Macro Links Dec 27th – Slaughterbots

Macro Links Dec 27th – Slaughterbots

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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Bitcoin fights back after pre-Christmas sell-off

The price of bitcoin jumped 13 per cent to nearly $16,000 on Tuesday, recovering from a sharp sell-off last week that saw the cryptocurrency’s value plummet by nearly a third amid growing concerns among regulators about a potential bubble.

Bitcoin Rebounds to Surpass $16,000 as Five-Day Selloff Ends – Bloomberg

Bitcoin’s rebound took it briefly above $16,000 on Tuesday as traders of the world’s biggest digital currency sought to draw a line under its roller coaster five-day slump.

Europe’s Last Dictator Wants to Run a Global Crypto Hub – Bloomberg

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who’s labored for years under the title of Europe’s last dictator, is making a bid for a shiny new image as the continent’s freewheeling cryptocurrency king.

Bitcoin’s boom is a boon for extremist groups – The Washington Post

Even before Charlottesville, Richard Spencer, a prominent member of the alt-right, a movement that espouses racist, anti-Semitic and sexist views and seeks a whites-only state, had gone as far as declaring bitcoin “the currency of the alt right.” But far-right political leaders and experts on extremist movements alike say the adoption of bitcoin gained new urgency after Charlottesville as extremists looked for ways to operate beyond the reach of government control and the shifting policies of U.S. tech companies.

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TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, CAPITAL SHELTERS

Homeowners in High-Tax States Race to Beat Property Tax Cap – Bloomberg

Homeowners in states with the highest property taxes are looking to prepay 2018 bills ahead of a $10,000 cap on the deduction for state and local levies, including property taxes, in the GOP tax overhaul President Donald Trump just signed.

Homeowners Rush to Prepay 2018 Property-Tax Bills – WSJ

Homeowners across the nation are rushing this week to prepay their property taxes for 2018 before the Republican tax law kicks in Jan. 1 and effectively raises the levy on higher-end homes.

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RUSSIA PROBE

Robert Mueller May Indict Paul Manafort Again

The charges against the former Trump campaign boss appear to have been only an opening salvo in a legal barrage on the president’s confidants, informed observers say.

New York’s Attorney General in Battle With Trump – The New York Times

In Mr. Schneiderman’s seventh year as attorney general, the office has been transformed into a bulwark of resistance amid an unusually expansive level of confrontation with the federal government. Other Democratic state attorneys general are undertaking similar efforts, often in concert, like Xavier Becerra in California, where extra money was set aside in the budget for the attorney general to battle the Trump administration.

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RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

Can Central Banks Keep Control of Interest Rates? – WSJ

Investors are elated by a booming global economy and the promise of central banks to tighten monetary policy only gradually. The risk in the coming year: that long-term interest rates develop a mind of their own.

Economists disagree about how much control central banks really exert over longer-term borrowing costs, which are gauged by government-bond yields. So those rates could stop playing along. If longer-term rates suddenly rose, that could throw cold water on stock markets that have been hitting repeated new highs.

Other investors have a different worry: They fear that yields will stay low even if central banks try to tighten policy because they are concerned a recession may be coming. This year, the Fed has nudged up rates three times and yields on long-term government bonds—both nominal and inflation-linked debt—have stayed unchanged or declined, echoing similar issues that then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had in 2005.

Venezuelans scramble to survive as merchants demand dollars

For a decade and a half, strict exchange controls have severely limited access to dollars. A black market in hard currency has spread in response, and as once-sky-high oil revenue runs dry, Venezuela’s economy is in free-fall.

The practice adopted by gourmet and design stores in Caracas over the last couple of years to charge in dollars to a select group of expatriates or Venezuelans with access to greenbacks is fast spreading. Food sellers, dental and medical clinics, and others are starting to charge in dollars or their black market equivalent – putting many basic goods and services out of reach for a large number of Venezuelans.

A Banner Year for Corporate Debt – WSJ

Yields on corporate debt, which fall as prices rise, began the year at very low levels and ended the year even lower. Investors bought up pretty much every type of debt instrument​,​ from investment-grade bonds to collateralized loan obligations.

Many analysts expect more of the same in the early part of 2018. A test could come later in the year, as combined net bond-buying by the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank is expected to turn negative, removing a key support for fixed-income markets. Bond markets are expected to get less support from central banks in 2018 as the Fed and ECB scale back easy-money policies.

17Z27 - NET ASSET PURCHASES

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

Military robots are getting smaller and more capable – Miniature robotics

“Slaughterbots” is fiction. The question Dr Russell poses is, “how long will it remain so?” For military laboratories around the planet are busy developing small, autonomous robots for use in warfare, both conventional and unconventional. In America, in particular, a programme called MAST (Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology), which has been run by the US Army Research Laboratory in Maryland, is wrapping up this month after ten successful years. MAST co-ordinated and paid for research by a consortium of established laboratories, notably at the University of Maryland, Texas A&M University and Berkeley (the work at Berkeley is unrelated to Dr Russell’s). Its successor, the Distributed and Collaborative Intelligent Systems and Technology (DCIST) programme, which began earlier this year, is now getting into its stride.

In 2008, when MAST began, a spy drone that you could hold in the palm of your hand was an idea from science fiction. Such drones are now commonplace. Along with flying drones, MAST’s researchers have been developing pocket-sized battlefield scouts that can hop or crawl ahead of soldiers. DCIST’s purpose is to take these autonomous robots and make them co-operate. The result, if the project succeeds, will be swarms of devices that can take co-ordinated action to achieve a joint goal.

At the moment, America’s defence department is committed to keeping such swarms under human control, so that the decision to pull a trigger will always be taken by a person rather than a machine. The Pentagon is as alarmed by the prospect of freebooting killer robots as the FLI is. But, as someone said of nuclear weapons after the first one was detonated, the only secret worth keeping is now out: the damn things work. If swarms of small robots can be made to collaborate autonomously, someone, somewhere will do it.

Zombie companies stalk a broken monetary system

Typically over the past 200 years, the international monetary systems that have governed the global economy have lasted between 25 to 35 years. The current system, which has been in operation since the end of Bretton Woods in 1971-73, is 44 years old. Reflecting its longevity and its construct, this system has outlived its usefulness.

This current international monetary system is the first, other than during and immediately after periods of global war, that has operated in an unanchored liquidity environment. This, with the 1980s financial deregulation and subsequent three rounds of Basel rules, has enabled the biggest global debt build-up ever recorded in history. That debt is the primary reason for high house prices. The absence of housing supply, while true in localised parts of the west, is a false narrative.

With that, the prima facie role of the commercial banking sector has changed dramatically. In 1980 in the UK and much of the west, the mortgage loan book of the commercial banks was effectively zero. Today, mortgage debt accounts for between 40-75 per cent of the loan books of most western banking systems. The continual reduction in risk weightings for mortgages by successive rounds of Basel rules has, along with this current monetary system, facilitated that rapid growth in mortgage debt.

A return to an anchored international monetary system, while painful en route, should bring about much more widespread real income growth and therefore wealth accumulation. It should, if properly designed, re-orient house prices back towards more normal long-term valuation levels, thereby improving affordability and, by anchoring liquidity provision, it should also bring about less asset price-intensive and more productivity-rich economic growth.

This Will Be the Year When the Internet Collides With Reality – Bloomberg

The onset of a new year brings plenty of predictions, and so I will hazard one: Many of the biggest events of 2018 will be bound together by a common theme, namely the collision of the virtual internet with the real “flesh and blood” world. This integration is likely to steer our daily lives, our economy, and maybe even politics to an unprecedented degree.

For instance, the coming year will see a major expansion of the “internet of things,” especially home and other smart devices subject to our commands. So much of our time with information technology has been taken up by texting and Facebook, pure communications of symbols and photos and videos. The next steps will be controlling our doors, heating systems, lights, stoves and refrigerators, and moving toward driverless cars. The virtual world will be managing our older physical processes more and more.

“Augmented reality” will become a better-known phrase, as a superior version of Google Glass arrives. Imagine walking into a store and putting on some techie glasses, and learning immediately about product bargains, quality ratings, and items you might want to buy, as you do now on the web with Amazon. That kind of useful information will seep into our public spaces, and you will be able to speak a command and have your favorite cheese waiting for you at the grocery checkout, at a discount of course.

Integration will shape the financial world too. Bitcoin has been an online sensation since its origin in 2009, but it has existed as a kind of closed universe, both intellectually and in terms of its impact on other financial markets. Late in 2017, futures contracts for bitcoin started on both the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which means bitcoin now intersects with a world of collateral, margin requirements, potentially insolvent traders, and publicly verifiable values for contract settlement. So far this process has gone fine. But whatever your prediction for the future, this integration of real and virtual worlds will either make or break bitcoin and other crypto-assets.

To beat President Trump, you have to learn to think like his supporters – The Washington Post

It does not matter that he is eroding the nation’s democratic institutions. That this combat is dangerous, hypocritical, built on lies. That you, after all, are innocent. His supporters are convinced that you are to blame. Until you can convince them otherwise, they will cheer him on. The name of the game is polarization, and the rookie mistake is to forget you are the enemy.

Normal politicians collapse in the face of scandal because the scandals show them dozing on the job or falling back on their promises. To get elected, they offer a bargain: “Vote for me: I will make you richer/fight for your rights/assure your progress.” Scandals reveal they can’t do that, and thus, they tumble. However, like all populists, Trump offers a much different deal — “Vote for me: I will destroy your enemies. They are the reason you are not rich/have less rights/America is not great anymore.” Scandal is the populist’s natural element for the same reason that demolishing buildings makes more noise than constructing them. His supporters didn’t vote for silence. They voted for a bang.

As long as Trump is still swinging back, scandals help him to polarize the country further. The scorn of his adversaries, in the eyes of his supporters, proves that he’s doing exactly what they voted him for to do: dismantling a rigged system that they believe destroyed their hopes.

Trump has brought U.S. to the brink of historic break with Europe

The Trump administration’s newly unveiled national security strategy lists reinforcing America’s alliances as a major objective. Yet in the first year of his embattled presidency, Donald Trump has so undermined our ties to Europe that we could be on the verge of a break in the seven-decade trans-Atlantic alliance.

Trump is the first U.S. president since World War II who does not seem to consider himself the leader of the democratic West. His populist America First platform has opened deep fissures in his relations with European leaders.

He has changed the way the U.S. government talks about our oldest allies, describing the European Union more as an economic competitor than a leading strategic partner. In contrast, prior U.S. presidents regarded the European project as a force multiplier for shared interests across the Atlantic in democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Years of Attack Leave Obamacare a More Government-Focused Health Law – The New York Times

The Affordable Care Act was conceived as a mix of publicly funded health care and privately purchased insurance, but Republican attacks, culminating this month in the death of a mandate that most Americans have insurance, are shifting the balance, giving the government a larger role than Democrats ever anticipated.

And while President Trump insisted again on Tuesday that the health law was “essentially” being repealed, what remains of it appears relatively stable and increasingly government-funded.

In short, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement is becoming more like what conservatives despise — government-run health care — thanks in part to Republican efforts that are raising premiums for people without government assistance and allowing them to skirt coverage.

By ending the tax penalty for people who do not have coverage, beginning in 2019, Republicans may hasten the flight of customers who now pay the full cost of their insurance. Among those left behind under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act would be people of modest means who qualify for Medicaid or receive sizable subsidies for private insurance.

“Republicans have inadvertently strengthened the hand of Democrats like me who prefer richer subsidies to a mandate and welcome the expanded federal role that will come with those subsidies,” said Joel S. Ario, a former insurance commissioner from Pennsylvania who worked in the Obama administration.

Your Uber Car Creates Congestion. Should You Pay a Fee to Ride? – The New York Times

An explosion of ride-hailing app services has transformed the way that people get around the city and is choking the streets. Midtown traffic crawls at an average of 4.7 miles per hour from 6.5 miles per hour five years ago.

“You’ll see an entire row of Lyft, Uber and Juno drivers on the streets waiting to pick people up,” said Chanse Gierbolini, 27, a baker in Lower Manhattan. “It seems like everybody’s driving the same black sedan — they’re everywhere.”

Now a new report finds that ride-hailing cars are often driving on the city’s busiest streets with no passengers — in effect, creating congestion without any benefits. The report by Bruce Schaller, a former city transportation official, found that more than a third of ride-hailing cars and yellow taxis are empty at any given time during weekdays in Manhattan’s main business district.

The ride-hailing services have drawn scrutiny as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo formulates a congestion pricing plan that would not only reduce traffic, but also raise money to modernize the city’s subways. A state task force, called Fix NYC, is looking at measures including a new per-ride fee on all for-hire vehicles in Manhattan, which would be paid by passengers, according to those familiar with the discussions. Mr. Cuomo is expected to announce a congestion pricing plan, which must be approved by the State Legislature, as soon as January.

Homeland Security Increasingly Means Putting Agents Outside the Homeland – The New York Times

An estimated 2,000 Homeland Security employees — from Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents to Transportation Security Administration officials — now are deployed to more than 70 countries around the world.

Hundreds more are either at sea for weeks at a time aboard Coast Guard ships, or patrolling the skies in surveillance planes above the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The expansion has created tensions with some European countries who say that the United States is trying to export its immigration laws to their territory. But other allies agree with the United States’ argument that its longer reach strengthens international security while preventing a terrorist attack, drug shipment, or human smuggling ring from reaching American soil.

China Snares Innocent and Guilty Alike to Build World’s Biggest DNA Database – WSJ

Many of the ways Chinese police are collecting samples are impermissible in the U.S. In China, DNA saliva swabs or blood samples are routinely gathered from people detained for violations such as forgetting to carry identity cards or writing blogs critical of the state, according to documents from a national police DNA conference in September and official forensic journals.

Others aren’t suspected of any crime. Police target certain groups considered a higher risk to social stability. These include migrant workers and, in one city, coal miners and home renters, the documents show.

In Baishan, a city bordering North Korea, residents of a home for the elderly were told they were getting free health checks, the police documents show. In mountainous Ningxia, in the northwest, residents were told a census was being conducted. In the southern manufacturing city of Shenzhen, an itinerant worker told the Journal he had his blood taken after he was unable to show a local residency card.

Billionaire Porn King Reinvents Himself as Japan’s Startup Guru – Bloomberg

Imagine the publisher of Pornhub.com being asked to address Harvard University undergraduates on the virtues of running a socially responsible business. That’s basically what happened in Japan this past December, when the country’s most prestigious private university extended an invitation to adult entertainment mogul Keishi Kameyama.

After years of being rejected for bank loans and frozen out of business deals, the onetime pariah is now being embraced as an internet pioneer, and even a role model. His ever-evolving media and technology empire, DMM.com, started with pornography but has grown into a vast collection of enterprises that have made him one of Japan’s richest people.

One Man’s Stand Against Junk Food as Diabetes Climbs Across India – The New York Times

Rahul Verma’s son was born gravely ill with digestive problems, but over years of visits to the boy’s endocrinologist, Mr. Verma saw the doctor grow increasingly alarmed about a different problem, one threatening healthy children. Junk food, the doctor warned, was especially dangerous to Indians, who are far more prone to diabetes than people from other parts of the world.

One day in the doctor’s waiting room, Mr. Verma noticed a girl who had gotten fat by compulsively eating potato chips. He decided he had to do something. “On one side you have children like my son, who are born with problems,” said Mr. Verma, “and on the other side you have children who are healthy and everything is fine and you are damaging them giving them unhealthy food.”

India’s people, population 1.3 billion, are far more likely to develop diabetes — which can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and amputations — as they gain weight than people from other regions, according to health experts. Since 1990, the percent of children and adults in India who are overweight or obese has almost tripled to 18.8 percent from 6.4 percent, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Remote salt lake in China holds key to trove of lithium

The Chaerhan Salt Lake area is home to 83 per cent of China’s lithium deposits, found within several meters of salt sediment on the lake floor.

No living things inhabit the lake or its surroundings, so silence reigned. However, soon 10-ton trucks laden with salt from the lake began rumbling by, and the lithium-producing area appeared to suddenly come to life.

In China, the world’s biggest car market, electric vehicles still account for only about 2 per cent of new car sales. However, the electric car market is expected to grow rapidly and reach 5m vehicles by 2025 — comparable to Japan’s entire market for new cars. Preparations are already under way in this remote area of China. A massive wave of business activity that will influence the world is about to spread from the quiet city of Golmud.

17Z27 - GOLMUD

‘Plant Factories’ Churn Out Clean Food in China’s Dirty Cities – Bloomberg

The containers are stacked like bunk beds, with each vine wrapped in red and blue LED lights that evoke tiny Christmas trees. Yang is testing which parts of the visible-light spectrum are optimal for photosynthesis and plant growth while using minimal energy.

He’s having some success. With rows 10 feet high, Yang’s indoor patches of tomatoes, lettuce, celery and bok choy yield between 40 and 100 times more produce than a typical open field of the same size. There’s another advantage for using the self-contained, vertical system: outside, choking air pollution measures about five times the level the World Health Organization considers safe.

“Using vertical agriculture, we don’t need to use pesticides and we can use less chemical fertilizers—and produce safe food,” said Yang, director of the Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture.

Yang’s government-funded research on vertical farming reflects the changing mindset of China’s leaders, who for decades preoccupied themselves with raising incomes for 1 billion-plus people. Runaway growth created the world’s second-biggest economy, yet the catalyzing coal mines and smokestacks filled the environment with poisons and ate up valuable farmland.

17Z27 - SEEDLINGS

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GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA

China to Overtake U.S. Economy by 2032 as Asian Might Builds – Bloomberg

The growing importance of Asia’s major economies will continue in 2018 and beyond, according to a league table that sees the region dominating in terms of size in just over a decade. The report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in London sees India leapfrogging the U.K. and France next year to become the world’s fifth-biggest economy in dollar terms. It will advance to third place by 2027, moving ahead of Germany.

17Z27 - TRADING PLACES

Unemployment in Japan hits 24-year low

The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage points in November to 2.7 per cent, the lowest figure since December 1994 when Japan was descending into what had become known as its “lost decade”.

“The current economic recovery is . . . characterised by its long duration,” said Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, in a year-end speech. “The duration of the current recovery phase, which started in December 2012, likely reached 60 consecutive months in November 2017.”

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POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS

Traditional US retailers gain on holiday sales hopes

US retail sales, excluding automobiles, climbed 4.9 per cent between November 1 and Christmas Eve, the strongest pace of growth since 2011, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, a unit of the credit card company that tracks internet and physical sales.

Online shopping continued to accelerate, with e-commerce sales up 18.1 per cent over the period, according to MasterCard, and Amazon accounting for the bulk of the retailing index’s rise this year. The indications of a buoyant period overall helped boost the shares of many brick-and-mortar retailers that have been battered by internet competition.

U.S. department store stocks jump on holiday spending record

Shares of U.S. department stores jumped on Tuesday as Mastercard Inc said shoppers spent over $800 billion during the season, more than ever before, boosted by growing consumer confidence, rising employment and early discounts.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Apple, suppliers drop on report of weak iPhone X demand

Shares in Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and several of its Asian suppliers fell on Tuesday after a report by Taiwan’s Economic Daily and comments from some analysts suggested iPhone X demand could come in below expectations in the first quarter.

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REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL

Investors Pile Into Suburban Rental Housing – WSJ

Now that the urban luxury-apartment boom is winding down, some big investors are fanning out to the suburbs. As institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies hunt for higher yields, they have been scouring the older and less glamorous suburban rental buildings that ring metropolitan central business districts, real-estate executives and analysts said.

Part of the reason: Swelling supplies of new luxury apartments in urban areas are driving rents lower for high-end city apartments.

“About two years ago was the inflection point where we began to see the impact of having a lot of new product in the urban areas, and we also began to see the beginning of some softness,” said Jeanette Rice, Americas head of multifamily research at CBRE Group Inc. “We also saw vacancy rates inch up, so institutional capital is always thinking, ‘Where are the better returns?’”

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

Harbinger Capital Sues Apollo Global Management Over LightSquared Losses – WSJ

Philip Falcone’s hedge fund said it was defrauded by Apollo Global Management LLC into pouring $2 billion into the ill-fated wireless venture formerly known as LightSquared Inc. Mr. Falcone’s Harbinger Capital Partners filed a lawsuit in New York state court Thursday accusing Apollo of concealing flaws in a planned telecommunications network that ran into regulatory roadblocks years later, driving LightSquared into a costly bankruptcy.

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ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE

Oil Trades Near Highest Since Mid-2015 on Libya Pipeline Blast – Bloomberg

Oil traded near the highest close in more than two years after an explosion at a pipeline carrying crude to Libya’s biggest export terminal curbed the OPEC nation’s production.

Oil is heading for a second yearly advance as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies including Russia prolong supply curbs through the end of 2018. Prices gained this month after a separate pipe in the U.K. — one of the most important conduits in the world — was shut because of a crack. Partial flows have now restarted at the Forties Pipeline System’s Kinneil facility, operator Ineos Group said.

“The pipeline explosion in Libya is a lot more serious as it may take a long time to restore, which can be a long-term driver of oil prices,” Kim Kwangrae, a commodities analyst at Samsung Futures Inc. in Seoul, said by phone. “The disruption is considered detrimental enough to dry up some of the global glut.”

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COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS

End of 47-Year Japan Rice Program Signals Boost for Ramen Wheat – Bloomberg

The end of Japan’s four decades of rice-market control could be good news for noodle lovers. That’s because rice farmers may plant alternative crops like wheat once government control ends by March 31 and look to tap into rising demand for ramen. Fukuoka, on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, is expanding production of a locally-developed variety of grain known as Ra-Mugi that’s designed to be perfect for tonkotsu ramen: a dish of cloudy white pork broth, with noodles and slices of pork that originates in the region.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Erie buried under 53 inches of snow after record-setting Christmas storm – The Washington Post

Lake-effect snow buried Pennsylvania’s fourth largest city under more than four feet of snow over Christmas, smashing both local and state snowfall records while hampering holiday travel around the Great Lakes.

With snow falling at a rate of up to three inches per hour, the National Weather Service reported Erie, Pa., picked up at least 58 inches of snow since the storm began on Christmas Eve. The bulk of that fell in a 30-hour period from Christmas morning into Tuesday.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

Mexico Murder Total Hits An All Time High

The number of murders in Mexico hit an all-time high this year — in the first 11 months of the year a total of 23,101 murder investigations were opened. The number topped the 22,409 registered murders for 2011 for the highest total since modern records have been kept.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to curb violence in the country when he took office in 2012. In his first two years in office murders went down, but have risen steadily ever since. The new murder totals were published in a government report Friday night. The figures have been kept since 1997.

North Korea Won’t Stop Its Arms Tests Anytime Soon, South Korea Warns – The New York Times

North Korea will keep improving its nuclear and long-range ballistic missile capabilities next year to gain leverage to force Washington to make concessions, like the easing of sanctions, government and private analysts in South Korea said on Tuesday.

The isolated North has made major strides this year in its nuclear weapons program but has also faced increasingly tough sanctions from the United Nations. On Sept. 3, it detonated what it called a hydrogen bomb in its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. It has also launched three intercontinental ballistic missiles this year, demonstrating rockets powerful enough to deliver warheads to all of the continental United States.

Royal Navy Escorts Russian Warship Near U.K. – The New York Times

It was not the first time Britain had taken such measures against Russian vessels. In January, the Royal Navy escorted a Russian aircraft carrier passing through the English Channel as it returned from Syria. In April, a patrol ship escorted a Ropucha-class landing ship through the English Channel, and there were other episodes involving Russian vessels in May and November.

The increased presence of Russian ships comes at a time of strained relations between London and Moscow. During a visit to Russia last week, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told his counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, that there was “abundant evidence” Moscow had meddled in foreign elections and had tried to interfere in British internal affairs.

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PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

Russia’s Putin calls for Web activities of some firms to be monitored

“We need to look carefully at how some companies work in internet, in social media, and how widely they are involved in our domestic political life,” Putin said, speaking at a meeting with leaders in Russia’s parliament about a new “foreign agents” law.

Putin signed a law last month allowing the authorities to designate foreign media outlets as “foreign agents” in response to what Moscow said was unacceptable U.S. pressure on Russian media. Once designated, such firms need to provide details to the authorities on, for example, their sources of funding.

Vietnam army reveals 10,000-strong cyber warfare unit

Vietnam has revealed its recruitment of more than 10,000 people to a cyber warfare unit as it seeks to battle “wrong” views being spread online.

Nearly 63 per cent of Vietnam’s 96m population goes online, he was quoted as saying — a development that, he said, “has two sides; on the negative side, the enemy takes advantage of the internet to create chaos”.

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PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

Alberto Fujimori apologises as protests erupt in Peru

Peru’s authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori has for the first time publicly apologised for crimes committed during his decade-long rule, after thousands of Peruvians took to the streets on Christmas Day to protest against a decision to pardon him.

Kremlin warns Alexei Navalny against Russian election protest

The Kremlin has warned leading Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny not to wage a protest campaign over his exclusion from March’s presidential elections, raising the prospect of a wider crackdown against those seeking to challenge President Vladimir Putin.

Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a ‘systemic’ problem – The Washington Post

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

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TRUMP WORLD

As Trump’s Approval Rating Sinks, Obama and Biden Are Becoming More Popular

With the first year of Trump’s presidency coming to an end and his approval rating sitting south of 40 percent, Trump is the most unpopular president at this point in the history of the presidency. Conversely, since leaving the White House, Obama’s favorability rating has jumped four points, with 63 percent of Americans viewing the 44th president favorably, according to a Gallup news poll from June. Obama’s favorability was at 59 percent at the end of his presidency, according to a Gallup poll taken between January 16 and 19, the days before Obama left office.

Donald Trump is a psychopath, suffers psychosis and is an ‘enormous present danger’, says psychiatrist | The Independent

Donald Trump is suffering from psychopathy and has a mental state that poses an “enormous present danger”, a clinical psychiatrist has said. The US President has psychosis and is “a very sick man”, said Dr Lance Dodes, a former assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who now works for the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

Government pleads with Prince Harry not to invite Barack Obama to his wedding

There are deep fears among senior Foreign Office and No10 officials that another perceived national snub will make it impossible for Theresa May to meaningfully engage with Trump.

A senior government source said: “Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness. “Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a Royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the Queen.

Trump partly blamed Sessions for Alabama Senate loss: report | TheHill

Trump placed blame on Sessions for Republicans losing the seat because Sessions’s departure from the Senate seat to Trump’s Cabinet had caused the special election, according to the AP.

Singer Files Sex Assault Complaint Against Former Trump Aide – Bloomberg

A singer and potential congressional candidate said Tuesday that she has filed a sexual assault complaint against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager for hitting her twice on her buttocks during a Washington gathering in November.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Trump Administration Eases Nursing Home Fines in Victory for Industry – The New York Times

The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president.

Trump Administration Proposes Rolling Back Oil-Spill Rules

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement says the changes would save the oil industry about $900 million over the next decade. And in this administration, the financial well-being of that sector tends to take precedence over everything: safety, the environment, baby seals, you name it.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

Angry Young, Rural Voters to Set Economic Tone for India in 2018 – Bloomberg

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will probably boost spending to retain young voters and those in India’s hinterland, who are straying away from his party as joblessness grows.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress Are Spoiling for a Big Fight in the New Year – Bloomberg

Profound differences between House and Senate Republicans may play as big a role as GOP fights with Democrats on how the legislative agenda plays out when Congress returns in January.

College-Educated Women Are Moving Away From GOP – WSJ

Women with four-year college degrees have moved sharply away from the GOP in recent years, which could hinder Republicans in competitive House races next year.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

Uber to Sell U.S. Auto-Leasing Business to Startup Fair.com – WSJ

Uber is selling its U.S. subprime auto-leasing business to startup-car marketplace Fair.com, ending a bid to attract drivers who lack regular access to vehicles.

Elon Musk promises Tesla pickup that would challenge Ford F-150 – MarketWatch

Elon Musk said Tuesday that Tesla Inc. would produce a long-awaited electric pickup truck in the coming years that would challenge Ford. Musk said the pickup’s size would be comparable to, or “slightly bigger” than, Ford’s flagship F-150 pickup, “to account for a really gamechanging (I think) feature I’d like to add.” He didn’t say what that feature was.

Latest Entrants Into Electric Car Race: Makers of Post-It Notes, Paint – WSJ

Auto makers and ride-hailing apps aren’t the only companies looking to cash in on the shift to electric and self-driving vehicles. Old-line industrial companies such as 3M and paint maker PPG Industries are among those racing to figure out ways to get their products into the cars of the future.

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AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS

Driver shortage sends truck haulage rates higher

Rates to hire long-distance trucks have soared as rising freight volumes and robust retail sales during the festive season drive up demand, just as a strong US jobs market makes drivers harder to come by. Capacity may shrink further after a law took effect earlier in December requiring electronic logging devices in cabs, tightening enforcement of rules on mandatory rest for drivers.

17Z27 - US TRUCK MARKET

New Cost-Cutting Strategy for Airlines: Buy Planes in Bulk and Save – WSJ

Airlines are getting smarter at buying aircraft. Eager to boost returns on investment, airline executives are looking for ways to lower their biggest capital cost. One strategy gaining traction: working together to buy jets in bulk.

The strategy is adding to pressure on Airbus SE and Boeing Co. to trim their own costs so they can afford to cut customers a better deal. Airlines “are doing a better job at negotiating,” John Leahy, Airbus’s longtime chief salesman, said in an interview. “That is frustrating to any supplier.”

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MISCELLANEOUS

A Tech Pioneer’s Final, Unexpected Act | The New Yorker

After the surgery, Sun suffered intense pain, but insisted that he didn’t need any medication. One evening, he found Law crying on the balcony of their apartment in a rare outburst of frustration. “If you won’t help yourself, no one else can,” she said. He started a list, “How to Help Myself,” and on it he wrote, “Keep communicating with Karen, even if they are darker thoughts.” On October 20th, a few days before his thirty-third birthday, Sun wrote in a Facebook post, “It’s been hard to come to grips with having aggressive and incurable Grade 4 brain cancer; it’s been hard not to get angry and sad about it; it’s been frustrating that every pathology test after my surgery came back with the worst possible result; and it’s been hard to accept that modern medicine isn’t able to fix me.” At the same time, he wrote, “Every day I wake up not-dead is a gift.”

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The Mercenary Trader Macro Links were created by Justice “Jack” Litle, aka Justice Litle / Jack Litle — the founder of Mercenary Trader — to provide a compact summary of daily information flows. They are accessed via the Mercenary Research Suite, the flagship offering of Mercenary Trader, which combines trading education and trading research. To see how it works, click here.



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