Macro Links Oct 23rd – Victory and Crisis
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MACRO LINKS TABLE OF CONTENTS (Click or Scroll Down)
- JAPANESE ELECTION, ABE LANDSLIDE VICTORY
- CATALAN CRISIS ESCALATES
- CZECH, ARGENTINE, NZ ELECTIONS
- MCCAIN VS TRUMP, RUSSIA RESPONSE
- GOP TAX PLAN
- JFK DOCUMENTS, RUSSIA GAMES
- NIGER INCIDENT, GOLD STAR FAMILIES
- WHITE HOUSE, GOP
- TESLA IN CHINA
- PUERTO RICO, FEMA
- NUCLEAR BOMBERS, SOUTH KOREA
- FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND DEMOCRACY
- SEXUAL HARASSMENT FALLOUT
- CRYPTOCURRENCIES, ICO BOOM
- CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES
- RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
- MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
- CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
- USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
- GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
- POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
- COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
- DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
- REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
- HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
- ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
- ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
- GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
- PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
- PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
- TRUMP WORLD
- ELECTORAL POLITICS
- SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
- SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
- MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
- AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
- HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
JAPANESE ELECTION, ABE LANDSLIDE VICTORY
The landslide victory in Japan for the party behind Abenomics is likely to be good news for industries from nuclear power to defense, while posing challenges to others such as retailers.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition retained its two-thirds majority in the lower house in Sunday’s election, paving the way for more ultra-easy monetary policy that has boosted Japanese stocks to the highest level in two decades and helped Asia’s second-biggest economy expand for six straight quarters. At the same time, pressure is growing for Abe to increase stagnant wage growth and overhaul the labor market to replenish a rapidly aging workforce.
Aggressive economic policy since Mr Abe’s first election victory in 2012 has delivered Japan’s strongest labour market since the mid 1970s. However, inflation has remained stuck close to zero.
The prime minister’s election victory will mean further fiscal stimulus and boosted the odds that Haruhiko Kuroda will be reappointed as governor of the Bank of Japan next March. Now in office for a historic third term, Mr Abe would become the longest serving Japanese leader of the modern era if he continues until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
For Mr. Abe, the results were a vindication of his strategy to call a snap election a year earlier than expected, and they raised the possibility that he would move swiftly to try to change the Constitution to make explicit the legality of the Self-Defense Forces, as Japan’s military is known.
The Constitution, in place since 1947, calls for the renunciation of war, and Mr. Abe said in May that it should be amended to remove any doubt about the military’s legitimacy, a view he reiterated on Sunday evening.
A challenge to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike fell far short, highlighting the often-underestimated political skills of a prime minister poised to extend his five years in office.
The yen fell to the lowest in more than three months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition secured an election victory Sunday — removing uncertainty over the country’s central bank policy.
The Nikkei Stock Average has risen each day this month, and closed 1.1% higher Monday. It was the 15th straight day the Nikkei recorded gains, the longest-ever streak, surpassing the benchmark Japanese index’s previous stretch of 14 straight gains in the early 1960s. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s clear victory in Sunday’s general election has only added to the bullish sentiment engulfing the market.
CATALAN CRISIS ESCALATES
The Spanish government this weekend said it would sack the entire Catalan government and call new regional elections within six months in an extreme move set to crush the regional independence movement.
Mariano Rajoy, Spanish prime minister, said the Catalan president as well as his cabinet would be removed from office, with Madrid taking direct control of all government ministries and public institutions, including the police and public media.
The move to trigger Article 155 of the Spanish constitution — which gives Madrid the right to take “necessary measures” to ensure compliance of any rogue region — still need Senate approval, which is expected on Thursday. Mr Rajoy hopes that will be a decisive blow against the Catalan separatist campaign that has divided the country and put Spain’s economic expansion at risk.
Mariano Rajoy, in an unexpectedly forceful move, said Madrid would take control of the independence-minded region, pushing out its separatist administration.
The situation probably never had to come to this extreme point, but now that it has, there is plenty of blame to share — and potentially worse pitfalls ahead on what amounts to a precarious and deeply uncertain path for a modern European democracy.
In announcing his emergency measures on Saturday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy took a backhanded slap at his chief antagonist in the dispute, Carles Puigdemont, the leader of Catalonia, a region where, he said, “things can’t be done worse.”
But analysts say that Mr. Rajoy, too, shares the blame for allowing the conflict to spin dangerously out of control and that the remedy he has chosen is by no means assured to be a cure.
The Spanish government and separatists prepared Sunday for a critical week in Catalonia’s crisis after Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sought new powers to remove the region’s secessionist leaders.
In a vague statement last week, the president of the Catalan Parliament, Carles Puigdemont, said that the referendum had given him a mandate to declare independence — before saying, seconds later, that he had suspended the declaration to allow for dialogue with the central Spanish government in Madrid.
In response, the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, asked Mr. Puigdemont to clarify by Thursday whether he had declared independence. After he did not disavow the possibility, Mr. Rajoy began the process of invoking Article 155.
Speaking in Barcelona on Saturday night, Mr Puigdemont denounced Mr Rajoy’s move. He said the Spanish government was attempting the “worst attack on the institutions and people of Catalonia since the decrees of the military dictator Francisco Franco abolishing the Generalitat [parliament] of Catalonia”.
He said Catalonia “cannot accept this attack” and that he would convene a session of the regional parliament in the coming days to decide how to respond.
It all comes down to Article 155 of the constitution, a short passage that gives the legal green light for Spain to revoke the semi-autonomy of Catalonia. Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said at a press conference in Madrid on Friday that it would be applied in a “prudent, proportionate and gradual manner.”
The problem for Rajoy is that the separatists already proved with their makeshift referendum on Oct. 1 that they can ignore edicts from Madrid with a degree of success. That means he will need to back up his ruling with people on the ground, and it didn’t work as planned the last time around.
For the EU, the risks come from two directions. On the one side, the Spanish government’s imposition of direct rule on Catalonia, if implemented with too heavy a hand, may provoke widespread civil disobedience in the region. It may tarnish the EU’s reputation as a club of democracies whose member states apply the rule of law in a measured, responsible way.
On the other side, the Catalan secessionists’ drive for independence, if pursued still more recklessly than it has been since early September, may entrench the region’s political and social divisions and push a compromise further beyond reach. A formal declaration of independence would strike at the heart of the EU, which is organised on the principle of close co-operation among sovereign states with mutually recognised borders.
The fallout of political instability in Catalonia is being felt across the whole economy. Real estate investment in the region, both domestic and foreign, is drying up. Starwood European Real Estate Finance, the European subsidiary of the U.S. property giant Starwood Capital, has announced that it’s shifting its focus away not only from Catalonia but Spain as a whole, and toward more stable European markets.
It’s not just investments that have been put on hold. People are not spending much either. Important consumer purchases have been put on hold until some semblance of stability returns, and people are not going out as much as before. Based on my own observations, the bars are emptier and the streets are quieter.
Tourism to Catalonia, Spain’s most visited region last year, slumped by 15% in the two weeks following the referendum on independence, according to industry experts. Catalonia received about 18 million visitors last year, and tourism accounts for around 12% of the region’s GDP, with industry and trade as the other main contributors.
CZECH, ARGENTINE, NZ ELECTIONS
The party founded by billionaire tycoon Andrej Babis scored a resounding victory in the Czech Republic’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, as the central European country became the latest EU state to witness a surge in support for populist groups.
“This is an earthquake. It’s a total revolt against the established parties and the mainstream,” said Milan Nic, of the German Council on Foreign Relations. “Since the 1990s I can’t recall elections that changed the political landscape so much.”
The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, crudely insulted reporters by showing off a replica AK-47 with the inscription “for journalists” — less than a week after an investigative journalist in Malta was killed by a car bomb.
Zeman brandished the fake assault rifle during a press conference on Friday, as Czechs voted to elect populist billionaire Andrej Babis as prime minister. Zeman said on Saturday that he would name Babis as the country’s prime minister. Critics however are concerned that Babis’ media dominance — he owns two of the country’s leading newspapers and a radio station — will lead to conflicts of interest. In addition to Babis’ success, the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy party (SPD) made surprising gains in the election, potentially positioning them as the country’s political kingmakers.
Zeman’s stunt on Friday aren’t the first time he’s made incendiary remarks towards the press. He has previously referred to journalists as “manure” and “hyenas.” In May, he shared a joke with Vladimir Putin that some of the journalists at an event he was at needed to be “liquidated” — a controversy which caused uproar in the central European country. In 2016, Zeman also urged Czechs to arm themselves against a potential “Super Holocaust” which would apparently be carried out by Muslims.
The governing coalition of President Mauricio Macri of Argentina won decisive victories in key districts across the country in midterm elections Sunday that were widely seen as a referendum on the center-right leader’s first two years in office.
The election sweep strengthens Mr. Macri’s ability to carry out economic changes he says are necessary to improve the country’s economy, and the results automatically position him as a candidate for re-election in 2019. “Today, the winner wasn’t a group of candidates nor a party. Today the winner was the certainty that we can change history forever,” a beaming Mr. Macri said at his campaign headquarters before he danced on stage alongside his wife, Juliana Awada, and key members of his coalition.
President Mauricio Macri won broad backing from Argentines in a key midterm election, paving the way for tax cuts and other pro-business policies.
For a woman who only became leader of New Zealand’s center-left Labour Party 10 weeks ago, her swift ascension to leader of the country was, according to former Prime Minister Helen Clark, “extraordinary.”
Promising change and a “fairer deal” for marginalized New Zealanders, Ms. Ardern invigorated progressive and young voters and reversed the fortunes of the Labour Party. Its woeful position around 24 percent in the polls helped force out the previous leader, Andrew Little, but Ms. Ardern led the party to a respectable 36.9 percent in the election on Sept. 23.
A slower growth outlook leaves New Zealand’s dollar on course for further weakness and will mean interest rates stay lower for longer, according to Morgan Stanley analysts.
New policies proposed by the incoming coalition government are likely to hurt the outlook for the kiwi dollar, said analysts including Daniel Blake, who flagged particular concern around proposals to limit immigration and plans that would affect the housing market. Jacinda Ardern is set to become New Zealand’s prime minister and the world’s youngest female leader after her Labour Party, which advocates a capital gains tax to damp property speculation and placing restrictions on foreign ownership of properties, joined forces with New Zealand First.
Growth worries aren’t unique to Morgan Stanley, with investors fleeing the currency in the wake of Thursday’s development. The country’s currency is the worst performing among the Group of 10 nations this month. It tumbled 1.7 percent to 70.29 U.S. cents as of 9:53 a.m. in Wellington on Friday.
MCCAIN VS TRUMP, RUSSIA RESPONSE
McCain, whose status as a war hero Trump publicly and controversially doubted as a 2016 presidential candidate, appeared to retaliate in kind against the president in a C-SPAN interview about the Vietnam War airing Sunday night.
In the interview, McCain pointed to wealthy Americans who were able to get out of being drafted into service in the conflict in which he spent years as a prisoner of war. And he pointed to a very specific type of deferment which Trump just happened to use.
“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,” McCain said. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”
In twin speeches — one in July, where he issued a call to bipartisanship in the Senate, and another in Philadelphia this past week, where he railed against “half-baked, spurious nationalism” — Mr. McCain has taken on both his colleagues and President Trump. In the process, his friends and fellow senators say, he has carved out a new role for himself on Capitol Hill: elder statesman and truth-teller.
“Even if John were not ill, with his experience and age, there is a part of you that I think begins to focus on your legacy,” said former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a close friend of Mr. McCain’s. But with cancer, Mr. Biden said, “he’s in the fight of his life, and he knows it.”
Lindsay Graham said Sunday the Trump administration “is slow” when it comes to punitive policies on Russia, citing their failure to implement congressionally approved sanctions on the country.
“I think the Trump administration is slow when it comes to Russia. They have a blind spot on Russia I still can’t figure out,” the South Carolina senator said in an interview with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press.
GOP TAX PLAN
The Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee — engaged in a high-pressure, high-stakes tax policy rewrite — are currently exploring not cutting the income tax rate for people who earn $1 million or more per year.
Potential blowback: If the Committee Republicans ultimately decide not to cut the income tax rate for million-dollar-earners, much of the Republican donor class and Reaganomics community (including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist) will feel betrayed.
President Donald Trump has voiced support for a higher tax bracket for the wealthy after criticism that the Republicans’ long-planned tax overhaul would mostly benefit rich Americans.
The Republican tax plan released last month proposed slashing seven tax brackets to three, and reducing the top rate from 39.6 per cent to 35 per cent. But Paul Ryan, the House speaker, on Friday said the plan would include a fourth bracket to ensure that “we don’t have a big drop in income tax rates for high-income people”.
Mr Trump on Sunday said in an interview with Fox News that he would prefer not to have what he referred to as a fifth bracket — counting people with incomes so low they do not pay federal income tax as a separate bracket — but said he wanted “to make sure the middle class gets taken care of” even if that required another category.
World stocks advanced, bond yields rose and the U.S. dollar strengthened on Friday on increased hopes President Donald Trump could make progress on his fiscal plans after the U.S. Senate approved a budget blueprint that paves the way for tax cuts.
JFK DOCUMENTS, RUSSIA GAMES
President Donald Trump said he would release all previously undisclosed documents related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy by the Oct. 26 deadline.
The case of Sergei L. Magnitsky, the Russian tax lawyer who was imprisoned in 2008 on false charges and died in jail, began as a tragedy. But now, after years of sanctions, countersanctions, bitter feuds and one noteworthy meeting in Trump Tower, the case seems to be entering the realm of farce.
“This is going on because my role in their troubles just seems to be escalating,” Mr. Browder said in a telephone interview, alluding to the sanctions. A Russian court has already convicted Mr. Browder in absentia of fraud in a case he called retaliation for his lobbying against the government of President Vladimir V. Putin.
Russia has placed a prominent British businessman on the Interpol wanted list. President Vladimir Putin is understood to have sanctioned the move against Bill Browder, who has led an international campaign against Russia over the killing of the jailed Moscow lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
On Wednesday Canada became the latest country to pass a “Magnitsky Act”, targeting officials “who have committed gross violations” of human rights. The move infuriated Putin, who accused Canada of playing “unconstructive political games” and later name-checked Browder for pursuing what the Russian president described as “illegal activity”.
On Saturday it emerged that Russia had placed the US-born British citizen on Interpol’s list, exploiting a loophole that lets countries unilaterally place individuals on its database used to request an arrest. Browder said he was alerted to the move by an email from the US department of homeland security, stating his “global entry status” had been revoked. Further calls confirmed he had been added to Interpol’s list via an arrest demand, known as a “diffusion”.
Moscow has a habit of using Interpol against its enemies and has previously used the global police organisation to pursue what many western governments view as a vendetta against Browder. Putin tried three times between 2012 and 2015 to get Interpol to issue arrest orders against Browder, but failed to convince the organisation that it did not have political motives.
NIGER INCIDENT, GOLD STAR FAMILIES
There are lots of questions, fewer answers, and a healthy dose of conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths of four American troops in Niger earlier this month — a tragedy that has swiftly intensified into a fierce brawl over whether the Trump administration mishandled the mission.
The comparisons to Benghazi, the coordinated attack against U.S. facilities in Libya in 2012 that killed a pair of diplomats and two CIA contractors — and spawned a series of hotly partisan but largely inconclusive election-season probes — may have been inevitable.
But such comparisons and the conjecture being shopped around to explain what happened and why threaten to overpower the rigorous bipartisan scrutiny that is needed, warn retired military officers and experts who study American military involvement in Africa.
The Pentagon is trying to determine whether American forces involved in a deadly ambush in Niger this month diverted from their routine patrol to embark on an unapproved mission, military officials said on Friday.
The questions have come up because the American and Nigerien soldiers on the patrol have given conflicting accounts about whether they were simply ambushed or were attacked after trying to chase Islamic insurgents, according to military officials from both countries.
The episode has engulfed the White House in crisis and prompted demands from members of Congress for answers about what the soldiers were doing before the attack on Oct. 4.
A senior congressional aide who has been briefed on the deaths of four U.S. servicemen in Niger says the ambush by militants stemmed in part from a “massive intelligence failure.”
The Pentagon has said that 40 to 50 militants ambushed a 12-man U.S. force in Niger on Oct. 4, killing four and wounding two. The U.S. patrol was seen as routine and had been carried out nearly 30 times in the six months before the attack, the Pentagon has reported.
The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly, said the House and Senate armed services committees have questions about the scope of the U.S. mission in Niger, and whether the Pentagon is properly supporting the troops on the ground there.
In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.
The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.
Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.
The exchange between the White House and the Defense secretary’s office occurred about 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. The White House asked the Pentagon for information about surviving family members of all servicemembers killed after Trump’s inauguration so that the president could be sure to contact all of them.
Four families of fallen servicemembers received next-day UPS letters from President Trump after a turbulent week in which Trump falsely claimed he had called “virtually all” of the families.
WHITE HOUSE, GOP
Old tweets posted by President Trump in which he attacked generals resurfaced Friday after the White House said it was “inappropriate” to criticize them.
President Donald Trump is siding with Republican Senate incumbents in key re-election races, potentially putting him on a collision course with Steve Bannon, the onetime White House chief strategist who has declared a “season of war” on their party’s establishment.
When a group of Cub Scouts met with a Colorado state senator this month, they asked her about some of the most controversial topics in the nation: gun control, the environment, race and the proposed border wall between the United States and Mexico.
But questions from one Cub Scout, Ames Mayfield, 11, got him kicked out of his den in Broomfield, Colo., according to his mother, Lori Mayfield. At the meeting on Oct. 9, for which the scouts were told to prepare questions for State Senator Vicki Marble, Ms. Mayfield recorded her son asking the senator why she would not support “common-sense gun laws.”
“I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun,” Ames said in a question that took more than two minutes. He continued, “Why on earth would you want somebody who beats their wife to have access to a gun?”
TESLA IN CHINA
The deal with Shanghai’s government will allow the Silicon Valley auto maker to build a wholly owned factory in the city’s free-trade zone, these people said. This arrangement, the first of its kind for a foreign auto maker, could enable Tesla to slash production costs, but it would still likely incur China’s 25% import tariff.
Tesla is currently working with the Shanghai government about details of the deal’s announcement, such as timing, one of these people said. The effort comes as President Donald Trump, who has been critical of China’s trade policies, prepares to visit Beijing early next month.
Tesla is moving closer to becoming the first foreign car company to have a wholly owned manufacturing operation in China, a deal that would test the relationship norms between a foreign automaker and the Chinese government.
For Tesla and other manufacturers, their production options in China are limited by the government. One option is to set up a joint venture, sharing much of their technology and profits with a Chinese partner. The other is to manufacture in a free-trade zone in China, protecting their secrets but forking over steep tariffs.
Carmakers usually end up in a joint venture. That Tesla is striking a different deal reflects China’s global ambitions to dominate the electric car industry.
Electric car maker Tesla Inc reaffirmed on Sunday it is talking with the Shanghai municipal government to set up a factory in the region and expects to agree on a plan by the end of the year, but declined to comment on a report that a deal has been reached.
PUERTO RICO, FEMA
A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans believe that the federal government has been too slow to respond in Puerto Rico and that the island still isn’t getting the help it needs. But the results largely broke along party lines: While nearly three-quarters of Democrats said the federal government isn’t doing enough, almost three-quarters of Republicans said it is.
It has been a month since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm and pummeled the island with sustained winds of 155 mph. The storm devastated Puerto Rico’s water system, power grid, road network and cellphone infrastructure, and Maria is now responsible for at least 48 deaths.
According to interviews with dozens of storm victims, one of the busiest hurricane seasons in years has overwhelmed federal disaster officials. As a result, the government’s response in the two biggest affected states — Texas and Florida — has been scattershot: effective in dealing with immediate needs, but unreliable and at times inadequate in handling the aftermath, as thousands of people face unusually long delays in getting basic disaster assistance.
NUCLEAR BOMBERS, SOUTH KOREA
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.
That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base’s 11,000-foot runway — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings — could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
Opponents of nuclear power, who have gained momentum in South Korea since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 and supported Mr. Moon during his campaign, wanted him to block the two reactors. But conservative media outlets and politicians, as well as the nuclear industry itself, have been just as vocal, insisting that nuclear remained a cheap, clean and reliable source of energy for South Korea, which produces neither crude oil nor natural gas.
FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND DEMOCRACY
If telling us what to look at next is Facebook’s raison d’être, then the AI that enables that endless spoon-feeding of content is the company’s most important, and sometimes most controversial, intellectual property. A sorted, curated feed tuned for engagement is the product of a device that may someday be viewed by historians as a milestone on par with the steam engine.
Only this engine, built to capture human attention, has shown itself to be exploitable by bad actors and possibly detrimental to our democracy, even when it is functioning as advertised. This has prompted congressional hearings for Facebook and other tech companies, scheduled for November. Facebook has been a vessel for Russian influence and the spread of fake news, and a potential cause for envy and unhappiness. The personalization of content that Facebook’s master algorithm allows, and the hyperpartisan news sites that have risen to feed it, have created, for many users, personalized “filter bubbles” of what is essentially nonoverlapping reality.
Facebook’s fastest-growing markets are in the developing world, where the problem of fake news is even more devilishly complicated and dangerous, if that’s possible, than in the West. In rapidly changing countries such as Myanmar, Facebook has become a platform for hate speech and incendiary rumors targeted at vulnerable minority groups. Elsewhere, shadowy political actors and authoritarian regimes have used the site to smear opponents and tighten their grip on power.
In such countries, users are often new to the web and digital literacy is low. In many cases, people have been subjected for decades to laughably inaccurate state propaganda and lack independent media alternatives; what appears on Facebook is widely accepted as news. Where legitimate press outlets do exist, they rarely have the resources to fact-check and combat misinformation on their own.
And, as serious as the undermining of elections and erosion of Western institutions is, the consequences of letting these lies circulate unchecked in the developing world may be even more frightening. In India, Facebook’s second-biggest market, fake stories spread on its WhatsApp messaging service have led to lynchings; in Myanmar, Facebook posts and fake images have contributed to the toxic hatred of Rohingya Muslims, more than 500,000 of whom have been driven from their homes since late August. Religious tensions in Indonesia are running higher than they have in years, in part due to a fake-news campaign cynically used to demonize and oust Jakarta’s Christian governor.
To truly understand how Facebook is responding to its role in the election and the ensuing morass, numerous sources inside and close to the company pointed to its unemotional engineering-driven culture, which they argue is largely guided by a quantitative approach to problems. It’s one that views nearly all content as agnostic, and everything else as a math problem. As that viewpoint has run headfirst into the wall of political reality, complete with congressional inquiries and multiple public mea culpas from its boy king CEO, a crisis of perception now brews.
The social media giant has been urged by a senior MP to reveal what it knows about potential interference in the referendum after researchers discovered a bot network that vanished within weeks of the vote.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT FALLOUT
In January, the Fox News host was said to have agreed to a $32 million settlement with a former network analyst, the largest of his known payouts.
Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox is facing renewed scrutiny after it emerged that it had signed a new $25m contract with its star Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in February — despite knowing that he had agreed a settlement with a previously undisclosed woman who had accused him of sexual harassment.
“It’s a common thread among many women I know … after someone mentions they were sexually abused by a creepy writer-director, the response is, ‘Oh, no. You got Toback-ed,’” said Karen Sklaire, a New York drama teacher, actor and playwright who said a 1997 meeting with Toback in an office ended with him grinding against her leg. “The numbers are staggering.”
Two board members of The Weinstein Company tried for years to investigate co-founder Harvey Weinstein, only to run into “super lawyers” who acted for him after allegations of sexual misconduct and questionable financial dealings and expenses.
The concerns by the independent directors predate the accusations of sexual harassment that erupted against Mr Weinstein this month. They surface in correspondence between the directors and Mr Weinstein’s attorneys — including David Boies, the lawyer who acted for Al Gore in the contested 2000 presidential election.
The letters, seen by the Financial Times, reveal a tug of war between Mr Weinstein’s lawyers and the independent board members over an explosive personnel file the directors say they were denied access to.
Amazon’s handling of accusations of sexual harassment involving Roy Price, who ran its movie and television operations, has set off confusion, debate and finger-pointing.
Besh, 49, is one of the most recognizable and widely lauded New Orleans chefs of the past 20 years. A former Marine combat veteran who grew up in Slidell, he’s an award-winning food world celebrity with a leading man’s mien. His career began in the 1990s and took off with the opening of Restaurant August, in 2001 – the only still-open New Orleans restaurant to have been awarded five beans, The Times-Picayune’s highest critical rating, since 2000.
A typical confidentiality clause prohibits the employee not only from revealing the amount paid to her but also from discussing the facts and allegations relating to the underlying events. Often, these clauses contain a “liquidated damages” provision: If the facts are revealed, the employee automatically owes the employer some astronomical sum. Liquidated damages generally include the amount paid in the settlement and sometimes much more, especially if the settlement amount was small. This keeps many victims of harassment from making their experiences known to others who might face the same dangers.
Fidelity Investments is moving to address long-simmering problems with workplace conduct following allegations of sexual harassment and bullying that led to the ouster of some high-profile employees at the mutual-fund giant.
Since the article came out, the outrage has been overwhelmingly directed towards Argento. Opinion writer Renato Farina claimed that actresses “first give it away, then whine and fake regret.” He suggested that women like Argento used sex to further their career, calling what happened “prostitution, not rape.” Vittorio Feltri, editor-in-chief of right-wing publication Libero, doubled down, saying in a radio interview that because the actress wasn’t violently harmed, the sex must have been consensual—even suggesting that she was in debt to the Weinstein for the pleasure. Art critic, writer and politician Vittorio Sgarbi has said, “I have the feeling that he was actually assaulted by her.” And while the actress was in a TV interview talking about the rape accusations, writer and journalist Mario Adinolfi tweeted that Argento was “trying to justify high-society prostitution.” To escape the wave of acrimony that has emerged in Italy, the actress recently announced she’ll be moving to Germany.
In Italy, sexual harassment is still often blamed on the woman, even by those who are closest to her. Morgan, the Italian musician who was Argento’s partner of seven years and has a daughter with her, threw a shadow of doubt on her accusations, saying that Argento had never complained about Weinstein, and that they had a loving relationship as far as he knew. Italian fashion photographer Marcello Cassano, speaking about another victim of Weinstein’s, model Ambra Battilana, said she was merely a victim “of her own beauty.”
CRYPTOCURRENCIES, ICO BOOM
And as inflation in Venezuela has spiraled further out of control – by one estimated, it peaked above 2,400% in September – more Venezuelans are resorting to mining bitcoin, litecoin and other digital currencies as a means of coping with the country’s out-of-control hyperinflation and surviving in a country where staples like food and medicine are scarce.
Just about anyone can call themselves a startup, make promises of future products or services, and sell digital tokens to raise funds. These digital tokens become tradable cryptocurrencies. Buyers do not receive any ownership of the startup, which is what traditional startup investors get. Instead they’re usually promised something in the future, such as free access to the service once available. It doesn’t really matter what the promises are because people buy the tokens to get rich, hoping that they’re getting into the hottest cryptocurrency on the ground floor. ICOs are not regulated and anything goes.
So far this year, there have been 202 ICOs that have raised just over $3 billion, according to the Financial Times.
Including those ICOs, there are now about 1,000 cryptocurrencies with a total market capitalization of around $170 billion, from bitcoin on down. Hundreds have fizzled, their value has evaporated, and trading activity has died. Whoever bought them has now become the end user of a useless digital token.
Bitcoin is booming, digital currency hedge funds are sprouting at the rate of two a week and the value of all cryptocurrencies has surged tenfold this year to more than $170 billion.
Yet for all the hype, mainstream institutional investors are steering clear of the nascent market, taking the view that it is too lightly regulated, too volatile and too illiquid to risk investing other people’s money in. This year, though, a flood of new hedge funds focused on cryptocurrencies has offered institutional investors who might be unfamiliar with the market a potential route into the world of digital currencies.
A Florida software engineer who came to the U.S. from Ukraine as a teenager seeking the American dream was sentenced to 16 months in prison for his role in building an illegal bitcoin exchange — one that allegedly laundered money for a global hacking ring.
Mr Belfort, who spent 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money-laundering, drew parallels to the fashion for “blind pools” in the 1970s and 80s, when companies raised funds from investors without specifying how the money would be spent. Many pools were dissolved without making a single investment — but not before brokers made off with big fees.
“Promoters [of ICOs] are perpetuating a massive scam of the highest order on everyone,” he said. “Probably 85 per cent of people out there don’t have bad intentions, but the problem is, if five or 10 per cent are trying to scam you, it’s a f**king disaster.”
“Everyone and their grandmother wants to jump in right now,” he said. “I’m not saying there’s something wrong with the idea of cryptocurrencies, or even tulip bulbs. It’s the people who will then get involved and bastardise the idea.”
“It is the biggest scam ever, such a huge gigantic scam that’s going to blow up in so many people’s faces. It’s far worse than anything I was ever doing,” he said.
Bitcoin surged to a record high of more than $6,000 on Friday, pushing its market capitalization to $100 billion at one point, as investors continued to bet on an asset that has a limited supply and has paved the way for a whole slew of crypto-currencies.
Acres of vines were burned and many key winemaking facilities destroyed in the wildfires that have spread through much of the region this month. But the 2017 vintage was largely already harvested, and vintners are focused on the future.
“It’s a crime scene for us until we determine otherwise,” said Ron Eldridge, the deputy chief of law enforcement for Cal Fire, the agency leading the investigation. “Was there negligence or was there a violation of law? That’s ultimately what we are trying to determine.”
Among the thousands of wildfires recorded in California in recent years, most have been caused by human activity: sparks from rocks sliced by lawn mower blades; children playing with fire; arson; fireworks; welding torches; even satanic rituals.
For the state’s 160 full-time fire investigators, many of whom have been sent to the suspected points of origin of 17 fires in Northern California, the stakes have never been higher.
Mountains of ash and fire debris are piled into gray mounds. Two dozen schools filled with ash and soot are closed through at least next Friday; one school burned down. Around 10,000 city residents are homeless—among them 78 schoolteachers and 134 staff members and physicians of its biggest hospital. Business owners are taking stock of damages and lost sales.
The Northern California wildfires that ignited two weeks ago have so far burned more than 200,000 acres in eight counties and destroyed more than 5,000 homes and killed at least 42 people—the deadliest wildfire outbreak in state history.
But it was Santa Rosa that took a direct hit from the firestorm. The city of 175,000 lost 3,000 homes, or 5% of its housing stock, and 400,000 square feet of commercial space. Of the $3 billion in damage to Sonoma County, $1 billion is in Santa Rosa.
RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS
Complex structured investments developed a bad reputation during the credit crunch. Ten years later, investors seeking yield are overcoming their skepticism and buying into securities that rely on financial engineering to juice returns.
Volumes of CLOs, or collateralized loan obligations, hit a record $247 billion in the first nine months of the year, according to data from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Fueled by a wave of refinancings and nearly $100 billion in new deals, that far outpaces their recent full-year high of $151 billion in 2014 and the precrisis peak of $136 billion in 2006.
The CLO boom is the latest sign of the ferocious hunt for yield permeating markets. Stellar performance over the past year has made CLOs increasingly hard to ignore for investors like insurance companies and pension funds.
CLOs are one of the largest demand sources for the leveraged loan market, which has also been booming this year. Volumes of leveraged loans, often used by private-equity firms to fund buyouts, are on track to surpass their 2007 record, according to LCD, a unit of S&P Global Market Intelligence. At the same time, investors have voiced concerns about companies’ rising leverage level, and weaker creditor protections.
This is where the Fed begins to worry: The spread between the two-year and the 10-year yields dropped to 0.75 percentage points on Thursday, the lowest since November 2007. At the time, the spread was widening after having been negative in late 2006 and early 2007 – due to the “inverted” yield curve – as the Financial Crisis was beginning to crack the banks.
Foreign banks’ total exposure to China reached $750 billion in June 2017, up from $659 billion a year earlier, according to the Bank for International Settlements. That’s a big contrast to a couple of years ago, when lenders were pulling tens of billions out amid concerns that a combination of high indebtedness, excessive investment and slowing growth would precipitate a wave of defaults.
Since 2014, central banks in Europe and Asia have stepped up their efforts to boost economic growth and spur investment by driving interest rates below zero. That has led to an infusion of cash into the U.S. corporate bond market, which offers relatively high interest with low default rates.
After initial spasms of concern about the health of U.S. corporate credit during the recession, investors—abetted by trillions of dollars of Fed bond purchases of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities—piled into company bonds.
On Thursday, the European Central Bank is expected to begin unwinding its extraordinary monetary stimulus, a process that will drag central banks from Ivory Coast to Switzerland in its wake. That could have a knock-on effect on markets, as investors buy and sell assets in the countries whose monetary policy is most closely linked to the ECB.
“The biggest factor for these places is the strength of the euro,” said Piotr Matys, emerging market foreign exchange strategist at Rabobank, “We’ll be watching closely how the currency reacts; that will set the tone for all these other markets.”
Several central banks in Africa and countries that border the eurozone whose currencies either track or are hugely influenced by the euro, meaning they often have to mirror what the ECB does. That has left swaths of Europe with low rates even as other countries, including the U.S. and Canada, increase theirs.
Expectations of reduced ECB stimulus have driven the euro higher this year. The outlook for the common currency is uncertain, but any further rise would drag the currencies of its neighbors, especially in Eastern Europe, higher too.
One of the world’s most coveted currency notes, the Swiss franc, includes a feature that runs at odds with its reputation as a safe store of value: It has an expiration date—and for some notes, that is fast approaching.
Up to one billion francs’s worth of 1970s-era bank notes are nearing their cutoff date, when they will unceremoniously make the switch from reserve currency to antique wallpaper as their value is wiped out unless the Swiss government intervenes.
Switzerland is unique among rich countries because its bank notes—from the 10-franc bill all the way to the mighty 1,000-franc bill ($1,025)—lose all of their value 20 years after they are replaced by new ones. The series from the 1970s was replaced in 2000, so their value vanishes in 2020. Franc coins are always usable. That two-decade buffer gives people plenty of time to prepare, but the very notion of an expiring currency contradicts the Alpine country’s reputation for financial safety and security that has driven the franc’s value higher in recent decades.
The base of brands like Benetton, De’Longhi, Geox and Luxottica, Veneto has also become home to as many as 40,000 small businesses suddenly stranded without access to financing since a pair of regional banks collapsed in June.
The implosions of Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, which also wiped out the life savings of many of their 200,000 shareholders, set off economic and political tremors felt from Rome to Frankfurt. Anger over what many view as lax oversight by national authorities is animating a movement for more autonomy that’s already emboldened by Catalonia’s efforts to split from Spain.
“The pain for Veneto’s banks may be over, but the pain for Veneto’s businesses is just beginning,” said Andrea Arman, a lawyer advising some of the companies and individuals who’ve been hit the hardest. “We’re just starting to see the consequences of the collapse and what we’re seeing is alarming.”
The proliferation of computer-driven investing has created an illusion that risk can be measured and managed. But several anomalous episodes in recent years involving sudden, severe, and seemingly inexplicable price swings suggest that the next market selloff could be exacerbated by the fact that machines are at the controls. “The system is more fragile than people suspect,” says Michael Shaoul, CEO of Marketfield Asset Management.
Quantitative investors argue that they have learned from past mistakes and are less likely to be leveraged or crowded into the same trades. Moreover, regulators and exchanges have instituted rules that could help arrest a bout of unchecked selling, with trading halts imposed when the S&P 500 falls 7%, 13%, and 20%.
MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS
On the one hand, Barcelona is a global city, a former host of the Olympics, and the home of one of the world’s most famous soccer clubs, F.C. Barcelona. It is a magnet for more than 10 million visitors a year, an example of the ways large cities increasingly influence global politics, economics and culture.
On the other hand, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, Spain’s restive northeastern region, and the nerve center of a drive for Catalan independence that is described by its opponents as parochial, exclusive and nationalist.
In that campaign — which the Spanish government now says it will take emergency measures to halt — there is no place in Catalonia with more at stake. In Barcelona, the issue of independence has provoked exceptionally sharp soul-searching and debate over allegiances and identity, with an intensity not seen since Britain voted to leave the European Union.
The Yamuna River has helped sustain some of India’s greatest empires. Hindu poets celebrated its life-giving properties. The Mughal dynasty built the Taj Mahal and other monuments along its banks.
Today, the Yamuna is a foul sludge for much of its 855-mile run. In Delhi, it is black and nearly motionless, covered in many areas with a foam of industrial chemicals, floating plastic and human waste.
Every 100 milliliters of the Yamuna in Delhi contains 22 million fecal coliform bacteria, up from 12,250 in 1988, scientists say. Anything over 500 is unsafe for bathing, India’s government says. The comparable standard in Vermont is 235.
Illnesses ranging from diarrhea to brain worms are reported along the river’s edges. By the time the Yamuna exits Delhi, it is so defiled that scientists have declared the next 300 miles “eutrophic,” or incapable of sustaining animal life.
“The fact that I cannot take my children to their own river, in their own city, is for me a tragedy of colossal proportions,” says Pankaj Vir Gupta, a 47-year-old architect and professor who splits time between India and the U.S. “Right now we don’t have a river,” he says. “We have a drain.”
At the IMF gala, Borio (still at the BIS) told me that the pesky matter of debt has not disappeared. On the contrary, since the 2008 credit crisis, it has risen sharply: the level of global debt to gross domestic product is now 40 per cent — yes, 40 per cent — higher than it was in 2008. The world has responded to a crisis caused by excess leverage by piling on more, not less, debt.
This has not created a new crisis — at least, not yet. But that is because central banks have slashed interest rates since 2009 in a way that ensures that borrowers can easily meet interest payments. If (or when) rates rise, that will change. So Borio believes the central banks must take measures to stop the world becoming even more addicted to cheap debt. Recently, he called for “less weight on inflation and more weight on the longer-term real effects of monetary policy through its impact on financial stability”. In plain English: the dissidents want higher interest rates.
The financial mandarins who agree with Borio tend to be either bureaucrats who are paid to look through the micro-level weeds of finance, or those who have had earlier careers in finance and business — anywhere other than a university economics department. Many of the central bankers, economists and ministers, who are experts on macroeconomic policy, tend to discount Borio’s comments as fear-mongering. This is partly because they are less interested in the financial weeds: to them, money is simply a device that signals supply and demand. There is also an issue of inflation focus: the BIS worries about asset price inflation (which is currently high); orthodox economists focus on consumer price inflation (which is extremely low).
As the wrangling continues, one thing is clear: this argument will not disappear until either the central banks decisively raise rates or the debt bubble implodes. Let us just hope that the first can happen without sparking the second.
Consider this nightmare scenario: a military coup. You don’t have to strain your imagination—all you have to do is watch Thursday’s White House press briefing, in which the chief of staff, John Kelly, defended President Trump’s phone call to a military widow, Myeshia Johnson. The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s gruesome defense Thursday of President Donald Trump’s call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson was shocking. But it should not have been a surprise. Any examination of Kelly’s past public remarks makes clear he is not a sober professional, calculating that he must degrade himself in public so he can remain in place to rein in Trump’s worst instincts behind the scenes. Rather, Kelly honestly shares those instincts: He’s proudly ignorant, he’s a liar, and he’s a shameless bully and demagogue.
Kelly and Trump seem to actually have a lot in common. They both display disdain for the press and contempt for critics. Kelly rails at treatment of (“sacred”) women but enthusiastically serves a president who serially insults and abuses women. Rather than address criticism, Kelly and Trump both like to pull rank, treat critics as their lessers and react indignantly when anyone questions their motives.
CNN’s Jake Tapper had it exactly right in his appearance Friday afternoon. “When a reporter pointed out just minutes ago that Kelly had gotten his facts wrong about this speech, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said one of the most shocking things I’ve ever heard from that podium — she suggested that journalists cannot question generals,” he said. “That’s not how we do it here in the United States.” But then, Trump has made destruction of democratic values and institutions a feature of his presidency.
Honoring the sacrifice of servicemembers requires understanding why they were put at risk, and demanding that those who did so hold themselves to account.
I still have many questions. I want to be sure that the president does not treat the death of a servicemember who knew he or she might die like writing off a cost of doing business. I want him to to affirm that he sees the risks men and women in uniform take on behalf of the United States as a matter that accrues most to him, regardless of their success or failures. I want to believe that he does not see military families as a problem he can keep quiet with a check. I want to be assured that he does not only pause to consider the cost of today’s wars when someone dies. And I want to him to be able to explain, if asked, why they died.
Two weeks after the deaths in Niger, as my colleague Philip Carter notes, we still lack any real explanation of what they were doing there at all. “It would add insult to injury,” he writes, “for us to let this outrage blind ourselves to the bigger questions about how and why these troops died.”
Because we’ve all lived through back-to-back massive worldwide hardware revolutions — the growth of the Internet, and the adoption of smartphones — we erroneously assume another one is around the corner, and once again, a few kids in a garage can write a little software to take advantage of it.
But there is no such revolution en route. The web has been occupied and colonized by big business; everyone already has a smartphone, and big companies dominate the App Store; and, most of all, today’s new technologies are complicated, expensive, and favor organizations that have huge amounts of scale and capital already.
It is no coincidence that seed funding is down in 2017. It is no coincidence that Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have grown from “five big tech companies” to “the five most valuable public companies in the world.” The future belongs to them, and, to a lesser extent, their second-tier ilk.
It is widely accepted that the next wave of important technologies consists of AI, drones, AR/VR, cryptocurrencies, self-driving cars, and the “Internet of Things.” These technologies are, collectively, hugely important and consequential — but they are not remotely as accessible to startup disruption as the web and smartphones were.
Tech’s biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence, banking on things ranging from face-scanning smartphones and conversational coffee-table gadgets to computerized health care and autonomous vehicles. As they chase this future, they are doling out salaries that are startling even in an industry that has never been shy about lavishing a fortune on its top talent.
Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects.
Well-known names in the A.I. field have received compensation in salary and shares in a company’s stock that total single- or double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period. And at some point they renew or negotiate a new contract, much like a professional athlete.
There are a few catalysts for the huge salaries. The auto industry is competing with Silicon Valley for the same experts who can help build self-driving cars. Giant tech companies like Facebook and Google also have plenty of money to throw around and problems that they think A.I. can help solve, like building digital assistants for smartphones and home gadgets and spotting offensive content.
Most of all, there is a shortage of talent, and the big companies are trying to land as much of it as they can. Solving tough A.I. problems is not like building the flavor-of-the-month smartphone app. In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal.
An unexpected resurgence in Russian submarine development, which deteriorated after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has reignited the undersea rivalry of the Cold War, when both sides deployed fleets of attack subs to hunt for rival submarines carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.
When underwater, enemy submarines are heard, not seen—and Russia brags that its new subs are the world’s quietest. The Krasnodar is wrapped in echo-absorbing skin to evade sonar; its propulsion system is mounted on noise-cutting dampers; rechargeable batteries drive it in near silence, leaving little for sub hunters to hear. “The Black Hole,” U.S. allies call it.
“As you improve the quieting of the submarines and their capability to move that much more stealthily through the water, it makes it that much harder to find,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Benjamin Nicholson, of Destroyer Squadron 22, who oversees surface and undersea warfare for the USS Bush strike group. “Not impossible, just more difficult.”
Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given Russian President Vladimir Putin opportunities to test the cruise missiles aboard the new subs over the past two years, raising the stakes for the U.S. and its allies.
Top officials of North Atlantic Treaty Organization say the alliance must consider new investments in submarines and sub-hunting technology. The findings of a study this year from the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based think tank, grabbed the attention of senior NATO leaders: The U.S. and its allies weren’t prepared for an undersea conflict with Russia.
They have accumulated vast fortunes early in their lives. They are spending it faster and writing bigger checks. And they are increasingly willing to take on hot-button social and political issues — on the right and left — that thrust them into the center of contentious debates.
Plenty of billionaires are still buying sports teams, building yachts and donating to museums and hospitals. But many new philanthropists appear less interested in naming a business school after themselves than in changing the world.
“They have a problem-solving mentality rather than a stewardship mentality,” said David Callahan, founder of the website Inside Philanthropy and author of “The Givers,” a book about today’s major donors. “They are not saving their money for a rainy day. They want to have impact now.”
“We’re seeing a real changing of the guard,” said Mr. Callahan. “The top foundations, especially measured by annual giving, are more and more piloted by people who are alive.”
Having made billions and shaped the world with their companies, this new guard is setting lofty goals as they prepare to give their fortunes away. Take the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, established by the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan. It is not looking to merely improve health in the developing world. One of its aspirations is to help “cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of the century.”
That may sound like good news all around. If a handful of billionaires want to spend their fortunes saving lives, why not simply applaud them? But as their ambitions grow, so too does their influence, meaning that for better or worse, a few billionaires are wielding considerable influence over everything from medical research to social policy to politics.
“This isn’t the government collecting taxes and deciding which social problems it wants to solve through a democratic process,” said Eileen Heisman, chief executive of the National Philanthropic Trust, a nonprofit that works with foundations. “This is a small group of people, who have made way more money than they need, deciding what issues they care about. That affects us all.”
In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the efficiency expert who dreamed of measuring every human movement in terms of its cost to employers, bluntly articulated this reversal of ends and means: “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”
In the end, men like Taylor got their wish. Since the mid-20th century—whether in the Keynesian 1950s or the neoliberal 1980s—economic indicators have promoted an idea of American society as a capital investment whose main goal, like that of any investment, is ever-increasing monetary growth. Americans have surely benefited materially from the remarkable economic growth over this period of time, an expansion wholly unique to capitalist societies. Nevertheless, by making capital accumulation synonymous with progress, money-based metrics have turned human betterment into a secondary concern. By the early 21st century, American society’s top priority became its bottom line, net worth became synonymous with self-worth, and a billionaire businessman who repeatedly pointed to his own wealth as proof of his fitness for office was elected president.
Nike says growing sales will allow it to embrace more automation while maintaining its present workforce. But the company is one of the biggest multinational employers, with more than 493,000 line workers — in 15 countries — involved in the production of Nike footwear. For all the group’s products, its contracted factories employ 1.02m workers in 42 countries.
Sridhar Tayur, a professor of operations management at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, says the decisions made by Nike about how far to use automation would be a significant milestone in the industry.
“The very-low labour costs in Asia are no longer that low unless you go to Africa or somewhere else . . . The pressure has been mounting for a long time to either move to a super low-cost place or automate more,” he says. “That has come to a point where people are more seriously looking to automation.”
Tthe catastrophic climax is not unfolding in the global South alone. The threat posed by climate change to wealthy nations is real, present, and escalating. Perhaps the starkest warning of the mayhem to come was the European heat wave of 2003, which killed an estimated 70,000 European city-dwellers, a figure that dwarfs the 1,800 deaths from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In addition, rising sea levels will affect many of the world’s powerful global cities, the key command-and-control nodes of the global capitalist economy. Most of these metropoles happen to be port cities, a fact largely ignored in the literature on the global city. The United States for example has eight key global cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco-Oakland, Washington, DC, Miami, and Philadelphia, all lying in coastal zones. (Chicago is located on the inland coast of Lake Michigan.) Rising sea levels and intensifying storms threaten almost all of them. In global terms, the top ten cities whose populations are exposed to natural disasters today are almost evenly split between developed and developing countries: Mumbai, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Miami, Ho Chi Minh City, Kolkata, Greater New York, Osaka-Kobe, Alexandria, and New Orleans. In terms of imperiled economic assets, however, the list tilts heavily toward the developed world, with Miami, Greater New York, New Orleans, Osaka-Kobe, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Nagoya, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Virginia Beach topping the list. Although these cities contain 60 percent of threatened economic assets, they are located in only four countries: the United States, Japan, the Netherlands, and China. Each of these cities is a key node in global circuits of transportation and exchange. There will be extremely grave ramifications for the global economy if any of them are seriously damaged by the storms to come. It is projected that the threat to these cities’ wealth will multiply tenfold by 2070, while the total population exposed to natural disasters could triple to around 150 million people. These statistics highlight the fact that vulnerability to extreme weather is not simply a result of the exposure of masses of people to hurricanes, cyclones, and droughts, but a product of the complex interplay of populations, infrastructures, economic and political institutions, and anthropogenic climate change.
Coastal cities face a future of ongoing systemic crisis as a result of climate change. These crises are likely to unfold as a slow cascade of rising mortality rates punctuated by spectacular disasters. As population numbers soar in these cities, increasing numbers of people are likely to be abandoned to their own devices, left exposed by the nonexistent or fraying infrastructures that buffer people from disasters. Compounding the threat of rising sea levels, the land on which most coastal cities are built is simultaneously sinking in a process known as subsidence. This process was directly responsible for the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, but it is a process unfolding around the world in fast-urbanizing river deltas, including the Po delta in Italy, Egypt’s Nile delta, the Ganges-Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh, Vietnam’s Mekong, and China’s Yellow River delta. More than 500 million people currently live in the world’s river deltas, incredibly rich but ecologically sensitive regions that are subsiding at an alarming rate of 10 centimeters or so a year, causing the sea to swallow up dozens of meters of land in these regions each year. Over the past decade, 85 percent of the world’s major river deltas experienced flooding, killing hundreds of thousands of people. In tandem with this process of subsidence, coastal erosion is destroying the natural barriers that protect deltaic cities from increasingly severe storms and their surge waters. As mountain glaciers melt, hundreds of trillions of gallons of meltwater rush into surrounding seas that are themselves warming and, consequently, growing in volume. This convergence means that increasing numbers of the world’s coastal cities will soon fall below sea level, and will be exposed to the increasingly severe storms and surges born of an overheated planet.
Back in the 1990s, Paul Tudor Jones assigned a team of coders to a project dubbed “Paul in a Box.” The effort sought to break down the DNA of the hedge fund manager’s trading — how he sizes up markets and generates ideas — to train a computer to do the same. The code created then was upgraded many times and is still used at his firm, Tudor Investment Corp. But it never took over.
Again and again, programmers had to feed in new types of data to mimic the changing price signals that Jones, famous for predicting the Black Monday market crash 30 years ago, zeroed in on, according to people with knowledge of the project. Even then, the machine couldn’t capture intangibles like his gut instincts and conviction, as well as the market’s uncertainties.
Ultimately, Jones remains the final decision-maker for trades — not the box.
The limits of that model show why many jobs at the high end of finance are probably safe from automation a little longer. While machine-learning algorithms and other technologies are indeed encroaching on work performed by money managers, traders and analysts, many firms are still working out the kinks. Coders will be busy for years.
One not-so-well kept secret of Wall Street is that many companies rely on aging computers. Firms that weren’t founded as algorithmic powerhouses often use a hodgepodge of trading platforms, Excel spreadsheets and data stored across servers that aren’t in sync. Replacing staff with machines means automating roles that are idiosyncratic. And then there are executives, now in the prime of their careers, reluctant to usher in an era that no longer needs them.
In a sense, automation is ready to tackle Wall Street — but not the other way around.
Even after coders overcome those technical issues, their software will need frequent fine-tuning. Michael Dubno, the chief architect of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s risk-management system known as SecDB, said that’s one reason why salespeople and traders, at least for now, aren’t obsolete.
“They have mental models of the world that are more complex perhaps than most of the computer systems,” he said. In the short term, artificial intelligence isn’t going to move as fast as people expect. “It will go through a number of fits and starts, where it will look like it’s going to solve everything and then solve very little of it — and then it’s going to reset.”
Theresa May called an election in June with the aim of securing a “strong mandate” to negotiate Brexit. Instead, she left a Brussels summit on Friday with her EU counterparts agonising how to deal with a British prime minister defined by her political weakness.
Mrs May’s weakness is now a critical factor as Brexit enters its most crucial phase. On one level the EU is exploiting Mrs May’s precarious position, with France and Germany dashing her hopes of an early breakthrough in talks in the hope they can wring more money from Britain during the autumn.
The suggestion among leaders is that Mrs May should at least be forced to accept in principle Britain’s obligation to outstanding commitments on exit — known as reste a liquider — which could amount to €30bn more than the €20bn Britain has already put on the table.
But the demands are tempered by a fear, reinforced by the British newspapers read assiduously in European capitals, that Mrs May’s position as a voice of moderation — who favours an EU trade deal based on “high regulatory standards” — could be jeopardised if she was backed into a corner.
The British prime minister, who once claimed she needed a big electoral mandate to stand tall in the European Council, has adapted her position and is now trying to make her weakness into a strength.
As he watched the atrophy of Beijing’s authority increase along with the reforms, Wang Huning worried that if the decentralization of power continued apace, it would usher a return to a “feudal economy,” with localism and anarchy of the kind that typified the “warlord period” of the 1920s and 30s. In a August 1988 article, he warned of China being split into “30 dukedoms, with some 2,000 rival principalities” owing to the decentralization of authority following reform. While reform of the economy was undoubtedly needed, he argued, it created a dilemma for China’s rulers. According to Wang, “If power is not transferred to the lower level it will be impossible to invigorate the economy and move it toward modernization; but the transfer of power to the lower level brings with it extremely great difficulties to the regulation and control by the political system.”
This was not a new problem, of course. As a Yuan Dynasty-era (13-14th century) saying notes “the Emperor is as far away as the sky is high.” But after the disorder and chaos of the Cultural Revolution, many in China, Wang Huning included, were determined to finally draw the Emperor much nearer.
This was to become one of the central questions for the CCP as it navigated its post-Mao era: how to balance openness (of ideas, goods, and people) with the requisite political control needed to ensure stability and, most importantly, the CCP’s monopoly on power. Wang was determined to find a balance, and in a series of articles in sparsely-read academic journals and popular newspapers, he began to tease out a new framework of governance, one that allowed for the requisite flexibility needed for bottom-up initiative with the imperative for oversight and intervention needed by a central authority to ensure economic and social stability coupled with political unity and authority.
Wang’s writings of the 1980s were to form the foundation of what came to be known as “neo-authoritarianism” (新权威主义). The doctrine held that political stability provided the structure for economic development, and that considerations such as democracy and individual liberty were to come later, when the conditions were appropriate. As Wang wrote in a 1993 article entitled, “Political Requirements for the Socialist Market Economy,” (社会主义市场经济的政治要求) “The formation of democratic institutions requires the existence of specific historical, social, and cultural conditions. Until these conditions are mature, political power should be directed towards the development of these conditions.”
The legacy of Wang’s neo-authoritarianism and its cousin, neo-conservatism, lives on today under the reign of Xi Jinping. Look at the first five years of Xi Jinping’s administration through the neo-authoritarian lens, and we see a consistent theme: clawing power back to Beijing. State-owned enterprises, which in many cases had become economic empires unto their own, have been pulled back into the Party’s embrace. Highflying private companies, such as Anbang and Fosun, now pay heed of Beijing’s commands. Cadres throughout the country now pay homage to the “core” of the Party’s Central Committee, Xi Jinping.
Mr. Xi has already enjoyed remarkable success expanding Chinese influence, not only in Asia, but also in Africa, Europe and as far away as South America. He has benefited from President Trump’s election, which has made it easier for him to present China as a stable, responsible alternative to an erratic, inward-looking United States.
Yet signs of friction in different parts of the world raise questions about how long China’s winning streak can continue, and point to the challenges that Mr. Xi faces in a second term as he presses the assertive brand of foreign policy he favors.
In Australia, the government is vexed by what it sees as Beijing’s interference in domestic politics. In Europe, politicians are raising an alarm over heavy-handed trade tactics aimed at acquiring foreign technology. In Southeast Asia and Africa, there are complaints about a new era of Chinese colonialism.
China’s ties with two regional heavyweights — Japan and India — remain strained, and Mr. Xi faces an unusually precarious situation on the Korean Peninsula, with both the North and the South defying him, one building a nuclear arsenal and the other deploying American missile defenses.
As shopping has shifted from conventional stores to online marketplaces, many retail workers have been left in the cold, but Ms. Gaugler is coming out ahead. Sellers like Zulily, Amazon and Walmart are competing to get goods to the buyer’s doorstep as quickly as possible, giving rise to a constellation of vast warehouses that have fueled a boom for workers without college degrees and breathed new life into pockets of the country that had fallen economically behind.
Warehouses have produced hundreds of thousands of jobs since the recovery began in 2010, adding workers at four times the rate of overall job growth. A significant chunk of that growth has occurred outside large metropolitan areas, in counties that had relatively little of the picking-and-packing work until recently.
“We are at the very beginning of a rather large transformation, and the humble warehouse is the leading edge of this,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington. “These fulfillment center jobs are not being created in the tech hubs that were growing before. We’ve broadened the winner’s circle.”
Americans have grown more comfortable ordering everything on the internet, including bulky wares like canoes and refrigerators. Warehouses, as a result, have become gargantuan, doubling in size since 2010, according to CBRE, a real estate services firm.
And while robots have started to intervene in the process, it still takes a lot of bodies to move hundreds of thousands of boxes in and out of these buildings every day. Warehouses serving the largest e-commerce sites typically employ upwards of 2,000 people.
CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY
Donald Trump signaled that Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen remains a strong candidate to be renominated for the job after the two met this week, saying he liked her “a lot,” while also highlighting John Taylor and Jerome Powell as front-runners.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen defended the central bank’s use of unconventional and often unpopular monetary policy tools after the Great Recession, highlighting some of her achievements at the helm as President Donald Trump weighs her reappointment.
Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chair, has warned that there is an “uncomfortably high” risk that the central bank will have to deploy crisis-era stimulus tools again — even in the case of a less severe downturn than the Great Recession.
“The probability that short-term interest rates may need to be reduced to their effective lower bound at some point is uncomfortably high, even in the absence of a major financial and economic crisis,” she said in a speech in Washington DC.
USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES
Merck said Friday it is laying off about 1,800 U.S. sales representatives, or nearly 7% of the drugmaker’s U.S. workforce, in a reorganization the company says will cut costs and shift focus to products with growth potential.
GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA
Vietnam is poised to remain among the world’s fastest-growing economies, as new factories open and foreign direct investment rises. The central bank in July cut its benchmark interest rate for the first time in three years, giving the economy another boost.
POSITIONING, INFLECTION, MARKET CALLS
The Dow is trading at one of its most overbought levels in history. At 87.61, its 14-day RSI is higher than 99.999% of historical readings going back to 1900.
COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS
General Electric Co. slashed its 2017 projections as new Chief Executive John Flannery started to outline his plans to restructure the struggling conglomerate, setting a goal to sell more than $20 billion of assets and cut an additional $1 billion in spending.
“Our results are unacceptable to say the least,” Mr. Flannery said on a conference call Friday, noting that he was reviewing whether the company could afford to maintain its current dividend payout. “Things will not stay the same at GE.”
DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS
SoftBank and Uber’s major shareholders are deadlocked over a key element of the Japanese conglomerate’s plans to invest up to $10bn in the car-booking service, threatening what is seen as a crucial part of Uber’s overhaul.
The delays, and continuing signs of ill-will between some investors and board members, have led to growing frustrations, and brought a warning from one person close to the negotiations that the transaction could founder altogether if the wrangling drags on too much longer.
REAL ESTATE, HOUSING, REITS, COMMERCIAL
China home prices rose in the fewest cities since January 2016, adding to signs of a property slowdown as curbs on buyers bite. Stabilizing home prices in the nation’s largest cities are a welcome sign for Communist Party leaders gathered in Beijing to map policy for the next five years. President Xi Jinping renewed a yearlong call that homes are built “to be inhabited’’ and not for speculation in his speech at the twice-a-decade Party Congress, inking the language in one of the nation’s top policy frameworks.
Average monthly take-home pay won’t cover the cost of buying a 1,000-square-foot residence or renting a three-bedroom home in any of the 105 metropolitan areas ranked by the Bloomberg Global City Housing Affordability Index – based on a general rule of thumb among U.S. lenders that people should spend no more than 28 percent of net income on housing costs. Only 12 cities would be considered affordable if they spend 50 percent.
Emerging economies currently have the least-affordable housing, led by Caracas and Kiev in Ukraine. The remaining cities among the bottom 20 include seven in Asia and six in Latin America. London is the least-affordable major city in Western Europe, with average monthly rent and mortgage payments equaling 135 percent of monthly net income.
HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT
At the world’s biggest debt dealer, traders can have trouble making sense of all the action as it happens. So JPMorgan Chase & Co. is bringing in artificial intelligence to give them a picture of the whole trading floor — and even predict where markets are going.
MSX, a data analytics and machine-learning program, is being deployed in the bank’s fixed-income sales and trading operations, New York-based JPMorgan said Monday in a statement. It will compile data from all desks and orders to give salespeople and traders a clearer picture in real time and help them anticipate market moves. Developed by London-based startup Mosaic Smart Data, the program is already used in JPMorgan’s rates trading.
JPMorgan, which generated $15 billion in revenue from its fixed-income business last year, is among banks introducing machine learning and artificial intelligence in capital-markets units. The latest move is about improving the performance of salespeople, not replacing them, said Mosaic Chief Executive Officer Matthew Hodgson.
ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY
Republicans moved closer to opening oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a Senate budget vote late Thursday, setting off a new political scramble over the future of the pristine habitat in northern Alaska.
The dispute over the refuge has been simmering for decades. But with Republicans holding both houses of Congress and the presidency, the prospects for opening the refuge, at least to studies of its oil and gas potential, are better than they have been in years.
Shareholders are more interested in return on capital and cash generation. This is a profound change. Since the shale oil revolution began in the late 2000s, management teams have mostly focused on growth at any cost, and investors have mostly been prepared to back them.
This year, however, investor sentiment has shifted. Shareholders are less dazzled by the excitement of the shale boom, and more interested in orthodox measures of success including returns on capital and cash generation. The whole shale industry is being pushed in the same direction. If companies fail to improve shareholder return, says Stephen Trauber, global head of energy at Citi, “investors will start to question what management is doing”.
For the past eight years, the US exploration and production industry has outspent its cash flows in drilling costs, requiring a constant inflow of debt and equity financing to keep going. But the industry has given shareholders very little in return.
Schlumberger and Baker Hughes were among the biggest losers on the S&P 500 on Friday after the oilfield services companies warned that growth in North American drilling activities was expected to slow in the coming quarters.
Surging US shale oil production has been a key source of growth for the two companies — which posted mixed third quarter results earlier this morning.
While Schlumberger delivered sales and profits that topped Wall Street estimates, the results were overshadowed by the company’s cautious comments on the North American oil market. Shares in Schlumberger fell as much as 4.8 per cent before steadying to trade 3 per cent lower.
ENERGY CRUDE OIL, OIL SANDS, SHALE
Since Kurds voted for independence in a non-binding referendum on September 25, the familiar foe of uncertainty has returned to haunt the sector.
Political tensions between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil were raised this week when federal forces regained disputed territories including the city of Kirkuk, the oilfields around it and much of the Kirkuk region. The central government in Baghdad also closed Kurdish airspace to international flights.
The crude market may be underestimating China’s oil demand. “If satellite data are accurate and reflective of broader activity in the Chinese oil sector, this is bullish for oil fundamentals,” New York-based analysts Michael Cohen and Warren Russell wrote in the report. “It implies that China’s refinery runs and end-use consumption may be understated, and that global balances are tighter than consensus and our own forecasts.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has collected titles, like commander-in-chief, to signify his ascendance as the country’s most powerful leader in decades. Now he is being hailed as its most thoughtful leader too.
A Communist Party congress under way to hand Mr. Xi a second five-year term is also amending the party’s constitution to add an ideological slogan associated with him—possibly with his name attached, a mark only previously conferred on revolutionary patriarch Mao Zedong and market reformer Deng Xiaoping.
The accolade would invest Mr. Xi with more authority, potentially giving the 64-year-old a preponderant say in policy debates over China’s direction for years and perhaps decades to come, party insiders and politics experts said.
“Writing Xi Jinping’s name into the party charter is like making his words part of the holy scripture,” said Ding Xueliang, a professor and China politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “As long as Xi’s alive, his words would matter. He would have the final say.”
“It is time for us to take centre stage in the world and to make a greater contribution to humankind,” said Mr Xi on Wednesday. China was “standing tall and firm in the east”. A “flourishing” economic model of socialism with Chinese characteristics offered a “new choice” for the developing world.
Christopher Johnson, a veteran China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the two statements represented a decisive departure from the consensus on China’s role in the world. “This sounds the formal death knell of Deng Xiaoping’s ‘bide and hide’ philosophy,” he said. “Deng would have never said anything like that.”
In his marathon address to the congress this week, Mr Xi positioned himself not just as modern China’s third great leader after Mao and Deng, but also the heir to a glorious Communist tradition stretching back to Russia’s Bolsheviks. “A hundred years ago, the salvos of the October Revolution brought Marxism-Leninism to China,” Mr Xi said, noting that the Chinese Communist party was founded just four years later. “From that moment on, the Chinese people have had in the party a backbone for their pursuit of national independence and liberation, prosperity and happiness.”
According to Mr Xi’s arc of history, China is only three decades away from resuming its traditional and rightful place as the world’s dominant economic and cultural power, with the US caught in a downward spiral accelerated by Mr Trump’s election.
Mr Xi hailed China as a model for “nations that want to speed up their development while preserving their independence”. In private, many party colleagues speak far more bluntly. “The American people elected a 70-year-old celebrity with no relevant experience,” one of them recently told the Financial Times. “Our system forces men like Xi to prove themselves for decades in a series of increasingly difficult posts.”
Mr Zhou’s statements about Chinese economics and policy have become increasingly candid in recent weeks, and central bank watchers say it is no accident. At the same meeting where he warned of Minsky-ite risks, Mr Zhou, 69, confirmed that he would retire “soon” after serving since 2002, the longest tenure of any PBoC chief.
As rumours swirl about his possible successor, observers say Mr Zhou’s increasing bluntness reflects a final appeal directed towards Communist party elites to continue financial reforms that he has advocated but that have suffered setbacks over the past year.
“It looks like Zhou is making a last ditch argument into the system for his long-held belief in financial liberalisation. He’s saying, ‘We started on this path, please don’t abandon it’,” says Andrew Polk, co-founder of Trivium China, a Beijing-based research group.
The police and military swarm the streets at all hours, checking documents and questioning passers-by. Political critics have been jailed, placed under surveillance or sent to the countryside. Popular gathering spots like nightclubs have been shuttered and home-sharing services like Airbnb banned.
As China’s political elites converge on Beijing this week for a seminal Communist Party meeting, President Xi Jinping is sending a stern message to China and the world: I am in charge, and nothing can stand in my way.
Mr. Xi, who is all but certain to be handed another five-year term as China’s leader, is leaving nothing to chance. Beijing has been placed on lockdown. Security officials — wielding assault rifles, batons and shields — have held drills across the country. Online censorship has intensified, and tools to circumvent China’s Great Firewall disrupted.
GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM
The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country, according to two senior American officials, the latest sign of the agency’s increasingly integral role in President Trump’s counterterrorism strategy.
The assignment marks a shift for the C.I.A. in the country, where it had primarily been focused on defeating Al Qaeda and helping the Afghan intelligence service. The C.I.A. has traditionally been resistant to an open-ended campaign against the Taliban, the primary militant group in Afghanistan, believing it was a waste of the agency’s time and money and would put officers at greater risk as they embark more frequently on missions.
Mahmud Ahmad had acted as a link to the group’s central command in Syria, helping funnel money and foreign fighters who ransacked a city in the south.
Kurdish demonstrators protested outside the U.S. consulate in Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish region, accusing one of their closest allies of standing by as Iraqi forces dislodged them from a contested territory in the north of the country.
Militants killed 14 policemen and wounded eight in a shootout during a raid Friday on a militants’ hideout southwest of Cairo, an Egyptian security official said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned global companies that they do business with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards “at their own risk,” remarks that will add to investment uncertainty in a country eager to reap the economic benefits of a 2015 nuclear accord.
The two sides appear headed for a United Nations showdown over a panel investigating who was behind a deadly sarin attack in
Syria last April.
PRIVACY, HACKING, CYBERWAR, SURVEILLANCE STATE
U.S. grid operators will have to take measures to guard against the risk of being infected by malware from electronic devices like laptops and thumb drives under proposals put forward by the nation’s top energy regulator.
PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM
The appearance of white nationalist Richard Spencer on Thursday at the University of Florida sparked a declaration of a state of emergency by Florida’s governor. The event ended up generating little more than shouting and a few arrests. There was no violence.
Still, the massive preparations for potentially violent civil disobedience came with a hefty price tag. The school estimates it will have spent more than $500,000 on security—more than it pays for football games at a stadium that holds 90,000 people. The cost is part of a growing toll this year as a wave of right-wing speakers faces off against left-wing protesters.
That $500,000 will cover the hundreds of officers on campus from at least 44 agencies, some from as far away as Miami, command centers, technology, room and board for officers and extra barricades, said University of Florida spokeswoman Janine Sikes.
“This is not sustainable, this is absolutely not sustainable,” said University of Florida’s Ms. Sikes. “Public institutions cannot continue to pay this kind of money.”
Experts say the recent wave of speakers—beginning with an appearance in February at Berkeley of the former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos that prompted a riot—has changed the dynamic of such campus events.
“What happened at Berkeley was really a watershed moment,” said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. “There has been a paradigm shift.”
Beyond Malta’s shores, the murder has added a ghastly edge to an escalating debate about threats to the rule of law within the EU. Critics say the island, which joined in 2004, is an example of how deteriorating governance in some member states threatens the union from within. Brussels has already clashed with Poland and Hungary over allegations of creeping authoritarianism. Malta, on paper a model of the financial and social liberalism promoted by the 28-member EU, presents another big test.
Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute, says Malta’s troubles show the “gaping hole” in the EU’s ability to deal with problems of “corruption, how well the state functions and the vulnerability of institutions to capture.
“The attitude is to let countries correct these things themselves democratically,” she says. “But what if the state itself is not able — or willing — to self-correct?”
The killing has put the Labour government, led by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, under the spotlight. This year, Ms. Caruana Galizia, using some of the leaked Panama Papers, accused Mr. Muscat’s wife of using a secret shell company that received unexplained payments from the ruling family of Azerbaijan, an allegation Mr. Muscat denied.
Mr. Muscat said in an interview that, because of the wide range of people who came under scrutiny from Ms. Caruana Galizia, “it would be rushing to conclusions to just point a finger in one direction.”
At a press conference Monday, where a victim of the anti-gay purge came forward, Russian LGBT Network founder Igor Kochetkov brought up the mystery of Bakayev’s disappearance publicly for the first time.
“We received confirmation of our earlier presumption that Bakayev was detained by Chechen authorities due to suspicion of homosexuality,” he said.
A source close to activists in the region now tells NewNowNext Bakaev, 26, was tortured to death. “He arrived in Grozny and was picked up by police within three hours,” they claimed. “Within ten hours he was murdered.”
Donald Trump called himself a “genius” for investing in Toronto’s Trump Tower. Behind the scenes, he had no money on the line. The inside story of an unlikely bankruptcy, and the investors who lost everything when they bet on the Trump brand.
Donald Trump started his Friday out by falsely claiming the U.K. was in the midst of a crime-wave thanks to “radical Islamic terror” — prompting fury from British politicians.
“Donald Trump is talking nonsense about issues he doesn’t understand,” Labour MP Stephen Doughty told MailOnline. “While we have had some very tragic and horrific terror attacks in the last year, this represents a very small proportion of overall UK crime. Donald Trump would be better placed looking at issues in his own country such as the huge number of deaths from gun violence.”
The Environmental Protection Agency has canceled the speaking appearance of three agency scientists who were scheduled to discuss climate change at a conference on Monday in Rhode Island, according to the agency and several people involved.
John Konkus, an E.P.A. spokesman and a former Trump campaign operative in Florida, confirmed that agency scientists would not speak at the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program in Providence. He provided no further explanation.
The move highlights widespread concern that the E.P.A. will silence government scientists from speaking publicly or conducting work on climate change. Scott Pruitt, the agency administrator, has said that he does not believe human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are primarily responsible for the warming of the planet.
The Democratic National Committee is reeling, facing a turnaround that’s proving a much bigger lift than anyone expected as it struggles to raise enough money to cover its basic promises.
Many donors are refusing to write checks. And on-the-ground operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year’s midterms and in the run-up to 2020.
Here in the halls of Bally’s hotel and casino for the DNC’s fall meeting through the weekend, state committee chairs and operatives echoed a now-common concern among donors and strategists: The DNC’s recovery is still a ways away, and that could have serious repercussions for the party in the coming years.
Here’s how far behind Democrats are on technology after the 2016 presidential election: The man in charge of catching up compares his job to coaching a losing Little League baseball team.
“The red team looks like Olympic athletes right now and we look like the Bad News Bears,” Raffi Krikorian, a former Uber Technologies Inc. and Twitter Inc executive who was hired in June as the Democratic National Committee’s chief technology officer, said at a meeting for state party leaders in Las Vegas on Thursday, referring to the team in a classic 1976 film.
SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY
The bank has launched an internal investigation and regulators are also probing the foreign-exchange business, the people said. The issue that led to the firings, along with the reassignment of a senior executive, couldn’t be fully determined. It involves one specific transaction with a client, who has been notified by the bank, according to a person familiar with the matter.
SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC
“In the past decade, Singapore has invested heavily in the startup ecosystem,’’ said Paul Meyers, head of muru-D Singapore, Telstra Corp.’s accelerator program. “As a result, we’re seeing more –- and higher quality -– startups appearing and getting funded.’’
The venture industry continues to be led by the U.S., which accounted for $21.5 billion of the $39 billion total invested in the third quarter, according to KPMG’s Venture Pulse Q3 2017 report. Asia is the second-largest region at $12.3 billion, with China pulling in $10.2 billion of that total.
MEDIA, CABLE, SPORTS, ENTERTAINMENT
As President Donald Trump wages daily war against the press, millennials are subscribing to legacy news publications in record numbers—and at a growth rate, data suggests, far outpacing any other age group.
Since November’s election, the New Yorker, for instance, has seen its number of new millennial subscribers more than double from over the same period a year earlier. According to the magazine’s figures, it has 106 percent more new subscribers in the 18-34 age range and 129 percent more from 25-34.
The Atlantic has a similar story: since the election, its number of new subscribers aged 18-24 jumped 130 percent for print and digital subscriptions combined over the same period a year earlier, while 18-44 went up 70 percent.
Newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times typically do not share specific subscriber data, but according to a Post spokesperson, its subscriber growth rate is highest among millennials. A New York Times representative relayed that the paper was “seeing similar trends” in subscriptions and pointed to public data on digital traffic that showed its online reach among millennials to be up 9 percent from the same period a year ago.
Eighteen months after BuzzFeed blew up a watermelon on Facebook Live before 800,000 viewers, the company has leased buildings on a quiet block west of Highland Avenue as it prepares to focus on creating full-length movies and television series.
AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING
Having built an impressive lead in artificial intelligence, Canada is keen to do the same in driverless cars — specifically the lidar (laser radar) technology that lets these vehicles see where they’re going.
The nation’s main contender is LeddarTech Inc. The Quebec City-based company makes solid-state technology it says is better and cheaper than earlier versions of lidar and sells it to parts makers, which in turn bake it into their hardware. LeddarTech has attracted big-name industry backers including Delphi Automotive, Germany’s Osram Licht and Fiat Chrysler’s parts division, which last month participated in a $101 million fundraising round.
There’s a race on to get self-driving cars on the road over the next four years and lidar is a key component in making that possible. The market for the technology will grow tenfold to $2.5 billion by 2027, according to Akhilesh Kona, a senior analyst at IHS Markit, and become much bigger as cars become increasingly autonomous.
LeddarTech has plenty of well-financed rivals. Among them: Velodyne Lidar Inc., which has the backing of Ford Motor Co. and China’s Baidu Inc, and Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, which is trying to develop its own lidar. “Competition exists simply because the opportunity is so great,” says LeddarTech Chief Executive Officer Charles Boulanger. Those that survive will be rewarded with a “major pot of gold.”
HEALTH, PRODUCTIVITY AND WELLNESS
While there is no direct English translation, ikigai is thought to combine the Japanese words ikiru, meaning “to live”, and kai, meaning “the realization of what one hopes for”. Together these definitions create the concept of “a reason to live” or the idea of having a purpose in life.
Ikigai also has historic links: gai originates from the word kai, which means shell. These were considered very valuable during the Heian period (794 to 1185), according to Akihiro Hasegawa, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at Toyo Eiwa University, adding a sense of “value in living”.
Walker has spent the last four and a half years writing Why We Sleep, a complex but urgent book that examines the effects of this epidemic close up, the idea being that once people know of the powerful links between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health, they will try harder to get the recommended eight hours a night (sleep deprivation, amazing as this may sound to Donald Trump types, constitutes anything less than seven hours).
But, in the end, the individual can achieve only so much. Walker wants major institutions and law-makers to take up his ideas, too. “No aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation,” he says. “It sinks down into every possible nook and cranny. And yet no one is doing anything about it. Things have to change: in the workplace and our communities, our homes and families. But when did you ever see an NHS poster urging sleep on people? When did a doctor prescribe, not sleeping pills, but sleep itself? It needs to be prioritised, even incentivised. Sleep loss costs the UK economy over £30bn a year in lost revenue, or 2% of GDP. I
could double the NHS budget if only they would institute policies to mandate or powerfully encourage sleep.”
A letter written by an American first-class passenger aboard the Titanic sold on Saturday at auction for 126,000 pounds, a record price for a note written by someone on the ill-fated ocean liner.
Alexander Oskar Holverson, a salesman, wrote the letter to his mother on April 13, 1912, on embossed Titanic stationery and tucked it away in his pocketbook. In it, Mr. Holverson describes a “giant” ship “fitted up like a palacial hotel.” He also mentions seeing the millionaire John Jacob Astor sitting on a deck of the vessel:
“He looks like any other human being even tho he has millions of money.”
In the most poignant mention, Mr. Holverson writes, “If all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M.”
The next day, the British passenger ship hit an iceberg and eventually sank, killing more than 1,500 people.
“I got the phone call and told the folks in my house,” Bruce Springsteen says, recalling the sudden, shocking impact of that news. “There were shrieks of horror. You couldn’t quite believe it. We were from the same generation of rock & rollers. We started around the same time and had a lot of the same influences. And when I lived in California, I got to know him quite well. He was just a lovely guy who loved rock & roll and came up the hard way.”
“I thought the world of Tom,” said Bob Dylan, who hired Petty and the Heartbreakers as his road band in 1986, then became Petty’s bandmate – with Harrison, early rock & roll legend Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra – in a supergroup, the Traveling Wilburys. “He was a great performer, full of the light, a friend,” Dylan said of Petty, “and I’ll never forget him.”
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