The Most Dangerous Rock.
Trump up, Biden down.
1. A seven-year mission to study what has been described as the most dangerous rock in the Solar System is about to reach its dramatic conclusion. The Osiris-Rex spacecraft is bringing home the "soil" samples it grabbed from the surface of asteroid Bennu. These dusty materials will be dropped off by the Nasa probe as it sweeps past the Earth on Sunday. They'll be tucked inside a capsule to protect them from a fiery descent to the US State of Utah. Scientists expect the samples' chemistry to reveal new information about the formation of the planets 4.5 billion years ago, and possibly even to give insights into how life got started on our world. Touchdown on desert land belonging to the Department of Defense is expected at 08:55 local time (14:55 GMT; 15:55 BST). (Source: bbc.com)
2. In Chad, refugees from the war in Sudan feed grass and insects to starving children after cash-strapped United Nations agencies halted food rations. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, clinics treating victims of sexual violence are running out of basic supplies such as painkillers. In Mali, 200,000 more displaced children are out of school because European governments slashed funding. Across Africa, cuts to international aid from some of the continent’s biggest donors, and a litany of crises, mean humanitarian organizations are scaling back lifesaving medical services, food aid and other vital assistance to the most vulnerable. The shortfalls—which aid agencies say are among the biggest financing gaps in their history—are also a result of higher prices for essentials such as wheat and fuel, the emergence of new conflicts and natural disasters on the continent and major donors diverting funding to respond to the war in Ukraine. The decision by some governments to reduce aid flows has prompted rebukes from the U.S., which increased its pledges to the continent this year, after cutting back in 2021. (Source: wsj.com)
3. The world’s most brazen maritime militarization is gaining muscle in waters through which one-third of global ocean trade passes. Here, on underwater reefs that are known as the Dangerous Ground, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, or P.L.A., has fortified an archipelago of forward operating bases that have branded these waters as China’s despite having no international legal grounding. China’s coast guard, navy and a fleet of fishing trawlers harnessed into a militia are confronting other vessels, civilian and military alike. The mounting Chinese military presence in waters that were long dominated by the U.S. fleet is sharpening the possibility of a showdown between superpowers at a moment when relations between them have greatly worsened. And as Beijing challenges a Western-driven security order that stood for nearly eight decades, regional countries are increasingly questioning the strength of the American commitment to the Pacific. Strong piece. (Source: nytimes.com)
4. The Philippines on Sunday accused China's coast guard of installing a "floating barrier" in a disputed area of the South China Sea, saying it prevented Filipinos from entering and fishing in the area. Manila's coast guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources "strongly condemn" China's installation of the barrier in part of the Scarborough Shoal, Commodore Jay Tarriela, a coast guard spokesperson, posted on the X social media platform, formerly Twitter. "The barrier blocking fishermen from the shoal was depriving them of their fishing and livelihood activities", he said. "The (Philippine Coast Guard) will continue to work closely with all concerned government agencies to address these challenges, uphold our maritime rights and protect our maritime domains," Tarriela said. (Source: asia.nikkei.com)
5. More than a year after Moscow failed in its goal of a lightning victory in Ukraine, the Russian military has steadily adapted on the battlefield as it shifts to a strategy of wearing down Ukraine and the West. The poor performance of the Russian military in the early days of the war shocked many in the West and ultimately allowed Ukraine to resist, and then roll back, a large part of the Russian advance. But Russia has since learned from its mistakes, adapting in ways that could make it difficult for Ukraine to expel Russian forces from its territory. Strong piece. (Source: wsj.com)
6. Niall Ferguson:
The principal problem (for Ukraine) is that relatively raw troops, without air superiority, have been advancing against well-fortified Russian positions. The time the West took agonizing about which weapons to send Ukraine was used by the Russians to dig in and lay mines. Some Ukrainian commentators regard the supply of military hardware to Kyiv as — by design — enough for their side not to lose, but not enough for them to win. Example: the belated US decision to send Ukraine a limited number of long-range ATACMS missiles, just as the Ukrainian offensive is drawing to a close. (Source: bloomberg.com)
7. President Biden has decided to send American long-range missiles known as ATACMS to Ukraine after months of deliberations over whether to provide Kyiv with the munitions, according to people familiar with the matter. Washington will send a version of the missiles armed with cluster munitions rather than a single warhead, the people said. The decision was made before Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the US this week, but the Biden administration chose not to announce it publicly. One person said this was to avoid tipping off the Russians. The missiles have a range of up to 300 kilometres, or 190 miles, allowing Kyiv to strike Russian forces at longer range than they have previously been able to reach. (Source: ft.com)
8. From today’s Washington Post:
A Washington Post-ABC News poll finds President Biden struggling to gain approval from a skeptical public, with dissatisfaction growing over his handling of the economy and immigration, a rising share saying the United States is doing too much to aid Ukraine in its war with Russia and broad concerns about his age as he seeks a second term.
Biden and former president Donald Trump appear headed for a rematch of their 2020 contest, although more than 3 in 5 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they would prefer a nominee other than the president. But Biden’s advisers have argued that he is the strongest Democrat for 2024 and those who wish for someone else share no consensus on who that should be, with 8 percent naming Vice President Harris, 8 percent naming Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and 20 percent saying they prefer “just someone else.”
The Post-ABC poll shows Biden trailing Trump by 10 percentage points at this early stage in the election cycle, although the sizable margin of Trump’s lead in this survey is significantly at odds with other public polls that show the general election contest a virtual dead heat. The difference between this poll and others, as well as the unusual makeup of Trump’s and Biden’s coalitions in this survey, suggest it is probably an outlier. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
9. The U.S. economy has sailed through some rough currents this year but now faces a convergence of hazards that threaten to create more turbulence. Among the possible challenges this fall: a broader auto workers strike, a lengthy government shutdown, the resumption of student loan payments and rising oil prices. Each on its own wouldn’t do too much harm. Together, they could be more damaging, particularly when the economy is already cooling due to high interest rates. “It’s that quadruple threat of all elements that could disrupt economic activity,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY-Parthenon. (Source: wsj.com)
10. William Cohan:
(T)here are still risks in investing in government securities in a rising interest-rate environment if money heads out of the door quickly and managers are forced to sell assets, crystallizing losses.
The flood of cash into money market funds is worrying several people I speak to regularly on Wall Street. “No one is willing to say the truth,” one longtime finance veteran told me by email. “There is too much money parked in these funds and there really are no safety nets. People have run in a panic from banks into higher yielding instruments without understanding them.”
And in the midst of the SVB meltdown, Treasury secretary Janet Yellen said: “If there is any place where the vulnerabilities of the system to runs and fire sales have been clear-cut, it is money market funds.” (Source: ft.com)
11. Some of the world’s largest private equity firms are accelerating a pivot away from mega buyouts and into businesses such as private credit as higher interest rates force them to tear up their playbooks. After a decade of record dealmaking, higher rates have brought buyouts to a near halt over the past year and left many private equity firms saddled with portfolio companies acquired at high prices. The grim backdrop is hastening a push that was already under way by some of the industry’s biggest names into new businesses including lending to companies, which has become more profitable as central banks have raised interest to bring down inflation. (Source: ft.com)
12. The market for debt that funds corporate buyouts is opening up after a months-long freeze, with investors again vying for billions of dollars in risky bonds or loans offered for sale this week. The strength of demand will embolden private equity executives whose business has been largely on ice since the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates in 2022. The Fed this week refrained from another rate rise, suggesting that the cost of financing takeovers may soon level off. Rising interest rates left the banks that finance leveraged buyouts (LBO) stuck with loans that they could not sell. But after having unloaded billions in such “hung loans,” many are eager to lend again. “There’s clearly a hunger for new supply in high-yield,” said Andrzej Skiba, head of US fixed income at RBC Global Asset Management. (Source: ft.com)
13. The refugee crisis that shook Europe almost 10 years ago never really ended in Germany. Now the country is struggling to cope. More than 322,000 migrants requested asylum here last year, according to the United Nations, numbers second only to the U.S. globally. Germany receives nearly half as many asylum requests as the U.S. despite having just a quarter of the U.S. population and less than 4% of its landmass. On the front line of this slow-boil crisis are midsize cities such as Giessen, whose processing center sees about a thousand new arrivals every week. There officials and residents are trying to continue a tradition of being a haven for refugees in an increasingly difficult political climate. (Source: wsj.com)
14. German chancellor Olaf Scholz has waded into Poland’s cash-for-visas scandal, demanding an investigation into allegations that Warsaw turned a blind eye to officials operating the scheme and threatening to restore border controls to stop the flow of undocumented migrants from Poland. Speaking at an election rally in the southern city of Nuremberg on Saturday, he accused Warsaw of “waving through” refugees, allowing them to pass into Germany instead of processing their asylum applications in Poland. Poland’s centre-right Civic Platform has accused the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) of tolerating a corruption scheme that illegally sold Polish visas at consulates around the world, despite trumpeting tough anti-immigration measures at home. (Source: ft.com)
15. A far-right party with a record of antisemitic and anti-migration messages which has pushed Poland’s government to weaken its support for Ukraine could become kingmaker in pivotal elections next month. The Confederation party has been jostling for third spot in opinion polls ahead of the October 15 parliamentary election, potentially deciding whether the ruling rightwing Law and Justice (PiS) party of Jarosław Kaczyński stays in power. “What is most important in this election is who will be third, and if it’s Confederation, it will be a disaster,” said Robert Biedroń, Poland’s first openly gay politician and one of the party leaders of the Lewica (New Left) alliance, which has around 10 per cent of the vote in aggregate polls. (Sources: ft.com, politico.eu)
16. Just what you don’t want to read: One of China’s best-known virologists Shi Zhengli, also known as “batwoman”, has warned that it is “highly likely” another coronavirus will appear in future. Ms. Shi, who gained her nickname because of her research into viruses that leap from animals – especially bats – to humans, warned in a recent paper written with colleagues that the world must be prepared for another disease like Covid-19 because “if a coronavirus caused diseases to emerge before, there is a high chance it will cause future outbreaks”. (Source: scmp.com)
17. Former US state secretary Henry Kissinger said a US-China decoupling would lower living standards in both countries and harm their ability to manage the emerging field of artificial intelligence. “In this sense, it is essential that we learn from each other,” he said via video link at the Bund Summit, a finance forum in China’s financial hub of Shanghai. “It is essential that we should not proceed in the decoupled way.” Mr. Kissinger said China’s deep integration into the global economy has strengthened the US-China relationship because the two have become dependent on each other for trade. (Source: scmp.com)
18. It wouldn’t be News Items without a mention of Evergrande:
China Evergrande Group, struggling under US$327 billion of liabilities, has surprisingly scrapped creditor meetings scheduled for next week as home sales sagged and lawsuits snowballed, dragging bondholders back to the drawing board in the country’s biggest corporate restructuring. The developer cancelled four meetings for two classes of its creditors in Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands set for September 26, according to an exchange filing late on Friday. Two meetings on September 25 for another group of bondholders in Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands were also halted. (Source: scmp.com)
Quick Links: How Xi Jinping is taking control of China’s stock market. China’s chipmaking breakthrough is too good to be true. Religious leaders in the holy city of Qom believe that artificial intelligence can strengthen Iran’s Islamic character. Friedman: What really happened at the Biden-Netanyahu meeting. Typically smart Rachman column: Populism could derail the green transition. It’s lonely being a female head of state, says Iceland’s PM. Tensions erupt at Paris protest as police car attacked. Gold bars, cash-stuffed envelopes: New indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) alleges vast corruption. N.J. Governor Phil Murphy (D) calls on Menendez to resign. US progressive groups facing ‘five-alarm fire’ ahead of 2024 as donations down. A former prisoner’s story of mistreatment at the hands of Ron DeSantis made headlines. The New York Times found no evidence to back it up. The FT profiles Lachlan Murdoch, the new boss of Fox and Newscorp. Lunch with Anna Wintour. Russians rush to see bootleg Barbie. Netflix prepares to send its final red envelope. Toyota to triple EV output as it chases Tesla, BYD. Laundry detergents and ice cream under lock and key in American supermarkets.