Discover more from News Items
Monday News Items.
Monday, 5 August 2019. By John Ellis.
1. The weekend brought dreadful news from El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Since the Sandy Hill massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, there have been at least 2,191 mass shootings in The United States, with at least 2,476 killed and 9,158 wounded.
2. A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has published a paper in Science that details a new technique allowing anyone to 3D bio-print tissue scaffolds out of collagen, the major structural protein in the human body. This first-of-its-kind method brings the field of tissue engineering one step closer to being able to 3D print a full-sized, adult human heart.
3. China today responded to President Trump’s tariff threat with another escalation of the trade war, letting the yuan tumble to the weakest level in more than a decade and asking state-owned companies to suspend imports of U.S. agricultural products. The moves are likely to further antagonize Mr. Trump, who has criticized Beijing for managing its currency unfairly and failing to keep promises to buy more U.S. crops.
4. Traders in Asia are bracing for a full-fledged currency war, after a slide in China’s yuan past the 7 per dollar mark raised the prospect of policy makers allowing their exchange rates to weaken to remain competitive. “Without a doubt the global currency war is here, and it’s a natural extension of the trade war that’s just taken a turn for the worse,” said George Boubouras, director at Salter Brothers Asset Management Pty in Melbourne. “We’re likely to continue seeing the effects reverberate through markets -- I expect to see the yen, dollar and Treasuries continue to strengthen as things heat up.
5. Japan and South Korea — are locked in a bitter battle, whose roots stretch back over 100 years. The discord stems from Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula before and during World War II, and what, if anything, it still owes for abuses committed during that era, including forced labor and sexual slavery. The long-simmering conflict erupted into a full diplomatic crisis on Friday, when Japan threatened to slow down exports of materials essential to South Korean industries. Washington has long relied on both countries to stand alongside it to help counter China’s rise and the nuclear-armed North. But despite the dangers of a deepening divide between its allies, the Trump administration has been reluctant to get involved to repair the rift.
6. Stocks slid in Europe alongside American equity futures, tracking the biggest sell-off in Asian shares since March as concerns escalated about the U.S.-China trade war. Treasuries rallied with the yen as traders bid up haven assets.
7. An escalating crisis in Hong Kong approached a boiling point this morning, as a protester-led strike disrupted transit across the city and a morning appearance from the city’s leader offered little hope of abatement. Dozens of flights into and out of the city were canceled through the day while commuters were stranded by delays to subway services. In many stations, protesters blocked train doors from closing. Thousands of demonstrators began gathering in the afternoon across different districts. Bloomberg's "Live Blog" of events in Hong Kong is here.
8. The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced that it has decided to scrap the special autonomous status given to the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir in a major development that is already having repercussions. Provisions of Article 370 under the country's constitution -- which grants autonomy and permits only residents of the region to buy property and secure local jobs -- are being revoked through a presidential order. The move follows days of uncertainty over Muslim-majority Kashmir, where several thousand additional Indian troops were deployed. Top local politicians were placed under house arrest, and tourists and pilgrims asked to leave the region.
9. The Trump administration has launched a last-ditch effort to head off a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria that it expects will come within the next two weeks. With tens of thousands of Turkish troops massed near the border, a high-level Defense Department delegation plans to present what U.S. officials describe as a final offer to address Turkey’s concerns at a meeting Monday in Ankara. The meeting marks the climax of a years-long dispute between the two NATO allies over U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish fighters who have led the ground war against the Islamic State, but whom Turkey considers a terrorist threat to its own security. Kurdish-led victories against the militant group have effectively left them in control of much of the border area.
10. For the second consecutive weekend, Moscow police conducted mass arrests as Russia’s biggest political crisis in several years continued to escalate and pose a challenge to the Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach toward public dissent. More than 600 people were detained for participating in an unsanctioned rally in downtown Moscow, which opposition leaders had called to demand the inclusion of independent candidates in next month’s city council elections. At a mass rally on July 27, police took almost 1,400 people into custody and violently clashed with the thousands of protesters, beating some with truncheons.
11. The bubbling tensions between Iran and the United States have brought the Middle East to a dangerous precipice, warns a new report. The International Crisis Group, an international security think tank headquartered in Brussels, argued that, like in Europe in 1914, a miscalculation or escalatory act by one side could easily ensnare the whole region in a ruinous conflict nobody claims to want. “Then, the assassin’s bullet that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria put the entire European continent on fire,” noted the report. “Today, a single attack by rocket, drone or limpet mine could set off a military escalation between the U.S. and Iran and their respective regional allies and proxies that could prove impossible to contain.”
12. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has seized a vessel accused of smuggling fuel and detained its crew, Iranian state television reported, in another case of Tehran interdicting ships in the volatile Persian Gulf. The report on Sunday said the Guard’s Navy patrol forces seized the vessel, along with 700,000 liters of smuggled fuel and, in coordination with Iranian judicial authorities, impounded it near Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf. Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that a video of the moment the vessel was interdicted showed it was Iraqi.
13. The Trump administration is tracking the movement of tankers linked to China’s biggest state-run oil company amid signs that the vessels are helping to transport Iranian crude to China in defiance of US sanctions against Tehran. Bank of Kunlun, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation, has in recent months employed a fleet of tankers in an apparent bid to move oil from Iran to China, according to one person familiar with the situation and TankerTrackers, a group that monitors oil shipments.
14. With elections looming in three former East German states this fall, many leading politicians see rapprochement with Russia as a winning campaign strategy. But this perspective puts them in direct confrontation with Chancellor Angela Merkel's government in Berlin.
15. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is preparing for a “people versus parliament” general election campaign as part of plans to stop Remain-supporting MPs from toppling his government. The prime minister will signal his determination today to put the NHS at the centre of any election as he sets out details of a £1.8 billion boost to the health service with a promise of more to come. He will announce a further cash injection when MPs return to parliament next month and another in the run-up to October 31, the day he has promised that Britain will leave the EU, “do or die.”
16. The European Union says it is ready for Britain to leave the bloc without a deal to smooth the split. Growing evidence says otherwise. Until recently, few European officials believed a no-deal Brexit would happen, as their governments set in motion preparations. Now, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s rising threats to take Britain out of the EU with or without a deal by the Oct. 31 deadline is prompting EU officials to dust off plans ranging from information campaigns to fast hirings of customs officers.
17. U.S. prosecutors accused Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández of conspiring with his brother and other top politicians to protect drug traffickers. President Hernández is facing growing opposition at home amid corruption charges against several members of his ruling National Party. Many Hondurans believe organized crime and drug trafficking are deeply entrenched in the country’s elite, fueling impunity in a nation with one of the world’s highest murder rates. “Everyone here knows that drug trafficking has reached the highest levels,” said Rafael Delgado, a Honduran economist and newspaper columnist. “Honduras is a narco-state.”
18. Writing for the WSJ's Opinion section, columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports that "(i)t is now Colombian policy to protect members of the FARC, one of the most powerful drug cartels in the world, from the U.S. justice system."
19. Walmart appears be pondering whether to test waters in the world of cryptocurrencies, following the steps of Facebook. The retailing giant applied to patent a way to use a digital coin tied to a traditional fiat currency, which could allow for cheaper and faster transactions as well as loyalty features, according to a filing published Aug. 1 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
20. The amount of commercial time on cable TV keeps increasing as networks try to make up for shrinking audiences by stuffing more ads into every hour of television. That’s despite years of promises to cut back on ads. A recent survey by MoffettNathanson LLC found that “the No. 1 reason people like Netflix is because it’s commercial-free.”
21. Quibi, a Hollywood-based streaming company that stands for “quick bites” of video, plans to take new, premium films shot by award-winning directors like Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke and present them in short episodic chapters about 10 minutes long. The twist: the stories will be developed exclusively for viewing on mobile phones. The content will be distributed through a new mobile app, designed by a tech team that has consulted with Hollywood creators to make an interface that is appealing to filmmakers and elusive younger audiences.
Quick Links: Nearly all mass shooters have four things in common. The Amazon is approaching an irreversible tipping point. No end to crisis in sight as drought grips India’s Chennai. The shadow banking crisis in India isn't going away. Qatar accused of using British bank to ‘promote’ Islamist causes. Putin's pledge to ditch the dollar is slowly becoming a reality. Consumer debt in Russia has increased, markedly and perhaps dangerously. Sign of the times: Berkshire Hathaway’s cash pile hits $122 billion as profits jump. Concerns about John Williams’ leadership of the New York Fed keep growing. Biologist George Church apologizes for contacts with Jeffrey Epstein. Japanese flying car gets off the ground, for about a minute. Fox Corporation taps into fin-tech market for growth. Artificial intelligence predicts which movies will succeed—and fail—simply from plot summaries
Political Links: Beijing to announce ‘something new’ on Hong Kong in second press briefing. China hits back at President Trump’s fentanyl claim. The president's advisors would like you to know that President Trump ordered new Chinese tariffs over their objections. ‘Tropical Trump’ sparks unprecedented crisis for Brazilian science. Germany is replaying Britain’s Brexit debate. A fourth Texas Republican Congressman plans to retire in 2020. White House weighs September rollout of health plan. The pension crisis is eating away local government services. Unfunded liabilities are at least $1.28 trillion and probably much, much more than that. --------