of malware comparable to the 2010 Stuxnet virus which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mandiant wrote in a blog post published on Thursday that the virus, known as Triton, had been used against an unidentified critical infrastructure organisation. It declined to name the country or the industrial sector that was targeted but said it had “moderate confidence that the actor is sponsored by a nation state”.

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TRUMP WORLD

Omarosa declares ‘black woman civil war’ against Robin Roberts | Page Six

Roberts fired the first shot when she snarked, “Bye, Felicia,” following the segment with the “Apprentice” star — a quote from the 1995 film “Friday” that has become a popular dismissive put-down.

“That was petty,” Manigault Newman responded to “Inside Edition” when asked about Roberts’ remark. “It’s a black woman civil war.” Manigault Newman had gone on “GMA” to give her side of her Tuesday night exit from the White House — rejecting reports that she had to be dragged out kicking and screaming after being fired by chief of staff John Kelly.

She said she was the one who resigned, after seeing things in the administration that made her “very uncomfortable.” But Roberts wasn’t buying it. “She says she has a story to tell and I’m sure she will be selling that story. Yeah. Bye, Felicia,” the host said.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trump Says His Regulatory Rollback Already Is the ‘Most Far-Reaching’ – The New York Times

President Trump said on Thursday that his administration was answering “a call to action” by rolling back regulations on environmental protections, health care, financial services and other industries as he made a push to showcase his accomplishments near the end of his first year in office.

“We are just getting started,” Mr. Trump said, speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House. He described progress so far as the “most far-reaching regulatory reform” in United States history, a claim he did not back up.

Wall Street Watchdog Becomes Forum to Cut Rules Under Trump – Bloomberg

A high-powered panel that’s meant to spot dangers to financial stability is now urging regulators to review how rules are holding banks back, the latest sign of how much Wall Street oversight has changed under President Donald Trump.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

John McCain Hospitalized Due to Cancer Therapy Side Effects | Time

The Arizona senator, 81, is currently receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for “normal side effects of his ongoing cancer therapy,” according to a statement released by his office on Wednesday.

Bipartisan Health Bill Is Losing Support – WSJ

The seemingly imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirement has focused attention on Congress’ potential next moves on health care, including a bipartisan plan to shore up the insurance markets.

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SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC

Alan Patricof: An Ageless VC Makes a Splash With Young Startups | Fortune

As he wends his way through the hotel restaurant, the 82-year-old exchanges warm hellos and swaps media gossip with well-heeled movers and shakers. People who don’t know him notice him; people who do treat him like The Man. And after he joins me at a small table and orders tea, Patricof drops a hint about just how long he’s enjoyed that status. “New York magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary next week,” he points out. “I’ll be one of two people attending who was there when it opened.”

Patricof’s investment in New York, which helped turn a small-circulation pub into one of the most important media voices in art and politics, was one of his very first, and it showed the acumen that has made him a legend in venture capital circles. Since then he’s helped build hundreds of companies, including the likes of Apple and AOL—as one of the country’s first VCs and then as cofounder of Apax Partners, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms.

In 2006, at age 71, he sought something both new and familiar, collaborating with a younger generation of VCs as cofounder of a new firm, Greycroft Partners. After nearly 12 years there, studded with successful investments in startups like payment platform Venmo, entertainment firm Maker Studios, and men’s styling service Trunk Club, the patriarch shows few signs of slowing down. He’s first into the office every morning, and he recently made his first bet on a Bitcoin company. As our interview wraps up, he’s in a rush to rejoin the confab in the lobby to parlay with Cheddar, a fast-rising web TV service. “Alan in his eighties is younger than everyone I know,” says Mike Lazerow, founder of Buddy Media, another of Greycroft’s successful exits.

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MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT

A.G. Sulzberger, 37, to Take Over as New York Times Publisher – The New York Times

In a generational changing of the guard, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, 37, will become the publisher of The New York Times on Jan. 1. His father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., announced on Thursday that he was turning over the post to his son.

The ascension of the younger Mr. Sulzberger, who is known as A. G., comes just over a year after he was named deputy publisher of The Times. The New York Times Company’s board voted in favor of the move during a meeting on Thursday. The elder Mr. Sulzberger, 66, who will stay on as chairman of The New York Times Company, has been the publisher since 1992.

Business Insider Inc. Drops ‘Business’ From Its Name as Company Broadens Coverage, Distribution – WSJ

In January, the company will begin doing business as Insider Inc., doubling down on its plan to create new coverage verticals on social media and elsewhere.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

China impedes foreign carmakers’ autonomous tests

Chinese authorities’ fear that foreign self-driving cars could be used for spying may see regulators favour exclusively domestic technology in the world’s largest car market. Foreign carmakers say they face restrictions in China on the roll out of the technology, and the government is citing national security concerns in seeking to limit high-resolution cameras and GPS-equipped cars from free access to China’s roads.

“It is unsurprising, but still slightly alarming, that China wants to politicise autonomous vehicles and favour local players,” said Robin Zhu, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Bernstein.

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AEROSPACE, MILITARY & DEFENSE

U.S. to Rely on Russia for Astronaut Transportation Into 2019 – WSJ

The move indicates that senior NASA officials increasingly are concerned the current 2018 timetable for switching to U.S. vehicles may prove too ambitious. The extra Russian seats amount to an insurance policy that NASA will be able to continue ferrying its crews to the orbiting laboratory, even if U.S. firms developing two commercial alternatives take longer than expected to achieve final certification.

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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, DRONES, FUTURE TECH

IBM recruits quantum computing partners

IBM has signed up a group of big companies, universities and government research institutions to think up the first uses for quantum computing, as a technology once thought to be decades from practical application edges closer to the mainstream. The move comes in the same week that Microsoft released tools to help developers start creating software applications capable of running on quantum computers, even though it estimates the first commercial machines are still five years away.

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SCIENCE, NATURE, PSYCHOLOGY

Nasa finds first star with as many planets as our Solar System

Scientists have discovered the first planetary group as large as our Solar System, with eight planets orbiting its star.

Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth, was already known from observations by Nasa’s Kepler space telescope to have seven planets. Now an eighth planet, a hot, rocky body called Kepler-90i that orbits its star once every 14 days, has been detected in the data with artificial intelligence technology from Google.

Google and Nasa scientists used an AI “neural network” to search for exoplanets — planets beyond the Solar System — in data recorded by Kepler since the satellite’s launch in 2009. They expect to find many more exoplanets, using AI to spot signals that are too weak for human analysts to detect.

17Z15 - KEPLER 90

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MISCELLANEOUS

A Going-Away Message: AOL Instant Messenger Is Shutting Down – The New York Times

“AIM tapped into new digital technologies and ignited a cultural shift, but the way in which we communicate with each other has profoundly changed,” Michael Albers, vice president of communications product at Oath, the parent company of AOL, said in a statement on Friday.

The news of its official demise was met with cries of nostalgia, especially from those who were coming of age as AIM rose to prominence. For many people now in their 20s and 30s, learning to talk online coincided with learning to communicate like an adult, said Caroline Moss, 29, a writer and editor in New York who for years paid tribute to AIM with the parody Twitter account @YourAwayMessage.

Death of Man in Skyscraper Fall in China Puts a Spotlight on ‘Rooftopping’ – The New York Times

An excerpt from the video of Mr. Wu’s last moments shows him on top of the building, clad in black with his hair pulled back from his face, meticulously and repeatedly wiping the ledge. He swung his legs over the edge and partially hung there, clutching it with the full length of his arms, before pulling himself up and sitting down to wipe the edge again.

Then he swung his legs over one by one for a final time. He did two pull-ups into the void, gripping the ledge. Attempting a third, he appeared to struggle, trying to find a hold with one foot after the other. A small sound resembling a human voice, perhaps a whimper, can be heard on the recording. Then he dropped.

His death resounded in the community of people who seek urban altitudes for thrills, for curiosity, or for profit.

17Z15 - ROOFTOPPER

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