Econintersect: Here are some of the headlines we found to help you start your day. For more headlines see our afternoon feature for GEI members, What We Read Today, which has many more headlines and a number of article discussions to keep you abreast of what we have found interesting.
A middleman the State Department relied on to hire unarmed guards at the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, previously worked with a company that’s now at the center of a massive international bribery scandal.
The FBI and law enforcement agencies in at least four other countries are investigating allegations ― first published by The Huffington Post and Fairfax Media ― that a Monaco-based company called Unaoil bribed public officials to secure contracts for major corporations in corruption-prone regions. In Libya, Unaoil partnered with a Tripoli-based businessman named Muhannad Alamir. A former Unaoil employee who served as a confidential source for the FBI told investigators that Unaoil and Alamir bribed Libyan officials. Unaoil and Alamir deny they bribed anyone.
Alamir started working with the State Department in early 2012, less than three years after cutting ties with Unaoil. He provided Blue Mountain Group, the small British security firm that won the Benghazi guard contract, with the license it needed to legally operate in Libya.
The State Department hired Alamir and Blue Mountain to recruit the local unarmed guards who were supposed to secure the perimeter of the Benghazi compound on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack.
The State Department’s Accountability Review Board concluded that Blue Mountain’s performance was “inadequate" and contributed to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans ― but made no mention of Alamir or his companies, Eclipse and Xpand. The ARB acknowledged that unarmed guards couldn’t be expected to repel an attack, but nonetheless faulted them for failing to warn U.S. personnel.
Leaks Link Justice Department With a Hillary Clinton Aide (The New York Times) A newly released batch of hacked correspondence from Hillary Clinton’s campaign suggests a top aide was in touch with government officials about the release of her State Department emails, exchanges that prompted accusations of collusion from Republicans. The messages, released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday, indicated that Justice Department employees may have communicated information to the campaign about the timing of the release. But at least some of the discussion appeared to have simply been updates on a court case related to the emails, information that was publicly available.
Exclusive: Trump campaign CEO wanted to destroy Ryan (The Hill) Steve Bannon, the chairman of the right-wing news outlet Breitbart who became CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, gave explicit orders to his staff to destroy Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). On editorial conference calls, the Breitbart chairman would often say “Paul Ryan is the enemy," according to a source who worked with Bannon at the news organization. In December 2015, weeks after Ryan became Speaker, Bannon wrote in an internal Breitbart email obtained by The Hill that the “long game" for his news site was for Ryan to be “gone" by the spring. See also Trump: Maybe Ryan won't be Speaker if I win WH.
Breitbart Boss Stephen Bannon Bragged in 2015: ‘I’m Trump’s Campaign Manager’ (The Daily Beast) A year before Donald Trump hired Breitbart News’ executive chairmanto be his presidential campaign’s CEO, Stephen K. Bannon boasted, “I'm Trump's campaign manager" via email. Breitbart’s ties to Trump were long suspected before Bannon was brought aboard the campaign following the ouster of campaign chairman Paul Manafort in August 2016. Breitbart News, a website beloved by the so-called “alt-right", had been a Trump’s staunchest ally in the media. Breitbart was so loyal to Trump that it even took the campaign’s side when then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski lied about bruising Michelle Fields, then a Breitbart reporter.
Political cacophony falling on deaf ears, pollster says (USA Today) From political pundits to Facebook feeds, what presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump say - and what is said about them - has made the 2016 presidential campaign a never-ending cycle of finger wagging. But at this point, does any of it really matter? Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion:
"I think people are set in their preferences. These are two very, very well known candidates, [neither of whom] are particularly well liked. I think it's all about turnout and motivation."
May Backs Down on Parliament Vote Over Her Brexit Terms (Bloomberg) Prime Minister Theresa May has accepted that Parliament should be allowed to vote on her plan for taking Britain out of the European Union, but asked lawmakers to do it in a way that gives her space to negotiate. The decision seemed to calm investors after they dumped the pound on concern May was taking a gung-ho approach to the negotiations. The currency took a beating after May signaled her intention to put immigration curbs before the City of London’s interests in pulling Britain out of the European Union.
U.S. sees mounting evidence of Houthi role in strike on U.S. warship (Reuters) The United States is seeing growing indications that Iran-allied Houthi rebels, despite denials, were responsible for Sunday's attack on a Navy destroyer off the Yemen coast, U.S. officials told Reuters. The rebels appeared to use small skiffs as spotters to help direct a missile attack on the warship, said U.S. officials, who are not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation is ongoing. The United States is also investigating the possibility that a radar station under Houthi control in Yemen might have also "painted" the USS Mason, something that would have helped the Iran-aligned fighters pass along coordinates for a strike, said the officials. Neither of the two missiles fired from Houthi-controlled territory on Sunday hit the USS Mason or the nearby USS Ponce, an amphibious transport dock. But the incident threatens to trigger the first direct U.S. military action against Houthis in Yemen's conflict, even if it is limited to one-off retaliation. The Houthis have publicly denied any role in the strike. A senior Western diplomat told Reuters those denials have been communicated privately as well.
Pentagon: ISIS preparing for Mosul offensive (The Hill) The Pentagon is seeing signs the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is preparing for the upcoming Mosul offensive, which is slated to start in weeks. Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Tuesday:
"We've seen a number of things, everything from berms and trenches being prepared, [bombs] being placed in buildings and cars and along roads along the way, charges being placed on bridges, giant pits full of tire and oil being readied to be lit quickly and create these giant obscuration fires, very smoky dark clouds that make it hard to do air operations."
“Credit Squeeze" Planned in China to Deflate Housing Bubble? (Wolf Street) All kinds of officials are fretting about the dangers of the housing bubble in China that has been fueled by easy credit that officials have made available last year to stop the implosion of the prior housing bubble. And easy credit still rules: Total new loans in August reached 948 billion yuan ($142 billion). Over 71% of this debt was taken out by households, mostly mortgages. New mortgages skyrocketed from 2.2 trillion yuan in 2014, to 3 trillion in 2015, and already hit 3.6 trillion in 2016 through August, according to theWall Street Journal. Medium and long-term household loans, mostly mortgages, are now up 27% from a year ago. City by city, they’re grappling with this problem, trying to put a lid on it. Caixin Online reports:
About 20 Chinese cities tightened home purchasing requirements in late September to cool an overheated market, with some prohibiting property developers from selling homes to residents who don’t have a local hukou, or residency registration, and to those who already own more than one home. Other cities have raised the minimum down payment required.
UBS: Liar Loans Surge in Australia’s Housing Bubble, Pose Risk to Big Four Banks, “Financial Stability" (Wolf Street) UBS Securities Australia reported last Friday that about 28% of Australian mortgages issued in 2015 and 2016 are what we in the US have come to call “liar loans," which played a big role in the housing boom and the collapse and subsequent bailout of the global financial system. The last phase of a housing bubble needs liar loans to keep going because buyers have to reach beyond their limits, and the only way to do this is 'lie now', or 'miss out forever' on buying a house to live in or get rich with quick as investor.
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