Macro Links Oct 24th – Mao Status

Macro Links Oct 24th – Mao Status

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Xi Jinping becomes most powerful leader since Mao after change to China’s constitution | World news | The Guardian

Xi Jinping has been consecrated as China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong after a new body of political thought carrying his name was added to the Communist party’s constitution.

The symbolic move came on the final day of a week-long political summit in Beijing – the 19th party congress – at which Xi has pledged to lead the world’s second largest economy into a “new era” of international power and influence.

China’s Xi Jinping Elevated to Mao Status – WSJ

China’s Communist Party concluded a pivotal congress by amending its charter to adopt a political ideology named after President Xi Jinping, granting him authority on a par with Chairman Mao.

In making the change, the congress, held once every five years, sets up Mr. Xi in an unassailable position for his second term in power—and possibly longer.

One of his key allies, anticorruption chief Wang Qishan, appears to be exiting the leadership. He wasn’t included on the party’s Central Committee, the top 376 officials selected by the congress on Tuesday, according to official media and people at the meeting.

Xi Jinping confirmed as China’s most powerful leader since Mao

At Tuesday’s close of a party congress in Beijing that formally marks the beginning of Mr Xi’s second five-year term as party general secretary, more than 2,300 delegates voted unanimously to include a reference to “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” in the document.

Mr Xi is only the second Chinese Communist ruler after Mao, the party’s revolutionary ruler, to secure an eponymous reference in the constitution while still in power, in a historic break with the “consensus” leadership model that characterised elite party politics for the past quarter-century.

What It Could Mean if China’s Leader Won’t Name an Heir – The New York Times

If no successors-in-waiting appear, that would raise new speculation that Mr. Xi may try to keep power in some form after his second five-year term as president ends in 2023. At the very least, it would add a great deal of uncertainty to a succession process that recent Chinese leaders tried to make more predictable and stable.

“The most important outcome of a midterm congress such as this is the designation of a successor,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College in California who studies Chinese politics. “If the old rules apply, we should expect to see a similar outcome. But this time nobody is sure.”

A Xi Jinping Protégé Rises to Stardom – WSJ

The rising prospects of Chen Min’er, a younger ally to China’s president, has raised speculation over Xi Jinping’s succession plans and whether his protégé may vault into the leadership during the current Communist Party political meetings.

China Has Asked Firms to Delay Bad Results During Congress, Sources Say – Bloomberg

China’s securities watchdog has asked some loss-making companies to avoid publishing quarterly results this week as authorities seek to ensure stock-market stability during the Communist Party Congress, according to people familiar with the matter.



Japanese Official Warns North Korean Threat Critical, Imminent – WSJ

Japan’s defense minister said the threat posed by North Korea has grown to an “unprecedented, critical and imminent level,” reflecting a rising sense of urgency over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.

Trump to press China on North Korea, trade on Beijing visit

U.S. President Donald Trump will urge President Xi Jinping to make good on his commitments to pressure North Korea when he visits China next month, a senior White House official said on Monday, stepping up a strategy to have Beijing help rein in Pyongyang.

The Air Force hasn’t used nuclear ‘alert pads’ since the Cold War. Now they’re being upgraded. – The Washington Post

The U.S. military is building new flightline facilities that will enable the Air Force to position pilots and aircrews directly alongside its nuclear-capable B-52 bombers, but officials deny the move is part of any plan to put the warplanes on indefinite alert in response to tensions with North Korea.

The construction at Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base includes building renovations near long-vacant “alert pads,” where during the Cold War aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons once sat ready on a continual basis. So-called “strip alerts” were discontinued in 1991 after the Soviet Union’s collapse.



How Many Troops Does the U.S. Have in Africa? Top Senators Didn’t Know Military Was in Niger

Top members of Congress are claiming this week they had no idea the U.S. military had a presence in Niger after four U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed there in an ambush on October 4.

But the U.S. military has been in Niger since 2013 and this wasn’t a secret. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been tweeting about U.S. involvement in Niger for years. And thousands of troops serve across Africa every day.

Caught in a deadly ambush, U.S. troops in Niger waited an hour for French air power to arrive – The Washington Post

The U.S. Special Forces team caught in a deadly ambush three weeks ago in Niger did not request help from nearby French forces for about an hour after the firefight began near a village the Americans had visited during a reconnaissance mission several hours prior, the Pentagon’s top general said Monday.

It then took the French another hour to get fighter jets over the American troops, according to a new timeline provided by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The disclosure doubles the amount of time the U.S. troops were believed to have fought without significant additional help.

Trump’s $25K check to Gold Star family dated same day as Post report | TheHill

A Gold Star family in North Carolina received a $25,000 check from President Trump dated the same day The Washington Post published a report that they were still waiting for it.

Soldier’s Widow Says Trump Struggled to Remember Sgt. La David Johnson’s Name – The New York Times

“That’s what hurt me the most,” Myeshia Johnson said of a condolence call President Trump made after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger.

Gold Star widow: Trump couldn’t remember my husband’s name. Trump: she’s a liar.

Shortly after the ABC News interview, President Trump responded to Myeshia Johnson’s remarks, asserting, “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

In sparring with a grieving widow, Trump follows his no-apology playbook – The Washington Post

The conflict bears all the hallmarks of a typical Trump rumble: over-broad boasts, inconsistent official accounts, tweeted name-calling, partisan attacks, aides ensnared in controversy and a steady effort to pin the blame for the whole hullabaloo on the news media.

Rep. Frederica Wilson Might Have a Defamation Case Against John Kelly | LawNewz

Not only did Kelly baldly lie about Wilson’s remarks, he cast them in such a light that they would certainly qualify as defamatory–and by virtue of badmouthing Wilson in front of the nation, the publication element is easily satisfied. Simply defamatory statements alone don’t automatically rise to the level of legal defamation, of course, so Wilson would also have to show that Kelly was acting with something akin to negligence or actual malice–knowledge the statement was false.

Here, the availability of public records–from which Kelly could have referenced before making his accusations–and the possibility of Kelly having relied upon the Trump White House for the version he relayed to the country at least pose a question which could be provided to a jury. Since defamation cases rise and fail based on summary judgments, Wilson would have a fairly worthwhile case in line with D.C. court precedents. Where she would have the most trouble is the final element, pleading special harm.



Cutting Taxes Is Hard. Trump Is Making It Harder. – The New York Times

Overhauling the tax code was never going to be easy given that it requires targeting lucrative and politically popular tax breaks to mitigate the magnitude of cuts Republicans are envisioning. Lawmakers must mitigate the revenue loss from those tax cuts in order to avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass a bill along party lines.

Publicly and privately, supporters of the Republican tax effort say they are concerned that Mr. Trump will make a hard task even harder. The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a similarly difficult effort, and the president’s comments and actions were often not helpful.

Trump’s promises narrow GOP’s options on tax bill – The Washington Post

“You are trying to stuff a $4 trillion or $5 trillion tax cut in a $1.5 trillion box,” said Steve Moore, who was one of President Trump’s top economic advisers during the 2016 campaign. “That means something has to give here.”

Tax Cuts Are Coming. So Are the Fights About Paying for Them. – The New York Times

Cutting taxes isn’t hard. Paying for them is. Republicans are running into a math problem as they try to change longstanding tax preferences in their $1.5 trillion tax rewrite.

Farmers and ranchers wary of Republican tax cut plan

The administration insists that farmers and ranchers will be better off under the president’s plan. But that depends on the details that emerge in Congress. Agriculture is just one example of a broad array of sectors and industries that are battling to preserve cherished carveouts and deductions, in a lobbying blitz that will dog efforts to pass a tax bill this year.

Trump tax reform plan: Foreign investors gain more than middle class – Business Insider

As Rosenthal notes, the $70 billion windfall from the lowering of the corporate tax rate would be a bigger boon to foreign investors than the total benefit from all of the proposed changes in the tax plan for middle income Americans.

Corker: Trump meeting with GOP on tax reform is just a ‘photo op’ | TheHill

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) reportedly said Monday that President Trump joining Republican senators at their weekly policy lunch on Tuesday to talk tax reform is just a “photo op” for the president.

No, the GOP Tax Plan Won’t Give You a $9,000 Raise – WSJ

The White House’s wild claims about the wage effects of corporate rate cuts don’t add up.



Russian Trolling of US Social Media May Have Been Much Greater Than We Thought | The Nation

The impact of the Russians’ use of American social media in 2016 may have been much greater than first reported. Initially, it seemed very limited: According to a September statement by Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, Russian-government agents spent about $100,000 on something like 3,000 ads through 470 inauthentic Facebook users. However, in introducing the Honest Ads Act, Senator Warner, vice chairman of the SSCI, suggested that what we know now is just “the tip of the iceberg.” And new research, investigative reports, and revelations from inside Russia, are beginning to give us an idea of just how enormous that iceberg is.

Russia’s Favored Outlet Is an Online News Giant. YouTube Helped. – The New York Times

YouTube — the world’s most-visited video site, owned by one of the most powerful and influential corporations in America — played a crucial role in helping build and expand RT, an organization that the American intelligence community has described as the Kremlin’s “principal international propaganda outlet” and a key player in Russia’s information warfare operations around the world.

While Kremlin-aligned agents secretly built fake Facebook groups to foment political division and deployed hordes of Twitter bots to stoke criticism of Hillary Clinton, RT worked out in the open, bolstered by one of the largest online audiences of any news organization in the world and a prominent presence on YouTube’s search results.

Russia State News Outlet RT Thrives on YouTube, Facebook – WSJ

Although Google, Facebook and Twitter have spent months trying to ferret out covert Russian influence on their sites, RT, which intelligence officials call a top Kremlin propaganda tool, uses their social-media platforms as the main distributors of its content.

RT’s main English-language YouTube channel has amassed 2.1 billion views and 2.2 million subscribers, roughly the same figures as CNN’s primary YouTube channel. Fox News’s main channel has 600 million views. RT has drawn an additional 3.3 billion views across roughly 20 other channels, making it among YouTube’s most-watched news networks. YouTube, by running ads before RT’s videos, also gives the Russian-government outlet ad revenue.

Russian Propaganda Hosted by Man on Staten Island, New York

Moscow may have paid for the memes, but a man in a quiet Staten Island neighborhood hosted them. It’s further evidence of how deep into America the Russian campaign extended.

The use of a tiny, no-questions-asked hosting company run by a man living in New York shows the Kremlin-backed troll farm’s brazen use of Americans and American companies to conduct its disinformation campaign.

Over the past two months, Russia’s efforts to integrate Americans and U.S. communities into its vast propaganda campaigns has become clearer, as social media companies began shuttering accounts originating from Russia’s Internet Research Agency, or troll farm.



Hopes Dim for Congressional Russia Inquiries as Parties Clash – The New York Times

All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan comity, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find.

Nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling.

Bill Browder is one of Putin’s biggest critics. The US just revoked his visa.

Browder’s visa was revoked on Saturday, the same day Putin managed to get Browder placed on Interpol’s international watch list. Being on the list means he can’t leave the UK without potentially facing arrest.

Though far from a household name, Browder is no random billionaire. He’s spent most of the past decade pursuing anti-Putin legislation from country to country in the name of one of his former employees, Sergei Magnitsky, who died under horrific circumstances in a Russian prison nine years ago.

In this country, Browder’s lobbying efforts led Congress to pass the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in late 2012, a bill that singled out a number of Putin allies and denied them US visas. The Kremlin has been trying to get him put on an Interpol watch list ever since; this week, after four earlier efforts, it finally succeeded.

Putin critic cleared to travel to US | TheHill

The Department of Homeland Security says that a critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin can travel to the United States following outcry over the revelation that his travel privileges had been revoked.

Trump Fails To Sanction Russia Over Election Meddling and Defies Congress With Three-Week Delay

The Trump administration has failed to place new sanctions on Russia, further deepening allegations the president is soft on Russia. The bill was a direct result of Russia’s meddling in last year’s election, though Trump has not completely accepted Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s efforts or even agreed with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that the Russians intentionally interfered in order to help Trump claim the White House over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Congress: Trump Won’t Implement Russia Sanctions—and He Won’t Tell Us Why

“If they don’t cooperate, then further actions need to be taken,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Daily Beast on Monday. The Arizona senator, who chairs the powerful Armed Services Committee and has spoken out against the White House on its attitude toward Moscow, said the administration has left him in the dark.

But aside from procedural tactics, Congress is essentially powerless in compelling the executive branch to follow through on the law it forced them to sign.



Tillerson Visits Iraq to Chilly Reception Over His Remarks on Iran-Backed Militias – The New York Times

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson slipped into Iraq Monday night after having spent the morning in Afghanistan, but his welcome in Baghdad was far less effusive as the Trump administration pushes to isolate Iran, an important Iraqi ally.

The diplomatic challenges for the United States in Iraq have become a minefield of competing interests as the Islamic State surrenders the last of its Iraqi territory and a host of squabbling groups fight to fill the vacuum.

Iraqi Forces Overpower Kurds, but Public Relations Battle Rages – The New York Times

Military operations in Iraq this past week were one-sided, with Iraqi government forces using superior numbers and firepower to reclaim disputed areas that had been controlled by separatist Iraqi Kurds since 2014.

But in the public relations war, the two American allies are vying on a more level battlefield to win international support and sympathy just days after Iraq drove Kurdish fighters from almost all of the contested areas.

Iran Saps Strength of Revolutionary Guards With Arrests and Cutbacks – The New York Times

The elite military group drove the Iranian economy at the peak of the sanctions era. Now, seen as a drag on growth, it is under attack by President Hassan Rouhani.



How Saudi Arabia Is Building Its $2 Trillion Fund – Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia is stepping up plans to turn its sovereign wealth fund into a global giant. This week, it’s holding a coming-out party of sorts for the Public Investment Fund, which is central to the government’s effort to diversify the economy away from oil, under a plan known as Vision 2030. The Saudis are hosting the titans of investing and finance at a summit that aims to raise the profile of the PIF, which could eventually control more than $2 trillion, according to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That explains why many eyes will be on — and private jets winging toward — the Saudi capital.

Ill-Timed Uber Investment Roils a Giant Saudi Fund – WSJ

Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Public Investment Fund is poised to become one of the world’s biggest investors. But the PIF, as it is known, is off to a rocky start: After struggling to calculate its own value, it is mired in conflict over disappointing investments, including in Uber.

After the Saudi fund invested $3.5 billion in Uber last year, the car-hailing company’s fortunes dimmed when its chief resigned under misconduct allegations. At the same time, the investment gave Uber help in trying to undercut a local company that was a successful investment for the fund.

More recently, the fund’s chairman has been pushing back against parts of a deal with the biggest PIF partner, SoftBank Group Corp., that could cut Uber’s value, which would force the Saudi fund to take a loss.



A Second Bitcoin Fork Is Looming and Battle Lines Are Being Drawn – Motherboard

When a group of Bitcoin users and companies split the digital currency into two different versions in August, it was an unprecedented event in the technology’s nine-year history. Now just four months after that “hard fork,” as such splits are known, yet another version of the world’s most popular digital currency is scheduled to be created.

Within the next 12 hours, if all goes according to plan, techies and investors will be able to choose between Bitcoin (the original version), Bitcoin Cash, and the latest, soon-to-be-created iteration: Bitcoin Gold. As the deadline looms, Bitcoin companies and exchanges are taking sides on whether to support Bitcoin Gold or not.

DRW leads high frequency trading charge into cryptocurrencies

Proprietary trading firms, which bet their own capital in markets from stocks to futures, are wading into bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies better known as a playground for small speculators and a haven for money-laundering.

DRW of Chicago, one of the world’s largest proprietary trading companies, has led the charge. About a dozen of its more than 800 employees buy and sell bitcoin at a subsidiary named Cumberland Mining, which was established in 2014.

Other firms have followed, including Jump Trading, DV Trading and Hehmeyer Trading + Investments, according to industry executives. At a trading industry conference in Chicago last week, a standing-room-only crowd massed for a panel on cryptocurrencies.

Saudi Billionaire Alwaleed Sees Enron-Like Demise for Bitcoin – Bloomberg

“I just don’t believe in this bitcoin thing. I think it’s just going to implode one day. I think this is Enron in the making,” Alwaleed told CNBC in an interview. “It just doesn’t make sense. This thing is not regulated, it’s not under control, it’s not under the supervision” of any central bank, he said

Cryptocurrency companies forced to bank outside UK

British banks are shunning companies that handle cryptocurrencies, forcing many to open accounts in Gibraltar, Poland and Bulgaria and prompting some to question the UK’s ambitions to be a global hub for the fast-growing fintech sector.

Investor interest in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has surged since their prices rocketed this year, but traditional banks are steering clear of the sector, fearing it is riddled with criminals and fraudsters.

Bitcoin Pioneer Says New Coin to Work on Multiple Blockchains – Bloomberg

Jeff Garzik, one of a handful of key developers who helped build the underlying software for bitcoin that is known as blockchain, has seen its shortcomings firsthand. So he decided to create a better digital currency.

He’s calling it Metronome and says it will be the first that can jump between different blockchains. For example, coins that are used for applications on the Ethereum blockchain will be able to move to Ethereum Classic before jumping onto Qtum or Rootstock, which connects with the bitcoin blockchain, said Garzik.

The mobility means that if one blockchain dies out as the result of infighting among developers or slackened use, metronome owners can move their holdings elsewhere. That should help the coins retain value, and ensure their longevity, Garzik, co-founder of startup Bloq that created metronome, said in a phone interview. It will be unveiled Tuesday at the Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas.



Ex-Puerto Rico Gov. slams Trump’s high marks on relief efforts – NY Daily News

Former Governor of Puerto Rico Alejandro García Padilla took a jab at President Trump on Twitter following comments the President made about the United States’ relief efforts on the island.

Padilla questioned Trump’s rating of his performace as a “10,” showing a group of surgeons operating on a patient using only light from their cell phones and flashlights more than one month after Hurricane Maria.

Small Montana firm lands Puerto Rico’s biggest contract to get the power back on – The Washington Post

Whitefish Energy, a two-year-old company, had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall. The unusual decision to hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why [the utility] would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former senior official at the Energy Department and state regulatory agencies. “I’m scratching my head wondering how it all adds up.”

PREPA’s executive director, Ricardo Ramos, and a spokesman did not respond to emails asking why the utility didn’t activate the mutual-aid network. On a tour of the idled Palo Seco power plant, Ramos told reporters that Whitefish was the first company “available to arrive and they were the ones that first accepted terms and conditions for PREPA.”

Puerto Rico’s HQ2 Bid: Amazon Could Have Its Own Energy Source – Bloomberg

Puerto Rico’s top economic development official said the government is prepared to offer Amazon Inc. its own energy grid, allowing the company to bypass the island’s troubled public utility, if it decides to open its second headquarters here.

“We know we are the underdog,” Laboy said by phone from Ponce, Puerto Rico. “But I think that the proposal that we put together is worth a look.”

Amazon would also benefit from special tax rates under existing programs known as Acts 20 and 73, he said. “I really see it as very hard for any other jurisdiction to compete in that criteria,” Laboy said.



Czech Election Won by Anti-Establishment Party Led by Billionaire – The New York Times

Often compared to President Trump, Mr. Babis has mixed such nationalist themes as opposition to immigration with a promise to use his business skills to streamline government, reduce red tape and fight corruption. With mainstream parties in decline, as they have been in recent elections across Europe, his promise to upend the political establishment found a receptive audience.

“The image of politics is corrupt,” said Otto Eibl, a political scientist at Masaryk University in Brno. “It is quite easy to offer an alternative. When you say, ‘All those old politicians are bad, and I will be good,’ most people want to believe you.”

Mr. Babis drew wide support from older Czech voters, fed up with corruption scandals and unfulfilled promises, who were willing to overlook their candidate’s own legal issues.

Italian Regions of Lombardy and Veneto Vote for More Autonomy – The New York Times

The citizens of two northern Italian regions voted overwhelmingly on Sunday in favor of greater autonomy in closely watched referendums that come on the heels of Catalonia’s tortuous attempts to secede from Spain.

The polls closed at 11 p.m. on Sunday, and with most votes counted by early Monday, the results in Lombardy and Veneto suggested that millions of voters had cast ballots to “give a message” to the central government in Rome, Luca Zaia, president of the Veneto region, said at a news conference.

The nonbinding referendums were promoted by the Northern League, which governs both regions, and the outcome will put the regional presidents on firmer footing as they begin negotiating with Rome for greater say — and financial independence — in a number of areas, including security and immigration and education.

Surge in Morocco migrants raises alarm in Spain

Juan Ignacio Zoido, Spain’s interior minister, said last month that migrant arrivals had soared by more than 88 per cent in the first eight months of this year compared to the same period in 2016. About 15,500 people have entered Spain illegally this year, including 11,000 who were rescued from rickety boats that sailed from Moroccan shores, he added.

Poland Is Cutting the ‘Last Fuses’ on Democracy, Official Warns – Bloomberg

The latest plan by President Andrzej Duda and the ruling party to revamp the Supreme Court and a powerful judicial body would remove the last safety mechanism protecting the rule of law in Poland, said Adam Bodnar, elected in 2015 by the previous parliament as the country’s ombudsman. His voice adds to EU and U.S. concerns over a two-year effort to subdue the judiciary, just as the drive enters what could be the final stage.

“These are the last fuses,” Bodnar said in an interview in his Warsaw office. If the planned overhaul is implemented, it will dismantle “the safety valves protecting human rights,” he said.



Nevada gun shows tied to firearm violence in California: study

Firearms-related deaths and injuries increased 70 percent in parts of California in the weeks after gun shows in neighboring Nevada, which has fewer regulations on such events, a University of California, Berkeley study released on Monday found.

Three Weeks After Las Vegas, Legislation to Ban Bump Stocks Has Stalled Out In Congress

Three weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, efforts to pass even scaled-down gun control legislation have effectively stalled on Capitol Hill.

Congressional aides and issue advocates say they see no viable path for passing even the most promising bill: an effort to ban the manufacturing and sale of bump stocks, which were used by the Las Vegas shooter to essentially turn his semi-automatic weapons into fully automatics ones.



Ray Dalio Says Fed Should View U.S. as Split Into Two Economies – Bloomberg

The Federal Reserve should more closely monitor the economic struggles of the bottom 60 percent of the economy when making policy since “average statistics” are camouflaging what’s really occurring in the U.S., billionaire Ray Dalio wrote in a report Monday.

Dalio noted wide disparities in factors including labor, retirement savings, health care, death rates and education between the top 40 percent and bottom 60 percent of the country. The founder of Bridgewater Associates said it would be a “serious mistake” for the Fed to just focus on a national average as it could lead the policy makers to see a brighter economic picture than the reality.

“Because the economic, social, and political consequences of an economic downturn would likely be severe, if I were running Fed policy, I would want to take this into consideration and keep an eye on the economy of the bottom 60%,” Dalio said in his Daily Observations report. “Similarly, having this perspective will be very important for those who determine fiscal policies and for investors concerned with their wealth management.”

Ray Dalio warns of struggles for bottom half of US economy – Business Insider

The point of this exercise is to show that while the headline numbers show a growing, healthy economy, there’s a lot more going on under the surface that needs to be paid attention to. The stats he cites for the bottom 60% are downright depressing. Here’s a selection taken straight from the note:

— Real incomes have been flat to down slightly for the average household in the bottom 60% since 1980 (while they have been up for the top 40%).

— Those in the top 40% now have on average 10 times as much wealth as those in the bottom 60%. That is up from six times as much in 1980.

— Only about a third of the bottom 60% saves any of its income (in cash or financial assets).

— Only about a third of families in the bottom 60% have retirement savings accounts—e.g., pensions, 401(k)s—which average less than $20,000.

— For those in the bottom 60%, premature deaths are up by about 20% since 2000. The biggest contributors to that change are an increase in deaths by drugs/poisoning (up two times since 2000) and an increase in suicides (up over 50% since 2000).

— The top 40% spend four times more on education than the bottom 60%.

— The average household income for main income earners without a college degree is half that of the average college graduate.

— Since 1980, divorce rates have more than doubled among middle-aged whites without college degrees, from 11% to 23%.

— The number of prime-age white men without college degrees not in the labor force has increased from 7% to 15% since 1980.



Pimco Sees China Refraining From Broad-Based Deleveraging – Bloomberg

China’s deleveraging campaign will create pockets of pain in markets over the coming year, without curtailing borrowing to the extent that debt actually declines, according to Pimco.

“The overarching issue is that we don’t envisage a drop in the debt stock,” Singapore-based Spajic said in a phone interview. “In general, this market is domestically funded — so as long as China avoids a sharp economic slowdown over the next few years, then in all likelihood, this debt should all or in general be rolled over quite comfortably.”

India Unearths $1 Billion of Suspicious Cash in Corruption Crackdown – Bloomberg

India is intensifying its crackdown on dubious companies after it unearthed over $1 billion in suspicious cash deposits as part of its crackdown on corruption and efforts to boost foreign investment, a minister said.

While the government has already deregistered over 200,000 companies and restricted their bank accounts, it is now working on limiting property transfers to trace any further generation of black money, said P.P. Chaudhary, junior minister for corporate affairs, in an interview on Oct. 18 in New Delhi.


An assertive China challenges the west

It used to be conventional wisdom in the west that China would pay a heavy economic price for restricting freedom of expression, and that this price would only rise as China attempted to move away from low-cost manufacturing towards a knowledge economy.

But China is increasingly confident that it can combine tight political control with continued rapid economic growth and technological innovation. The economy is growing at 6.9 per cent a year — impressive for a middle-income economy that is now (depending on the unit of measurement) either the largest or the second-largest in the world.

More significant than the raw growth figures is China’s success in the new economy and in cutting-edge technologies. The Chinese point, with justifiable pride, to the fact that the country is well ahead of the US and Europe in mobile-payment technology. China has made faster progress towards a “cashless society” than most developed economies of the west. It is routine for Chinese consumers to pay for small items, such as food at a street stall, using their mobile phones. Alipay and WeChat Pay, the most common mobile payments systems, have become symbols of Chinese innovation; both the government and the private sector are confident of many more breakthroughs in the coming decade in a range of fields including robotics, drones, green technology and artificial intelligence.

For all the pomp surrounding President Xi’s speech last week, the Chinese leader’s public rhetoric is still relatively modest and cautious. But while President Trump is still unmatched when it comes to bombastic rhetoric, the US leader’s underlying vision for his country now looks small and backward-looking compared with the grandiose ambitions that President Xi has laid out for China.

Europe could see more Catalonias

The anger that poor regions feel for the rampant metropolis — that Pas-de-Calais feels for Paris, that Indiana feels for New York — might turn out to weigh less than the grievances that flow in the opposite direction. In this version of the future, it is the city dwellers who feel wronged by regions that free ride on their productive surplus and vote against their heathen ways from a distance. (Call it representation without taxation.) National governments find it harder to raise revenue from the one to subsidise the other. Regionalist movements emerge, pressing for greater and greater autonomy if not formal secession.

If anything characterises the present-day conservative, such as President Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon or the people who brought you Brexit, it is a habit of talking about the nation state as though it were a non-negotiable constant of history rather than an improvisation of recent centuries. There is something of the arriviste about them, forever reading heritage into a mock Tudor mansion. The nation is too young to deserve this assumption of permanence. It emerged before the welfare state, when fiscal transfers between regions were too small to constitute a burden on anyone. It also predates a global economy whose returns are to knowledge and capital, which convene on cities rather than to land and industry. It is curiously untested by the modern world.

There will be no restoration of the city states, no undoing of the Risorgimento, no secessions in Hamburg and Bordeaux. But there is every prospect of cities demanding more self-rule as relations deteriorate with nations that seem to need and resent them all at once. If conservatives cherish the nation state, they cannot become a one-sided lobby for the angriest provinces. That is an abusive relationship, not a country. The long-run threat to nationhood comes from productive, outward-facing regions that look at their domestic stragglers and feel — to steal a phrase — shackled to a corpse.

Captains of Finance Dismiss Bitcoin at Their Peril | WIRED

Even if Bitcoin is in a price bubble, that doesn’t make it a tulip. The same is true for other new and untested digital currencies. What makes Bitcoin so appealing is the potential that it will augment and replace traditional currencies. Through its underlying blockchain technology, Bitcoin has the potential to facilitate secure, authenticated transactions between a buyer and seller, without the mediation of a bank or a government. That it has yet to do so does not prove that it cannot or will not do so. Skeptics should welcome the debate.

In truth, the financial industry has been among the least nimble in adopting to the promise and peril of information technologies. If you want to see what might be coming, look at China, which lacks a strong and deep banking system. China is in the news this week for the 19th Party Congress that will see Xi Jinping solidify his leadership. Just as important is how China’s technology companies are creating a sui generis financial system. Alibaba, for instance, dominates the mobile- and electronic-payment infrastructure though its Ant Financial subsidiary. The range of service offered by Ant (formerly Alipay) dwarfs the capabilities of Paypal, and Paypal is among the most innovative and creative US financial companies. Ant facilitates mobile and nearly instant payments, wire transfers, loans, credit checks, peer-to-peer payments, and purchases. And it hardly stands alone; its services are offered by dozens of other established players, along with fledging entrants. WeChat, for instance, which began as a messaging app, now facilitates peer-to-peer lending and money transfers without users interacting with a traditional bank. Imagine WhatsApp or Facebook acting as your primary banking and payments portal and you get the idea.

Yes, our world is not China’s world; the United States has regulatory hurdles and a deep established financial infrastructure, as does the European Union. But those hurdles and that infrastructure are a product of the latter part of the 20th century. They are hardly eternal verities. That makes the belief that nothing changes quickly even more myopic and perplexing.

One hundred years on, what do Russians think of 1917?

In a series of interviews with Russians from all walks of life, the Financial Times found a staggering range of views, emotions and knowledge about the events of 1917: the aristocrat who mourns a nation forever destroyed by the uprising, the young Communist who is full of revolutionary rhetoric yet belongs to a party that has been tamed by President Vladimir Putin, and the theatre director who feels a spiritual connection to the desperate terrorist intellectuals of the time. The disconnect between their views reflects how little the country has come to terms with what happened a century ago this week.

Will Trump Oversee the Financial Apocalypse? | Vanity Fair

In case you hadn’t noticed, we live in precarious times. Our president is frighteningly unpredictable, and thrives on chaos and insecurity. His bizarre behavior has put people around the world on edge. Yet the stock market in the U.S., where the Dow Jones recently crossed 23,000, keeps hitting new highs and interest rates have stayed stubbornly low. Gundlach and Grant are right to worry that it won’t take much for interest rates to spike—sending bond prices spiraling downward—or for the stock market to suffer a major correction, after an extraordinary run that began in March 2009. “My job is to find scary things,” Gundlach told McLean. “My critics say, ‘You find seven risks for every one that exists.’ Guilty. That’s my job. My job is to try to find out what can go wrong, not cover my ears and hum. It’s better to keep your eyes open.” When an expert such as Gundlach speaks, it generally pays to listen.

As Trump likes to remind us regularly, via Twitter, the singular accomplishment of his administration is one stock-market record after another. But the major propellants of the stock market these days are the economy Trump inherited, the tax cuts that may turn out to be a chimera, and an overinflated bond market that misprices risk every day. When it all comes crashing down, will Trump take credit for that too?

Supersized Family Farms Are Gobbling Up American Agriculture – WSJ

Big operations like Mr. Frahm’s, which he has spent decades building, are prospering despite the deepest farm slump since the 1980s. Years of low prices for corn, wheat and other commodities brought on by a glut of grain world-wide are driving smaller American farmers out of business.

Farms with $1 million or more in annual sales—only 4% of the total—now produce two-thirds of the country’s agricultural output, the largest portion since the U.S. Agriculture Department’s census began tracking the statistic in the ’80s.

The shift means food production is being increasingly handled by larger farms, which can be more financially secure. It also fuels a cycle in which size begets size, further transforming the rural economy. Smaller-scale farmers struggle to expand their operations to become profitable. Work becomes more scarce. Farm-supply retailers and grain companies are pressured, since larger farms use their size to wrangle better deals.

Owners say the big operations—which are still almost entirely run by private farmers and not companies—use machinery and technology more efficiently, get better prices on bulk supplies and manage to keep more of the profits by cutting out middlemen.

Working to Rule — Crooked Timber

The UK has become a nasty little country. It sticks out a bit less in a neighbourhood with Austria, Hungary, Poland and Turkey nearby. But as a country, the UK is working hard to make itself objectively nastier, and to suppress the voices of those in British society who could curb its sharpest, most small-minded insecurities. Charities here are gagged from speaking about poverty, church-leaders and protesters go unreported and ignored. Xenophobic attacks are up by almost a third, since the Brexit vote. The government and media thinks it’s unremarkable for people on benefits – and their children – to go without a penny of income for two or three months at a time. (And when they eventually get paid, to go without when there’s a fifth Monday in the month.) Women inmates in the prison system have a lower chance of survival than did British soldiers in Afghanistan. The education system is expressly designed to herd the 93% with rote-learning, box-ticking and arbitrary discipline into a life of menial under-employment, while the 7% enjoy Olympic-sized swimming pools and theatres better equipped than most professional ones. And when privatized state school “academy” chains go tits-up, the funds raised by their Christmas fairs and sponsored runs are asset-stripped by company directors, but private schools for the wealthiest are officially charities, with £100 million in tax benefits a year. The country’s flagship news programme thinks “balance” is pitting a soft versus a hard brexiteer, and the millionaire-funded Leave campaign admits using botnets to spread its lies, but no one even shrugs.

I suppose part of my feeling worse over time is that Britain is actively choosing to be this way. The liars lie and you pretend to give them a hearing. The poor suffer, and sometimes burn, but can’t be saved or housed. The immigrants take their lumps, and plan, and quietly disappear. And the politicians give a week and more to standing around, whining about a fucking clock, and pronounce any work on fixing the mess they’ve made impossible until a farcically bad election campaign has been fought, or party conference season is over or whatever the next Conservative psycho-drama is going to be has played out, while the country stumbles over the cliff because democracy, it now appears, was a one-shot deal.

In all that mess, here’s one thing among the many that seems to have gone unnoticed. When you reduce all your dealings with a group of people to the purely transactional, you may think you are being very clever and forcing a better deal, but you have changed the way those people will interact with you, and also whether they will trust you in future. I used to be an immigrant who, for all the UK’s shortcomings, felt loyalty to my chosen home. And gratitude, though it’s embarrassing to admit that, now. I knew there were certain ways of acting and being the UK had developed for itself – to do with tolerance, civility, self-deprecation, humour, curiosity, a general broad-mindedness and the underlying cultural confidence of a country that knows cooperation isn’t a zero-sum game – that meant there was room for people like me to belong.

By reducing the British state’s relationship with the three million EU citizens who live here to a single cost-benefit analysis (calculated with striking actuarial incompetence), the UK has made the mistake so many employers make when they put the bean-counters in charge. They have failed to account for the value of good will. Good will of a company’s suppliers and customers – analogous to a countries’s partners and allies – has a value and can be destroyed. Similarly, working to rule is often one of the first steps employees – in this analogy, immigrants – take towards industrial action. Working to rule demonstrates that for all the Taylorist calculation of what a job entails, it’s the extra 15-20% we do that makes the world go round. The government seems to think it is grown-up and serious to treat us like economic widgets that can be ordered when needed and discarded when not. It’s wrong. It will lose out, too, from making citizenship and belonging purely transactional.

Why The Athletic Wants to Pillage Newspapers – The New York Times

“We will suck them dry of their best talent at every moment. We will make business extremely difficult for them.”

The Athletic is already one of the biggest sports media companies in the country, with about 65 editorial employees. “Our ambition is to be the local sports page for every city in the country,” Mather said.

To understand why The Athletic is so brazen about its vulture strategy, one must appreciate the state of play at local and regional newspapers throughout the country. Under dire financial duress, many have put extraordinary demands on beat writers to produce heavy volumes of content, often without wage increases. The reporters are sometimes the most knowledgeable sources of information on the teams they cover, but they are afforded little opportunity to step back and write impactful articles.

The Family That Built an Empire of Pain | The New Yorker

Although the Sackler name can be found on dozens of buildings, Purdue’s Web site scarcely mentions the family, and a list of the company’s board of directors fails to include eight family members, from three generations, who serve in that capacity. “I don’t know how many rooms in different parts of the world I’ve given talks in that were named after the Sacklers,” Allen Frances, the former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, told me. “Their name has been pushed forward as the epitome of good works and of the fruits of the capitalist system. But, when it comes down to it, they’ve earned this fortune at the expense of millions of people who are addicted. It’s shocking how they have gotten away with it.”

The New Populism Isn’t About Economics – Bloomberg

It’s time to admit that the nationalist turn in global politics isn’t mainly about economics or economic failures. Instead, the intellectual and ideological and cultural battles in some countries have led to these new political directions under a wide variety of economic conditions, some of them quite positive.

One obvious explanation for populism and nationalism is that many countries are globalizing with more immigration, trade and foreign investment. It’s a cultural crisis more than an economic one, as citizens see their national identities shifting. Some electorates respond by wanting to turn back the clock or at least hinder its acceleration. That said, I don’t think we yet know why some countries or regions are more shaken than others by these globalizing processes. In Europe, it is often the central and eastern countries, with relatively low immigration levels, that are the most upset about immigration.

Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Sicker In-Between – Bloomberg

Data released last week suggest Americans’ health is declining and millions of middle-age workers face the prospect of shorter, and less active, retirements than their parents enjoyed.

Here are the stats: The U.S. age-adjusted mortality rate—a measure of the number of deaths per year—rose 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Society of Actuaries. That’s the first year-over-year increase since 2005, and only the second rise greater than 1 percent since 1980.

At the same time that Americans’ life expectancy is stalling, public policy and career tracks mean millions of U.S. workers are waiting longer to call it quits. The age at which people can claim their full Social Security benefits is gradually moving up, from 65 for those retiring in 2002 to 67 in 2027.

Postponing retirement can make financial sense, because extended careers can make it possible to afford retirements that last past age 90 or even 100. But a study out this month adds some caution to that calculation.

Americans in their late 50s already have more serious health problems than people at the same ages did 10 to 15 years ago, according to the journal Health Affairs.



Bank of Japan Is Considering to Lower Inflation Outlook, Sources Say – Bloomberg

Lowering the price forecast will reinforce the widespread view that the BOJ will carry on its massive easing program long after its global peers have moved in the opposite direction. Such policy divergence could help weaken the yen to around 120 versus the dollar, former BOJ board member Sayuri Shirai said.

On the broader economy, the continuing recovery means the BOJ policy board is likely to discuss changing its view that risks are “skewed to the downside,” according to some of the people familiar with the central bank’s discussions.



Goldman Sachs Warns ‘Peak Growth’ May Spell Pain for U.S. Stocks – Bloomberg

The S&P 500 Index has averaged negative returns on a three-month and six-month basis during the eight occasions since 1980 that the closely watched gauge of U.S. factory activity has exceeded 60.

“An environment of synchronized global growth acceleration today raises the risk of coordinated global slowdown tomorrow,” Kostin cautioned in an Oct. 20 note to clients

Why This Stock Bear Sees No Hope for Emerging Markets – Bloomberg

“I’m struggling to identify any attractive bets for emerging markets under authoritarian regimes,” Smith said in an interview from London. “The notion that both sovereign and corporate governance throughout the world will gradually converge towards some supposed liberal norm is now well and truly dead.”

Stocks in particular are adversely affected under authoritarianism because states typically redistribute resources away from minority capital to fit their social and political agenda, according to Smith. He says this could crush the decade-long bets some funds are making on emerging markets. While Smith is bearish across developing-nation stocks, his equity strategy consultancy is less pessimistic on Thailand and the Philippines near-term given their lower exposure to commodity prices, contagion risks with China and moral hazards.



GE Plunges the Most in Six Years – Bloomberg

General Electric Co. tumbled the most in six years after the company’s deteriorating outlook stoked fears it will cut its dividend for only the second time since the Great Depression.



Chinese issuers prepare ‘supercycle’ of technology IPOs

China Literature, the online reading platform being spun out of Tencent, is raising up to $1.1bn as the country’s tech sector is set for a blockbuster quarter of initial public offerings.

“The primary market has started to shake loose several companies,” said one banker. “This is a sign of the early waves coming in from the supercycle of tech and tech-related IPOs we are going to see over the next couple of years.”



US investment banks charge up to $15k for analyst calls

Analyst research provided by US investment banks is being priced at unrealistically high levels and can cost more than seven times the global average, according to a new report.

The typical price range for a single phone call with an analyst is wide, beginning at $800 and going up to $10,000, with a global average of $2,000, according to Third Bridge, a research company. But US providers are coming in way above this, with some quoting as much as $15,000 to hear the views of a star analyst.

The study, based on responses from 30 asset managers, has highlighted the upheaval in the way research is priced by investment banks and boutique sellside companies ahead of European rules that come into force in January.



China Invents Rice That Can Grow in Salt Water, Can Feed Over 200 Million People

Scientists in China succeeded in growing the yield of a strain of saltwater-tolerant rice nearly three times their expectation. Researchers initially expected an output of around 4.5 tons per hectare, but surprised themselves when four types registered 6.5 to 9.3 tons per hectare.

California Cars Are Running on Restaurant Grease – Bloomberg

California’s battle against climate change is being fought more fiercely in fast food restaurants than in Tesla Inc.’s car factory in Fremont.

Seven years after the Golden State began offering credits to producers of low-carbon fuels, cities and companies across California are using diesel brewed from fats and oils to fuel everything from fire trucks to United Parcel Service Inc. delivery vehicles. Now, the value of the credits exceed those from electric vehicles fourfold and are second only to ethanol.



How One Iron Ore Miner Plans to Beat a Global Glut – Bloomberg

The global iron ore market may be oversupplied for as long as half a decade, keeping prices under pressure, according to billionaire Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd., which plans to fight back by raising the quality of its output amid a global shift toward higher-grade material.



China-backed port sparks Sri Lanka sovereignty fears

The increasing Chinese presence has threatened to complicate Sri Lanka’s relationship with neighbouring India, which has grown to rely heavily on Sri Lanka’s port infrastructure. The technical limitations of India’s own ports, coupled with their distance from main international sea lanes, mean most of India’s container shipments have to be “trans-shipped” through foreign ports visited by large vessels — with Colombo accounting for roughly half of this.

With strategic tension rising between India and China — as evidenced by a recent stand-off between their forces on a remote Himalayan plateau — the growing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka appears to have prompted action from New Delhi. An Indian state company has offered to take a controlling stake in the airport near Hambantota on a 40-year lease, proposing to invest $205m despite heavy continuing losses. “It’s a political decision with no commercial logic,” Mr Jafferjee says.

China’s New Antipollution Push Could Cool Its Growth Engine – The New York Times

The campaign, which started two years ago but picked up speed in recent months, is so broad that it is starting to affect markets. Some economists have begun to warn of a possible modest slowing of the entire Chinese economy this winter.

Officials sought Monday to reassure the Chinese public and businesses that the pollution crackdown would help clean up the country without disrupting growth. “It is impossible that such efforts will not have any impact on enterprises,” Mr. Li said. “But in the long run, and from the macro perspective, the impact will be minimal.”

Pollution figures strongly into the broader debate over the cost of growth in China. Officials in China are under pressure to keep the economy revving to provide good jobs for its young people and for rural residents moving into cities, among others. But stimulating growth has compounded China’s debt problems, added to its pollution woes and created other complications that Beijing must address.



Protests after EPA stopped scientists from presenting climate change research – The Washington Post

The Trump administration’s decision to prevent government scientists from presenting climate change-related research at a conference in Rhode Island on Monday gave the event a suddenly high profile, with protesters outside, media inside and angry lawmakers and academics criticizing the move.

“This type of political interference, or scientific censorship — whatever you want to call it — is ill-advised and does a real disservice to the American public and public health,” Sen. Jack Reed (D), Rhode Island’s senior senator, said at an opening news conference for the State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed event in Providence. “We can debate the issues. We can have different viewpoints. But we should all be able to objectively examine the data and look at the evidence.”

One in four troops sees white nationalism in the ranks

Nearly one in four troops polled say they have seen examples of white nationalism among their fellow service members, and troops rate it as a larger national security threat than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new Military Times poll.

Concerns about white nationalist groups were more pronounced among minorities in the ranks. Nearly 42 percent of non-white troops who responded to the survey said they have personally experienced examples of white nationalism in the military, versus about 18 percent of white service members.

Across Myanmar, Denial of Ethnic Cleansing and Loathing of Rohingya – The New York Times

An overwhelming body of published accounts has detailed the Myanmar Army’s campaign of killing, rape and arson in Rakhine, which has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya out of the country since late August, in what the United Nations says is the fastest displacement of a people since the Rwanda genocide.

Government officials, opposition politicians, religious leaders and even local human-rights activists have become unified behind this narrative: The Rohingya are not rightful citizens of Buddhist-majority Myanmar, and now, through the power of a globally resurgent Islam, the minority is falsely trying to hijack the world’s sympathy.

Social media postings have amplified the message, claiming that international aid workers are openly siding with the Rohingya. Accordingly, the Myanmar government has blocked aid agencies’ access to Rohingya still trapped in Myanmar — about 120,000 confined to camps in central Rakhine and tens of thousands more in desperate conditions in the north.



Democrats’ early money haul stuns GOP – POLITICO

Democratic candidates are reporting historic early fundraising totals, alarming GOP strategists and raising the prospect that 2018 could feature the most expansive House battlefield in years.

Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional majorities, at least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest FEC data. That’s about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections, and it’s more than twice as many as Republicans had running at this point eight years ago, on the eve of capturing the House in the 2010 wave election.



Airbnb’s China Chief Departs Abruptly Just Months Into the Job – Bloomberg

Hong Ge, a former software engineer at Facebook and Google, told colleagues he was leaving the company for another opportunity. His departure reflects the struggle Airbnb faces in China, where protectionist laws and fierce competitors have long humbled tech giants such as Uber Technologies Inc.. Just this month, its government forced Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to cancel bookings in Beijing’s city center in the lead up to the Communist Party Congress.

Airbnb has long regarded building a brand in China as vital, as affluent millennials travel more than ever before. It spent years raising money and preparing the groundwork to tackle local rivals Xiaozhu and Tujia, which just raised $300 million. While the company has offered properties there since 2013, this year Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky renamed the service “Aibiying” and pledged to double investment in China. It now complies with controversial laws that give local authorities access to users’ information.



Amazon receives 238 proposals for its second headquarters Inc has received 238 proposals from cities and regions across North America vying to host the company’s second headquarters, it said on Monday.

The number of applicants underscores the interest in the contest, which Seattle-based Amazon announced last month. The world’s largest online retailer said it would invest more than $5 billion and create up to 50,000 jobs for “Amazon HQ2”. The deadline for submitting proposals was Thursday. Amazon said 54 states, provinces, districts and territories in the United States, Canada and Mexico were represented in the bids.

Amazon rivals turn to legal fine print to stem Whole Foods strategy

Reuters could not determine the full extent of limits on Whole Foods stores because lease deals vary from mall to mall, and many are not public. While restricting how neighbors operate is a standard practice in retail, Amazon is new to feeling the heat.

Some mall owners and real estate brokers say Whole Foods will still find landlords who are eager to have the high-profile tenant driving traffic in their malls, and see rivals trying to keep Whole Foods out as short-sighted.

But with nearly all of Whole Foods’ 473 stores subject to lease agreements and plans to add up to 85 stores, according to regulatory filings, Amazon has launched into brick-and-mortar with more constraints and entrenched enemies than in the online world it dominates.

Amazon to open AI centre in Germany’s Cyber Valley

Amazon, which this month purchased AI human modelling start-up Body Labs, said that as well as joining the initiative it would open a research centre in Tübingen and create 100 jobs dedicated to expanding applied research with AI.

The Amazon Research Center will mean the US ecommerce behemoth is part of “one of the largest research partnerships in Europe in the field of artificial intelligence”, said Ralf Herbrich, director of machine learning at Amazon.



Driverless Cars Made Me Nervous. Then I Tried One. – The New York Times

I began my short time with the Volvo too nervous to use some features. By the end, I was confident that the car made me safer. Now that I’m back to driving a nearly decade-old Toyota, I miss the things that initially made me anxious.

GM’s Self-Driving Cars Head for New York City, Where They’ll Face the Bullies | WIRED

“This could become a problem with pedestrians ‘bullying’ self-driving cars,” says Bart Selman, an artificial intelligence expert at Cornell University. “Self driving cars behave conservatively, and follow all the rules, so there is a problem when humans push them and bend the rules.” Humans do that a lot, and not just in New York. We speed, roll through stop signs, push yellow lights, jaywalk. For the most part, it works out fine. It’s just part of the dance of sharing the road with other people. Combine robots designed to treat the rules of the road as gospel and humans who know they can take advantage of them, and the dance floor can become a mosh pit.

Even in a calmer environment than Manhattan at rush hour, crossing the street is an masterclass in non-verbal, nearly subconscious communication and calculation. Is the approaching driver braking gently or approaching aggressively? Is he making eye contact, or is he watching the traffic light? Do you raise a hand in thanks, or a finger in recrimination? These small actions build a bigger picture about the actions of your fellow humans that you know and they how to read. When there’s nobody in the driver’s seat, a large part of that communication will disappear.

Palladium Prices Soar in Sign of Global Growth and Auto Demand – WSJ

“Nobody really predicted this big move,” said Edward Meir, a strategist at brokerage INTL FCStone. “It’s really quite staggering.”

Driving the rally are expectations that robust demand for gasoline powered cars will continue as the global economy picks up steam. That is expected to create more need for palladium, a silvery-white metal that is already much scarcer than gold, silver or platinum.

Car sales in China, the world’s largest auto market, rose 4.3% in the first eight months of this year, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Although sales have cooled from last year’s double-digit growth, analysts said demand has still been healthy enough to boost palladium prices.

RIP Combustion Engines: Japan Shows Off Cars of the Future – Bloomberg

Japan’s flagship automakers will present their futuristic visions for the post-fossil fuel era at the Tokyo Motor Show that kicks off on Wednesday. If only the industry, reeling from a run of scandals, could forget about the here and now.

“Recent scandals are pouring cold water on this year’s show and the impact is very negative,” said auto analyst Ken Miyao at consultancy Carnorama. “Tokyo’s show is a big consumer-oriented event and I won’t be surprised if some domestic consumers shy away from it this year.”



Conjoined twins survived one of the world’s rarest surgeries. Now they’re preparing to go home. – The Washington Post

“This is one of the earliest separations of craniopagus conjoined twins ever recorded,” Jesse Taylor, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a statement. “We know that children heal better and faster the younger they are, therefore our goal for Erin and Abby was separation as soon as possible with minimum number of surgeries.”

Colin Farrell and the Art of the Small Comeback – The New York Times

Hitting bottom after a string of macho roles in major movies, the actor has found fulfillment — and the best reviews of his life — in oddball films.

“I was due a kick in the arse. I really, really was,” Mr. Farrell, 41, said during a recent interview. “Because I was annoying. I had so much, so quick. I was so cocksure.”

World Series Clash Marks the Rise of Baseball’s Superteams – WSJ

Devotees of baseball’s data revolution describe the playoffs as a crapshoot, an unpredictable tournament where chaos reigns and the most deserving participant rarely emerges victorious.

But this year’s World Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros introduces a new paradigm sweeping the sport. Instead of the vast parity that defined the last decade, there exists a Grand Canyon-sized gap between the top and bottom of the standings. A few teams accumulated so much talent that they simply overpowered the field, which is weakened by a phenomenon in which many executives view mediocrity as the ultimate failure—and are willing to suffer ineptitude for a while to achieve greatness.

It resulted in a regular season in which three teams—the Dodgers, Astros and Cleveland Indians—finished with more than 100 wins for the fourth time in major-league history. Starting Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, two such clubs will square off with a championship at stake for the first time since 1970.

Welcome to the Age of the Superteam.


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