Marc Ross Daily
August 20, 2019
Curation and commentary from Marc A. Ross
Reporting from Alexandria, Virginia
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Bundesbank, Biology, Brazil, Big Tech, BHP, Budtenders
✔️ Schiocco delle elezioni?
✔️ Johnson says 'anti-democratic' backstop must be scrapped
✔️ Economic trouble signs hang over Trump’s trade war
✔️ WhatsApp in talks to launch mobile payments in Indonesia
✔️ Rebirth of Detroit: How self-driving cars are transforming Motor City
Schiocco delle elezioni? A vote of confidence in the Italian government is due to take place in Rome today after the country’s fractious coalition broke down. Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing Lega, called for a snap election earlier this month following a series of spats with his coalition partners, the populist Five Star Movement (M5S). Senior M5S figures responded on Sunday by announcing that Salvini was no longer a suitable partner. Caught in the middle is Italy’s independent prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who is likely to lose the vote today.
“Even the crisis is in chaos”, an Italian newspaper recently proclaimed.
@POLITICOEurope: Richard Gere lays into Matteo Salvini and accuses him of being a "Baby Trump"
Nicholas Farrell: The secret of Matteo Salvini’s success: Can anyone stop him from becoming Italy’s next leader?
Sardinian sand theft: French tourists face jail term: BBC reports, a French couple who were caught with 40kg (90lb) of Sardinian sand in their car could face up to six years in jail. They say they wanted to take the sand home as a "souvenir" and did not realize they had committed an offense. Sardinia's famed white sand is considered a public good and it is strictly forbidden to remove it from the island.
Germany’s Bundesbank said that the country is probably heading for recession: The economy shrank by 0.1% during the three months to June, and the central bank said it has not seen signs of a recovery since then. Germany’s export-oriented economy has been hit by the Sino-American trade war and a drop off in demand for cars.
Germany hopes to mine lithium, the white gold of e-mobility: DW reports, a small community in the German state of Saxony may soon see the revival of its centuries-old mining tradition. But this time around, the focus is no longer on tin or tungsten but on lithium.
The Times: Ministers fear no‑deal Brexit campaign could trigger food and fuel panic
72 days until no-deal Brexit.
Northern Ireland: Blast targets police near border: DW reports, police say it is the sixth blast targeting officers this year. A police chief warns that deadlock over Brexit is abetting such attacks.
The Times: Boris Johnson ‘risking border in Ireland over backstop stance’
Boris Johnson says 'anti-democratic' backstop must be scrapped: BBC reports, ohnson has told the EU the Irish border backstop must be scrapped as it is "unviable" and "anti-democratic". In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, the PM also said the backstop risked undermining the Northern Irish peace process. But Tusk said those opposing the arrangement without "realistic alternatives" supported re-establishing a hard border.
EU rebuffs British PM Johnson's opening Brexit bid: Reuters reports, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand that the European Union reopen the Brexit divorce deal was rebuffed on Tuesday by the bloc, which said Britain had failed to propose any realistic alternative to an agreed insurance policy for the Irish border.
Tusk said on Tuesday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demands to drop the Brexit backstop came with no “realistic alternatives” and amounted to seeking a return to controls along the sensitive Irish border.
UK to end EU freedom of movement immediately in no-deal scenario: DW repoers, the British government said if it were to leave the EU without a deal on October 31, freedom of movement rules would end at the same time, with no transition period. Critics have blasted the move as "reckless."
Boris Johnson makes his big-time debut at Biarritz: AFP reports, PM Johnson makes his debut on the global stage at the G7 summit this weekend, where all eyes will be on his chumminess with US President Donald Trump. The summit in France opens on Saturday, the one-month anniversary of the gaffe-prone Brexit cheerleader and former foreign secretary becoming premier. "What we'll make of this is whether Boris Johnson manages to be a different person on the world stage than he managed as foreign secretary -- because he was a disappointment," Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government think tank, told AFP.
Emails reveal Boris Johnson laying groundwork for election campaign: Guardian reports, signs indicate No 10 on election footing as PM plans meetings to come up with manifesto ideas.
Bloomberg: Brazil considers labeling Hezbollah as terrorists in pivot to US
The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt: Sargassum is a brown microalgae in the Atlantic that’s having a massive growth right now, fueled by fertilizer runoff from Brazilian farming. The wads of seaweed are gross, they deplete the oxygen in water in some places and smell like rotten eggs. The “great Atlantic Sargassum belt” has been spotted by satellites since 2011, and stands at 20 million tons and growing. The seaweed is estimated to double in volume every 18 days.
Bees are dropping dead in Brazil and sending a message to humans: Bloomberg reports, pesticide use in Brazil sparks concern among environmentalists.
Armed man holding 37 people hostage in Rio De Janeiro: Bloomberg reports on a developing story, Brazilian police say a man is holding dozens hostage on a public bus and threatening to set the vehicle on fire.
Deadly banana fungus reaches Latin America: FT reports, arrival threatens to devastate crops in some of world’s largest exporters.
Argentine crisis: Argentina's economy minister has resigned, saying his team needs "significant renewal" in the context of the financial crisis that was worsened a week ago with President Mauricio Macri's shock defeat in a primary poll. Nicolas Dujovne will be replaced by the Buenos Aires provincial economy minister, Hernan Lacunza.
Fears grow of Venezuela malnutrition time bomb: FT reports, aid workers warn that millions face long-term damage to health as food crisis continues.
Japanese exports fell for the eighth month in a row in July: In August the Reuters Tankan survey of manufacturing firms’ business confidence turned negative for the first time since April 2013.
US enticed by Greenland’s rare earth resources: FT reports, Trump’s idea to buy Greenland may be fantasy, but the US has staked an interest in the island’s resources — in particular, its rare earth minerals. The US recently signed a memorandum to co-operate with the autonomous territory on rare earth mining in order to promote investment in the sector, amid wider efforts to secure alternative supplies after China hinted that it could constrict exports to the US.
Oliver Sallet: Trump's ice-cold Greenland calculus: In offering to buy Greenland, Trump is trying once again to disrupt the postwar Western order. What he is mainly interested in is a geopolitical influence in the Arctic.
Nikkei: China seeks to flip nations in Pacific Great Game with US
Taiwan ties and geography give small islands big significance.
Employee of UK Consulate in Hong Kong detained in China: WSJ reports, a member of the British consular staff in Hong Kong has been detained in mainland China after a trip to the neighboring city of Shenzhen.
The Times: Hong Kong consulate official Simon Cheng Man-kit ‘detained by China’
‘Protesters vs. police’: HK die-hards defend their stance: AP reports, to Lam, these are “violent rioters” bent on destroying the city’s economy. To China’s ruling Communist Party, their actions are “the first signs of terrorism.” To these most die-hard protesters, there’s no turning back.
Facebook and Twitter and Hong Kong: Both announced they had removed social-media accounts based in Mainland China that were attempting to undermine the massive pro-democracy protests in the country.
Twitter and Facebook remove China-backed disinformation on Hong Kong: Nikkei reports, Mainland bans the social media platforms but allegedly uses them to sow discord.
AFP: Hong Kong's Lam promises to 'immediately' start peace dialogue
Nikkei: China expands Shanghai free trade zone to pull in investment
Tesla to set up second 'gigafactory,' despite US trade war uncertainty.
Today: The World Robot Conference opens at the Beijing Etrong International Exhibition and Convention Center
Jason Furman: Trump is losing the trade war with China: The markets doubt tariffs will bring about any major concessions. The US needs a multilateral approach.
Tyler Cowen: What if everyone’s wrong about China? Most predictions about its future fail to account for the human capacity to shape events.
Clean air and mental health: Published today in research journal Plos Biology, bad air could be associated with higher cases of mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder and depression. Examining populations across the US and Denmark, the study found that exposure to polluted air during the first 10 years of a person’s life – particularly in Denmark – leads to a twofold increase in schizophrenia and personality disorders. While the results have stirred controversy in the scientific community, the findings ought to add momentum to the drive to clean up the air in cities.
Coal industry stakes survival on carbon capture plan: FT reports, is the technology more of a marketing stunt or part of the solution to global warming?
The disruption of the golf ball market is in full swing: Bloomberg reports, the golf equipment industry is worth $5 billion per year, and of that $420 million is golf balls alone.
John Thornhill: The food industry is due another revolution: Data-rich delivery companies will know their customers far better than a restaurant ever can.
Susan B. Glasser + The New Yorker: Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of Trump: How he became a heartland evangelical—and the President’s most loyal soldier. http://bit.ly/2Z6F8yz
Student debt: Almost two-thirds of business economists surveyed by Bloomberg believe that canceling student debt would negatively impact the U.S. economy. Said cancellation is a key campaign point for Democratic candidates such as Elizabeth Warren. The US student debt level now comes to $1.6 trillion, and many people will die before they have completely paid off their loans.
States to launch antitrust probe of Big Tech firms: WSJ reports, a group of state attorneys general is preparing to move forward with a joint antitrust investigation of big technology companies, adding another layer of scrutiny to an industry already under a federal spotlight.
FTC chief says breaking up Facebook would be hard to do: FT reports, Instagram and WhatsApp integration could stymie antitrust action, US trade commission head says.
WP: Trump again signals a retreat on gun control, reverting to remarks that mirror NRA views
WSJ - Editorial: The ‘stakeholder’ CEOs: Today’s corporate CEO is a politician as much as a business leader, and for proof look no further than the statement Monday from the Business Roundtable ostentatiously redefining its mission to serve “stakeholders” in addition to the shareholders who own the company. A close reading shows there’s less substance here than meets the media spin, but it’s still notable that the CEOs for America’s biggest companies feel the need to distance themselves from their owners.
Today: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis will arrive at the White House
Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM): The fourth-ranking Democrat in leadership is now in favor of an impeachment inquiry.
"59% of Republicans now say colleges and universities are having a negative effect, up from 37% in 2015." -- Pew Research
Foxnews.com: Its traffic has doubled since 2015 and is now at more than 100 million unique visitors per month.
WP: Trump pressured Mnuchin to label China ‘currency manipulator,’ a move he had previously resisted
Boston Globe: Trump trade war is 'nerve-racking' for Massachusetts manufacturers
Reuters: US Steel plans to lay off hundreds of workers in Michigan
NYT: Economic trouble signs hang over Trump’s trade war
AP: White House insists ‘fundamentals’ of US economy are strong
Fearing recession, White House drafts plans to bolster economy: NYT reports, the White House continues to insist that the economy is strong, but advisers are looking at a potential payroll-tax reduction if things worsen.
White House officials eyeing payroll tax cut in effort to reverse weakening economy: WP reports, the discussions of a temporary cut reveal growing concerns about the economy among President Trump’s top aides.
HBD: Larry Kudlow is 72
Bloomberg: Yes, Trump can win re-election. But he’s right to worry
Presidential approval and economy tend to predict elections
Trump shows signs of nervousness about the faltering economy
Catherine Rampell: Move over, Illuminati. The conspiracy against Trump’s economy is massive. When Barack Obama was president and the economic statistics were good, then-candidate Donald Trump said they were fake. When Trump became president and inherited the exact same stats, they suddenly became real. Now that they’re turning south, they’re apparently fake once more.
Anthony Scaramucci OpEd: I was wrong about Trump. Here’s why. https://wapo.st/2Z5asNX
The Times: Elizabeth Warren: I’m the only person who can beat Donald Trump in 2020 presidential election
@PpollingNumbers: National Democratic Primary:
de Blasio 1%
Harris X/ Scott Rasmussen Tracking Poll
Brigadoon Annapolis 2019 | Salon Dinner + Sailing
Topic: Thought Leader Mindset
Sailing: Liberte, The Schooner
More details + tickets - here.
The future is secondhand clothes: JCPenney and Macy’s are wading into a new market: secondhand clothing. Macy’s has announced that it is partnering with San Francisco firm ThredUp to sell used women’s clothing and accessories in 40 of its locations across the US; the same service will be on offer in 30 JCPenney shops. Both retailers are hoping to get a piece of an increasingly lucrative industry. According to ThredUp, the fashion resale market will be worth $51bn (€46bn) come 2023 and will eclipse fast-fashion sales within a decade.
Nikkei: Uniqlo deploys lasers and eco stones for sustainable jeans
Fast Retailing to reduce 90% of water usage at facilities across Asia.
BHP, an Anglo-Australian firm which is one of the world’s largest miners, announced that annual profits doubled to $8.3bn over the past year. Higher commodity prices helped to leaven profits, particularly iron ore, the price of which has increased by nearly 50% over the past year.
Cerebras, a Silicon Valley startup, unveiled what it says is the world’s biggest-ever computer chip. The iPad-sized processor is nearly 56 times bigger than the previous largest. The firm hopes the chip will enable rapid advancements in artificial intelligence.
Gamescom 2019: Gamers of the world unite today in Cologne for the industry’s biggest trade fair. Over four days, around 400,000 people will swarm through the cosplay (costume-play) village and retro console areas, while the industry’s titans—Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Google—are all expected to launch new titles and drip-feed teaser trailers. With the rise of mobile gaming and e-sports, the industry earned as much as Hollywood in America last year. It turns over $150bn around the world annually, a figure which is growing at 13% each year. Almost half of these sales are generated through the “freemium” model, in which games are free to use but players are encouraged to buy extras in-play.
Apple plans to roll out its Apple TV+ movie and TV subscription service by November, with the tech company set to join an increasingly crowded field targeting so-called cable cutters. The original budget to produce content for the service was $1 billion, but that has since expanded, according to reports.
Bayer is selling its animal-health business to an American rival for $7.6 billion, part of the drug and chemicals giant’s plan to divest assets amid mounting legal liabilities from its Roundup herbicide.
Home Depot lowered its sales forecast, warning that rising material costs and the potential effects of tariffs on US consumers could weigh on growth.
Now bigger than eBay, Shopify sets sights on Amazon: FT reports, the Canadian ecommerce company plans move into logistics after rapid growth.
Nikkei: Indonesia coffee startups draw VC investment as java booms
Kopi Kenangan and Fore prove a hit with Luckin Coffee's grab and go model.
WhatsApp in talks to launch mobile payments in Indonesia: Reuters reports, Facebook Inc's messaging service WhatsApp is in talks with multiple Indonesian digital payment firms to offer their mobile transaction services, in a bid to tap the nation's fast-growing e-commerce sector, people familiar with the matter said.
Google, Amazon, Facebook slam French digital tax as ‘discriminatory’: AFP reports, American tech giants Amazon, Facebook, and Google joined forces on Monday to decry the French digital tax as retroactive and discriminatory. Trump is considering retaliating against the tax -- approved July 11 -- with punitive tariffs on French wine imports, prompting an investigation by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).
How Anitta became Brazil’s biggest pop star: She started her career in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and became a national star, but can she turn this momentum into global fame? http://bit.ly/2Z0VyIK
Diners can eat a high-quality meal and smoke a joint at cannabis restaurants popping up in California: WP reports, the rest of the country is watching as West Hollywood moves to become the Amsterdam of America, with “budtenders” and “flower” service.
The rebirth of Detroit: How self-driving cars are transforming Motor City http://bit.ly/2ZbNllf
Enjoy the ride + plan accordingly.