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All It Takes Is A Slipup Or A Nudge

Authored by Jeff Thomas via InternationalMan.com,

Just prior to a war, the majority of people in the nations that are about to become involved tend to assume that another nation is threatening theirs, whist their own leaders are doing all they can to avoid conflict. This is almost never the case.

The “etiquette” of starting wars is for leaders to claim to their people that the last thing they want is war, but the enemy is goading them into armed conflict and, at some point, retaliation becomes “unavoidable.”

The reason for this etiquette is that, almost invariably, the people of a nation have no desire to go to war.

But if that’s the case, why is world history filled with warfare taking place on a regular basis?

Well, truth be told, there are two groups of people who tend to relish war – the military and the political leaders.

I’ve often quoted Randolph Bourne as saying, “War is the health of the state.” He was quite correct. The larger the nation, the greater the need political leaders have for warfare. After all, there’s no situation in which a people feel more greatly that they need their leaders to take charge, than in a time of war.

Political leaders, after all, thrive on taxation and the oppression of basic rights. And they can get away with taxing a people more heavily during a war. They can also remove basic freedoms “temporarily” in order to keep the people “safe.”

Then, when the war is over, taxes never seem to return to their previous low and freedoms never fully return. With each conflict, the state ratchets up its power over the people.

And in modern times, there’s an additional incentive. Since the end of World War II, the US military-industrial complex has been displeased with the fact that peacetime means diminished revenue for them. Increasingly, they’ve contributed heavily to election campaigns for both major parties in every election.

The repayment for those contributions has always been the same – the political class must find excuses to create a new conflict as soon as another one ends, ensuring the continued revenue of the complex.

This has resulted in the US becoming the first and only country that’s in a consciously created state of perpetual warfare. The cost of this, in 2018, was roughly $600 billion – 54% of all federal discretionary spending.

Much of that cost goes to the maintenance of some 800 military bases across the globe, but the military-industrial complex is forever seeking opportunities for expansion, and having been paid for it with campaign funds, political leaders need to find excuses for new conflicts with regularity.

Presently, world leaders are doing their best to deflect taunts by the US. The self-appointed “world’s policeman” is wagging its finger at North Korea with regard to nuclear weapons development, at Venezuela, seeking to replace their leader with an American puppet, at China with regard to islands in the South China Sea and at a host of countries in the Middle East. To each of these, US leaders have said that armed aggression by the US “cannot be ruled out.” And, “All options are on the table.”

As stated above, the peoples of these countries tend to have no desire to go to war. But political leaders have a vested interest in warfare. In addition, military leaders have a stake in the game.

Imagine having graduated from West Point and having spent your military career as an undistinguished desk jockey. By the time you’ve risen to the rank of general, all you’ve done is push pencils. And yet, the reason you joined up in the first place was to become a military leader, with a chest full of battle ribbons.

This is the conundrum that taunts the more sociopathic military leaders – the George Pattons and the Douglas MacArthurs – who, once they’ve been given a command, tend to become carried away in their zeal to create their own legacy through armed combat. The greater the bloodletting, the greater the victory.

In a leadup to active conflict, such generals tend to be like pit bulls on tight leashes – straining to be released so that they can fulfil their destiny.

In almost every case, there are players on both sides who fit this description. As a result, all that’s needed is a small spark to set off armed conflict.

And generally, the provocation that begins a war is a small one. For World War I, all that was necessary was for an archduke of Austria to be assassinated, by a Bosnian teenager, while riding in an open car.

Within a month, Austria-Hungary and Serbia entered into war. All over Europe, people were astonished at how quickly other countries took up sides. France, Russia, Great Britain and, later, Japan, Greece and the US all teamed up against Austria-Hungary, Germany, Italy and even the Ottoman Empire.

Before the war ended, some four years later, some seventy million military personnel had been involved, plus countless civilians – and all due to a shot fired by a young malcontent.

In most all such cases, when a military retaliates against a minor act of aggression, the people of the respective countries hope that the scuffle will be brief, and life can return to normal. But that’s almost never the way it plays out. Invariably, there are those political and military leaders on both sides who revel in the conflict and are determined to demonstrate that they themselves will emerge as the unquestioned victors.

The technical starting point of any major war is, in fact, incidental. Most any excuse will suffice. What’s necessary is two opponents, each of whom accuses the other of attempting to foment aggression. At that point, all that’s needed to light the spark is a young soldier or agitator with an itchy trigger finger, or a politician with a show of bravado, or a military leader who chooses to break from his orders to stand down.

In many cases, if the war does not start spontaneously, a false-flag incident suffices. One country creates an event which it purports is an act of aggression by its opponent. (The recent events in the Strait of Hormuz have a distinct false-flag odour about them.)

Again, the actual catalyst matters little. Once the rattling of sabres begins, as it has, presently, in the Middle East, all that’s required to create a major war is a slipup or a nudge.

*  *  *

The US government is overextending itself by interfering in every corner of the globe. It’s all financed by massive amounts of money printing. However, the next financial crisis could end the whole charade soon. The truth is, we’re on the cusp of a global economic crisis that could eclipse anything we’ve seen before. That’s exactly why bestselling author Doug Casey and his team just released an urgent new report with all the details. Click here to download the PDF now.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 22:10
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 3:10 am
"She Doesn't Know Who The F**k She's Tweeting: Leon Cooperman Explodes At Elizabeth Warren 'Eat The Rich' Ad

Billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman says Sen. Elizabeth Warren "represents the worst in politicians," and that "she doesn't know who the fuck she's tweeting" after the Massachusetts Democrat's latest salvo against the rich.

A new ad by Warren, titled "Elizabeth Warren Stands Up to Billionaires," targets Cooperman, along with former CEO of TD Ameritrade Joe Ricketts, former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel according to CNBC.

In it, Cooperman - who joked in September that "they won't open the stock market if Elizabeth Warren is the next president - has the words "CHARGED WITH INSIDER TRADING" superimposed over his face.

"As far as the accusations of insider trading, I won the case. She’s disgraceful. She doesn’t know who the f--- she’s tweeting. I gave away more in the year than she has in her whole f----ing lifetime," Cooperman told CNBC on Wednesday.

Days before breaking out in tears on CNBC over the American political divide, sent Warren a Halloween letter in which he said she's treating him like "a parent chiding an ungrateful child."

Warren hit back, tweeting "Leon is wrong. I'm fighting for big changes like universal child care, investing in public schools, and free public college."

Leon is wrong. I'm fighting for big changes like universal child care, investing in public schools, and free public college.

We can do all of that with a #TwoCentWealthTax. Leon can and should pitch in more—so that every kid has the same opportunities he did to succeed. https://t.co/38fJSXKKCJ

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 31, 2019

Other business titans, including J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, have taken on Warren for her attacks on the wealthy.

Her war with business leaders has led to her crafting a strong group of supporters that have propelled her in the polls.

After being behind the Democratic front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, by at least 30 points in May, she has surged to being only six points from catching up to his lead, according to a Real Clear Politics polling average. -CNBC

Interestingly, Warren's poll numbers started tanking after Warren unveiled her wealth tax plan and cooperman said "Her policies are counter-productive, they're negative for capitalism...you don't make the poor people rich by making the rich people poor."

2020 Democratic candidate odds via PredictIt

Now, for fun, the inverse of Warren's odds against the Dow:

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 21:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 2:50 am
Disney Did In 1 Day What Took HBO 4 Years: 10 Million Streaming Subscribers

Somewhere Netflix and Amazon video are sweating.

Disney announced today that Disney+ has reached a stunning 10 million plus subscribers just 24 hours after its launch yesterday in the U.S., Canada, and Netherlands; the figure surprised analysts who had expected a much slower rollout for Disney to reach that level, although let's just ignore that most of the new "subs" are only there thanks to one of the various free streaming offers (perhaps someone should launch WeStream).

Separately, Apptopia reported 3.2 million mobile app downloads in the first 24 hours, with an estimated 89% of mobile downloads in the U.S., 9% in Canada, and 2% in the Netherlands. In just one day, users spent 1.3 million hours watching it, Apptopia said, more than Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video, but far less than the 6 million hours watched on Netflix.

"Disney should silence naysayers who expressed reservations about a pivot to streaming," said Geetha Ranganathan, a media analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “It took HBO Now about four years to reach about 10 million streaming subscribers.”

That's just the beginning: on Nov. 19, Disney+ will launch in Australia, New Zealand, and Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico’s launch was delayed one week) and will launch in Western Europe on March 31, 2020. While the service experienced first day technical glitches, this was likely due to high consumer demand which was ahead of management’s expectations and not structural issues with the app.

At this fervent adoption rate, Disney could hit its target of 60 million to 90 million worldwide subscribers in just months, if not weeks, and certainly well before the company's original 2024 goal, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives. This, of course is bad news for legacy streamers such as Netflix, which could see as many as 10% of its customers lured away to rival services such as Disney+ and one from Apple that launched earlier this month.

Commenting on Disney's stunning disclosure, JPM said that the steep ramp reflects a philosophy of "initial subscribers now; pricing later." Disney's willingness to debut its content-rich service at an attractive price point is leading to massive subscriber growth which will likely lead to pricing power later. To be sure, JPM noted questions arise regarding the ARPU despite the strong ramp in subs, including:

  1. subscribers opting-in to the Verizon deal for a free year of Disney+ from a potential opportunity of ~17-19m eligible Verizon customers;
  2. subscribers to the bundle with ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu; and
  3. subscriber churn following the free seven-day trial. Overall, we are positive on the read-through for subscriber growth at ESPN+ and adsupported Hulu as the combination at $12.99/month is a compelling deal.

Even so, the bank pointed out that "the announcement surpasses our expectations for 5m subs in the first quarter; we now expect 15m subscribers in FQ120 and bump up our full year expectations from 15m to 25m."

Separately, Disney clinched important last minute deals for its content. Ahead of the Disney+ launch, Disney started to remove on-demand content for cable customers, in our view to create heightened demand for the content and the product.
As a result, nearly all Marvel movies are available to stream in the U.S., including Avengers: Endgame (initially expected to stream on Dec. 11) as Disney struck some last-minute rights deals. Four Marvel films will remain on Netflix through the end of 2019 (Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Infinity War, and Thor: Ragnarok) and will stream on Disney+ in 2020.

As an aside, JPM analyst Alexia Quadrani noted that she was impressed by the content and user experience of Disney+ upon launch: "The recommendations, originals tab, as well as different collections under the search tab make it very easy to navigate through content and find what one is looking for. We did experience some technical issues on launch day, which we think is due to strong demand and not any underlying issues given the service has been in beta for months in the Netherlands."

Not surprisingly, DIS stock exploded higher on the announcement, climbing as much as 6.8% on Wednesday, its biggest intraday rally in seventh months, and hitting a new all time high.

Netflix shares tumbled 3.7% as its company’s investors assess how big a threat Disney+ will be.

Finally, for those curious, yesterday we showed a full breakdown of which video streaming service is showing what exclusive content; we recreate it below.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 21:33
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 2:33 am
Trade Wars Slam Chinese Retail Sales, Investment Growth Weakest In 21 Years

While it will hardly come as a surprise to anyone following China's dismal attempts at reflating the economy, which on Monday we learned translated into the lowest Aggregate Financing print since the series was established...

Source: Bloomberg

... reaffirming Beijing's impotence at stimulating the all-important credit impulse which is barely above cycle lows...

Source: Bloomberg

... tonight's macro data dump from China is expected to show continued slowing from Q3's disappointing GDP print.

Bloomberg Economics’ Chang Shu notes that the October activity data are likely to show weakness continuing to spread across China’s economy, as companies adjusted to an additional 15% U.S. tariffs on $110 billion of Chinese goods in September.

  • China Industrial Production MEET +5.6% YoY vs +5.6% YoY Exp

  • China Retail Sales MISS +7.2% YoY vs +7.8% Exp

  • China Fixed Asset Investment MISS +5.2% YoY vs +5.4% Exp.

  • China Property Investment FELL to +10.3% YoY from +10.5% YoY

  • China Surveyed Jobless Rate FELL to 5.1% from 5.2%

This is the equal weakest retail sales growth since 2003 and weakest Fixed-Asset Investment growth since 1998..

Source: Bloomberg

This data confirms that China’s economy slowed further in October, signaling, as Bloomberg's Miao Han notes, that policy makers’ piecemeal stimulus is failing to boost output and investment amid ongoing trade tensions with the U.S. and subdued domestic demand.

As a reminder, there was the surprising divergence in the two manufacturing PMI readings, with the “official” version weakening, and the Caixin-labeled version strengthening.

Source: Bloomberg

Dow futures are exuberantly surging overnight as yuan continues to slide - disagreeing vehemently over the chances of a US-China trade deal after their joint celebrations last week...

Source: Bloomberg

Finally, as we just noted, The National Institution for Finance and Development (NIFD) on Wednesday said that China’s economic growth rate will slow to 5.8% in 2020 from an estimated 6.1% this year, a number which is already quite ambitious, not to say artificially goalseeked.

This, as the SCMP notes, is at the bottom end of China’s target range of 6 to 6.5% growth for 2019, and further indicates the continued downward pressure on the economy from the trade war with the United States as well as domestic headwinds.

“The economic slowdown is already a trend,” said former central bank adviser Li Yang, who heads the institute that is affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

We must resort to deepened supply-side structural reform to change it or smooth the slowdown, rather than solely rely on monetary or fiscal stimulus.”

The institute’s forecast is in line with the International Monetary Fund, and indicates the challenge that policymakers face to achieve the above 6% growth rate needed in 2019 and 2020 to reach the government’s goal of doubling GDP in 2020 compared to its 2010 level.

As a reminder, a GDP growth rate below 6% would be the first time since the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Finally, we note that Navarro and his trade hawks in the White House will be pleased at these weak numbers. President Trump has repeatedly said that China needs a deal more than the U.S. does, and these numbers as leverage in their negotiations.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 21:08
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 2:08 am
Trump To Ask SCOTUS To Decide Tax Case After Appeals Court Loss

President Trump's accounting firm is just one step away from having to turn over eight years of tax records, after the US Court of Appeals for DC shut down Trump's last attempt to reconsider the case.

A majority of the court's 11-judge panel voted to uphold an October 11 decision by a three-judge panel that accounting firm Mazars USA must hand over the records to Congress without a successful appeal. Of those who would have granted a rehearing, two are Trump appointees - Neomi Rao and Gregory Katsas, who served in the Trump administration.

"This case presents exceptionally important questions regarding the separation of powers," wrote Katsas.

He warned of the “threat to presidential autonomy and independence” and said it would be “open season on the President’s personal records” if Congress is allowed to compel the president to disclose personal records based on the possibility that it might inform legislation. -Washington Post

As a result, Trump will ask the Supreme Court to consider the case, according to Trump attorkey Jay Sekulow, who said in response to Wednesday's decision that the legal team "will be seeking review at the Supreme Court," according to the Washington Post.

Sekulow in a statement cited the “well reasoned dissent” in Trump’s decision to go to the Supreme Court.

Trump’s attorneys also are planning to ask the high court as soon as Thursday to block a similar subpoena for the president’s tax records from the Manhattan district attorney, who is investigating hush-money payments in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The New York-based appeals court ruled against Trump this month and refused to block the subpoena to his accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The D.C. Circuit case centers on a House Oversight Committee subpoena from March for the president’s accounting firm records — issued months before the beginning of its impeachment inquiry, related to Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. -Washington Post

"Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply," wrote Democrat-nominated Judges David S. Tatel and Patricia A. Millett.

Rao, the dissenting judge on the October 11 panel, reiterated that she felt the Congressional committee had exceeded its authority with a legislative subpoena "investigating whether the President broke the law."

"By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment," she wrote.

Rao also wrote Wednesday that the committee "is wrong to suggest" that questions over whether the subpoena is valid "are no longer of ‘practical consequence,'" and that it's an open question as to "whether a defective subpoena can be revived by after-the-fact approval."

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 20:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 1:50 am
Chinese Think Tank Becomes First Official Body To Predict 2020 GDP Will Drop Below 6%

While it will hardly come as a surprise to anyone following China's dismal attempts at reflating the economy, which on Monday we learned translated into the lowest Aggregate Financing print since the series was established...

... reaffirming Beijing's impotence at stimulating the all-important credit impulse which is barely above cycle lows...

... today a Beijing-based think tank has become the first Chinese economic research institute linked to the government to predict that China’s economic growth rate will slow below 6.0% next year.

The National Institution for Finance and Development (NIFD) on Wednesday said that China’s economic growth rate will slow to 5.8% in 2020 from an estimated 6.1% this year, a number which is already quite ambitious, not to say artificially goalseeked.

This, as the SCMP notes, is at the bottom end of China’s target range of 6 to 6.5% growth for 2019, and further indicates the continued downward pressure on the economy from the trade war with the United States as well as domestic headwinds.

“The economic slowdown is already a trend,” said former central bank adviser Li Yang, who heads the institute that is affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). “We must resort to deepened supply-side structural reform to change it or smooth the slowdown, rather than solely rely on monetary or fiscal stimulus.”

The institute’s forecast is in line with the International Monetary Fund, and indicates the challenge that policymakers face to achieve the above 6% growth rate needed in 2019 and 2020 to reach the government’s goal of doubling GDP in 2020 compared to its 2010 level.

According to the NIFD, China’s exports will be "negatively affected for a long period amid the slowing global economy, private investment may be dampened by trade war uncertainties, while the effects of countercyclical policies will only begin to be evident in the first quarter of next year."

Li said the government’s fiscal deficit problem will stand out in the future, adding that the government may have to issue more bonds to fulfil its expenditure responsibilities. This could demand more bond holdings by the central bank - i.e., a more aggressive monetization of the deficit - and better coordination and institutional arrangement between fiscal and monetary authorities, suggesting that China may well be the first nation to launch some version of MMT.

“The macro control regime needs to be revamped,” he added.

China’s economy started to slow from 2011, with its growth rate already dropping to 6.0% in the third quarter of 2019, the slowest rate since quarterly growth data was first published in 1992. The continued slowdown has stirred market discussion over whether – and how far – Beijing should loosen its policy stance to support growth, as has occurred in many developed countries, including the United States.

However, with China's debt already surpassing 300% according to the IIF...

... a continued rise in the nation’s debt level is keeping a lid on policymakers’ leeway. New NIFD data showed that the government’s macro leverage ratio – the total debt to gross domestic product – has recorded an “unsatisfactory” rise so far this year. Government leverage rose 0.7 percentage point to 39.2 per cent in the third quarter and climbed by a total of 2.0 percentage points in the first nine months of the year.

According to China's own calculations, the country’s overall debt to GDP ratio rose to 251.1% at the end of the third quarter, up 1.6% from the previous quarter. The increase was led by the household sector, with debt rising 1.0 percentage point to 56.3% in the third quarter.

However, with few other levers to pull and despite the surge in debt, the NIFD called for a bigger central government budget deficit to allow for more expenditure to support the economy. At the same time, additional efforts should be made to reduce the leverage of state-owned enterprises, in particular zombie enterprises and local government financing vehicles.

Zhang Xiaojing, deputy director of the CASS’ Institute of Economics, said the extent of the increase in leverage would depend on the growth rate that the government is trying to achieve: “The pressure for economic stabilization next year won’t be as big [as people think],” he predicted, although that may well depend on the status of the trade war with the US.

The NIFD warned of huge uncertainties over the trade tension between China and the US, while also predicting that the yuan exchange rate would fluctuate between 7.0 and 7.2 against the US dollar next year.

“The tariff war may be basically over in 2020, but the bilateral conflicts won’t end easily,” said Zhang Ping, its deputy director, suggesting that as China joins the US in pursuit of foreign capital to funds it soon to be negative capital account, relations between the US and China are only set to deteriorate.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 20:34
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 1:34 am
Alibaba To Sell Up To $15 Billion In Stock In Massive Hong Kong Secondary

Alibaba Group, the title holder for world's largest IPO, has announced plans for a massive secondary stock offering in Hong Kong to take place in late November, in a vote of confidence for the local financial market as the worst political crisis in the city’s history threatens its status as a global financial hub.

According to public filing, China's e-commerce giant will issue 500 million new shares, with 487.5 million set aside for international offering and the rest for Hong Kong public. The offering, which was approved by the Hong Kong stock exchange, includes a 75 million share greenshoe option and aims to raise between $10 billion and $15 billion from the sale which would make it the biggest equity fundraising of the year.

Despite the Hong Kong sale, Alibaba, which raised a record $25 billion in 2014 in New York, will retain its US listing, because of its deep capital markets while the group taps into the growing pool of funds in Asia with its latest plan.

According to the SCMP, the massive stock sale will give a much needed boost for the city gripped by more than five months of anti-government protests and a simmering US-China trade war, pushing the local stock exchange on a home run for global IPO crown this year in competition with the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

BREAKING: #Alibaba secondary listing in Hong Kong to happen at end of November:

- Will raise about $13 billion (biggest fundraise this year)
- 500 million shares to be issued
- 75 million shares for greenshoe option
- Will stay listed in UShttps://t.co/YM795EfJND$BABA

— Arjun Kharpal (@ArjunKharpal) November 13, 2019

The move represents a major boost for the city gripped by more than five months of anti-government protests and a simmering US-China trade war, and puts the local stock exchange on a home run for global IPO crown this year in competition with the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

Alibaba has been working on a plan to list its shares in Hong Kong – what the company calls its “natural first choice” – since it abandoned the local market for New York in 2014, according to people familiar with the matter. Part of the motivation is to give its army of online shopping customers in mainland China and elsewhere in Asia the opportunity to own its shares.

Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said Alibaba’s secondary listing is “a testimony of Hong Kong’s status as a premier listing platform.”

Quoted by SCMP, "The tension between the US and China in the areas of trade and technology has added to the attractiveness of Hong Kong as an international listing platform for mainland tech companies,” Chan said in response to queries by the Post before the filing. “We strive to become the preferred listing platform for companies in the innovative and technology sector."

The green light clears the path for Hangzhou-based Alibaba to start a weeklong roadshow this week to drum up interest from institutional and retail investors. The shares in international offering are expected to be price on November 20 or no later than November 25, according to the SEC filing. They will begin trading in Hong Kong on November 26. Cornerstone investors, a unique feature of Hong Kong’s financial market where large investors are invited to anchor important public offerings, will be absent because the shares are so much in demand, according to people familiar with the plan.

With so much attention falling on major shareholder Softbank in recent weeks, key SoftBank executives have agreed to a 90-day lock up on their stakes under the listing plan. Every eight newly issued shares in Hong Kong will be equal to one American Depositary Share traded in New York, the SEC filing shows. Based on the ADS closing price of US$186.97 on November 12, it could raise between US$11.63 billion and US$13.37 billion in Hong Kong, Alibaba said. The secondary listing in Hong Kong would swell the market value of Asia’s biggest company, and rank it the biggest offerings in Hong Kong in almost a decade. At the top end of US$15 billion, the deal would be the largest after insurance group AIA’s HK$159 billion IPO in 2010 and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s HK$124.95 billion deal in 2006.

After Hong Kong stocks rebounded their worst quarter in four years, fundraising returned to Hong Kong as dozens of companies including Budweiser Brewing Company APAC and ESR Cayman have raised a combined US$11.53 billion. Alibaba’s plan, even at the lower end of the range of US$10 billion, will catapult Hong Kong to the summit of global IPO league this year.

A Hong Kong listing may also finally give mainland China’s investors the chance to participate in the growth of one of the country’s most profitable technology giants, should China add Alibaba to its Stock Connect programme in the coming months, sources said.

“It is going to be a hot deal,” said Jojo Choy Sze-chung, vice-chairman of the Institute of Securities Dealers. “Alibaba already has several good e-commerce platforms and other profitable businesses. It should not be a problem for the company to raise up to US$15 billion.”

Alibaba’s impending offering follows the recent conclusion of its 2019 Singles’ Day online shopping gala, when a record US$43 billion of merchandise were sold in the 24-hour shopping spree. American pop diva Taylor Swift headlined this year’s shopping festival with a curtain-raiser showpiece in Shanghai.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 20:30
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 1:30 am
Exposing John Brennan's CIA Trump Task Force

Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Unz Review,

Could it become Obamagate?

There is considerable evidence that the American system of government may have been victimized by an illegal covert operation organized and executed by the U.S. intelligence and national security community. Former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former FBI Director Jim Comey appear to have played critical leadership roles in carrying out this conspiracy and they may not have operated on their own. Almost certainly what they may have done would have been explicitly authorized by the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his national security team.

It must have seemed a simple operation for the experienced CIA covert action operatives. To prevent the unreliable and unpredictable political upstart Donald Trump from being nominated as the GOP presidential candidate or even elected it would be necessary to create suspicion that he was the tool of a resurgent Russia, acting under direct orders from Vladimir Putin to empower Trump and damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Even though none of the alleged Kremlin plotters would have expected Trump to actually beat Hillary, it was plausible to maintain that they would have hoped that a weakened Clinton would be less able to implement the anti-Russian agenda that she had been promoting. Many observers in both Russia and the U.S. believed that if she had been elected armed conflict with Moscow would have been inevitable, particularly if she moved to follow her husband’s example and push to have both Georgia and Ukraine join NATO, which Russia would have regarded as an existential threat.

Trump’s surprising victory forced a pivot, with Clapper, Brennan and Comey adjusting the narrative to make it appear that Trump the traitor may have captured the White House due to help from the Kremlin, making him a latter-day Manchurian Candidate. The lesser allegations of Russian meddling were quickly elevated to devastating assertions that the Republican had only won with Putin’s assistance.

No substantive evidence for the claim of serious Russian meddling has ever been produced in spite of years of investigation, but the real objective was to plant the story that would plausibly convince a majority of Americans that the election of Donald Trump was somehow illegitimate.

The national security team acted to protect their candidate Hillary Clinton, who represented America’s Deep State. In spite of considerable naysaying, the Deep State is real, not just a wild conspiracy theory. Many Americans nevertheless do not believe that the Deep State exists, that it is a politically driven media creation much like Russiagate itself was, but if one changes the wording a bit and describes the Deep State as the Establishment, with its political power focused in Washington and its financial center in New York City, the argument that there exists a cohesive group of power brokers who really run the country becomes much more plausible.

The danger posed by the Deep State, or, if you choose, the Establishment, is that it wields immense power but is unelected and unaccountable. It also operates through relationships that are not transparent and as the media is part of it, there is little chance that its activity will be exposed.

Nevertheless, some might even argue that having a Deep State is a healthy part of American democracy, that it serves as a check or corrective element on a political system that has largely been corrupted and which no longer serves national interests. But that assessment surely might have been made before it became clear that many of the leaders of the nation’s intelligence and security agencies are no longer the people’s honorable servants they pretend to be. They have been heavily politicized since at least the time of Ronald Reagan and have frequently succumbed to the lure of wealth and power while identifying with and promoting the interests of the Deep State.

Indeed, a number of former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Directors have implicitly or even directly admitted to the existence of a Deep State that has as one of its roles keeping presidents like Donald Trump in check. Most recently, John McLaughlin, responding to a question about Donald Trump’s concern over Deep State involvement in the ongoing impeachment process, said unambiguously “Well, you know, thank God for the ‘deep state’…With all of the people who knew what was going on here, it took an intelligence officer to step forward and say something about it, which was the trigger that then unleashed everything else. This is the institution within the U.S. government…is institutionally committed to objectivity and telling the truth. It is one of the few institutions in Washington that is not in a chain of command that makes or implements policy. Its whole job is to speak the truth — it’s engraved in marble in the lobby.”

Well, John’s dedication to truth is exemplary but how does he explain his own role in support of the lies being promoted by his boss George “slam dunk” Tenet that led to the war against Iraq, the greatest foreign policy disaster ever experienced by the United States? Or Tenet’s sitting in the U.N. directly behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the debate over Iraq, providing cover and credibility for what everyone inside the system knew to be a bundle of lies? Or his close friend and colleague Michael Morell’s description of Trump as a Russian agent, a claim that was supported by zero evidence and which was given credibility only by Morell’s boast that “I ran the CIA.”

Beyond that, more details have been revealed demonstrating exactly how Deep State associates have attempted, with considerable success, to subvert the actual functioning of American democracy. Words are one thing, but acting to interfere in an electoral process or to undermine a serving president is a rather more serious matter.

It is now known that President Barack Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan created a Trump Task Force in early 2016. Rather than working against genuine foreign threats, this Task Force played a critical role in creating and feeding the meme that Donald Trump was a tool of the Russians and a puppet of President Vladimir Putin, a claim that still surfaces regularly to this day. Working with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Brennan fabricated the narrative that “Russia had interfered in the 2016 election.” Brennan and Clapper promoted that tale even though they knew very well that Russia and the United States have carried out a broad array of covert actions against each other, including information operations, for the past seventy years, but they pretended that what happened in 2016 was qualitatively and substantively different even though the “evidence” produced to support that claim was and still is weak to nonexistent.

The Russian “election interference” narrative went on steroids on January 6, 2017, shortly before Trump was inaugurated, when an “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) orchestrated by Clapper and Brennan was published. The banner headline atop The New York Times, itself an integral part of the Deep State, on the following day set the tone for what was to follow: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.”

With the help of the Establishment media, Clapper and Brennan were able to pretend that the ICA had been approved by “all 17 intelligence agencies” (as first claimed by Hillary Clinton). After several months, however Clapper revealed that the preparers of the ICA were “handpicked analysts” from only the FBI, CIA, and NSA. He explained rather unconvincingly during an interview on May 28, 2017, that “the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique,” adding later that “It’s in their DNA.”

Task Force Trump was kept secret within the Agency itself because the CIA is not supposed to spy on Americans. Its staff was pulled together by invitation-only. Specific case officers (i.e., men and women who recruit and handle spies overseas), analysts and administrative personnel were recruited, presumably based on their political reliability. Not everyone invited accepted the offer. But many did because it came with promises of promotion and other rewards.

And this was not a CIA-only operation. Personnel from the FBI also were assigned to the Task Force with the approval of then Director James Comey. Former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele’s FBI handler, Michael Gaeta, may have been one of those detailed to the Trump Task Force. Steele, of course, prepared the notorious dossier that was surfaced shortly before Donald Trump took office. It included considerable material intended to tie Trump to Russia, information that was in many cases fabricated or unsourced.

So, what kind of things would this Task Force do? The case officers would work with foreign intelligence services such as MI-6, the Italians, the Ukrainians and the Australians on identifying intelligence collection priorities that would implicate Trump and his associates in illegal activity. And there is evidence that John Brennan himself would contact his counterparts in allied intelligence services to obtain their discreet cooperation, something they would be inclined to do in collegial fashion, ignoring whatever reservations they might have about spying on a possible American presidential candidate.

Trump Task Force members could have also tasked the National Security Agency (NSA) to do targeted collection. They also would have the ability to engage in complicated covert actions that would further set up and entrap Trump and his staff in questionable activity, such as the targeting of associate George Papadopoulos. If he is ever properly interviewed, Maltese citizen Joseph Mifsud may be able to shed light on the CIA officers who met with him, briefed him on operational objectives regarding Papadopoulos and helped arrange monitored meetings. It is highly likely that Azra Turk, the woman who met with George Papadopoulos, was part of the CIA Trump Task Force.

The Task Force also could carry out other covert actions, sometimes using press or social media placements to disseminate fabrications about Trump and his associates. Information operations is a benign-sounding euphemism for propaganda fed through the Agency’s friends in the media, and computer network operations can be used to create false linkages and misdirect inquiries. There has been some informed speculation that Guccifer 2.0 may have been a creation of this Task Force.

In light of what has been learned about the alleged CIA whistleblower there should be a serious investigation to determine if he was a part of this Task Force or, at minimum, reporting to them secretly after he was seconded to the National Security Council. All the CIA and FBI officers involved in the Task Force had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, but nevertheless were involved in a conspiracy to first denigrate and then possibly bring down a legally elected president. That effort continues with repeated assertions regarding Moscow’s malevolent intentions for the 2020 national elections. Some might reasonably regard the whole Brennan affair, to include its spear carriers among the current and retired national security state leadership, as a case of institutionalized treason, and it inevitably leads to the question “What did Obama know?”

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 20:10
Tags
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 1:10 am
Russia To Reduce US Dollars In National Wealth Fund As Putin's De-Dollarization Continues 

Russia's de-dollarization effort is full steam ahead, in line with President Putin's commitment to reduce the country's vulnerability to the continuing threat of US sanctions.

Crossing the wires early Wednesday morning, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Kolychev, was quoted by Reuters as saying the Russian sovereign wealth fund will reduce US Dollars and is considering adding Chinese yuan. 

  • RUSSIAN DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER KOLYCHEV SAYS SHARE OF US DOLLARS IN NATIONAL WEALTH FUND WILL BE REDUCED 

  • RUSSIAN DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER KOLYCHEV SAYS INCLUSION OF OTHER FOREIGN CURRENCIES INCLUDING YUAN IS BEING CONSIDERED

  • RUSSIAN DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER KOLYCHEV SAYS FINANCE MINISTRY PLANS TO CHANGE NATIONAL WEALTH FUND'S FX STRUCTURE IN 2020 

Kolychev said the change to the foreign exchange structure of the wealth fund would occur in 2020.

Last month, Russian Economy Minister Maxim Oreshkin told the Financial Times that the country would continue down the path of de-dollarization and begin trading some oil transactions in Euros and roubles.

"We have very good currency, and it's stable. Why not use it for global transactions?" Oreshkin said in a recent interview with the FT.

 "We want (oil and gas sales) in roubles at some point," he said.

Despite less than 5% of Russia's $687.5 billion in annual trade being with the US, it remains that over half of that trade still relies on the dollar, according to Bloomberg figures.

US sanctions have been very selective as of recent, specifically targeting Gazprom, the country's gas giant. Sanctions have banned any US company from supplying Gazprom with equipment.

Russia's desire to abandon the dollar is a trend that continues to gain momentum and could be fully realized by the mid/late 2020s.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 19:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 12:50 am
US Naval Institute Proceedings: "A Zombie Fighter's Guide To Strategy"

Authored by James Holmes via US Naval Institute,

The chief takeaway from David Epstein’s book Range, which investigates Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, is this: think broadly, not narrowly. Risk being called a dilettante. Learn from many disciplines and experiences rather than burrow so deeply into one field that you can no longer see above ground to survey the wider world. And then apply insights from one field when some baffling question arises in another.

That is sage counsel for students and practitioners of strategy, who tap insights from history, political science, economics, and an array of related fields.

Maintains Epstein, specialists encounter trouble when tackling the problems characteristic of a “wicked” world. Wicked problems are intricate. They involve variables that combine and recombine in offbeat ways. They defy the boundaries of a single field and often vex specialists. By contrast, generalists hunt for “distant” analogies to challenges. Analogies seldom reveal answers, but they help inquisitors discover the right questions to ask. Asking penetrating questions constitutes the first step toward a solution, toward wisdom.

One imagines Epstein would approve of harnessing fiction and literature as a source of wisdom. Fiction supplies abundant analogies for students of politics and strategy. Some of them are remote indeed, bounded only by the author’s whimsy.

Exhibit A: stories about zombies!

Max Brooks’s World War Z is an imaginary oral history compiled a decade after a global war against the undead. Brooks has a researcher interview protagonists in the zombie war, not just to unearth facts about it but to record their feelings and impressions.

The interviews make up the book’s narrative. The relative lack of commentary gives the book a stark, spare quality—amplifying its impact. Warning: major spoilers ahead.

World War Z relates unfamiliar phenomena that illuminate something familiar, namely the profession of arms. The approach works not because warmaking against living, breathing foes is exactly like fighting ghouls, but because counter-zombie combat resembles war in the real world in some respects while differing from it strikingly in others. Juxtaposing the ordinary against the extraordinary compels military readers to examine their profession afresh.

Brooks’s fictional chronicle raises questions - and questions make us think. Four pointers from the living dead and those who battle them:

1. Know yourself.

Brooks has either read Thucydides or takes the same jaundiced view of human nature he did. The father of history showed how a plague peeled away the veneer of civilization from the most cultured society in classical Greece, the city-state of Athens. Athenians reverted to base instincts and passions almost overnight, and why not? If you may die tomorrow, you may as well live it up tonight. Debauchery ensues. Similarly, citizen took up arms against citizen on the island of Corcyra (modern-day Corfu). Civil strife shattered all bonds of family and fellowship as democrats and oligarchs fought to determine who would rule.

Pockets of Brooks’s brave new world witness similar breakdowns. Industrial civilization is not exempt from the afflictions of the ancients. Far from it.

For example, during the “Great Panic” that accompanies the rise of the living dead, the Hollywood glitterati hire private security firms to guard them from zombies within luxury residences, all while preening on camera for reality shows that showcase their supposed fortitude. Ship crews screen evacuees by race, permitting only those with the correct skin hue to board their vessels to flee the onslaught. You can only imagine what transpires in refugee camps in the far north when populations swell, food and fuel supplies dwindle, and frigid temperatures and weather descend.

And on and on. World War Z holds up a mirror, forcing us to look ourselves in the face while contemplating the impact of mass disaster and warfare on human society. This forms part of the strategic context, and the sight isn’t always pretty.

2. Know the enemy. 

Strategic grandmaster Carl von Clausewitz—not among the undead legions at last report—warns commanders and their political overseers to assess the nature of the war on which they are about to embark, “neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.” But the living do not get the chance to undertake Clausewitzian analysis in Brooks’s account. War is thrust upon them. World War Z haunts precisely because the tale unfolds in everyday surroundings, against a deathless enemy that should not even exist.

Clausewitz counsels leaders to exercise foresight before going to war; zombie war is unthinkable, and who wastes time planning for the unthinkable? Horrors ensue when you neglect the nature of the war. Think about unthinkable situations before they become thinkable.

And about the nature of the foe. The walking dead are an enemy unlike any human antagonist. In fact, counter-zombie warfare resembles epidemiology more than warfare in the usual sense. Think about it. Public health seeks to eradicate disease, not contain it or strike a compromise peace with it. Victory means utterly wiping out a pestilence.

Like an infectious disease, zombies neither hate nor fear nor scheme. These are enemies incapable of malice or strategic thought. They infect. The undead reproduce themselves by biting human victims—much as a contagion spreads from host to host. In effect they are “vectors” spreading a virus that reanimates the slain. Thus even a lone zombie shambling around the earth represents a major threat to humanity. Victory over the living dead means slaughtering them to the last ghoul. Containment is a poor second best. So long as one remains at large, a devastating new outbreak is possible.

In other words, a zombie war is what strategists call an “unlimited” war, taken to its utmost extreme. Against an ordinary human adversary, unlimited war means crushing hostile forces or unseating the government they serve and imposing whatever terms you choose. Taken to extremes, unlimited war tends toward what Clausewitz terms “absolute” war—an unbounded spasm of violence with no political purpose. It is slaughter for its own sake.

Thankfully, Clausewitz concludes that absolute war does not exist outside the pages of books. War pits human foes against one another—and politics exerts a moderating influence on human struggles.

There is no such moderator in a fight against a mindless foe. The masters of strategy prescribe ways to get your way short of genocide. Yet the undead have no willpower to break and cannot be frightened into submission. They have no forces to smash, strategies to outwit, or alliances to break. They have no capital to conquer. They cannot conceive of compromise, let alone bargain. All they have is mass. Millions upon millions of bodies lurch along, uncoordinated yet driven toward the same goal by herd instinct.

Fictional strife in which strategic success equates to inflicting 100 percent casualties invites strategic thinkers to ponder the nature and ethics of unlimited war in our (purportedly) zombie-free world. 

3. Fit strategy, tactics, and hardware to the fight—not the other way around. 

Misfit armaments and maladroit tactics plague armed forces during the early phases of the zombie war. Armies and air forces built to fight high-tech antagonists have to reinvent themselves for infantry combat aimed at indiscriminate slaughter of the enemy. Easier said than done. Brooks’s historian interviews “Todd,” a jaded former infantryman. The ex-soldier recounts how heavy armaments and static defensive measures designed to halt “Ivan” in the Fulda Gap during the Cold War proved futile against mobs of reanimated corpses.

Determined to show the populace the domestic order remains intact, a panicky U.S. administration decides to stage a “decisive” stand in Yonkers, stemming the tide of zombies flowing out of Manhattan. (Bostonians insert favorite Yankees joke here.) Todd takes officialdom to task for folly. Precision munitions do some good against undead hordes, dispatching thousands; but there’s too little ammunition in the magazines to prevail. Defenders, that is, have too few uber-pricey gun projectiles, missiles, and bombs to mow down the millions of ghouls that come behind those brought down in the initial waves.

Guns, missile launchers, and tactical aircraft bereft of ordnance accomplish little. Todd also sees cultural travails at work. American troops, he recalls, are schooled to aim at the midsections of enemy soldiers, whereas it takes a shot to the head to fell a zombie. It is hard to remake the habits of a lifetime, on the fly, against enemies that should not exist, and that feel no pain or fear when struck in the torso. Of necessity, advanced armed forces cast aside gee-whiz implements of war in favor of weapons that strike down multitudes in bulk. The latest thingamabob may not be the best tool for the job.

More primal tactics are a must. Humanity starts to recover when military folk commence improvising warmaking methods for the strategic environment that actually confronts them. Governments temporarily abandon ground to the walking dead and turn terrain to advantage. U.S. citizens withdraw west of the Rocky Mountains to regroup and rearm, using the peaks as a sentinel line and garrisoning the narrow passages between. South Asians retreat into the Himalayas. Having established defensive lines, the living tend to the sinews of national power. Resuscitating moribund economies provides the resources needed to defend against the hordes and, ultimately, go on the strategic offensive and win.

It is a mistake to assume the enemy will conform to our preferred way of fighting. A savvy opponent tries to throw us out of our comfort zone—disorienting us for tactical and strategic gain. Living enemies mimic the living dead in that sense.

4. Adapt and overcome.

Inventive contenders command an advantage when going up against an adversary that—however remorseless or terrifying—is unable to learn or grow. The competitive impulse that pervades human struggle, prodding contestants to innovate and counter-innovate in an effort to outdo one another, is entirely absent from the zombie host. An enemy without ingenuity or passion to innovate is an inert enemy in strategic terms. And indeed, the zombie war is one-sided once humanity rides out the apocalypse, gains a respite to adapt, and comes out fighting.

Resourceful folk fashion new weapons and tactics while unimaginative foes plod along, doing the same thing time after time—which makes a hopeful note to close on. When facing new circumstances, get to know the circumstances and stay loose. Recognize that the nimbler contender is apt to be the victor—and broad-mindedness is the key to staying nimble. I daresay Epstein and Clausewitz would agree.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 19:30
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 12:30 am
Fears Of Pneumonic Plague Outbreak After 2 Diagnosed In China - Hospital On Lockdown

Chinese authorities announced Tuesday that two people have been diagnosed with pneumonic plague at a hospital in Beijing yes, as in the 'Black Death' which wiped out some 50 million of the world's population during the Middle Ages

Alarmingly, it's the second instance of the plague hitting the region in a matter of months, after last May a Mongolian couple died from bubonic plague after consuming the raw kidney of a marmot, based on a local folk practice.

Bubonic plague bacteria from a January 2003 case, via the CDC/FOX News.

Officials say the two in this latest case also came from a remote area of Inner Mongolia in Northern China. To mitigate panic, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reportedly issued a public advisory to Beijing residents telling them the potential for contacting the disease is “extremely low,” according to The New York Times. Though considering this is literally the plague we doubt anyone will feel reassured by such official advisories.

The patients were quickly isolated by health officials after initial confusion over what they might be dealing with, and are reportedly being given treatment. Left untreated it will cause certain death, but some strains of the plague can be cured through careful administration of antibiotics, unavailable when it struck on a mass scale in medieval times. 

The infected were initially treated at Beijing's Chaoyang Hospital, which caused a special alert to go out to city health personnel and placed the emergency room under complete lockdown. China's English news portal Caixin Global provided the following eyewitness details:

Chaoyang Hospital, where the two patients were treated, has replaced all the chairs at its emergency room, Caixin reporters witnessed.

The emergency room was in police blockade Monday night, people living nearby the hospital told Caixin. A resident medical school student at Chaoyang Hospital told Caixin that he received emergency notice from the school, asking them not to go to the emergency room in the following weeks.

Chaoyang Hospital told local media that the two patients have been transferred to another hospital, without disclosing the name of the hospital.

Chaoyang Hospital in Beijing's Chaoyang district went under lockdown after two people came in with the plague. Image source: Caixin

And FOX has further details as follows:

Dr. Li Jifeng at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, in the district where the patients sought treatment, said they came to the hospital on Nov. 3 but officials have not confirmed the claim, The Times reported.

Dr. Li wrote on WeChat that she treated a middle-aged man who had a persistent fever and cough, which his wife had also contracted.

“I couldn’t guess what pathogen caused this pneumonia. I only knew it was rare,” she wrote.

The pneumonic form of the plague is considered the most virulent and deadly, causing severe lung infection via bacterium, transmitted from small mammals and their fleas. The other forms are bubonic and septicemic the former cause swollen lymph nodes and the latter infects the blood.

From 2010 to 2015, the World Health Organization reported a total of 3248 cases worldwide, including 584 deaths; however, there are concerns that not all cases have been reported, with China recently coming under fire over allegations of possibly withholding its true number of cases.

The WHO has now categorized the plague as a 're-emerging disease' given that some 50,000 human cases have been recorded in the past two decades. 

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 19:10
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 14, 2019, 12:10 am
The Growing Threat Of Water Wars

Authored by Jayati Ghosh via Project Syndicate,

In 2015, United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include an imperative to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Yet, in the last four years, matters have deteriorated significantly.

The dangers of environmental pollution receive a lot of attention nowadays, particularly in the developing world, and with good reason. Air quality indices are dismal and worsening in many places, with India, in particular, facing an acute public-health emergency. But as serious as the pollution problem is, it must not be allowed to obscure another incipient environmental catastrophe, and potential source of future conflict: lack of access to clean water.

We may live on a “blue planet,” but less than 3% of all of our water is fresh, and much of it is inaccessible (for example, because it is locked in glaciers). Since 1960, the amount of available fresh water per capita has declined by more than half, leaving over 40% of the world’s population facing water stress. By 2030, demand for fresh water will exceed supply by an estimated 40%.

With nearly two-thirds of fresh water coming from rivers and lakes that cross national borders, intensifying water stress fuels a vicious circle, in which countries compete for supplies, leading to greater stress and more competition. Today, hundreds of international water agreements are coming under pressure.

China, India, and Bangladesh are locked in a dispute over the Brahmaputra, one of Asia’s largest rivers, with China and India actively constructing dams that have raised fears of water diversion. India’s government has used water-flow diversion to punish Pakistan for terrorist attacks. Dam-building on the Nile by Ethiopia has raised the ire of downstream Egypt.

And cross-border conflicts are just the beginning. Water-related tensions are on the rise within countries as well, between rural and urban communities, and among agricultural, industrial, and household consumers. Last year, water scarcity fueled conflicts in parts of eastern Africa, such as Kenya, which has a history of tribal clashes over access to water.

In fact, there are long histories of conflict over the waters of many major rivers, including the Nile, the Amazon, the Mekong, and the Danube. But the severity and frequency of such conflicts are set to increase, as climate change alters rainfall patterns, leading to more frequent, intense, and prolonged droughts and floods.

Making matters worse, dwindling water reserves are increasingly contaminated by industrial pollutants, plastics and other refuse, and human waste. In middle-income countries, less than one-third of wastewater is treated; in low-income countries, the share is much smaller. Roughly 1.8 billion people get their drinking water from feces-contaminated sources. The depletion of aquifers and inadequate investment in water infrastructure are exacerbating these problems.

Water stress affects everyone, but the agricultural sector – which accounts for 70% of all water consumption globally, and as much as 90% in the least-developed countries – is particularly vulnerable to constrained supplies. Lack of water makes it difficult to keep livestock, since every drop has to be preserved for crops or human consumption.

Urban areas are also headed for disaster. Last year, Cape Town, South Africa, faced such severe water shortages that it began preparations for a “day zero,” when the municipal water supply would be shut off. (Thanks to supply restrictions and other government measures, that day never came.) Similarly, Mexico City has struggled with a water crisis for years.

Indian metropolises are lurching toward even bigger catastrophes. A 2018 government report warned that 21 cities (including the capital, Delhi, and the information-technology hub Bengaluru) would reach zero groundwater levels by next year, affecting at least 100 million people.

As with climate change, the most severe consequences of water stress disproportionately affect those in the world’s poorest regions – especially Africa and South and Central Asia – who contributed least to the problem. In one part of rural Maharashtra, India, women and girls walk up to 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per day to collect drinking water. In other villages, as local wells run dry, households have had to designate a member to be on full-time water-collection duty. Wealthier families might pay someone else to do the job, but most households do not have that luxury.

Meanwhile, the advanced economies not only avoid many of the consequences of water stress (at least for now); they also maintain the lifestyle excesses that have propelled climate change and environmental degradation, including water depletion. Rice cultivation is often cited as a major water guzzler, but a kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef requires five times more water to produce than a kilo of rice, and 130 times more than a kilo of potatoes. And since agricultural crops account for a significant share of many developing countries’ exports, these countries are, in a sense, exporting the limited supply of water they have.

Moreover, current land grabs in Africa are actually about water, with foreign investors targeting areas with big rivers, large lakes, wetlands, and groundwater, and thus with high agricultural potential and biogenetic value. (As it stands, less than 10% of Africa’s irrigation potential is being used.)

In 2015, United Nations member states adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which include an imperative to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” Yet, in the last four years, matters have deteriorated significantly. The international community might be able to fool itself for a while – as it has proved so adept at doing, not least with regard to environmental destruction – but the threat of water wars is only drawing nearer. For many in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, it has already arrived.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 11:50 pm
"Apocalyptic Flooding": Stunning Images As Venice Endures 2nd Highest Tide In History

Stunning images have come out of the historic city of Venice, which has been hit with catastrophic floods due to the second-highest tide recorded in the city's history bringing water levels high over city squares and foot paths, also amid extreme winds and rain.

Mayor Brugnaro has declared a state of emergency after the Tuesday tide peaked at just over 6-feet during the evening. The only time in recorded history the waters reached that high was in 1966, when the tide reached nearly six-and-a-half feet. 

St. Mark's Square, Getty Image.

Early Wednesday about 50% of the city had been reported flooded by the unusual tide, and some reports into overnight Wednesday say 85% is now under water, given it sits at sea level as it was famously built on a network of over 100 small islands in a lagoon on the Adriatic Sea, and is connected by canals. This impacts a total of 53,000 residents, at a low point in the tourism cycle.

At least two people have died, one described as an elderly man who was electrocuted when he attempted to operate electric pumps at his home, according to Italian authorities, following a mass power outage across much of the city.

More Venice flooding pic.twitter.com/AYU8Hlmuun

— Sylvia Poggioli (@spoggioli1) November 13, 2019

Extreme winds have also knocked out some communications and have made accessible transport difficult for storm-battered residents.

Venetian authorities say high tides of 140cm (55 inches) or more, referred to in Italian as "acqua alta", usually take place in winter months. 

LOOK: A man could swim in the famous Saint Mark's square thanks to the flood

Venice is bracing itself for another wave on Wednesday as flooding reached 85% of the city pic.twitter.com/V0PjmTPcAf

— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) November 13, 2019

Head clergyman over St Mark's Basilica, Francesco Moraglia, told reporters: "I have never seen something like what I saw yesterday afternoon [Tuesday] at St. Mark's square. There were waves as if we were at the beach."

Water has entered churches and historic sites. Getty Image.

Mayor Brugnaro has warned the flooding “is going to leave an indelible wound” on Venice, as efforts are underway to protect homes, property, and world heritage sites. 

Image source: Beanotown Photography

"We are not just talking about calculating the damages, but of the very future of the city," Brugnaro said. "Because the population drain also is a result of this."

The governor of the region, Luca Zaia, also described: “We faced a total and apocalyptic flood, I will not exaggerate in words, but 80% of the city is under water. Unimaginable damage has been done.”

Wading down Calle Vallaresso during last night's #AcquaAlta in Venice pic.twitter.com/bVH0jzeXfl

— Emily Pothast (@emilypothast) November 13, 2019

In some parts of the city residents were seen "swimming for their lives" according to eyewitness accounts. 

Getty Image

Plans have long been in place for a massive emergency protection project that would see a series of 78 'floating gates' set up around the city to control the impact of high tides, but it's been beset by cost-related delays.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:30
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 11:30 pm
Fed Will Not Disclose Which Banks Are Receiving Repo Cash For At Least Two Years

Submitted by Chris Powell of GATA

If you want to know which investment houses have been getting the infamous "repo" loans from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in recent weeks, as GATA has wanted to know, you'll have to wait two years, according to a letter received from the bank today in response GATA's request for the information.

The delay, the New York Fed's letter says, is authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Perhaps more interestingly, the New York Fed's letter, signed by Corporate Secretary Shawn Elizabeth Phillips, contends that the bank is exempt from the federal Freedom of Information Act but tries to comply with its spirit.

Such a claim of exemption was not made by the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors during GATA's FOIA lawsuit against it in 2011, in which GATA sought access to the board's gold-related documents. GATA technically won the case when U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ruled that one such document was illegally withheld and ordered the board to disclose it to GATA and pay the organization court costs of $2,670:

What kind of system of government is it when every week an entity created by ordinary legislation can create enormous amounts of a nation's currency and disburse it to unidentified parties without any oversight by the people's elected representatives, news organizations, and ordinary citizens? It sure doesn't sound like "the land of the free and the home of the brave."

The New York Fed's response to GATA can be read below (pdf link):

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:10
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 11:10 pm
WeWork's Quarterly Loss Exploded To $1.3 Billion Ahead Of Failed IPO

WeWork went on a spending spree in the days ahead of its now failed IPO.

The recently insolvent company which until a few months ago had a valuation of $47 billion before it had to be bailed out by SoftBank saw its losses more than double in the third quarter, soaring to $1.25 billion, not much below its loss for the entire 2018. The results, which were reported in a presentation for WeWork creditors - the company has to file financials to the group of creditors who hold its "public" debt - seen by Bloomberg and the Financial Times, revealed why the cash incinerating office sublettor careened towards a cash crunch when its IPO plans and a linked debt financing collapsed in September.

In a furious money-burning attempt to impress investors with its market share, WeWork opened almost 100 offices in the third quarter, bringing its total to 625, and helping lift WeWork’s net revenues in the period by 94% from 4482 million a year earlier to $934 million. That was the good news: the bad news is that WeWork affirmed that it continues to lose more than two dollars for every dollar the group generated in sales in the period.

In its unprecedented spending spree to spend all of its IPO proceeds before it even went public, the company also said it added 115,000 desks in the third quarter, taking its total to 719,000. However, the reason why such hollow growth would end up resulting in an even greater loss is that WeWork reported 609,000 memberships at the end of Q3, meaning its overall occupancy rates slid as it raced to open new locations to 79 per cent at the end of the third quarter from 82 per cent at the end of June.

WeWork's bizarre growth at any price would turn out to be its former messiah CEO's last decision: Adam Neumann stepped down as chief executive in September as the IPO fell apart as investors balked at the thought of making the megalomaniac the world's first immaculately coiffed, immortal trillionaire.

After the IPO fell apart, WeWork's biggest shareholder, SoftBank, pumped another $1.5 billion into the company in October to prevent the company from running out of cash in November, and stabilize its finances while taking majority control of the company, installing the former boss of its US telecom unit Sprint, Marcelo Claure, as executive chairman. The Japanese telecom-turned-venture capitalist group also arranged a new $5bn loan for WeWork and has agreed to buy $3bn of the company’s shares from investors and employees including Mr Neumann in the coming weeks. Because who more deserves a $1+ billion golden parachute than Neumann.

Since his arrival, Claure embarked on a cost-cutting drive and is in the process of firing 4,000 of the company’s roughly 14,000 employees, with large cuts in the US expected to begin next week, according to multiple people briefed on the plans. It remains unclear how the company plans on growing its revenue if it no longer has access to unlimited funds; for the answer check in next quarter when we expect both WeWork's revenue and net income to take another sharp leg lower.

WeWork is also selling several of the companies it acquired in recent years and has drastically slowed its pace of new lease signings.

The company is seeking a new CEO, and T-Mobile’s John Legere is among the candidates.

But for now, none of this post-failed IPO activity is reassuring bond investors at all...

Source: Bloomberg

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 10:50 pm
Berkeley Instructor: "Rural Americans" Are "Bad People Who Have Made Bad Life Decisions"

Authored by GQ Pan via The Epoch Times,

An instructor at the University of California-Berkeley stirred anger after he called Americans who live in rural areas “bad people” who deserve “uncomfortable lives” on Twitter.

Jackson Kernion, according to his website, has been teaching multiple philosophy courses as a graduate student instructor at UC-Berkeley since 2013.

In the now-deleted Twitter post published on Nov. 5, Kernion explained why he thought it is plausible to shame rural Americans.

“I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans. they, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions,” Kernion wrote.

“Some, I assume, are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid, and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city.”

Before turning to critique the rural American lifestyle, Kernion wrote in another post about affordable healthcare for rural Americans.

He said he believed it would mean they have to be subsidized by “those who choose a more efficient way of life.”

“Rural healthcare should be expensive!” he wrote.

“And that expense should be borne by those who choose rural America!”

“It should be uncomfortable to live in rural America. It should be uncomfortable to not move,” he added.

America’s rural communities, which tend to be older and poorer than urban areas, usually face more challenges than their urban counterparts in accessing health care, internet, and other services. 

A survey conducted by Harvard’s School of Public Health, NPR News, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports this May that four in ten rural Americans have encountered problems affording medical bills, housing, or food in the past few years.

Kernion tried to back his points with economic arguments about not making rural life “artificially cheaper.” Still, it didn’t take long for that discussion to escalate into shaming the rural American population.

The next day, Kernion wrote on Twitter in what appears to be an apology that he “made a bad post” and would “reflect on it.”

“My tone is way crasser and meaner than I like to think I am,” he wrote. He eventually deactivated his Twitter account altogether.

UC-Berkeley has yet to make any response regarding the internet backslash.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:30
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 10:30 pm
Rand Paul Drops The 'C'-Word: Names Whistleblower, Demands Testimony

A week ago, Senator Rand Paul said that he might release the whistleblower's name.

Over the weekend, Senator Paul said the whistleblower's name should be released.

And today, Senator Paul has named the whistleblower publicly...Eric Ciamerella

During a Wednesday interview on Washington, D.C.-based WMAL, Paul named Ciaramella himself and said he should be brought in testify to clarify whether he is indeed the whistleblower.

“I think Eric Ciaramella needs to be pulled in for testimony, and then I think it will be ultimately determined at that point,” said Paul.

“But I think he is a person of interest in the sense that he was at the Ukraine desk when Joe Biden was there when Hunter Biden was working for the Ukrainian oligarch. So simply for that alone, I think he’s a material witness who needs to be brought in.”

“I think the whistleblower needs to come in because he needs to be asked about, did he know about the conflict of interest?” said Paul.

He was there during the time of Joe Biden and Hunter Biden working for $50,000 a month for a Ukrainian oligarch, so he needs to be asked about that.”

As The Washington Examiner reports, Paul also said he wants answers about Ciaramella’s ties to the Democratic Party and Rep. Adam Schiff, whose staff knew about the whistleblower’s report before it was filed.

Now the name is out there in the public (as if it wasn't earlier), will Mark Zuckerberg allow it to be mentioned on his platform?

All of which is worth noting since Rep. Schiff told Congress this morning that "I do not know the identity of the whistleblower." - Seemingly a total lie, given what we know about their pre-hearing meetings...

Rep. @Jim_Jordan rips @RepAdamSchiff for coordinating with the whistleblower.

Schiff claims he "does not know the identity of the whistleblower." pic.twitter.com/HdDQGmHwv8

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 13, 2019

Adam Schiff is not going to be happy...

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:11
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 10:11 pm
Who Is Showing What? A Complete Guide To All The Streaming TV Original Shows

Walt Disney’s much-anticipated debut of its new streaming video service was marred by early technical glitches that prevented some users from logging in and created difficulties for others who wanted to watch movies and shows, a result of a problem stemming in part from computer servers operated by another company. Still, there was enough excitement and buzz on social media and worked successfully for many subscribers, helping push the company's stock 1.4% higher.

Yet once the initial euphoria fizzles, consumers will be far more focused on the product line ups at all the various direct streaming services that are now popping up on a monthly, if not weekly basis.

To help dispel some of the confusion, we highlight some of the original content titles coming to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and HBO that will be used to differentiate all the various steaming services in their pursuit of your monthly $9.99 (plus or minus).

As Bank of America notes, The Irishman, 6 Underground and The Witcher as most important for Netflix, while a large number of first-season series could include some surprises. There is also an increasing number of (expensive to make) films in the lineup from Netflix, with BofA noting that it sees increased uncertainty in this push as to how big name films will impact subscriber acquisition compared to Netflix's more traditional route of TV originals.

The Netflix lineup is expected to continue to widely outpace originals releases from Amazon, Hulu and HBO. HBO's Watchmen and His Dark Materials, based on popular fantasy/comic IP, is expected to aid AT&T's new service. Additionally, there is a summary of original releases from Apple TV+ and Disney +. Titles highlighted in bold in the table below are those which BofA thinks have the potential garner larger audiences, although surprises likely lurk among the new season launches.

Finally, for those asking who is currently winning the global direct streaming wars, the answer remains Netflix by a mile, but Amazon is rapidly catching up...

... while in the US alone it is increasingly a three-way fight between Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:10
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 10:10 pm
Day One Of Impeachment Hearings: Schiff Lies Again, Jim Jordan Goes Ham

Tuesday's public impeachment testimony in front of the House Intelligence Committee revealed that the Democrats' case against Donald Trump has more to do with foreign policy disagreements based largely on hearsay vs. actual evidence of malfeasance. Today marked the first public testimony after weeks of hearings conducted in private.

.@Jim_Jordan: You didn’t listen in on President Trump & Zelensky’s call?

Taylor: I did not.

Jordan: You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?

Taylor: I never did.

Jordan: You’ve never met the President?

Taylor: That’s correct.

Jordan: And you’re their star witness. pic.twitter.com/ebZ6jsEjeB

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) November 13, 2019

Speaker Adam Schiff (D-CA) and his fellow Democrats spent much of the day trying to coax damning testimony out of Ambassador Bill Taylor and top State Department official George Kent - only to come up empty handed over whether President Trump conditioned US military aid to Ukraine on an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

What we did learn is that US officials, including Kent, "constantly" pushed Ukraine to reopen a "scuttled investigation" into the owner of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, which was hired then-Vice President Joe Biden's son to sit on their board in 2014.

I did not witness any effort by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other U.S. officials consistently advocated reinstitution a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who hold the closed the case to account.

..

In early 2015, I raised questions with the deputy prosecutor general about why the investigation of Mr. Zlochevsky had been terminated based on our belief that prosecutors had accepted bribes to close the case. After, I became aware that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma. Soon after that in a briefing call with the national security staff of the office of the Vice President in February 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest.

Schiff also lied about "not knowing the identity of the whistleblower" whose anonymous complaint launched the impeachment effort, despite it being widely reported that the whistleblower - Eric Ciaramella - approached Schiff's staff before filing the complaint.

Rep. @Jim_Jordan rips @RepAdamSchiff for coordinating with the whistleblower.

Schiff claims he "does not know the identity of the whistleblower." pic.twitter.com/HdDQGmHwv8

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 13, 2019

Ohio Republican Jim Jordan - recently added to the House Intelligence Committee - absolutely tore into the Democrats' narrative every time he was 'tagged' in.

Rep. Elise Stefanik: This was an abject failure for the Democrats and Adam Schiff. pic.twitter.com/AJtJ7J6x7g

— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) November 13, 2019

In short:

***

Watch:

Clips and hot-takes:

Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley (IL) on evidence: "Hearsay can be much better evidence than direct ... and it's certainly valid in this instance" pic.twitter.com/JD0Ui6acxD

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 13, 2019

.@Jim_Jordan: You didn’t listen in on President Trump & Zelensky’s call?

Taylor: I did not.

Jordan: You’ve never talked with Chief of Staff Mulvaney?

Taylor: I never did.

Jordan: You’ve never met the President?

Taylor: That’s correct.

Jordan: And you’re their star witness. pic.twitter.com/ebZ6jsEjeB

— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) November 13, 2019

WOW! The Democrats' own lawyer did a fantastic job coaxing out the smoking gun of today's hearing 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/2YOb3LPUiR

— Eddie Zipperer (@EddieZipperer) November 13, 2019

Kent: "Conditions Have Always Been Placed on Aid to Ukraine Including Anti-Corruption..." 👇 #WitchHunt pic.twitter.com/LAJ4EGao6l

— Gregg Jarrett (@GreggJarrett) November 13, 2019

George Kent admits he raised concerns about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian gas company in 2015:

"In a briefing call with...the office of the Vice President...I raised my concern that Hunter Biden's status...could create the perception of a conflict of interest." pic.twitter.com/6cAznWhSf0

— Trump War Room (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TrumpWarRoom) November 13, 2019

Rep. @DevinNunes: "The whistleblower was acknowledged to have a bias against President Trump and his attorney touted a coup against the President and called for his impeachment just weeks after the election." #ImpeachmentHearings pic.twitter.com/3u9Gz2KwZt

— The Hill (@thehill) November 13, 2019

Democrats aren't just using hearsay... they're using hearsay from an original source who admits he doesn't even know the facts.

To call this a reach would be kind. They have nothing.

— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) November 13, 2019

The salient point of Bill Taylor's testimony is that he was worried about the direction of U.S. policy on Ukraine. Nothing illegal at all. #ImpeachmentHearings #ImpeachmentInquiry #Impeachment

— Joel B. Pollak (@joelpollak) November 13, 2019

10:45 a.m.

When Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) called out Schiff for coordinating with the whistleblower, Schiff claimed he "does not know" who that is despite his panel having met with him.

Rep. @Jim_Jordan rips @RepAdamSchiff for coordinating with the whistleblower.

Schiff claims he "does not know the identity of the whistleblower." pic.twitter.com/HdDQGmHwv8

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) November 13, 2019

10:35 a.m.

In his opening remarks, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) framed the impeachment inquiry as a move to protect the future of the presidency.

"The matter is as simple, and as terrible as that. Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself, and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their Commander-in-Chief," said Schiff.

***

Having completed weeks of secretive closed-door testimony, House Democrats are taking their impeachment inquiry public on Wednesday with public testimony from various witnesses who can shed light on President Trump's interactions with Ukraine.

Overseeing the proceedings will be House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), who has made abundantly clear that this is about whether Trump inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, and not about whether the Bidens engaged in corruption while Joe was the Obama administration's 'point man' on Ukraine.

Arguing for the GOP will be recent addition to the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-CA), who has a strong grasp of the situation and a reputation for asking tough questions.

We have a group of House Republicans lining up to watch the hearing, including Reps. Meadows, Biggs, Gohmert. pic.twitter.com/Rh1F0pMngP

— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) November 13, 2019

Testifying today will be Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine who said in closed-door hearings that it was his "clear understanding" that President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until the Bidens and other matters were investigated.

Also testifying will be Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, who claimed that Trump wanted Zelensky to personally announce the investigations.

On Friday, recalled US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will testify. She claims she was forced out of her position over unsubstantiated allegations that she was critical of Trump and didn't want Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Amb. Marie Yovanovitch

Schiff has also warned House Republicans not to name a whistleblower widely reported as CIA officer Eric Ciaramella, whose second-hand complaint launched the impeachment proceedings after seeking guidance from Schiff's committee over the summer.

"The Committee has a long, proud, and bipartisan history of protecting whistleblowers — including from efforts to threaten, intimidate, retaliate against, or undermine the confidentiality of whistleblowers," Schiff wrote in a memorandum to his colleagues.

GOP lawmakers included the whistleblower in their list of requested witnesses for the public impeachment hearings, however Schiff denied the request - calling the potential testimony "redundant and unnecessary."

President Trump went on the offensive Wednesday in a series of tweets, citing conservative pundits and decrying members of his own administration as "NEVER TRUMPERS" while telling people to "READ THE TRANSCRIPT!"

“Millions of Americans will see what a partisan sham this whole thing is.” Rush Limbaugh @foxandfriends Also, why is corrupt politician Schiff allowed to hand over cross examination to a high priced outside lawyer. Did that lawyer ever work for me, which would be a conflict?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2019

Next week, the following individuals will testify (via Axios):

Tuesday:

  • Jennifer Williams: An aide to Vice President Mike Pence, on detail from the State Department. She was on the July call between Trump and Zelensky and said she had concerns with the political nature of the call.
  • Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman: A decorated war veteran and the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert. He was on the July call and says Mulvaney coordinated the plan to push Ukraine for the Biden investigations.
  • Kurt Volker, former Special Envoy to Ukraine: He describes what officials saw as Rudy Giuliani's improper role in U.S. diplomacy.
  • Former National Security Council adviser Tim Morrison: He was also on the July call, and says he was told directly about Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to open political investigations.

Wednesday:

  • EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland: He revised his initial testimony to say he told a Ukrainian official that the country wouldn't get military aid unless it caved to Trump's demands.
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs Laura Cooper: She says it was her understanding that Trump himself directed the freeze on aid to Ukraine, and that officials raised concerns after the aid was suspended.
  • Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale: He spoke to what many officials described as Yovanovitch's questionable removal.

Thursday:

  • Former Russia aide Fiona Hill: She reported to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, and says Bolton believed Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were cooking up a "drug deal" with Ukraine.

***

Axios also notes that House Democrats have shown interest in interviewing Bolton, Mulvaney, former deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman and Acting OMB director Russel Vought.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:06
Tags
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 10:06 pm
Officials Are Using The Word "Disaster" To Describe The Widespread Crop Failures Happening All Over America

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

We are witnessing “unprecedented” crop failures all across the United States, but the big mainstream news networks are not talking too much about this yet. 

As you will see below, local news outlets all over the nation are reporting the disasters that are taking place in their own local areas, but very few people are putting the pieces of the puzzle together on a national level.  The endless rain and horrific flooding during the early months of this year resulted in tremendous delays in getting crops planted in many areas, and now snow and bitterly cold temperatures are turning harvest season into a complete and utter nightmare all over the country.  I am going to share with you a whole bunch of examples below, but first I wanted to mention the snow and bitterly cold air that are rolling through the middle of the nation right now

A wintry weather pattern that brought single-digit temperatures and more than a foot of snow to parts of the Upper Midwest rolled across a wide swath of the nation Monday, threatening to break hundreds of records and bring a deep freeze as far south as Florida.

“The coldest surge of arctic air so far this season will bring widespread record low temperatures for much of the central and eastern U.S. even down to the Gulf Coast,” said Kwan-Yin Kong, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

We are being told that “more than 300 daily records” are likely to be broken, and this will be the final nail in the coffin for this harvest season for countless numbers of farmers.

And even without this latest wave of bitterly cold weather, this was already going to be the worst year for U.S. agriculture that most people can remember.  The following are 12 examples of the crop disasters that we are witnessing right now…

#1 North Dakota: “Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has approved North Dakota’s request for a Secretarial disaster designation for 47 counties related to late season rainfall and the October snowstorm. The declaration came on Friday, Nov. 8, the same day that Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., hosted Bill Northey, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s under secretary for farm production and conservation, to hear from producers at a roundtable and see the impacts of flooding and the early blizzard during a field tour in the Red River Valley.”

#2 Northwest Minnesota: “Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz asked the U.S. agriculture secretary on Thursday to declare a disaster for 12 counties of northwestern Minnesota where farmers are struggling through a very difficult harvest season. The governor said in a letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue that unrelenting bad weather has come on top of challenges farmers were already facing from low commodity prices and trade uncertainties. He told Purdue how the region’s crops have fallen victim to flooding, disease and freezing temperatures, leaving many producers unable to harvest them.”

#3 Iowa: “Last week, according to the Iowa weekly growing season report for the week ending Nov. 3, Iowa’s average temperature was 33 degrees, 12.6 degrees below normal, and with the southerly dip in the jet stream came multiple fast-moving winter-type systems through Iowa during the week, bringing a statewide average of 2.4 inches of snow. Mason City farmer Kevin Pope said with the early snow, all harvest has been halted.”

#4 Ohio: Three local counties are among the 14 in Ohio that the United States Department of Agriculture said are primary natural disaster areas. Champaign, Clark and Miami counties were added to a growing list of designated primary natural disaster areas, which means farmers in those counties can apply for disaster loans. Farmers are eligible only if they suffered a 30% loss in crop production or a physical loss of livestock, livestock products and real estate.

#5 The Red River Valley: “Near Grand Forks, Minnesota, successive nights of subfreezing temperatures from late October into early November caused an estimated $45 million in damage to around 9,000 acres of red and yellow potato crops in the Red River Valley. Wet conditions in October delayed the potato harvest that usually occurs around Oct. 1. This left about half of the red and yellow crops, which are grown for the fresh market, vulnerable to frost damage. This is what Ted Kreis, spokesman for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, told Fresh Plaza on Nov. 4.”

#6 Illinois: “Pritzker filed an appeal of the agency’s denial last week, saying the federal government is withholding assistance from 1.4 million Illinois residents affected by the flooding, which the Illinois Emergency Management Agency determined was the state’s worst in more than 25 years. The conditions caused delays for farmers planting spring crops, including corn and soybean, and prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to declare an agriculture disaster in the state in August.”

#7 Colorado: “There is no doubt that extreme weather has greatly impacted agricultural producers over the last several years, and 2019 is no exception,” said Clarice Navarro, executive director for Farm Service Agency in Colorado. “With record amounts of crops prevented from planting nationwide and other devastation, more than $3 billion is available through this disaster relief package passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in early June.”

#8 Kentucky: “The federal government has approved Kentucky’s request for a disaster declaration for counties in which farmers’ crops were negatively affected by this summer’s drought.  In an Oct. 16 letter to Brian Lacefield, the state executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles asks that the federal agency consider a disaster declaration for Kentucky counties that “have suffered losses due to the extreme heat and drought.”

#9 South Carolina: “U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently designated six counties in South Carolina as natural disaster areas due to drought. They are: Bamberg, Calhoun, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg and Richland.”

#10 Birch Hills County: “Birch Hills County has joined the County of Grande Prairie and Saddle Hills County in declaring an agriculture disaster. In a release, they say some farmers still have up to 50 percent of this year’s crop that is unharvested, while Hay crops in Birch Hills were harvested late, with some not able to be taken off the ground at all.”

#11 Crookston, Minnesota: “Sugar beet and potato farmers whose crops have been hard hit by excessive moisture this harvest converged on Crookston Tuesday, Nov. 5, to tell U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson about their unprecedented crop losses.”

#12 Idaho: There was sadness and dismay in eastern Idaho’s potato community this weekend as the 2019 harvest wound down and growers began tallying up their losses from October’s disastrous freeze while pondering what to do with the tons of unusable tubers it left behind. This season’s harvest will be marked by tons of decaying potatoes for which there is no home.

Are you starting to get the picture?

I could have easily doubled the size of that list.  People all over the country are writing to me and telling me how bad things are in their areas, and ultimately all Americans will feel the pain of this crisis because all of us will soon be paying significantly higher prices for food at the grocery store.

And we don’t even know the full extent of this crisis yet, because the bitterly cold air currently ripping through the middle of the nation is going to cause even more crop failures

The blast of record-breaking Arctic air that’s charging across the country will bring the growing season to a screeching halt in much of the southern and eastern U.S. this week.

Freeze watches have been posted as far south as the Panhandle of Florida, where Pensacola should see a low temperature of 31 degrees by early Wednesday morning. “Conditions can kill crops, new growth and sensitive vegetation,” the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, warned.

A lot of people out there are still not taking this seriously.

Look, despite all of our advanced technology we still have to grow the food that we eat, and we can only grow food if the weather cooperates.

And as I discussed yesterday, experts are telling us that we should expect a very bitterly cold winter ahead of us.

This is a crisis that isn’t going away, and it is likely to continue to get worse in the months ahead.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:50
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:50 pm
WTI Extends Gains After Surprise Crude Draw

Oil price rebounded after three days lower after a report that OPEC sees a potential reduction in supply from outside of the group.

When the OPEC news hit the market, prices “started to rally from the red to the green,” said Bob Yawger, future divisions director for Mizuho Securities in New York. “Until this turnaround, things were getting ugly.”

And now all eyes are on inventories...

API

  • Crude -0.5mm (+1.5mm exp)

  • Cushing -1.2mm

  • Gasoline +2.3mm

  • Distillates +0.8mm

A surprise crude draw and the end of the streak of Cushing builds corresponds with an end to the streak of draws in products...

Source: Bloomberg

WTI had rallied on the day and hovered around $57.25 before the data. Once API reported the surprise draw, WTI jumped higher...

“The market is digesting chairman Powell’s speech,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital in New York. “This is a bit of positive pull up from Powell, it’s the fact that the Fed is going to be on hold because the economic outlook is looking brighter and is a key aspect to the energy market these days because of the focus on the demand.”

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:41
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:41 pm
Cisco Tumbles After Company Unexpectedly Slashes Guidance

Update: as expected, it was China that was behind Cisco's disastrous guidance cut:

  • CISCO: CHINA SALES DOWN 31% IN 1Q, CONTINUING SALES DECLINE

And then this:

  • CISCO'S ROBBINS: `ENTIRE QUARTER WAS WORSE THAN WE EXPECTED'

Earlier:

Looks like we can add Cisco to the list of tech companies that will be aggressively buying back its stock to deflect attention from deterioration fundamentals.

After the close, the internet giant reported Q1 revenue of $13.16 billion, up +0.7% y/y, and better than the consensus estimate of $13.09 billion, resulting in GAAP EPS of $0.68, down 12% Y/Y. As with most other tech companies (and recall that 97% of S&P companies now rely on Non-GAAP numbers to entice investors), Cisco also reported non-GAAP EPS, which predictably were far above the GAAP number, with Q1 adjusted EPS of $0.84, coming well above the $0.81 estimate, and above last year's non-GAAP number. 

How did Cisco go from $0.68 GAAP to $0.84 non-GAAP? The company was kind enough to provide a bridge that had more adjustments than even perennial non-GAAPer, IBM.

But while the market is now used to massive non-GAAP fudges to make earnings more palatable, as was the case here, the reason why CSCO stock is tumbling after hours, is due to the company's unexpectedly dour forecast, which sees the high end of its EPS range of $0.75-$0.77 below the consensus estimate of $0.79, while Revenue is now expected to decline 3% to 5% in Q2 Y/Y, an acute disappointment to consensus estimates of 2.7% growth; not even the company's benign gross profit (which of course was also "adjusted") margin range of 64.5% to 65.5% vs estimates of 64.6% was enough to offset the dour picture unveiled by the company. The company also said that its real, GAAP EPS, would be just $0.61-$0.67 in Q2.

Commenting on the quarter's results, Chuck Robbins, chairman and CEO of Cisco said "we delivered a solid quarter against a challenging macro environment" adding that "We're focused on continuing to drive innovation, transform our business and exceed our customers' expectations."

It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the company to downgrade its revenue guidance, although it is probably safe to assume that China has something to do with it.

Following the poor guidance, shares tumbled over 6% in post-market, dropping as low as $45.1 before rebounding modestly  trading to $46.11.

 

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:29
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:29 pm
Watch Live: Erdogan Rants Against Kurds At White House Presser, Praises 'Operation Peace Spring'

update3: Press conference LIVE FEED:

  • TRUMP: TURKEY S-400 BUYS CREATES SERIOUS CHALLENGES FOR U.S.
  • TRUMP SAYS ERDOGAN FIGHTS TERRORISM 'LIKE WE DO'
  • TRUMP: "Turkey is a great NATO ally and a strategic partner of the US. Economic relations continue to grow. We had a frank and productive conversation. We discussed the situation in Syria."
  • ERDOGAN: Recent Congressional resolution recognizing Armenian Genocide "hurt the Turkish nation and cast a deep shadow over our relations."
  • ERDOGAN: "We can surmount the S-400 issue through dialogue... we could acquire US Patriot missiles as well."
  • ERDOGAN: "Turkey destroyed the plans of the PKK in Syria. Turkey and the US can move together to completely clean ISIS from Syria. The most suitable partner for this is Turkey. We fought against ISIS in Syria and lost soldiers on this path."
  • ERDOGAN: We're "especially sensitive" about minorities such as Christians and Yezidis along the Turkish-Syrian border. "The Christian minorities... the one's living on our side of the border have no problems whatsoever. The one's on the other side will be helped by a special program." 
  • ERDOGAN: "[Fethullah Gülen] Should not be welcomed by the United States... this individual is a terrorist."
  • TRUMP: "I think the president [Erdogan] has a great relationship with the Kurds. Many live in Turkey and they are happy and taken care of..."

* * *

update2The bilateral meeting between Erdogan and President Trump in the Oval Office ended after one hour and 15 minutes. Following, Trump is expected to host an unprecedented meeting - given it will be attended by Erdogan - with a group of senators in order to "clear the air" as the White House previously described it.

Closed to reporters, it is listed as "a legislative engagement with select members of the Senate" on the President's official schedule for the day.

CNN described that "A small group of Republican senators who traditionally focus on foreign policy issues have been invited to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan  including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch."

So this suggests Erdogan will join Trump’s meeting with select senators today at the White House.

I think this has never happened with any other Turkish President in recent history https://t.co/LNYqciorPg

— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) November 13, 2019

It appears President Trump will attempt to play peacemaker between Turkey and a sanctions-ready Congress.

President Trump has balked at imposing automatic US sanctions on Turkey over its $2.5 billion purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system despite protests from Congress, suggesting the Obama admin refused to sell Erdogan the rival US-made Patriot system. https://t.co/cYTsjji5KY

— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch_ALM) November 13, 2019

* * *

updateErdogan has arrived at the White House this afternoon for what promises to be an interesting meeting given the immensely strained US-Turkey relationship of the past months.

However, Trump's initial message upon greeting his Turkish counterpart was upbeat and positive. "Our trade relations are very good, we want to increase the trade volume to $100 billion," he said, promising to give further details at the follow-up press conference after the meeting. 

"We will discuss the S-400 and F-35 issue," Trump also assured reporters.

📹 | #Turkish President #Erdogan meets #US President #Trump at the #WhiteHousepic.twitter.com/OgsZKfwdiZ

— EHA News (@eha_news) November 13, 2019

He also hinted of the other major pressing issue to be discussed: "It's a great honor to be with President Erdogan... the ceasefire is holding very well, we've been speaking to the Kurds and they seem to be very satisfied, as you know we pulled back our troops quite a while ago..."

"I want to thank the President for the job they've [Turkey] done in Syria," Trump said of Erdogan.

And on that note, he already addressed the rationale for continued US troop presence in Syria, saying with Erdogan sitting next to him: "We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil."

Trump, with Erdogan next to him, on Syria: "We are keeping the oil. We have the oil. The oil is secure. We left troops behind only for the oil." pic.twitter.com/9svW3ehwp5

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) November 13, 2019

"Erdogan is respected in his country and region," Trump told reporters as the two leaders settled into the Oval Office, after giving a thumbs-up on the White House steps.

Image via EHA News

Meanwhile, a large protest is forming just outside as the two settle in for a planned-for lengthy meeting.

Large protest outside White House now as #Trump starts 3-hr meeting with #Erdogan.

Chants “Turkey out of Syria”. Spotted Kurdish, YPG, US, Greece, Armenia flags. Video credit @mutludc https://t.co/diS6Z0PVhj

— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) November 13, 2019

* * *

Former top White House Syria and Iraq envoy Brett McGurk, who served under both Obama and Trump administrations, has issued 15 pressing questions on the occasion of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with the US president today at the White House. 

Here are "15 quick questions Trump may want to ask Erdogan, but won’t" —the former top White House envoy to the region stated provocatively on Twitter.

Crucially, McGurk has pointed the finger at Turkey, and more specifically at Erdogan and his intelligence services for providing state protection to the now slain ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, given as McGurk points out in the below series of questions that "Baghdadi [was] living in a safe house with well-prepared tunnels less than 5km from [the Turkish] border."

Former Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk, via US Embassy Syria.

15 quick questions Trump may want to ask Erdogan, but won’t:

* * *

1. How exactly was Baghdadi living in a safe house with well-prepared tunnels less than 5km from your border?

2. Why was Baghdadi’s number two found in Jarabulus, a small town on your border that you fully control?

3. When you demanded that the U.S. move the SDF 30km from your border, did you know Baghdadi was living with his family

4. Why do the areas of Syria that you claim to control or influence so often become permissive havens for AQ and/or ISIS leaders?

5. In the last few weeks, you claim to have arrested a number of Baghdadi’s relatives to include one of his wives. Why didn’t you arrest these relatives of the world’s most wanted terrorist until now? And what were they doing in Turkey?

6. How exactly did 40,000 foreign fighters travel freely through Turkey into Syria, many of whom became the backbone for AQ and ISIS?

7. Why did you reject repeated and specific requests to help close your border to ISIS, then sealed the border only after the SDF defeated ISIS?

8. Why did you agree to joint patrols with Putin and Russian forces in Syria but rejected joint patrols in adjacent areas with American troops, and then placed our troops in grave danger with an unprovoked attack that ceded 2/3 of NE Syria to Russia and Assad? 

9. Why, despite years of effort, hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars, and deployment of our best military planners to Ankara, were the Syrian opposition groups you insisted on supporting to fight ISIS found far too extreme for U.S. troops to partner with safely? 

10. Why, as a NATO ally, an alliance built on shared interests and values, do Turkish citizens who criticize your policies, particularly on Syria, routinely wind up exiled, purged, or jailed? (Why is a NATO ally the world’s largest jailer of journalists?)

10. Why, as a NATO ally, an alliance built on shared interests and values, do Turkish citizens who criticize your policies, particularly on Syria, routinely wind up exiled, purged, or jailed? (Why is a NATO ally the world’s largest jailer of journalists?) https://t.co/4t29Arht7o

— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) November 13, 2019

11. Why did your government become the world’s largest sanctions buster on behalf of Iran with illegal proceeds, according to SDNY court filings, lining the pockets of senior Turkish officials? Where has all that money (billions) gone?

12. When you threaten to send 2-3 million refugees into NE Syria, where will the people who already live there go? Do you agree with Trump that Kurds can migrate from their traditional areas to a remote oil region?

13. Why did you start making specific military threats against NE Syria — which culminated during your October 6 call with Trump — on the very day you took delivery of the S400 missile system from Russia? Was that a big coincidence?

Erodgan, talking about northeast Syria with TRT yesterday, said: "The most suitable for this area are Arabs. These areas are not suitable for the lifestyle of Kurds."

Asked, in what way? "Because these are virtually desert regions."

via @AliKucukgocmenpic.twitter.com/WvcIANcCba

— Sarah Dadouch | سارة دعدوش (@SarahDadouch) October 25, 2019

14. Why did your state-backed media hail an “operation” to brutally murder a Kurdish woman until realizing it was (indeed) a probable war crime and then deleted any trace of the story? Has anyone been held accountable?

15. Why do you continue to insist on expanding the influence of extremist groups known to harbor al Qaeda and responsible for war crimes? Are any of these groups now in NE Syria using American weapons? Do they operate under US-controlled skies? 

* * *

Lastly, McGurk quoted the following as illustrating the likely end result of Wednesday's Trump-Erdogan meeting: “If you forgive the fox for stealing your chicken, it will steal your sheep, and then your cow.”

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:27
Tags
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:27 pm
'The Real Ukraine Controversy': John Solomon Exposes How Rogue US Embassy Conducted Foreign Policy

Authored by John Solomon via JohnSolomonReports.com

(Emphasis ours)

The first time I ever heard the name of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was in early March of this year. It did not come from a Ukrainian or an ally of President Trump. It came from a career diplomat I was interviewing on background on a different story.

The diplomat, as I recall, suggested that Yovanovitch had just caused a commotion in Ukraine a few weeks before that country’s presidential election by calling for the firing of one of the prosecutors aligned with the incumbent president.

The diplomat related that a more senior State official, David Hale, was about  to travel to Ukraine and was prepping to be confronted about Yovanovitch’s comments. I remember the diplomat joking something to the effect of, “we always say that the Geneva Convention is optional for our Kiev staff.

The Geneva Convention is the UN-backed pact enacted during the Cold War that governs the conduct of foreign diplomats in host countries and protects them against retribution. But it strictly mandates that foreign diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State” that hosts them. You can read the convention’s rules here

I dutifully checked out my source’s story. And sure as day, Yovanovitch did give a speech on March 5, 2019 calling for Ukraine’s special anticorruption prosecutor to be removed. You can read that here.

And the Ukraine media was abuzz that she had done so. And yes, Under Secretary of State Hale, got peppered with questions upon arriving in Kiev, specifically about whether Yovanovitch’s comments violated the international rule that foreign diplomats avoid becoming involved in the internal affairs and elections of their host country.

Hale dutifully defended Yovanovitch with these careful words. “Well, Ambassador Yovanovitch represents the President of the United States here in Ukraine, and America stands behind her statements.  And I don’t see any value in my own elaboration on what they may or may not have meant. They meant what she said.” You can read his comments here.

Up to that point, I had focused months of reporting on Ukraine on the U.S. government’s relationship with a Ukraine nonprofit called the AntiCorruption Action Centre, which was jointly funded by liberal megadonor George Soros’ charity and the State Department. I even sent a list of questions to that nonprofit all the way back in October 2018. It never answered.

Given that Soros spent millions trying to elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump in 2016, I thought it was a legitimate public policy question to ask whether a State Department that is supposed to be politically neutral should be in joint business with a partisan figure’s nonprofit entity.

State officials confirmed that Soros’ foundation and the U.S. embassy jointly funded the AntiCorruption Action Centre, and that Soros’ vocal role in Ukraine as an anticorruption voice afforded him unique access to the State Department, including in 2016 to the top official on Ukraine policy, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. (That access was confirmed in documents later released under FOIA to Citizens United.)

Soros’ representatives separately confirmed to me that the Anti-Corruption Action Centre was the leading tip of the spear for a strategy Team Soros devised in 2014 to fight corruption in Ukraine and that might open the door for his possible business investment of $1 billion. You can read the Ukraine strategy document here and Soros’ plan to invest $1 billion in Ukraine here.

After being tipped to the current Yovanovitch furor in Ukraine, I was alerted to an earlier controversy involving the same U.S. ambassador.  It turns out a senior member of Congress had in spring 2018 wrote a letter  to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleging the ambassador had made anti-Trump comments and suggesting she be recalled. I confirmed the incident with House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and got a copy of his letter, which you can read here. Yovanovitch denies any such disloyalty to Trump.

Nonetheless, I had a career diplomat and a Republican lawmaker raising similar concerns. So I turned back to the sources I had developed starting in 2018 on Ukraine and began to dig further.

I learned that Ukrainian officials, particularly the country’s prosecutors, viewed Yovanovitch as the embodiment of an activist U.S. embassy in Kiev that ruffled feathers by meddling in internal law enforcement cases inside the country.

My sources told me specifically that the U.S. embassy had pressured the Ukraine prosecutors in 2016 to drop or avoid pursuing several cases, including one involving the Soros-backed AntiCorruption Action Centre and two cases involving Ukraine officials who criticized Donald Trump and his campaign manager Paul Manafort.

To back up their story, my sources provided me a letter then-embassy official George Kent wrote proving it happened. State officials authenticated the letter. And Kent recently acknowledged in this testimony he signed that letter. You can read the letter here.

With the help of a Ukrainian American intermediary and the Ukraine general prosecutor’s press office, I then secured an interview in mid-March 2016 with Ukraine’s then top prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko. In the interview that was videotaped and released for the whole world to see, Lutsenko alleged that in his first meeting in 2016 with Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador conveyed the names of several Ukrainians she did not want to see investigated and prosecuted. He called it, colloquially, a “do not prosecute list.”

The State Department denied such as list, calling it a fantasy, and I quoted that fair comment in my original stories. But before I published, I held the Lutsenko interview for a few days to do more reporting. State arranged for me to talk to a senior official about the Lutsenko-embassy relationship.

I provided the names that Lutsenko claimed had been cited by the embassy. That senior official said he couldn’t speak to what transpired in the specific meeting between Yovanovitch and Lutsenko. But that official then provided me this surprising confirmation: “I can confirm to you that at least some of those names are names that U.S. embassy Kiev raised with the General Prosecutor because we were concerned about retribution and unfair treatment of Ukrainians viewed as favorable to the United States.”

In other words, State was confirming its own embassy had engaged in pressure on Ukrainian prosecutors to drop certain law enforcement cases, just as Lutsenko and other Ukrainian officials had alleged.

When I asked that State official whether this was kosher with the Geneva Convention’s prohibition on internal interference, he answered: “Kiev in recent years has been a bit more activist and autonomous than other embassies.”

More recently, George Kent, the embassy’s charge d’affaires in 2016 and now a deputy assistant secretary of state, confirmed in impeachment testimony that he personally signed the April 2016 letter demanding Ukraine drop the case against the Anti-Corruption Action Centre.

He also testified he was aware of pressure the U.S. embassy also applied on Ukraine prosecutors to drop investigations against a journalist named Vitali Shabunin, a parliamentary member named Sergey Leschenko and a senior law enforcement official named Artem Sytnyk.

Shabunin helped for the AntiCorruption Action Centre that Soros funded, and Leschenko and Sytnyk were criticized by a Ukrainian court for interfering in the 2016 US election by improperly releasing or publicizing secret evidence in an ongoing case against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

It’s worth letting Kent’s testimony speak for itself. “As a matter of conversation that U.S officials had with Ukrainian officials in sharing our concern about the direction of governance and the approach, harassment of civil society activists, including Mr. Shabunin, was one of the issues we raised,” Kent testified.

As for Sytnyk, the head of the NABU anticorruption police, Kent addded: “We warned both Lutsenko and others that efforts to destroy NABU as an organization, including opening up investigations of Sytnyk, threatened to unravel a key component of our anti-corruption cooperation.”

As the story of the U.S. embassy’s pressure spread, a new controversy erupted. A Ukrainian news outlet claimed Lutsenko recanted his claim about the “do-not-prosecute” list. I called Lutsenko and he denied recanting or even changing his story. He gave me this very detailed response standing by his statements.

But American officials and news media eager to discredit my reporting piled on, many quoting the Ukrainian outlet without ever contacting Lutsenko to see if it was true. One of the American outlets that did contact Lutsenko, the New York Times, belatedly disclosed today that Lutsenko told it, like he told me, that he stood by his allegation that the ambassador had provided him names of people and groups she did not want to be targeted by prosecutors. You can read that here.

It is neither a conspiracy theory nor a debunked or retracted story. U.S. embassy officials DID apply pressure to try to stop Ukrainian prosecutors from pursuing certain cases.

The U.S. diplomats saw no problem in their actions, believing that it served the American interest in combating Ukrainian corruption. The Ukrainians viewed it far differently as an improper intervention in the internal affairs of their country that was forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

That controversy is neither contrived, nor trivial, and it predated any reporting that I conducted. And it remains an issue that will need to be resolved if the Ukraine and U.S. are to have a more fruitful alliance moving forward.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:25
Tags
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:25 pm
Stocks Shrug Off China Trade Talks Tumult, Decouple From Bonds

Overheard today in Washington and the markets...

From the moment the cash markets opened, US equity markets shot higher on a series of pumps, decoupling completely from the bond market...

Source: Bloomberg

DIS and AAPL (+80 pts) dominated The Dow's move and one look at AAPL's intraday action shows its clear a VWAP-based buyback program was responsible for the push (and Disney's NFLX-esque surge on the back of comments on users for Disney+ - considering it was given free to Verizon customers is intriguing)...

Source: Bloomberg

As the chart below shows, at 1355ET headline shit that trade talks had hit a snag - stocks tumbled. However, algos immediately bid it back on the back of absolutely nothing at all and once it has erased the drop, stocks fell again......

Source: Bloomberg

The market's view of the likelihood of a trade deal has been fading for 7 straight days...

Source: Bloomberg

Today's gains were also dominated by defensives with cyclicals ending lower...

Source: Bloomberg

And as rates have turned lower, momentum stocks are soaring again...

Source: Bloomberg

Bonds were bid again today (now that the Abbvie rate-locks from last week have been lifted) with the long-end notably outperforming...

Source: Bloomberg

30Y Yields are down 10bps from Thursday's spike highs...

Source: Bloomberg

The dollar levitated in a rather surprisingly linear manner...

Source: Bloomberg

Cryptos were relatively quiet for a second day...

Source: Bloomberg

Precious Metals diverged from copper again today as crude spiked at the US cash open...

Source: Bloomberg

Gold pushed higher today...

 

And crude suddenly found a bid at the US cash equity open...

 

Finally, as stocks reach record highs, the SMART Money flow is not following through...

Source: Bloomberg

And the last time Hong Kong stocks decoupled like this from US stocks, it was the latter that ended up catching down...

Source: Bloomberg

And, as Bloomberg reports, extremely low temperatures rivaling the chill of the “Blue Norther” in 1911 sent wholesale electricity prices surging early Wednesday across the eastern U.S. Average prices for power at a major hub in PJM, the grid stretching from New Jersey to Illinois, jumped by more than 1,700%, the biggest gain since 2017.

“Demand just really over-performed,” said Elliot Gordon, an analyst at energy data provider Genscape Inc.

Tyler Durden Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:00
Author: Tyler Durden
Posted: November 13, 2019, 9:00 pm

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