Macro Links Feb 16th – Bitcoin 10K

Macro Links Feb 16th – Bitcoin 10K

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BITCOIN, CRYPTOCURRENCY, INITIAL COIN OFFERINGS

Bitcoin Hits $10,000 in Accelerating Recovery From Plunge – Bloomberg

Bitcoin is rallying for a seventh time in eight weekday sessions, a feat it hasn’t achieved since early December, and is heading for the biggest weekly gain in six. Optimism for cryptocurrencies is increasing this week as a flood of news on regulatory crackdowns earlier this year has been replaced with more positive headlines.

Bitcoin Uber-Bull Tom Lee Predicts a New Record High for July – Bloomberg

Bitcoin may be well off its mid-December peak of $19,511, but it will be touching new highs again by July, according to Fundstrat Global Advisors LLC’s Tom Lee. Based on an analysis of the 22 corrections of 20 percent or more that the digital coin has seen since 2010, Lee determined that in “bull” periods, Bitcoin takes about 1.7 times the duration of its decline to recover. That time frame implies that it will take 85 days for the cryptocurrency to fully bounce back from its latest plunge, which lasted for 50 days — meaning it should rise to fresh records by midyear.

MIT Professor Raises $4 Million to Build a Better Blockchain – CoinDesk

Algorand constitutes a digital currency and transaction platform, with its underlying protocol co-authored by MIT professor and Turing Award winner Silvio Micali. As previously reported by CoinDesk, the proof-of-stake-based system was on display at the Financial Cryptography and Data Security conference in Malta last year. Algorand represents the latest effort to build a wholly new blockchain system, and is aimed at tackling some of the perceived governance issues associated with distributed systems. The project plans to use the funds in order to build out its development team and support continued work on the protocol.

Soros Fund Becomes Number 3 Shareholder of Overstock | Cointelegraph

George Soros’ investment fund became the third-largest shareholder in the pro-cryptocurrency retailer Overstock last year, data shows, according to an article published by CNBC on Thursday, Feb. 15. Patrick Byrne’s online platform became the first major corporation of its type to accept Bitcoin for payments in 2014, a practice it continued before announcing a new trading-focused venture in September.

Spanish Party Weighs Tax Incentives to Lure Blockchain Firms – Bloomberg

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party is preparing legislation including possible tax breaks to attract companies using blockchain technology. It’s in Spain’s interest to attract those firms because the technology is a driver for business in industries such as finance, health and education, said Teodoro Garcia Egea, the lawmaker preparing the bill.

Cisco And Ukrainian Cyber Police Uncover $50 Mln Bitcoin Phishing Scam | Cointelegraph

Technology conglomerate Cisco and the Cyber Police of Ukraine have revealed a Ukrainian Bitcoin (BTC) phishing ring that has stole over $50 mln over a three year period, Cisco’s threat intelligence team Talos reports. Google Ads would appear to represent the real blockchain.info Bitcoin wallet by using domain names that closely resembled that of the official wallet, like blockchein.info. The phishing sites themselves are also designed to match the real site in every way except for the domain name.

Investors Warned of Cryptocurrency ‘Pump-and-Dump’ Schemes – WSJ

Regulators on Thursday warned consumers to beware of “pump-and-dump” manipulation schemes in virtual-currency markets as they try to rein in misconduct on unregulated spot exchanges. The guidance from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission targets schemes that rely on coordinated efforts to create phony demand for cryptocurrencies, followed by schemers quickly selling their stakes to take advantage of the inflated prices.

Trader Charged With Stealing $2 Million in Cryptocurrencies – Bloomberg

A Chicago trader working for Consolidated Trading LLC faces charges he stole $2 million in cryptocurrencies from his firm to cover his losses and then lied about it to cover gambling debts. Joseph Kim, 24, was charged with one count of wire fraud on Thursday in the first criminal prosecution involving the cryptocurrency trading industry to be brought by John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago. Kim is scheduled to appear in federal court in Chicago on Friday.

Five Siberian Power Plants Attracting Crypto Miners With Surplus Electricity – Bitcoin News

Cryptocurrency miners will soon be able to benefit from surplus electricity and the cold climate at five power plants located in Siberia. Russian energy company En+, which owns those power plants, is already in talks with investors to build crypto mining farms near them.

Atari Is Jumping on the Crypto Bandwagon – Bloomberg

Forget the joystick. Atari SA — perhaps best known for 1980s video-games “Pac-Man” and “Space Invaders” — is now jumping on the cryptocurrency bandwagon. Shares in the Paris-based company have soared more than 60 percent since it gave further details of its crypto push on Feb. 8, after first mentioning some of the plans in December.

Beating Bitcoin Requires Alt-Coin Traders to Mind Correlations – Bloomberg

Bitcoin’s leadership over other cryptocurrencies ebbs and flows — an unnerving factor for traders trying to score with the next hot digital coin. When Bitcoin rallied, its tight correlation with rivals broke down, according to a Bloomberg analysis. On the contrary, when it tumbled, the so-called alternative coins dropped in step in a synchronous way, regardless of their individual merits.

Coinbase is erratically overcharging some users and emptying their bank accounts – The Verge

A growing number of Coinbase customers are complaining on social media that the cryptocurrency exchange withdrew unauthorized money out of their accounts. In some cases, this drained their linked bank accounts below zero, resulting in overdraft charges.

Coinbase Says Customers Who Got Wrongly Charged Will Get Refunds – Bloomberg

Coinbase, the largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, said some customers’ credit and debit cards were incorrectly charged and pledged that they won’t be saddled with those costs.

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FOREX, CARRY TRADES, EXCHANGE RATES

No need for yen intervention, says Japan’s finance minister – FT

Speaking to the budget committee of the Diet’s lower house, Taro Aso said the “yen isn’t rising or falling abruptly” in a way that would justify the finance ministry stepping in and selling the currency. Against a backdrop of strong stock markets and solid global growth, Mr Aso’s remarks suggest the finance ministry does not yet fear a hit to Japan’s economy from the rising currency. His words may encourage markets to push the yen higher.

Dollar Drops to Lowest Level Since December 2014 – WSJ

The dollar fell to its lowest level in more than three years Thursday as renewed confidence among investors drew money away from the U.S. currency. The Wall Street Journal Dollar Index, which measures the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, was recently down 0.5% at 82.70, its lowest level since December 2014.

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HEALTHCARE, IMMIGRATION, BUDGET, INFRASTRUCTURE

Immigration bills fail in Congress, leaving ‘dreamers’ in limbo – The Washington Post

Weeks of intense negotiations for a bipartisan deal on immigration collapsed in Congress on Thursday, leaving hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants facing possible deportation. The rejection of four proposals in the Senate, coupled with a lack of consensus in the House, underscored the immense political pressures on Republicans and Democrats alike.

Trump’s Budget Cuts Funding for Manufacturing Program – WSJ

President Trump’s proposed budget calls for eliminating federal funding to a program that supports small manufacturers that the government has said created or protected more than 100,000 jobs in the last fiscal year alone.

Trump’s Gas-Tax Hike Goes Nowhere in Congress – Bloomberg

Despite backing from groups as wide ranging as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the lobby for truckers — and now President Donald Trump — a proposal to raise gas tax for the first time in 25 years appears to be going nowhere fast on Capitol Hill.

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TAXATION, WEALTH HAVENS, INEQUALITY

Tax Law Forces Revamps for Agriculture Firms – WSJ

Ethanol makers and family-owned grain companies are setting up agricultural cooperatives to benefit from a provision in the new tax law that gives farmers larger tax savings for selling crops to that kind of business.

Sears Jumps After Tax Overhaul Brings Surprise Quarterly Profit – Bloomberg

Sears Holdings Corp. got a boost in the latest quarter in the form of a tax benefit, giving a degree of relief to the beleaguered retailer even as sales continue to spiral.

Big Banks Got Huge Tax Cuts, Then Hiked Cities’ Interest Rates – Bloomberg

As U.S. banks were tallying up the billions of dollars in extra profits they’ll reap from the sweeping tax cuts signed into law by President Donald Trump, they were quietly delivering unwelcome news to local governments: The interest rates on their loans were about to go up.

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RUSSIA MEDDLING, RUSSIA PROBE

Steve Bannon met with Mueller multiple times over the past week – NBC News

Steve Bannon, who served as President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, NBC News has learned from two sources familiar with the proceedings.

Top Trump campaign adviser close to plea deal with Mueller – CNNPolitics

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case.

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INFLATION, RATES, DEBT AND CREDIT, BALANCE SHEETS

As Debt Ceiling Lifts, Flood of T-Bills Set to Jack Up Rates – Bloomberg

Get ready for the deluge of Treasury bills, and the increase in short-term funding costs that’s likely to accompany it. Investors are bracing for an onslaught of T-bill supply following last week’s U.S. debt ceiling suspension. That’s already prompting them to demand higher rates from borrowers across money markets. And that’s just a result of the government replenishing its cash hoard to normal levels.

Bond Investors Worry About the Tax Overhaul’s Long-Term Cost – WSJ

Bond investors are grappling with concerns that the U.S. government’s decisions to cut taxes and increase spending are stoking an economy that doesn’t need it, at the expense of long-term financial health. Selling in government bonds that began after the passage of tax cuts and accelerated amid fears of a pickup in inflation has darkened investors’ outlook in recent weeks.

China Holdings of U.S. Debt Rose in 2017 by Most in Seven Years – Bloomberg

China increased its holdings of U.S. Treasuries last year by the most since 2010, in a signal its demand for American debt remains resilient. China’s Treasury holdings are coming under extra scrutiny after a signal earlier this year that America’s largest creditor may be easing bond-buying amid rising trade tensions.

It’s Not China That Is Dumping US Treasurys, It’s Japan | Zero Hedge

While China appears content with its US paper inventory, it was the second largest foreign US creditor, Japan, that has been liquidating in recent months, and in December, Japan sold $22.6 billion in TSYs, bringing its total to $1,061.5BN, the lowest total since the start of 2012.

Inside the $700 Billion (and Growing) Bond-Bull Empire in Newark – Bloomberg

The ‘stay calm and carry on’ view on rates, which they’re applying across the firm’s assets, is far from consensus. Many investors say there’s nowhere to go but up for Treasury yields, with central banks unwinding post-crisis monetary stimulus and America’s fiscal picture deteriorating. So far this year, the bears are winning out: U.S. 10-year yields are close to a four-year high just below 2.9 percent, and the PGIM fund is suffering steeper losses than most rivals.

Bad News for Buyers: U.S. Mortgage Rates Hit Highest Since 2014 – Bloomberg

The average rate for 30-year home loans climbed this week to 4.38 percent, the highest since April 2014, according to Freddie Mac data released today. Inflation fears have sent yields for the 10-year Treasury, a benchmark for mortgages, soaring — and buyers are now rushing to lock in rates before they go even higher.

Markets Be Damned, Fed Has Inflation to Worry About – WSJ

What is different this time is the economy is about to get a double dose of stimulus from the tax cut and the budget deal. Coming at a time when the job market is already tight, the expected boost in growth may force the Fed to raise more than three times to keep inflation in check. That is not something investors expect.

Electronic Bond Trading Gains Ground – Bloomberg

Electronic trading in the $8 trillion U.S. corporate-bond market is beginning to heat up. A shift toward computerized buying and selling has taken place over several years, and the market is “finally” maturing, according to Kevin McPartland, head of market structure research at Greenwich Associates LLC, a financial-services consulting firm.

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VOLATILITY, BLACK SWANS, LIQUIDITY, TAIL RISKS

Inflation and Stocks Are Both Up, and That’s Stirring Some Worries – The New York Times

“Historically it’s impossible to name any threshold at which rising rates might trigger a rush for the exit or a bear market,” Mr. Stack said. “In most cases, stock prices can weather rising interest rates until they reach 5 to 6 percent, which was the case in 2000 and 2007.” But after years of such low interest rates, and with stock valuations extremely high, he said, “we’re dealing with what might be the most interest rate-sensitive stock market in our lifetime.”

Stocks Are Moving in Tandem. That Can Be Scary – WSJ

S&P 500 sectors are moving together more than they have in quite some time. For some investors, that raises red flags. Rising correlations can create more violent downturns when stocks do fall, as factors such as individual companies’ earnings potential or financial records tend to become less important than the broader fears driving selling in the stock market.

Lloyd Blankfein on the economy: Odds of a ‘bad outcome’ have gone up – Feb. 14, 2018

“The odds of a bad outcome have gone up,” the Goldman Sachs CEO told CNN’s Christine Romans in an interview airing Wednesday. Blankfein noted that the economy was already humming along before the federal government juiced it with $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and $300 billion of additional spending, pushing up the budget deficit. And now, President Trump has proposed a $200 billion infrastructure package. That kind of spending is normally reserved for recessions — or at least fragile recoveries — not booms.

VIX ETP Investors Quickly Forgive Turmoil and Get Back in the Game – Bloomberg

Exchange-traded products tracking VIX futures are seeing their first signs of life after investors yanked more than $570 million from two ETPs following the spike in market volatility.

Volatility holds key to bank revenue revival from 2017 slump: survey – Reuters

Revenues at the world’s 12 biggest investment banks fell to their lowest levels since 2008 last year, a survey showed on Friday, while a return to more volatile global markets in 2018 could be a mixed blessing for their business. “In January banks were thinking ‘2018 will be bad for equities revenues but not as bad as 2017’, but now with the volatility of the last two weeks all bets are off,” Amrit Shahani, research director at analytics firm Coalition said.

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MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

The White House Flouts the First Rule of Crisis Communications: Get the Facts Out Fast – The New York Times

The rule of thumb for crisis communications in any White House is to get a complete and accurate account of events out quickly, if for no other reason than to keep a negative story from lasting longer than it otherwise might. But President Trump’s White House has thrown out the rule book in so many ways. The continuing questions about Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned after being accused of abusing two former wives, have provided a case study in how shifting stories can make matters worse.

Here’s Why You Can’t Judge a Coin by Its Market Cap – Bitcoin News

As anyone with a cursory knowledge of market cap metrics will know, gaming the system is extremely easy. All it takes is for someone to create a shitcoin with a circulating supply of 150 billion, list it on an equally shit exchange, sell one coin for $1 and instantly it’s worth more than bitcoin. The same trick that propelled dentacoin into 21st spot in the cryptocurrency rankings last month has now done the same for ucash. The exchange it’s traded on, BTC-Alpha, is a dubious Russian site, registered in the UK, with 600 Telegram followers, less than 2,000 Twitter followers, and a logo that’s ripped off of Maestro. But because it’s listed on Coinmarketcap, it’s eligible for inclusion in what passes for crypto’s “official” ranking system.

The Short-Vol Trade: Someone Forgot to Turn Off the Machine ~ Macro Man

The real iceberg beneath the surface is the short-vol trade writ large. Put another way, as the avalanche of monetary stimulus compressed risk and pushed down expected returns, Wall Street needed a new asset class to sell in the search for yield. Pension funds needed to maintain high returns, and were ready to listen to the sales pitch for volatility as an asset class.

Tech Luminary Peter Thiel Parts Ways With Silicon Valley – WSJ

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is relocating his home and personal investment firms to Los Angeles from San Francisco and scaling back his involvement in the tech industry, people familiar with his thinking said, marking a rupture between Silicon Valley and its most prominent conservative.

Stock Picking Is a Lost Art in Japan – Bloomberg

With markets such as China taking center-stage in recent years, many investment firms have shifted away from granular analysis of individual Japanese stocks, said Taylor, who’s now chief investment officer for Asia Pacific at Deutsche Asset Management, which oversees $887 billion. Their focus on macro strategies means they miss opportunities to locate the companies benefiting the most from the country’s drive to make firms more shareholder-friendly.

Italy’s Recovery Has a Bitter Aftertaste – Bloomberg

While Italy has long been ruled by centrist coalitions, the economic malaise and job difficulties of many people, especially the young, have energized populists and extremists on the right and left. A Feb. 7 poll by Istituto Ixè Srl found that only 22 percent of the electorate would vote for the center-left Democratic Party that has governed since 2013—a sharp drop from the 41 percent the party got in the 2014 EU elections. The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which the Ixè poll says would take 28 percent, has become the single largest party.

A Chinese Company Has Conquered a Piece of America – Bloomberg

Given Macau’s status as a hub for industrial-scale money laundering, the Saipan figures have left gaming veterans astonished that they could be generated on U.S. soil, under Washington’s ostensible oversight. Eight casino executives and analysts interviewed for this story, all with extensive experience of the Asian gaming trade, said they saw no way such volumes could be generated legitimately. Asked if there could be a benign explanation for such instantaneous success at a casino more than three hours’ flight from any major city, on a drowsy island where the best hotel is a 1970s-era Hyatt, one of the executives burst out laughing.

Dalio Causes Stir With $18 Billion Rise in Europe Short Bets – Bloomberg

Ray Dalio, billionaire philosopher-king of the world’s biggest hedge fund, has a checklist to identify the best time to sell stocks: a strong economy, close to full employment and rising interest rates. Economic conditions in Europe appear to fit Dalio’s requirements. Last year, the continent’s economy grew at the fastest pace in a decade, and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi has indicated he’s on a slow path toward boosting rates as economic slack narrows. Factories around the world are finding it increasingly hard to keep up with demand, potentially forcing them to raise prices.

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USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

U.S. Homebuilder Sentiment Remains Near Highest Level Since 1999 – Bloomberg

Confidence among American homebuilders held steady in February near the highest level since 1999, suggesting that demand for housing is expected to remain strong, according to data Thursday from the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo.

Power Bills Are Eating Up Less of Your Paycheck Than Ever – Bloomberg

Consumer spending on electricity fell to 1.3 percent of personal consumption in 2017, the lowest in records dating to 1959, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. That’s down from a peak of 2.3 percent in 1982.

U.S. Road-Death Rates Remain Near 10-Year High – WSJ

U.S. motor-vehicle deaths remained near decade-high levels in 2017, an indication U.S. roadways aren’t getting any safer, even as auto makers equip cars with more safety gear and many other developed countries make notable strides in reducing highway fatalities.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY, INTERNATIONAL

Global Auto Sales to Hit Record, No Thanks to North America – Bloomberg

Global sales of cars and light trucks will rise 2.1 percent to a record 97.3 million vehicles in 2018, despite a second consecutive annual drop in North America, according to an LMC Automotive forecast.

Eurozone economy storms ahead in sharp contrast to Brexit-hit UK | The Independent

The eurozone posted strong industrial production figures for December, while growth data confirmed that the bloc’s economy enjoyed its fastest growth rate in a decade last year – in sharp contrast to the situation in the UK.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Amazon is bigger than Microsoft for the first time (AMZN, MSFT) | Markets Insider

Shares of the 23-year-old Amazon have far outpaced those of the 43-year-old Microsoft in the past year, rising 72% compared with 41%. The rise has made CEO Jeff Bezos the world’s richest person, a title he stole from Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.

Cisco Surges to Highest in 17 Years on Bullish Earnings Outlook – Bloomberg

Cisco Systems Inc. surged to a 17-year high in early trading Thursday after the maker of machinery that carries most of the world’s internet data gave a bullish forecast for sales and profit.

SEC Official Slams Dual-Class Shares Used by Alphabet, Snap – Bloomberg

Alphabet Inc., Snap Inc. and Facebook Inc. all have dual-share classes — a practice that has drawn criticism from investor advocates who say it can allow insiders to control companies for decades.

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REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL

NYC’s most expensive townhouse sets new record | New York Post

Ukrainian-born, Moscow-raised billionaire Len Blavatnik has paid a record $90 million for an Upper East Side mansion, sources told the Post. The seller, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, sold the home less than a year after buying it for a then-record price of $79.5 million last April, according to city property records.

Toronto Strain Drives 14.5% Plunge in Canadian Home Sales – Bloomberg

Canadian home sales plunged the most in a decade last month, driven by fewer transactions in a Toronto market squeezed by tougher mortgage lending rules and higher interest rates. The housing market is cooling off from heady price gains of 30 percent in Toronto after policy makers stepped in with measures including a foreign buyer tax. The January decline comes after a record December, when buyers rushed into the market before a new federal mortgage lending stress test came into force. The Bank of Canada raised its trend-setting interest rate last month for the third time since July.

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ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE

US on track to become world’s largest oil producer – FT

“All the indicators that suggest continued fast growth in the US are in perfect alignment,” the Paris-based energy body said in its monthly oil market report. The oil crash forced US producer companies to cut costs dramatically and become more efficient. Now, as oil prices have rebounded, they are drilling more wells and production is swelling again.

US set to become swing oil supplier – FT

The US, with its shale oil, becomes the effective swing supplier and the “call on US” — the demand for US crude to balance the market — becomes far more important a benchmark than the “call on Opec”. The short-cycle of shale also means that it is fairly responsive to price signals and in itself could be the main factor in making price stability elusive. Citi expects oil prices to swing by $25 or more annually for the next five years as it has for the last five.

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POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Household sprays rival diesel fumes for causing air pollution – FT

Volatile chemicals from everyday consumer items such as cleaning products, aerosols and even perfumes now rival vehicle emissions as a cause of air pollution. A research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached the surprising conclusion after assessing the source of chemicals that reacted in the air to form fine particles and other lung-damaging pollutants in the US city of Los Angeles.

There’s a New Contender for Title of Asia’s Most Polluted City – Bloomberg

Bangkok, the metropolis of gastronomic delights, infamous nightlife and swarming tourists, now has another sobriquet: it’s one of Asia’s most polluted cities, at least in the past couple of weeks.

The world’s orangutan population shrank by half in 16 years – The Washington Post

Bornean orangutans, the largest tree-dwellers on the planet, are vanishing. The population of these great apes was halved between 1999 and 2015, per an estimate published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. A survey of orangutan nests, coupled with a statistical analysis of habitat changes, indicates that more than 100,000 animals were lost in those 16 years. It is a dramatic drop for the animals who, because their genomes and unique physical characteristics so resemble ours, are among humans’ closest living relatives.

Amazon to pay $1.2 million in settlement over pesticide sales, U.S. says

Amazon.com Inc will pay a $1.2 million penalty to settle nearly 4,000 alleged violations of U.S. law in a move to prevent harmful exposure to pesticides through illegal sales, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday.

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BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

Japan thinks Brexit is an ‘act of self-harm’, says UK’s former ambassador | Politics | The Guardian

Japan sees Brexit as an act of economic and political self-harm that will reduce the United Kingdom’s influence on the world stage, says a former British ambassador to Tokyo. Sir David Warren, who served in the post from 2008 to 2012, argued it was time for plain speaking on the impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. He regarded the potential effect on UK-Japan relations as “grave”.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

In Pursuit of Peace, Trump Generates Rare Friction With Netanyahu – The New York Times

The pushback on Israel suggests that the White House is recalibrating its approach to Israel and the Palestinians as it wrestles with when, and how, to put a peace proposal on the table.

In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him – The New York Times

Israeli politics has always been noisily contentious, but with the prime minister facing possible bribery charges, the toxicity threatens to reach new heights. Now, as the prime minister awaits a possible criminal indictment, his efforts to cling to power could pose even greater strains on a society that already seems at risk of tearing itself apart.

Tillerson Meets Turkey’s Erdogan in Bid to Defuse an Emerging Crisis – WSJ

The U.S. and Turkey are attempting to bridge differences over their operations in northern Syria, holding a battery of meetings this week to defuse tensions between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies.

Twin brothers arrested in New York City for stockpiling bombmaking materials, authorities say – The Washington Post

A former New York City high school teacher and his twin brother were charged Thursday with attempting to make explosives, in part by paying students to extract gunpowder from fireworks, officials said. Christian and Tyler Toro, both 28 years old, had been gathering material to make a bomb since at least October, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI and the New York police announced the charges Thursday evening.

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PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE

India accused of creating identity card ‘big brother’ – FT

Critics argue that the scheme allows the government to spy on citizens by monitoring their movements and spending patterns in real time — in Mr Divan’s words, “an electronic leash by which you tether a citizen from birth”. They also say the data being collected are not secure — a view bolstered by a revelation by the Tribune newspaper that a reporter had been able to buy access to the database for Rs500 ($8).

U.K. Says Russia Behind Cyberattack That Crippled Global Firms – WSJ

British officials blamed Russia for last June’s massive “Petya” cyberattack, which crippled computer networks at multinational firms including FedEx, container-ship giant A.P. Moeller-Maersk and pharmaceutical firm Merck & Co.

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PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

Trump’s Inaugural Committee Paid $26 Million to Firm of First Lady’s Adviser – The New York Times

President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday.

Russia Blocks Aleksei Navalny’s Website, After His Inquiry Into an Oligarch – The New York Times

The Russian authorities blocked the website of a prominent opposition leader Thursday after he refused a court order to remove a posted video accusing a high-ranking official of accepting a bribe from a rich businessman.

Russian opposition leader Navalny’s name shifts snow in Moscow – BBC News

Posts on Facebook and Twitter have received thousands of likes, after disgruntled residents took to social media, saying that they tried spray-painting “Navalny” on the city’s deep snow out of frustration at the authorities’ slowness in removing them. One user said the move prompted immediate reaction and that council workers removed the graffiti “within hours”.

Public confrontations prompted Pruitt to switch to first-class travel, EPA says – The Washington Post

Verbal confrontations with members of the public prompted Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to switch to flying first or business class whenever possible, officials said Thursday. Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, flew coach for every trip she took except for one trip to Davos, Switzerland, when she was upgraded, according to a former EPA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security arrangements.

How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times

A Tennessee truck dealership lavished a local Republican congresswoman with campaign donations. It also sells “Make Trucks Great Again” caps. The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.

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TRUMP WORLD

Trump Lawyer’s Payment to Porn Star Raises New Questions – The New York Times

The admission by President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer that he sent $130,000 to a pornographic film actress is raising new legal, ethical and factual questions.

Stormy Daniels Kept Dress From Alleged Trump Affair, Will Test for DNA

Stormy Daniels pulled a Monica Lewinsky and held on to the dress she wore to an alleged hotel rendezvous with President Donald Trump, and now we are told she’s going to get it tested for DNA to back up her story.

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HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS

Ultra-processed foods ‘linked to cancer’ – BBC News

A link between highly processed foods and cancer has been suggested by French researchers. They classified foods including cakes, chicken nuggets and mass-produced bread as “ultra-processed”. A study of 105,000 people hinted the more of such foods people ate, the greater their risk of cancer.

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