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.
World edges 30 seconds closer to doomsday (The Times) Humanity has not been this close to oblivion since the darkest early days of the Cold War, a team of scientists concluded yesterday. The scholars who control the Doomsday Clock, a 70-year-old device warning of impending apocalypse, nudged it forward 30 seconds. The hands now stand at two and a half minutes to midnight. The last time that the Chicago-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists construed that the end of the world was so imminent was in 1953, when America and the Soviet Union tested thermonuclear weapons within six months of each other and President Eisenhower declared that in the event of conflict the U.S. would consider use of nuclear weapons.
Mike Pence: Trump administration planning 'full evaluation' of voter fraud (The Guardian) Vice-President Mike Pence said that the Trump administration will “initiate a full evaluation of voting rolls in the country and the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election", according to audio obtained by The Guardian. Trump has pledged an investigation of voter fraud in the wake of his unfounded claims that between 3 million and 5 million fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.
The Fight for the Soul of the Republican Party Has Been Canceled (New York) There are hints in the air that the long-predicted ideological schism within the Republican Party between populists and traditional conservatives is breaking open. Donald Trump’s unusually populist inaugural address, almost devoid of traditional conservative themes, seemed to break new ideological ground. Unlike most Republicans who try to ape the rhetorical tropes associated with Ronald Reagan, Trump instead tried to recall the stylings of Andrew Jackson. The author opines that the break will not take place, that Trump has the upper hand:
The points of difference between Trump and Ryan are smaller than they might appear. Ryan has supported comprehensive immigration reform in the past, and continues to support free trade, while Trump opposes both. Neither disagreement is especially difficult to finesse. The only major new trade agreement on the docket, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was already moribund before the election. Comprehensive immigration reform died three years ago, and Trump has alreadybacked off his promises to quickly deport Dreamers and is focusing instead on border-security measures that enjoy long-standing Republican support.
Meanwhile, the Congressional party is working hand-in-glove with its presidential wing. Every Trump cabinet nominee, even those who are brutally unqualified (like Ben Carson) or laden with serious ethical problems (like Tom Price), seems likely to sail through a Senate that can only afford to lose two Republican votes. And Congress has allowed Trump to conceal his tax returns and maintain his business empire, two violations of norms that would permit massive self-enrichment by the president and his family. Republicans have instead directed the oversight machinery of Congress against Trump’s critics and former opponents.
Trump and his party are cooperating on a wide range of traditional Republican policies: regressive tax cuts, weakening of labor laws, environmental protections, and regulations on the finance industry, and an assault on the Affordable Care Act. Both Trump and the Congressional GOP have attacked Obamacare for providing too little coverage, and have refrained from writing detailed alternatives because their ideas would provide even less coverage. To the extent that Trump is giving his Congressional wing trouble on health care, it is because he spouts off without understanding the issue.
Citigroup Paying $18 Million for Overbilling Clients (Press Release, Securities and Exchange Commission) The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Citigroup Global Markets has agreed to pay $18.3 million to settle charges that it overbilled investment advisory clients and misplaced client contracts. The SEC’s order finds that at least 60,000 advisory clients were overcharged approximately $18 million in unauthorized fees because Citigroup failed to confirm the accuracy of billing rates entered into its computer systems in comparison to fee rates outlined in client contracts, billing histories, and other documents. Citigroup also improperly collected fees during time periods when clients suspended their accounts. The billing errors occurred during a 15-year period, and the affected clients have since been reimbursed.
Trump’s Immigration Ban Excludes Countries With Business Ties (Bloomberg) President Trump is poised to sign an executive order that would suspend all entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, according to a draft proposal obtained by Bloomberg News. His proposed list doesn’t include Muslim-majority countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Properties include golf courses in the United Arab Emirates and two luxury towers operating in Turkey. See Tracking Trump’s Web of Conflicts.
Shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet (Ben Bernanke, Brookings Institute) Bernanke says the Federal reserve shouldn't shrink its balance sheet because the effect of reduction on financial conditions is uncertain.
Brexit: EU trade barriers 'significant risk' to Welsh economy (BBC News) The Welsh economy faces "significant risks" if EU trading barriers are imposed post-Brexit, it has been claimed. The External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee said ensuring free trade with the single market was "of crucial importance". It called for the Welsh Government to have a "direct role" in negotiations. But the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday the Welsh Assembly does not have to be consulted over triggering Brexit. Friday's report is the first published by the assembly committee, which is tasked with safeguarding Welsh interests in the Brexit process. The committee said the prominence of manufacturing and farming in Wales heightened the economy's vulnerability to trade barriers.
Let’s stand together and halt eclipse of the West (The Times) Theresa May offered last night to help President Trump to prevent the West from being “eclipsed" by China as she urged him not to shirk his “obligation" to lead the world. In a speech to a Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia the prime minister matched parts of Mr Trump’s controversial foreign policy. She criticised China’s increasingly “assertive" posture, promised to help to curb Iran’s “malign influence" in the Middle East and to do more to defend allies such as Israel in “tough neighbourhoods" while admitting that it was time to engage Russia in the search for peace in Syria.
Dutch Regulator Accidentally Posts Soros’s Short Positions (Bloomberg) Some of hedge fund billionaire George Soros’s short positions dating back to 2012 were published on the Dutch financial market regulator’s website this week due to “human error", according to the regulator AFM. From this article:
The short positions, bets on a stock declining, were “between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent," of shares outstanding in the companies shorted, AFM spokesman Ward Snijders said by phone on Thursday. The Dutch regulator publishes shorts of 0.5 percent or higher on its website on a daily basis. The smaller amounts were posted by mistake, he said.
Tulsi Gabbard reveals she met Assad in Syria, without informing top Democrats (The Guardian) Democrats were silent on Thursday as Tulsi Gabbard, one of the party’s sitting lawmakers in Congress, announced that she had met with Bashar al-Assad during a trip to war-torn Syria and dismissed his entire opposition as “terrorists". Gabbard, a Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, disclosed her meeting with the Syrian president on Wednesday, during what her office called a “fact-finding" mission in the region.
Will the wall's steel and other materials will come from China? (BBC News) Earlier this week, when Mr Trump signed an executive action reopening the approval process for several delayed US pipeline projects, he also issued an order requiring that those projects be made with American steel. Mr Trump could try to make similar requirements for the wall project - which independent estimates suggest will cost about $14 billion (£11 billion). One potential hitch in Mr Trump's plans is that these kind of requirements almost certainly fall foul of current US commitments made to the World Trade Organization, which prevent discrimination against foreign-produced goods once they clear customs.
China's gamble for global supremacy in era of Trump (BBC News) At his inauguration last week President Trump reframed the American mission from leadership of a global rules-based system in the interests of all, to 'America first'. Meanwhile the leader of Communist China rebranded his prickly protectionist power as the defender of globalisation and shared values. So after week one in this upside down new world, how stands China's bid for global leadership? A week is just a week, but when it comes to strategic focus, China is on course. It's easier to look laser sharp when the competition is in disarray. Here the internal difficulties of the US and the European Union are helpful to China. As Chinese Foreign Ministry official Zhang Jun put it in a discussion with foreign journalists:
"If people want to say China has taken a position of leadership, it's not because China suddenly thrust itself forward as a leader. It's because the original front-runners suddenly fell back and pushed China to the front."
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