Macro Links Oct 31st – Guilty Plea

Macro Links Oct 31st – Guilty Plea

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TRUMP AIDES CHARGED, GUILTY PLEA

Three former Trump aides charged in Russia probe

The charges against Paul Manafort, who headed the Trump campaign from June to August 2016, and George Papadopoulos, a campaign adviser who was arrested in July but has since agreed to co-operate, mark the most serious legal threat to the president since Mr Mueller was appointed special counsel in May.

Although the 31-page indictment against Mr Manafort, who was charged along with business partner Richard Gates, focused mainly on the Republican operative’s work in Ukrainian politics before joining Mr Trump’s team, Mr Papadopoulos provided a detailed account of his work to secure damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton from Russian sources.

Mueller’s Probe Kicks Into Next Gear With Charges, Guilty Plea – WSJ

Robert Mueller unveiled the first indictments stemming from his probe into Russia’s election meddling, accusing two former Trump campaign officials of not paying taxes on millions of dollars in income and obtaining a guilty plea from a third who admitted he lied about contacts with Russian go-betweens.

Trump adviser tried to set up Russia meetings

Mr Papadopoulos notified the Trump campaign of the meeting via email, in which he described the Russian national as the niece of the Russian president and also claimed to have met with the Russian ambassador to the UK. He said the topic of the meeting was “to arrange a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump”.

Trump Campaign Adviser Met With Russian to Discuss ‘Dirt’ on Clinton – The New York Times

A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.

Trump campaign officials suggested sending ‘someone low level’ to Russia – Business Insider

A court document released on Monday said members of President Donald Trump’s campaign discussed finding a low-level staff member to communicate with the Russian government so as not to arouse any suspicion.

The detail was included in a footnote in newly unsealed charge against George Papadopoulos, who worked on the Trump campaign as a foreign-policy adviser. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty earlier this month to making false statements to the FBI about his interactions with Russia.

Mueller’s Trump Collusion Road Map Signaled in Guilty Plea – Bloomberg

The indictment of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman captured the top headlines, but a second action by Special Counsel Robert Mueller may have revealed more about the direction of his secretive investigation.

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GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS

Mueller Dropped a Bombshell — and It Wasn’t About Manafort

Donald Trump had no idea what just hit him. Just as the president was screaming on Twitter that he or his campaign hadn’t colluded with the Russians, Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed to be the judge of such things, unsealed a criminal case against George Papadopoulos, who has already pled guilty to one count of lying to the FBI for … attempting to collude with the Russians. According to his plea agreement, which Mueller and team quietly made him sign earlier this month, he faces up to six months in prison for the offense.

By every objective measure, Papadopoulos, minor actor though he seems to be, is the biggest bombshell of Monday’s revelations — and Mueller’s first major signal of what he’s been up to since his appointment last May. For one, the acts that gave rise to Papadopoulos’s conviction arose and were investigated by the FBI before Mueller was tapped to lead the probe into links between the Trump campaign and Moscow — which undercuts Trump’s repeated claims that the special counsel is on a witch hunt and that collusion never occurred.

George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying about Russian contacts – The Washington Post

Papadopoulos was in contact with several senior Trump campaign aides about his efforts to broker a relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the court papers show. In addition to Clovis, who now serves as senior White House adviser to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Papadopoulos wrote to campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the newly released documents show.

How a Trump Adviser Repeatedly Sought a Meeting With Russia – The New York Times

Mr. Papadopoulos contacted the campaign at least 11 times from March to June 2016 about a potential meeting. Campaign officials discussed or replied to his messages at least three times, and they encouraged Mr. Papadopoulos and another adviser to make the trip to meet Russian officials, which never took place.

How bad will Mueller probe get for Trump? The Papadopoulos plea may be a big tell. – The Washington Post

“I think it’s a fair conclusion to think that he has information that is valuable in the prosecution of others,” McQuade says. “You would only offer that cooperation if you’ve sat down with him and learned that he has information that is of value.”

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PAUL MANAFORT, RICK GATES

Mueller’s ‘no-knock’ raid yielded key evidence against Manafort

The FBI’s predawn search of Paul Manafort’s northern Virginia home in July yielded important new evidence crucial to the indictment of Donald Trump’s campaign chairman and one of his close associates, according to the indictments unsealed yesterday by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort and Gates appeared in federal court in Washington and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Manafort and Gates were both released to home confinement. Manafort was freed on a $10 million bond meant to guarantee his future court appearances. Gates’s bond was $5 million.

Investigations of Manafort in New York Are Beyond Trump’s Power to Pardon – The New York Times

In July, President Trump wrote on Twitter that “all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon.” But for Paul J. Manafort, who surrendered to the F.B.I. on Monday after being indicted on federal criminal charges, Mr. Trump’s power has a limitation of potential significance: a presidential pardon does not apply to charges from state and local authorities.

Although it is not known whether Mr. Manafort will receive or even request a presidential pardon, he also faces scrutiny from authorities in New York whose prosecutions would not be subject to one.

Manafort Was in Debt to Pro-Russia Interests, Cyprus Records Show – The New York Times

Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.

Manafort could face up to 40 years in prison – ThinkProgress

Manafort and Gates could lose most of their assets, as several of the charges require property forfeiture if they are found guilty. Additionally, several of the charges carry prison sentences, and the pair could serve up to 40 years.

Manafort Faces a Stark Choice: Cooperate or Risk Years in Prison – Bloomberg

U.S. prosecutors filed a straightforward, easy-to-prove criminal case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, leaving him with a stark choice: cooperate or fight the charges and, if he loses, face years in prison.

Manafort and Gates are charged with conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, making false statements and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. The U.S. claims the men failed to reveal their work for Ukraine, its political parties and its leaders — and together worked to hide it from the Justice Department. The charges may present a low hurdle for the government because the essence of the case is the failure to disclose work for the foreign government or the existence of offshore accounts.

Paul Manafort earned $600,000 a month from pro-Russia party, says Ukrainian report | Public Radio International

Manafort was paid at least $28.5 million, far more than the $12.5 million reported last year, from “black money” funds run by the Party of the Regions, according to a source with knowledge about the investigation. The Party of the Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.

Paul Manafort’s path from Ukraine to US indictment

The indictment alleges he and Mr Gates laundered $18m of the $75m they earned working for Mr Yanukovich for nearly a decade until he fled to Russia in disgrace in 2014 on the heels of a pro-western revolution. Ukraine is prosecuting Mr Yanukovich on charges of stealing vast sums; Mr Manafort is a figure in the inquiry.

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TONY PODESTA

Tony Podesta stepping down from lobbying giant amid Mueller probe – POLITICO

The investigation into Podesta and his firm grew out of investigators’ examination of Manafort’s finances. Manafort organized a PR campaign on behalf of a nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Podesta Group was one of several firms that were paid to do work on the PR campaign to promote Ukraine in the U.S.

Tony Podesta steps down amid swirl of controversy – The Washington Post

The Podesta Group is not named in the newly released indictments, but the company is one of two indirectly referenced in the charges. Podesta and another lobbying firm, Mercury Public Affairs, were working with Manafort and his partner Rick Gates from 2012-2014 in lobbying to improve the image of the Ukrainian government. In the indictment, the firms are referred to as “Company A and Company B,” according to people familiar with the companies’ involvement.

The sudden fall of Washington’s ultimate powerbroker

Tony Podesta has epitomized the height of Washington influence and wealth for two decades.

He has a home in Washington a few doors down from Barack Obama, a villa in Italy, an apartment in New York and a multimillion-dollar art collection. He’s been a K Street rainmaker, holding fundraisers for the Democratic Party’s top elected officials and mingling with the most powerful liberals in the country. Last week, he attended Hillary Clinton’s 70th birthday party.

Some of the world’s largest companies — BAE Systems, Walmart and Lockheed Martin — have paid him piles of cash to represent them in the Capitol. His firm’s receipts reached nearly $30 million in 2010, and his company has swelled to nearly 60 employees.

But now, the 74-year-old D.C. fixture is showing this town that what took decades to build can implode in a day.

“There’s a lot of shock value because of who it is,” said Ivan Adler, a veteran headhunter at The McCormick Group. “His personality is mammoth enough, and it has all kinds of implications — I think it will cause people to really take a look at making sure they cross their t’s and dot their i’s, because you never know what could happen.”

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WHITE HOUSE, TEAM TRUMP RESPONSE

Trump’s personal attorney stops denying collusion with Russia and starts defending it – ThinkProgress

Sekulow said that the underlying conversation between Papadopoulos and the Russian government cutout was not “illegal or inappropriate.” In other words, Sekulow is defending the Trump campaign’s discussions with a Russian intermediary to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton with stolen emails.

“A conversation that someone would have, regarding a foreign government, whether it was Great Britain, Russia, or anybody else… that’s not an inappropriate activity,” Sekulow emphasized, not addressing that the conversation involved emails stolen from the Clinton campaign.

Sekulow went on to describe Papadopoulos as “on a committee” and not “a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.” But, in March 2016, Trump himself plugged Papadopoulos as one of his key national security advisers, calling him an “excellent guy.”

Upstairs at home, with the TV on, Trump fumes over Russia indictments – The Washington Post

For a president who revels in chaos — and in orchestrating it himself — Monday brought a political storm that Trump could not control. White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, along with lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, advised Trump to be cautious with his public responses, but they were a private sounding board for his grievances, advisers said.

White House Says Charges Against Campaign Advisers Do Not Touch Trump – The New York Times

The White House said that the indictment of Paul J. Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, his deputy, as well as the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser, had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or his election operation. Instead, it sought to refocus attention on Democrats and their actions during the campaign.

“Today’s announcement has nothing to do with the president, has nothing to do with the president’s campaign or campaign activity,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. Responding to questions at her daily briefing, she said, “We’ve been saying from day one there’s been no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment today changes that at all.”

“Don’t forget we still have all the Hillary activity”: GOP reacts to Manafort charges – Vox

On Capitol Hill, Republicans responded as they always have: demurring and pledging not to be distracted from their goal of deep tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, mimicking the White House’s attempts to deflect attention to investigations into Hillary Clinton or, in many cases, avoiding the questions altogether.

House Speaker Paul Ryan typified the GOP’s response: “I really don’t have anything to add other than nothing is going to derail what we’re doing in Congress,” he said. “We’re working on solving people’s problems.”

“I don’t know enough about it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UH) told reporters in the Capitol on Monday when asked about the indictments. “I do know Paul Manafort … I’d be surprised if Paul broke any laws.”

Murdoch-owned outlets bash Mueller, seemingly in unison – POLITICO

The points made in the pieces in the Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch, not only tracked with White House talking points but were similar to those being hawked on other Murdoch properties, including the New York Post and Fox News. On October 28, the Post also ran an op-ed calling for Mueller’s resignation, while Fox News personalities have beat a steady drum calling for attention to shift away from any investigation of Trump and toward Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.

Pat Robertson demands Trump fire Mueller and pardon everyone: ‘This whole thing has to be shut down!’

“He [Trump] can grant a pardon to everybody involved in this thing if he wants to,” Robertson explained. “This whole thing has got to be shut down … He has every right to shut Mueller down and say, ‘You have gone as far as you need to and I have instructed my Justice Department to close you down.’”

“He can grant a blanket pardon for everybody involved in everything and say, ‘I pardon them all, it’s all over, case closed,’” Robertson rambled. “I think that is what he needs to do … He’s got to shut this thing down, he’s just got to.”

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INDICTMENT OPINION

Mueller charges pitch US towards constitutional crisis

Opinion polls suggest Republican voters remain strongly behind Mr Trump, which is the number that matters most to Republican legislators. Unless that changes, Mr Trump may feel that he can get away with sacking Mr Mueller. At that point America would be plunged into a constitutional crisis. I would now put the chances of that happening at more than 50-50.

George Papadopoulos Guilty Plea Should Have Team Trump Shaking in Their Boots | LawNewz

The Manafort indictment is making waves because he was at the top of the campaign, but the charges against him really do have nothing to do with the campaign. Papadopoulos, however, admitted that he himself was talking to the Russians and telling senior campaign staff about his activities.

Mueller’s message to Trump allies: Save yourselves.

Juliette Kayem: “I am not surprised that it did not mention the Trump campaign because Mueller may not want to go for the jugular yet, or he may not have the jugular yet. All I know is that Manafort is facing some serious freaking time. And if you are him, you are not a Trumpster or son or son-in-law, you are not a true believer. And you are looking at lots and lots of years behind bars. I don’t know what Mueller’s calculation is, but part of it must be to the outside world: If you aren’t a true believer, come forward now. Because everyone—the believers and the nonbelievers—could go down.”

“I read the Papadopoulos indictment and guilty plea, and I don’t know any other way to read it than that there was collusion. It all but says that here was a guy tied to senior members of the campaign going back and forth and talking to [the Russians].”

Robert Mueller Is Just Getting Started – The Atlantic

Legal experts said the court filings indicate Mueller is running a serious, deliberative, and far-sighted inquiry. “I would say this is High-Level Special Counsel Investigation 101,” said Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the Watergate special-prosecutor task force. “Mueller is operating by the book.”

“These are very serious criminal charges, and it reflects a lot of detail and appears to be a strong, very professional federal criminal case,” said John Q. Barrett, a St. John’s University law professor and former Iran-Contra associate special counsel. “I doubt it’s the only front, or that it’s the end point of the investigative activity.”

Robert Mueller’s Show of Strength: A Quick and Dirty Analysis – Lawfare

We will say this: Mueller’s opening bid is a remarkable show of strength. He has a cooperating witness from inside the campaign’s interactions with the Russians. And he is alleging not mere technical infractions of law but astonishing criminality on the part of Trump’s campaign manager, a man who also attended the Trump Tower meeting.

Any hope the White House may have had that the Mueller investigation might be fading away vanished Monday morning. Things are only going to get worse from here.

Ex-Watergate prosecutor guarantees Papadopoulos has been ‘wearing a wire for months’ and playing ‘dial-a-crook’

“If I were the prosecutor, and I guarantee you Robert Mueller has done this, he’s had him out there wearing a body wire, playing dial-a-crook on the phone, trying to get recorded conversations to use as evidence against other people,” he asserted. “If I were the other people, and they know who they are in that information, I’d be extremely nervous right now.”

Will Manafort Sing? – The New York Times

There has been lots of speculation that Trump may pardon Manafort, and of course that would end the federal case. But remember that Trump can pardon someone only for federal crimes—and what’s noteworthy about the underlying crimes in this indictment is that many would also be state crimes in New York, which has been conducting its own investigation into Manafort, in conjunction with Mueller.

So if Trump pardoned Manafort, my bet is that he would be prosecuted for state crimes; from Manafort’s point of view, the essential difference is that he would end up in a state prison rather than a federal prison. And the same is true of others in Trump’s circle.

Will Republicans join Trump in attacking Robert Mueller? – The Washington Post

As the indictments begin to come down, Republicans need to ponder what legal and ethical lines, if any, they are willing to draw. Continuing the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s own dishonest dealings is all fun and games (except to Clinton, I suppose). Joining the defense of slimy political figures such as Manafort makes one, ceteris paribus, into a slimy political figure. Obscuring or excusing Russian influence on the American political process is a dangerous disservice to the country. Supporting Trump in a power play against the special counsel and his investigation would be an attack on the stability and legitimacy of the Republic — a source of infamy in American history.

Indictments signal the beginning of Mueller’s work, not the end – The Washington Post

What we do not know at this stage vastly outstrips what we do know. We know that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has moved swiftly and that his investigation is not restricted to alleged collusion. We can logically infer that the investigation is not ending, but beginning.

It sure looks like there was collusion between the Trump operation and Russia – Vox

Here is what we now know: The Trump campaign was filled with operatives connected in shady ways to the Russian government. It included individuals who knew that the Russians had obtained Clinton-related emails and who lied about that knowledge to federal investigators. Top campaign officials (and Trump family members) dropped everything to meet with Russian operatives when they believed there was useful opposition research on offer. Trump publicly asked Russia to hack into Clinton’s computers to find and release her missing emails.

We also know the Russians really did hack into John Podesta’s and the DNC’s email accounts and found and released emails that damaged Clinton. They really did conduct social media operations designed help Trump. Both their targets and their timing were extremely sophisticated for a foreign government that has traditionally shown itself to have a poor understanding of American politics. After winning the White House, Trump attacked the CIA and fired the director of the FBI in an effort to discredit or end their investigations into Russia’s role in the election.

At this point, it would be a truly remarkable coincidence if two entities that had so many ties to each other, that had so much information about what the other was doing, and that were working so hard toward the same goal never found a way to coordinate.

Manafort Indictment Should and Shouldn’t Terrify Trump – Bloomberg

Mueller’s pursuit of the money trail is likely what Trump fears the most in the Russia probe, not collusion. An investigation into his own financial and business history as well as the dealings of family members like Kushner — and his three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric – are more threatening than anything else Mueller might be weighing.

Since before Trump was even inaugurated, son-in-law Jared Kushner has scrambled to arrange financing for his family’s troubled skyscraper, 666 Fifth Avenue. His solicitations involved Chinese financiers, and he met with a prominent Russian banker during the same period (though he denies talking business with the Russian). Mueller is reportedly focused on Kushner as part of his investigation.

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NEW POLLING LOWS

The other bad news for Trump on Monday: New approval-rating lows – The Washington Post

At 33 percent, Trump’s low is now lower than any approval measured for Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. There have been two days on which Gallup found more people approving of Trump than disapproving — both during his first week in office.

Trump all-time low gallup approval 33% – Business Insider

Trump, who previously became that fastest president to hit the mid-30s in the Gallup rating, which has tracked presidential approval since the Truman administration, is the first to hit 33% at such a young stage of his presidency.

17V31 - GALLUP POLLING

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FED CHAIRMAN PICK

Trump Is Expected to Name Jerome Powell as Next Fed Chairman – The New York Times

President Trump is expected to nominate Jerome H. Powell as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve, replacing Janet L. Yellen, whose term expires early next year, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Mr. Powell, a Fed governor since 2012, is a Republican with deep roots in the party’s establishment and in the financial industry. He has steadily supported Ms. Yellen’s approach to monetary policy and financial regulation, creating an expectation that he would be unlikely to attempt large or sharp changes in the Fed’s course.

Powell leading in Trump’s Fed chair reality-TV spectacle

Donald Trump is preparing an announcement on the next Federal Reserve chair this week with governor Jay Powell said by administration officials to be the leading candidate in what remains an unpredictable process.

In Choice of Fed Chairman, Trump Downgrades Deregulation – The New York Times

President Trump’s short list of candidates for Federal Reserve chairman all have this much in common: They do not share his frequently professed passion for financial deregulation.

Jerome H. Powell, the Fed governor whose candidacy is said to be backed by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, participated in the construction of the current rules, and he has defended the bulk of the changes made after the 2008 financial crisis as necessary safeguards for the broader economy.

In an appearance in June before the Senate Banking Committee, Mr. Powell described Mr. Trump’s regulatory plan as a “mixed bag,” adding, “There are some ideas that I would not support.”

Bets on the Next Fed Chair: A History of Speculation Gone Wrong – WSJ

President Donald Trump’s The Apprentice-style hiring process for the Federal Reserve chair is due to end this week, and it looks like the message to Janet Yellen is: “You’re fired!”

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CATALAN CRISIS

Madrid moves to reassert its control over Catalonia

Madrid reasserted control on Monday over the breakaway region of Catalonia, taking over the police and government ministries with ease as Spanish prosecutors levelled charges of sedition and rebellion against the regions ousted leaders.

Fears that moves by the Spanish government to assume control over the region would be met with opposition were dispelled as Catalan officials largely obeyed orders and grassroots opposition seemed to evaporate.

Thousands Join Pro-Unity Rally Against Catalonia Independence – WSJ

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Catalonia on Sunday in a show of unity with the rest of Spain, rejecting the declaration of independence made by Catalan separatists on Friday.

The rally, which took place in Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona, followed a similar demonstration held by unionists earlier this month that denounced the regional government’s push for a split from Spain after a controversial referendum. Organizers of the gathering said it was attended by 1.3 million people, local police in Barcelona put the figure closer to 300,000.

‘I Don’t Want an Independent Catalonia’: Rally Backs Unified Spain – The New York Times

The tone of the rally, much like the overall mood in Barcelona this weekend, was one of relief: The tensions of recent weeks over the Oct. 1 referendum and the subsequent retaliation by Spain’s central government appeared to have subsided. But whether the mood has really shifted or whether Catalans were simply resting and girding for the next confrontation was hard to tell.

Spain faces test of authority in Catalonia under direct rule

There has long been fear that the imposition of direct rule would lead to a sustained campaign of opposition to Madrid. Open defiance by Catalan ministers and possibly institutions could put Spanish authorities in a difficult spot. They will have to work out how to enforce their own orders without resorting to force, which could inflame the region further.

Catalonia Leader Turns Up in Belgium After Spain Seeks Prosecution – The New York Times

Hours after the Spanish authorities announced that they would seek to prosecute Catalonia’s separatists for rebellion, Carles Puigdemont, the region’s dismissed leader, turned up on Monday in Belgium, where he may seek asylum.

Mr. Puigdemont’s reputation for unpredictability has grown with every turn of Catalonia’s secessionist drama. On Monday, he all but disappeared as the Madrid central government began using emergency laws to take over direct administration of Catalonia after its declaration of independence last week.

Catalonia: Madrid warns of Puigdemont jailing as thousands rally for unity | World news | The Guardian

Spanish prosecutors said on Friday that they would file charges of rebellion against Puigdemont, a crime punishable with up to 30 years in prison. “I don’t know what kind of judicial activity will happen between now and 21 December,” said Dastis. “If he is not put in jail at that time I think he is not ineligible.”

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RUSSIA, FACEBOOK, SOCIAL MEDIA

Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone – The New York Times
Russian agents intending to sow discord among American citizens disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million users on Facebook, published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube service, according to copies of prepared remarks from the companies that were obtained by The New York Times.

The detailed disclosures, sent to Congress on Monday by companies whose products are among the most widely used on the internet, came before a series of congressional hearings this week into how third parties used social networks and online services to influence millions of Americans before the 2016 presidential election.

Tech Giants Disclose Russian Activity on Eve of Congressional Appearance – WSJ

Facebook, Google and Twitter are set to divulge new details showing that the scope of Russian-backed manipulation on their platforms before and after the U.S. presidential election was far greater than previously disclosed, reaching an estimated 126 million people on Facebook alone, according to people familiar with the matter, prepared copies of their testimonies and a company statement.

Russian-Backed Facebook Accounts Staged Events Around Divisive Issues – WSJ

In one city, a pro-police rally. In another, a demonstration against the police. The accounts publicized and funded real-life events in 2016 that often pushed competing agendas.

Who Will Rein In Facebook? Challengers Are Lining Up – WSJ

Facebook and other internet giants face possible sweeping change as lawmakers and regulators line up to enforce vows of transparency for political content.

Compared with mature industries, the internet giants—Facebook, Google, Twitter—are relatively unregulated by federal and state law. “That’s what I think Facebook is most nervous about,” says Ryan Goodman, a professor at the New York University School of Law who researches Facebook’s legal and moral responsibilities—that “the sleeping giant wakes up and realizes just how unregulated they are.”

That “sleeping giant” includes legislators of every kind in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. While the current Congress is loath to mint new regulations, that hasn’t stopped Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Mark Warner (D., Va.) from proposing the Honest Ads Act, which would force internet companies to tell users who funded political ads. Most forms of mass media are required to do this, but the Federal Election Commission exempted Facebook and other internet sites in 2006, when online political discourse was still nascent.

Facebook struggles to contain Russia narrative – POLITICO

Facebook has been happy to keep congressional investigators focused on the Russian-bought online ads that helped sway voters in last year’s election — despite the many other ways that fake messages and bogus accounts spread on the dark side of social media.

But that may be about to end: Facebook, Twitter and Google are preparing for hearings this week where lawmakers are expected to grill the companies about the broad reach that foreign actors achieved through fake accounts and deliberate misinformation, a topic that encompasses far more than the 3,000 paid political ads that Facebook disclosed last month.

Some lawmakers are already pressing for more details about so-called organic content, including unpaid posts from thousands of fake, automated and hijacked user accounts. Those questions could require Facebook to divulge more details about the priceless proprietary algorithms it uses to decide what messages its users see.

Facebook Stumbles With Early Effort to Stamp Out Fake News – Bloomberg

Facebook Inc. is struggling to stamp out fake news. The company outsources the process to third-party fact checkers who can only tackle a small fraction of the bogus news that floods the social network, according to interviews with people involved in the process. And screenshots obtained by Bloomberg reveal a process that some partners say is too cumbersome and inefficient to stop misinformation duplicating and spreading.

Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt On Fake News, Russia, And “Information Warfare”

“We did not understand the extent to which governments–essentially what the Russians did–would use hacking to control the information space. It was not something we anticipated strongly enough,” Schmidt said. “I worry that the Russians in 2020 will have a lot more powerful tools.”

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GOP TAX PLAN

GOP Plan for a Speedy Tax Overhaul Faces Uncertain Road – WSJ

House Republicans are set to toss a giant tax bill into the capital’s autumnal winds Wednesday. That could turn into a rousing victory for Republicans, a scaled-back compromise or a collapse.

GOP Senator Opposes Estate-Tax Repeal, a Longtime Party Goal – Bloomberg

Apart from Rounds, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine is seen as a possible opponent of eliminating the estate tax — she voted against repealing it in 2015. Republicans need at least 50 members to pass a tax bill, because they’re not counting on Democratic support.

Key GOP Senator Susan Collins Lays Out Her Demands for Tax Bill – Bloomberg

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said Monday she’s opposed to two tax breaks for the wealthy that her party leaders are pushing for, indicating that her vote won’t be easy to win on President Donald Trump’s top legislative priority.

“I do not believe that the top rate should be lowered for individuals who are making more than $1 million a year,” Collins said during an interview with Bloomberg News. “I don’t think there’s any need to eliminate the estate tax.”

House GOP tax plan would now allow Americans to deduct property taxes – The Washington Post

The change is a compromise, after a previous plan would not allow taxpayers to deduct any taxes paid to state and local governments.

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SEXUAL HARASSMENT FALLOUT

New Accusers Expand Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault Claims Back to ’70s – The New York Times

Previously undisclosed accounts broaden the time frame of claims. “We’ll drag you through the mud by your hair,” one woman said a lawyer for the producer told her.

Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades – The New York Times

An investigation by The New York Times found allegations stretching back to 1990 about Mr. Weinstein’s treatment of women in Hollywood.

Sexual Harassment Claims Surface in U.K. Parliament – The New York Times

One minister faces an inquiry after asking a staff member to buy sex toys, while dozens of lawmakers are accused of sexism, harassment or inappropriate behavior.

French women declare war on the sex pests

Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal erupted in the US, the country of Simone de Beauvoir has had its own, cruder version of the #MeToo campaign that has prompted women around the world to share personal experiences of sexual harassment on social media. “#Balancetonporc” — literally “rat out your pig” — has encouraged women to name and shame their harassers or attackers.

Actor Anthony Rapp: Kevin Spacey Made A Sexual Advance Toward Me When I Was 14

The Star Trek: Discovery actor says women speaking out about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry has compelled him to come forward about the Oscar winner.

Kevin Spacey Issues Apology to Actor After Sexual Accusation – The New York Times

The actor Anthony Rapp said he was 14 when Mr. Spacey laid down on top of him. Mr. Spacey said he had no recollection and then disclosed that he is gay.

Netflix to End ‘House of Cards’ Amid Kevin Spacey Allegations – WSJ

Netflix said Tuesday it plans to end political drama “House of Cards” after the end of season 6, which is currently in production, following allegations of sexual harassment by the show’s star, Kevin Spacey that emerged.

TOP

RATES, LIQUIDITY, SYSTEMIC RISK, BALANCE SHEETS

IMF warns volatility products loom as next big market shock

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the increasing use of exotic financial products tied to equity volatility by investors such as pension funds is creating unknown risks that could result in a severe shock to financial markets.

In an interview with the Financial Times Tobias Adrian, director of the Monetary and Capital Markets Department of the IMF, said an increasing appetite for yield was driving investors to look for ways to boost income through complex instruments. “The combination of low yields and low volatility facilitates the use of leverage by investors to increase returns, and we have seen rapid growth in some types of products that do this,” he said.

Last year the $14bn Hawaii Employees Retirement System said it was writing put options to boost its income, while other US pension schemes such as the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission and Illinois State Universities Retirement System have also hired outside managers to use option writing strategies.

The IMF estimates that assets invested in volatility targeting strategies have risen to about $500bn, with this amount increasing by more than half over the past three years.

China’s Debt Battle Has Global Growth at Stake – Bloomberg

The world’s second-largest economy is now trying to ward off the sniffles. While output is still growing at a pace that sees gross domestic product double every decade, the problem remains that much of that has been fueled by a massive buildup of credit.

Total borrowing climbed to about 260 percent of the economy’s size by the end of 2016, up from 162 percent in 2008, and will hit close to 320 percent by 2021 according to Bloomberg Intelligence estimates. Economy-wide debt levels are on track to rank among “the highest in the world,” according to Tom Orlik, BI’s Chief Asia Economist.

That path may be what prompted outgoing People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan to warn of the risk of a plunge in asset values following a debt binge, or a “Minsky Moment,” earlier this month. Given that China is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to contribute more than a third of global growth this year, controlling China’s debt matters far beyond its borders.

17V31 - CHINA BORROWING

Moody’s Sees South African Risks Rising Without Credible Debt Plan – Bloomberg

South Africa’s debt sustainability will be at risk unless the government presents a credible fiscal-consolidation plan in 2018, Moody’s Investors Service said.

Wall St banks ride boom in leveraged loans as volumes soar

Nine of the 10 largest lenders in the business — including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Barclays — have already surpassed 2016 activity, according to Bloomberg data. BofA maintained its top position, although it has fallen behind JPMorgan in terms of fee generation in the US, separate data from Dealogic showed.

The overall industry has underwritten leveraged loans worth $1.251tn, and earlier this month eclipsed its previous full-year record set in 2013, according to Dealogic. Volumes are up 38 per cent from a year earlier and more than 60 per cent of the deals have been companies refinancing existing loans.

17V31- US LEVERAGED LOAN VOLUMES

When Does Consumer Debt Become a Systemic Risk? – MoneyBeat – WSJ

U.S. loans make up almost half of the global consumer debt growth, as domestic investors have piled on student loans, mortgage debt and more amid ultra-low interest rates over the past decade. U.S. household debt levels have repeatedly reached new records over the past few years.

“Such a pronounced acceleration in consumer debt growth begs the question of when too much debt poses a systemic risk to the global economy and specifically to structured finance products,” wrote S&P Global Ratings analysts in an Oct. 26 report.

TOP

MACRO OP-EDS, INSIGHT, EVENTS AND TRENDS

‘The Russians Have Succeeded Beyond Their Wildest Expectations’ – POLITICO Magazine

James Clapper, a crusty ex-cargo pilot who rose through the Air Force ranks and retired as director of national intelligence in January, only to emerge publicly as one of President Donald Trump’s foremost critics, wants you to know that no matter how much Trump rants about the “Russia hoax,” the 2016 hacking was not only real and aimed at electing Trump but constituted a major victory for a dangerous foreign adversary. “The Russians,” he said, have “succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.”

And yes, Clapper is sticking with his view that the allegations are “worse than Watergate,” given that the Russiagate investigation involves “a foreign adversary actively and aggressively and directly engaging in our political processes to interfere with them and to undermine our system, whereas in Watergate you were dealing with a two-bit petty burglary, domestic only.”

Forget Washington. Facebook’s Problems Abroad Are Far More Disturbing. – The New York Times

The information war in Myanmar illuminates a growing problem for Facebook. The company successfully connected the world to a constellation of real-time communication and broadcasting tools, then largely left it to deal with the consequences.

“In a lot of these countries, Facebook is the de facto public square,” said Cynthia Wong, a senior internet researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Because of that, it raises really strong questions about Facebook needing to take on more responsibility for the harms their platform has contributed to.”

In Myanmar, the rise in anti-Rohingya sentiment coincided with a huge boom in social media use that was partly attributable to Facebook itself. In 2016, the company partnered with MPT, the state-run telecom company, to give subscribers access to its Free Basics program. Free Basics includes a limited suite of internet services, including Facebook, that can be used without counting toward a cellphone data plan. As a result, the number of Facebook users in Myanmar has skyrocketed to more than 30 million today from 2 million in 2014.

Trump Drags the Fed Down Into the Political Mud – Bloomberg

The process for nominating the next chair of the Federal Reserve System has changed beyond recognition. President Donald Trump has turned the decision-making into something akin to a game show, where suspense is maximized, and the debate is similar to “who gets voted off the island.” Although this circus harms our politics generally, it is a new and novel way of politicizing monetary policy.

Previous Fed chairs took great care to speak in ambiguous terms, to give the impression of wisdom, to make it clear they are above daily politics. That was true of Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, albeit with different rhetorical styles and strategies. The Fed has been a kind of Mount Olympus or high priestly caste. Perhaps the Fed has not always used that influence for the better (recall Greenspan’s easy money decision in 2001, or the lead-up to the financial crisis), but this arrangement is better than the president and Congress calling more of the shots.

Enter Trump, master impresario and provocateur. By thinking out loud about the post and the candidates so much, polling both a group of assembled senators and TV anchor Lou Dobbs, and by teasing the audience with the final pick, Trump is removing that elevated air from the Fed. I am reminded not only of today’s reality TV, but also the older show “The Dating Game” and the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “The Running Man.” Whether we are consciously aware of the shift in our perspective or not, we are likely to think of the future Fed with less of that mysterious aura surrounding it. It will instead seem like the result of an undignified competition for victory and status.

Spain’s crisis is the next challenge for the EU

The EU’s belief in the peaceful resolution of disputes is fundamental, and is underpinned by basic commitments to democracy, the rule of law and market economics. Questions of national sovereignty are also meant to lose their urgency inside the EU, where decisions are said to be made at whatever is the appropriate level — regional, national or European.

But what if all that is not true? Catalonia’s bid for independence demonstrates that traditional questions of nationhood and sovereignty can still stir the blood in modern Europe. There is also a possibility that the crisis could lead to violence between the Spanish central government and pro-independence forces in Catalonia. That would challenge Spain’s traditional status as a prime example of the benefits of the European project.

Russia Uses Its Oil Giant, Rosneft, as a Foreign Policy Tool – The New York Times

Moscow, through the state oil giant Rosneft, is trying to build influence in places where the United States has stumbled or power is up for grabs. Its efforts are also driven out of necessity, as American and European sanctions have forced Rosneft to find new partners and investments elsewhere.

The company, which Russia has long relied on to finance its government and social programs, has been pushing deeply into politically sensitive countries like Cuba, China, Egypt and Vietnam, as well as tumultuous places where American interests are at stake.

Rosneft is looking for deals around the eastern Mediterranean and Africa, areas of tactical importance beyond the energy picture. It is wielding economic and political sway in northern Iraq, by making big oil and natural-gas deals in Kurdish territory. And it is angling to bid for control of Iranian oil fields as tensions between Tehran and Washington escalate.

Rosneft is “trying to create opportunities that can be extremely valuable in geopolitical ways,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “They really give the Russian government unbelievable leverage on questions of importance to the United States.”

Iraq and the risks to the oil market

For the moment, the events in northern Iraq — the liberation of Raqqa from the forces of Isis and the takeover of Kirkuk by an Iraqi militia group supported by Baghdad — have not moved the oil market. Prices have been relatively steady at between $55 and $59 per barrel for Brent crude.

But the situation in the country is anything but stable and for the first time in more than three years there is a genuine possibility that real events rather than trader speculation could move the market, perhaps dramatically.

After the Manafort Indictment, the Mueller Investigation Enters a New Phase | The New Yorker

All of this sounds fairly B-grade and audaciously silly, and in a way, it is—but that is how Russian intelligence, or any intelligence service, for that matter, is likely to play things. Use unofficial, wholly deniable front men and deploy them against those who, out of naïvety, ambition, or lack of scruples, make for attractive targets. Papadopoulos may have been all of those. Based on his guilty plea, it sounds like Papadopoulos’s various plans eventually fizzled out—but that doesn’t mean the Kremlin’s did. Russian intelligence officers and high-ranking officials—that is, those with some probable awareness of, or involvement in, the “active measures” campaign to influence the election—are likely to have understood Papadopoulos’s eagerness as a wink to do more. Papadopoulos may have looked ridiculous and unprofessional, but his closeness to “the body,” as a political principle is called in Russian, made him someone Russian operatives would have taken seriously.

Big Tech and Amazon: too powerful to break up?

Though unaffected by the Russia allegations Amazon — whose $136bn in revenues last year topped the combined sales of Google parent Alphabet and Facebook — is a target of demands for more assertive antitrust enforcement. Its dominance has also raised questions about whether existing legislation needs to be rewritten for the internet age.

The online retailer’s relentless expansion into new businesses, including groceries and small business lending, and its control of data on the millions of third-party vendors that use its sales platform, warehouses and delivery services, have some analysts likening it to a 21st century version of the corporate trusts such as Standard Oil that throttled American competition a century ago.

Afghan Taliban Awash in Heroin Cash, a Troubling Turn for War – The New York Times

That the country has consistently produced about 85 percent of the world’s opium, despite more than $8 billion spent by the United States alone to fight it over the years, is accepted with a sense of helplessness among counternarcotics officials.

For years, most of the harvest would be smuggled out in the form of bulky opium syrup that was refined in other countries. But now, Afghan and Western officials estimate that half, if not more, of Afghan opium is getting some level of processing in the country, either into morphine or heroin with varying degrees of purity.

The refining makes the drug much easier to smuggle out into the supply lines to the West. And it is vastly increasing the profits for the Taliban, for whom the drug trade makes up at least 60 percent of their income, according to Afghan and Western officials.

TOP

CENTRAL BANKS & MONETARY POLICY

Inflation Remains Below Fed’s Target as Officials Meet to Set Policy – WSJ

Federal Reserve officials begin their two-day policy meeting Tuesday amid fresh signs that inflation remains lower than they would like, despite strong economic growth.

TOP

USA ECONOMY DATA, CITIES AND STATES

Solid U.S. Spending Gain Masks Weak Spot of Stagnant Incomes – Bloomberg

Americans’ spending, the biggest part of the economy, jumped in September by the most since 2009. A look at how it came about tells a less rosy story. The saving rate slumped to the lowest since December 2007, the month the last recession began, as households tapped their bank accounts to spend. That, along with a pickup in borrowing, makes it less likely that the economy will benefit from a sustained acceleration in consumer spending.

U.S. Homes Are Getting Snapped Up at the Fastest Pace in 30 Years – Bloomberg

Here’s more evidence that the defining characteristic of the U.S. housing market is a shortage of inventory for sale: Homes are sitting on the market for the shortest time in 30 years, according to an annual report on homebuyers and sellers published today by the National Association of Realtors.

17V31 - US HOME TURNOVER

Americans Are Spending More, Saving Less – WSJ

Americans have boosted their spending on costly things like cars and refrigerators while they are saving less. Some economists see it as a sign of growing risk in the economy and financial markets.

Rent Is Eating Up a Record Share of Americans’ Disposable Income – Bloomberg

If it feels like the rent keeps going up, you’re not alone: The share of U.S. disposable income that went toward such spending totaled 3.81 percent in the third quarter, marking the highest share in data going back almost six decades.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY DATA

Euro-Area Economic Confidence Surges to Highest in 17 Years – Bloomberg

Euro-area economic confidence surged to its highest in almost 17 years, reflecting an improved outlook for a region that not long ago was blighted by record joblessness and a double-dip recession.

17V31 - EURO AREA CONFIDENCE

German Inflation Slows in Evidence of Euro-Area Price Struggle – Bloomberg

German inflation slowed more than predicted in October, evidence that backs the European Central Bank’s case for keeping stimulus flowing to entrench price stability in the euro area.

Consumer prices rose an annual 1.5 percent, the Federal Statistics Office said on Monday. That’s weaker than September’s 1.8 percent and below the 1.7 percent median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

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COLOR, EARNINGS, SENTIMENT, VALUATIONS

Sears Depletes $200 Million Loan in Latest Sign of Cash Burn – Bloomberg

Sears Holdings Corp. drew down the remaining $60 million on a $200 million loan, signaling that the struggling department-store chain is quickly running through cash.

The Biggest Stock Collapse in World History Has No End in Sight – Bloomberg

It’s going to take more than the biggest stock slump in world history to convince analysts that PetroChina Co. has finally hit bottom. Ten years after PetroChina peaked on its first day of trading in Shanghai, the state-owned energy producer has lost about $800 billion of market value — a sum large enough to buy every listed company in Italy, or circle the Earth 31 times with $100 bills.

In current dollar terms, it’s the world’s biggest-ever wipeout of shareholder wealth. And it may only get worse. If the average analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg proves right, PetroChina’s Shanghai shares will sink 16 percent to an all-time low in the next 12 months.

17V31 - 800B WIPEOUT

TOP

DEALS, MERGERS, IPOs, LBOs, RESTRUCTURINGS

Lennar, CalAtlantic Strike Deal to Create Largest U.S. Home Builder – WSJ

Lennar will buy CalAtlantic Group in a $5.7 billion deal that will create the country’s largest home builder by revenue, the companies said.

US groups unveil merger plans valued at $22bn

Corporate America’s enthusiasm for dealmaking has roared back, as US companies on Monday unveiled merger plans valued at a combined $22bn, with a further $150bn worth of deals being negotiated, according to data from Dealogic.

Vistra Energy, Dynegy to Merge – WSJ

Vistra Energy and Dynegy, two large independent power producers, will merge in an all-stock deal, the companies said Monday. Vistra Chief Executive Curt Morgan will lead the combined company, which will be based in Irving, Texas. It will have a total enterprise value, including debt, of more than $20 billion. The companies said the combined company will serve about 240,000 commercial and industrial customers and 2.7 million residential customers.

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FOREX, CRYPTOCURRENCY, EXCHANGE IMPACTS

Another Company Surges After Announcing Plans to Get Into Cryptocurrencies – Bloomberg

Canadian online lender Mogo Finance Technology Inc. rose the most in eight months after moving a step closer to giving customers the ability to hold bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in digital wallets.

Dollar’s Recent Comeback is Mostly About the Euro – MoneyBeat – WSJ

Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at Scotiabank, said the euro’s fall was exacerbated by skewed market positioning heading into the ECB meeting. Investors were holding about $12 billion in bullish euro bet ahead of the meeting, according to Scotiabank data. Investors likely scrambled to cover those bets after the ECB decision, hastening the currency’s slide.

Bitcoin’s Market Cap Surges Past $100 Billion – Bloomberg

The most widely used digital currency will now cost you about $6,125 apiece after blowing past the $5,000 and $6,000 price levels for the first time earlier this month. Bitcoin’s total value is just over $100 billion, meaning it makes up more than half of the overall cryptocurrency market.

Crypto classes popular at Stanford, CMU, thanks to bitcoin craze

“A lot of people are attracted to the huge valuations in these currencies,” said Dan Boneh, co-director of the Stanford Computer Security Lab and a professor of cryptography. Boneh said that security and cryptography represent the second-most popular subject in the university’s computer science department, behind only machine learning

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HEDGE FUNDS, PRIVATE EQUITY, MONEY MGMT

A Well-Known Quant Firm Is Looking for Traders Who Want to Bet on Sports – Bloomberg

Susquehanna International Group has always embraced game theory, taking employees to baseball games and using poker as a tool for teaching its traders. Now the U.S. firm is betting that gambling on sports could be its next winning investment strategy.

Susquehanna has set up a unit at its Dublin office to wager on sports including basketball, American football, soccer and tennis. The business, called Nellie Analytics, has advertised to hire quantitative analysts and computer technicians. The team already includes an ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. convertible-bond trader as well as a former wine trader who’s also played professional poker.

“We felt that our market-making background could be conducive to sports trading because the challenges of analyzing large amounts of data in real time is a core competency of ours,” said David Pollard, Susquehanna’s head of strategic planning and special counsel in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. “Although trading volumes for U.S. sports on European betting exchanges are not currently significant, sports trading seemed like a good domain to extend what we do in other markets, and we’ll see if the trading volume materializes.”

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ENERGY COMPANIES, NOCs, INDUSTRY

Longtime Ally of Offshore Drillers Oversees Safety Agency – WSJ

Mr. Angelle says he puts a priority on the safety of the offshore-oil business. But he also says his mission as BSEE director is to “drive performance” in the offshore oil-and-gas industry, and to improve relations with drillers. He is one of a number of Trump-administration regulators who have represented the interests of industries they now oversee.

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ENERGY RENEWABLES, NUCLEAR

Republican Asks Colleagues to Keep Wind and Solar Tax Credits – Bloomberg

A New York Republican emerged from a key tax meeting to say that he had urged his House colleagues not to end tax credits for the wind and solar industry early.

The World’s Tiniest Power Market Will Leverage Big Data to Sell Solar – Bloomberg

It will be the world’s smallest electricity market. In mid-December, National Grid Plc will flip the switch on an automated trading system that pays hospitals and research facilities at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to sell electricity from their onsite solar panels, batteries or other generators to doctors’ offices and businesses — the first power market ever designed within a single utility service area.

The micro-market is an example of the Uber-effect, applying big data to better monetize small assets. The same technology could be used to help homeowners sell electricity from rooftop solar panels to their neighbors, and it may be a key part of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to get half the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030.

There Was So Much Wind Power In Germany This Weekend, Consumers Got Free Energy – Bloomberg

A stormy weekend led to free electricity in Germany as wind generation reached a record, forcing power producers to pay customers the most since Christmas 2012 to use electricity. Power prices turned negative as wind output reached 39,409 megawatts on Saturday, equivalent to the output of about 40 nuclear reactors. To keep the grid supply and demand in balance, negative prices encourage producers to either shut power stations or else pay consumers to take the extra electricity off the network.

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COMMODITIES AGRICULTURE & SOFTS

France Is Running Out of Butter for Its Croissants – Bloomberg

Finding butter for the breakfast staple has become a challenge across France. Soaring global demand and falling supplies have boosted butter prices, and with French supermarkets unwilling to pay more for the dairy product, producers are taking their wares across the border. That has left the French, the world’s biggest per-capita consumers of butter, short of a key ingredient for their sauces and tarts.

“The issue is purely French and is related to the fact that there’s a price war raging between French retailers,” Thierry Roquefeuil, chairman of the milk-producers’ federation FNPL, said in a phone interview from his farm near Figeac, in Southwestern France. “French retailers refuse to increase prices, even by a few cents, even for butter. Dairy producers see that there’s an outside demand at higher prices so they sell abroad, and rightfully so.”

TOP

POLLUTION, CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016 – BBC News

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

Blue Planet II, BBC 1 — awe-inspiring

Four years in the making, this new series involved 125 expeditions to 39 countries and 6,000 hours of dive time. “One Ocean”, the first episode of seven, gives a visually ravishing world tour, spinning us to northern Japan, coral reefs off New Zealand, a remote Indian atoll, the Arctic and the Gulf Stream-warmed fjords of Norway.

Among the astonishing footage is an alien-like sea cucumber stuffing itself, a critter strolling along the seabed wearing what look like multiple fluffy bedroom slippers, and monster fish flipping up from the ocean to snatch prey. One minute a bird is floating on the surface minding its own business, the next a giant mouth has sucked it up like a vacuum cleaner, and we see a single black feather slip mournfully down into the deep.

Brazil Wants to Get Paid for Protecting the Amazon From Logging – Bloomberg

The rapid loss of trees in Brazil and other nations is an important factor in climate change. However, curbing logging and clear-cutting also has an impact on forestry, agriculture and other industries. While much of the international discussions to date have focused on the need to protect forests, Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho said envoys at the UN meeting should also develop ways to compensate countries for potential economic losses from shielding these areas from development.

The United Nations is sounding the alarm about seriously high levels of carbon dioxide – ThinkProgress

Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas responsible for climate change — grew at a record rate in 2016, reaching levels not seen in millions of years, according to a report released by the United Nations on Monday.

New science suggests the ocean could rise more — and faster — than we thought – The Washington Post

Climate change could lead to sea level rises that are larger, and happen more rapidly, than previously thought, according to a trio of new studies that reflect mounting concerns about the stability of polar ice.

In one case, the research suggests that previous high end projections for sea level rise by the year 2100 — a little over three feet — could be too low, substituting numbers as high as six feet at the extreme if the world continues to burn large volumes of fossil fuels throughout the century.

TOP

BREXIT, SCOXIT, LONDON, UK ECONOMY

Customs teams in EU27 unprepared for hard Brexit

Both Britain and the EU27 are dependent on the other side having functioning customs procedures to avoid severe delays at ports and British ministers are stepping up contingency planning for a “no deal” outcome. UK officials expecting to need up to 5,000 extra staff to cope with up to a fivefold increase in customs declarations.

But Britain’s preparations also rely on the EU27 being ready. Last week Ivan Rogers, Britain’s former top official in Brussels, told MPs that any British plan “has to be brutally road tested against the reality of what the other side of the channel would do in circumstances of a breakdown in the talks”.

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GEOPOLITICS, CRIME, TERRORISM

South Korea and China End Dispute Over Missile Defense System

South Korea and China on Tuesday agreed to end a dispute over the deployment of an advanced American missile defense system in the South and to restore their economic and other ties. The agreement, unveiled following low-key negotiations involving Chinese and South Korean officials, removed a major obstacle in relations between Seoul and Beijing, one that has complicated international efforts to tame North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Armies Race to Deploy Drone, Self-Driving Tech on the Battlefield – WSJ

Foot soldiers for years have watched as wars in the air have been transformed by the introduction of drones. Now ground troops are starting to enjoy some of the same benefits.

Beijing warns US against trying to contain China’s rise

China has fired back at the Trump administration’s plans for a new “Indo Pacific” strategy to counter Beijing’s growing economic and security hold on the region, warning that the world’s two biggest powers should not be treating their rivalry as a “zero-sum game”.

Iraqi Kurdish President Steps Down After Independence Push Backfires – WSJ

Masoud Barzani is stepping down as president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region, just a month after an independence referendum reversed years of political and military gains made by the Kurds and dashed their dreams of statehood.

TOP

PROPAGANDA, CORRUPTION, AUTHORITARIANISM

In unprecedented shift, EPA to prohibit scientists who receive agency funding from serving as advisers – The Washington Post

The move represents a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the EPA as the agency crafts environmental regulations. The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser to the agency appears to be unprecedented.

FBI Is Probing Puerto Rico Power Contract – WSJ

The FBI is investigating a $300 million contract Puerto Rico’s power authority awarded to a tiny Montana energy firm to repair the grid devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Kenyan President Kenyatta wins 98 percent of vote in repeat election

Kenya’s incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta won 98 percent of the vote in a repeated election in which an opposition boycott helped lower turnout to 39 percent, the electoral commission said on Monday.

Wife of Chechen accused of Putin assassination plot shot dead near Kiev

The Ukrainian wife of a Chechen man accused by Russia of plotting to kill President Vladimir Putin was shot dead outside Kiev on Monday in an attack that also wounded her husband, Ukrainian interior ministry officials said.

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TRUMP WORLD

Jared Kushner and Trump Officials Made a Secret Visit to Saudi Arabia Last Week

It’s not yet clear whom the president’s son-in-law met in the Gulf Kingdom.

Sgt. Bergdahl’s Sentence May Be Lighter Because of Trump’s Comments – The New York Times

A judge says he will consider the president’s criticisms when setting the punishment. “I made a horrible mistake,” Sgt. Bergdahl told the court.

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HEALTHCARE, TAX REFORM, BUDGET

Health Premiums to Rise, Trump Administration Says – WSJ

Dozens of insurers are leaving the Affordable Care Act’s federal insurance exchange, and consumers who don’t get premium help will see some rates jump by more than 30% next year, according to a Trump administration report.

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TRADE, PROTECTIONISM, REGULATION, OVERSIGHT

Judge Blocks Trump’s Ban on Transgender Troops in Military – The New York Times

The ruling noted that the policy did not appear to be based on facts.

U.S. regulator wants to loosen leash on Wells Fargo: sources

A leading U.S. regulator wants to make it easier for Wells Fargo to pay employees when they leave, loosening a restriction in place since a phony accounts scandal hit the bank last year, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Trump Deregulatory Juggernaut Is Rolling – WSJ

Why does the business community like the Trump administration? Tax reform hasn’t happened, the president has threatened trade wars and the promised infrastructure spending has yet to materialize. The answer lies in the rollback of regulations.

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ELECTORAL POLITICS

John Boehner says he told Sean Hannity: ‘You’re nuts’ – The Washington Post

The former House speaker goes off on a polarized media environment in which reality is optional.

John Boehner Unchained – POLITICO Magazine

The former House speaker feels liberated—but he’s also seething about what happened to his party.

TOP

SCANDALS, LAWSUITS, FINES, REGULATORY

Day Trader Profited from Hacked Brokerage Accounts, SEC Says – WSJ

A day trader based near Philadelphia earned more than $700,000 by trading against investors whose brokerage accounts had been hacked, the SEC alleged in a lawsuit filed Monday.

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SILICON VALLEY, UNICORNS, STARTUPS, VC

Business vows to retrain 1m workers in digital push

British industry will pledge to retrain 1m workers within five years, in exchange for a government-backed, national plan to promote the adoption of digital technologies across the manufacturing sector.

Senior executives from Siemens, IBM, Cisco, John Lewis and GlaxoSmithKline are among those who have set the ambitious target as part of a proposed road map to accelerate investment in what has become known as the “fourth industrial revolution” — where digital technologies such as robotisation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the industrial internet converge on the factory floor.

Google Has a New Plan for China (and It’s Not About Search) – Bloomberg

More than seven years after exiting China, Google is taking the boldest steps yet to come back. And it’s not with a search engine.

Google’s return is centered around artificial intelligence. The internet giant is actively promoting TensorFlow, software that makes it easier to build AI systems, as a way to forge business ties in the world’s largest online market, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. It’s a wide pitch targeting China’s academics and tech titans. At the same time, Google parent Alphabet Inc. is adding more personnel to scour Chinese companies for potential AI investments, these people said.

Google’s Dominance in Washington Faces a Reckoning – WSJ

After years of cozying up to Democrats, the search giant is battered from all sides as rivals take advantage of a populist turn against Silicon Valley and a reaction to tech-enabled Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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AUTOS, ELECTRIC, SELF-DRIVING

Subaru admits improper checks on Japan cars, expects recalls

Subaru Corp on Friday said it had failed to follow proper inspection procedures for vehicles for the domestic market, an issue likely to result in a product recall and adding to a list of compliance problems at Japanese companies.

Toyota Explores Airless Tires to Build Lighter Electric Vehicles – Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp. is eyeing airless tires to help reduce the weight of battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles and boost performance, even though the technology is years away from being ready for commercial use.

Toyota’s Talking Car Wants to Be Your Clingy BFF – WSJ

If you love your car, Toyota thinks your car should love you back. Its talking car will want to know your favorite bands, which sports team you root for—and track your every social-media move and record what you say.

The PayPal Mafia of Self-Driving Cars Has Been at It a Decade – Bloomberg

A Pentagon-funded contest spawned many of today’s self-driving startups. A decade later, the competitors are struggling to perfect the technology.

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AIRLINES, SHIPPERS, RAIL, TRANSPORTS

New Low-Cost Airlines Hope No-Frills Will Thrill Canada – WSJ

A trio of upstart airlines is set to break into Canada’s air-travel market, in a move that could challenge the country’s main operators and drain market share from a handful of American airlines catering to Canadians.

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MISCELLANEOUS

A husband and wife survived the Las Vegas massacre. They died in a fiery crash two weeks later. – The Washington Post

Their older daughter, Brooke Carver, did not respond to an interview request from The Washington Post, but she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her parents had been “living in the moment” since surviving the Las Vegas massacre.

Submarine Inventor Admits Dismembering Swedish Journalist – The New York Times

It was yet another account from Mr. Madsen, 46, who is being held in Vestre Prison charged with manslaughter, which in Danish law is the equivalent of murder. Previously he said that Ms. Wall had left his vessel alive, then that she had died after being accidentally hit in the head by a 150-pound hatch door.

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