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Global Affairs

Breakfast Briefing: Didi’s Valuation, Apple’s Apps & Kremlin Fears

Didi Gets a $56bn Valuation

The Chinese ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing completed a $4bn funding round.

Editor’s Remarks: China’s answer to Uber increased its valuation to around $56bn, some $6bn higher than previous valuation estimates, in its latest round of funding. The company now has more than $12bn in cash reserves and just received backing from Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala. Didi has managed to drive Uber out of the Chinese mainland in recent years and has also started making savvy investments in its competitors abroad, such as Estonia’s Taxify. The company aims to use the fresh funding to scale up its efforts in AI and technology development. While Didi appears to be operating smoothly, its biggest rival, Uber, is still being harangued by western governments.

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Apple to Make Combined Apps

The tech giant plans to allow people to use one set of apps across Macs, iPads and iPhones.

Editor’s Remarks: Although the iPhone heralded a new wave of user experience through the use of apps, Macs have not benefitted from the same advancements. Apple’s Mac app store is chock full of apps that rarely get updated and the overall selection is rather limited. Apple plans to tackle this by offering a single set of apps that work equally across its full range of devices. From early 2018, developers will be able to design apps that work seamlessly across touchscreen, mouse or trackpad devices. The move will be the first major change to Apple’s software platforms since iOS came about.

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Google Closes in on Amazon

Amazon is the top online shopping destination for US customers but Google is catching up.

Editor’s Remarks: According to the latest data, 49% of online shoppers visit Amazon first when searching for products, which is down from 55% in 2016. Google and other leading search engines increased their share of searches to 36% from 28% a year ago. Individual retailers, meanwhile, have been left in the dust once more, with just 15% of online shoppers visiting individual retailers’ websites first, down from 16% last year. Although countless people turning to Google for shopping will undoubtedly be searching for Amazon, these searches still generate advert revenue, which is expected to total $35bn this year.

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UK Intelligence Fears Kremlin

The UK’s top intelligence services have called Moscow “formidable adversaries”.

Editor’s Remarks: In a report published on Wednesday, the UK’s MI6, MI5 and GCHQ highlighted their concerns over Russian spying activity. The report cited evidence that the Kremlin waged “information warfare on a massive scale” after the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines’ jet MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Although Russia’s role in the deaths of the 298 passengers on board is widely suspected, the UK’s recent comments are part of a wider initiative to hold Moscow to account for its increasingly aggressive behaviour. Meanwhile, in the US, special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation into Russian involvement in last year’s election.

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North Korean Soldier Defects

The soldier walked across the Demilitarised Zone on Thursday morning.

Editor’s Remarks: He is believed to be just 19 years-old and it is yet unknown what his motives are. After he crossed, a group of North Korean soldiers approached the border, prompting South Korean soldiers to fire around 20 warning shots. This most recent defection is the fourth this year and comes after a dramatic encounter in November when a North Korean soldier was shot by his countrymen as he fled south. Although he survived, he was found to be riddled with parasitic worms, highlighting the dire quality of life in the rogue state.

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Global Affairs

BP and Iraq Sign Development Deal for Kirkuk Oil Fields

 2 min read / 

BP Kirkuk deal

Iraqi Government and British energy giant BP have signed an agreement for the future development of the Kirkuk oil fields in Northern Iraq.

A statement on the Iraqi Oil Ministry’s website said the “memorandum of understanding” between the government and the London-based oil company would enable further development of the oil fields as well as “to open a new page of work” for the North Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Oil Ministry, on “solid foundations”.

BP Director, Michael Townsend, said the company would conduct the necessary surveys and prepare the required statistics.  He claims the company will increase production by 750,000 barrels of oil a day.

The Kirkuk Oil Field, discovered in 1927, is one of the largest oil fields in the world, producing half of Iraq’s oil exports, a reported million barrels a day. However, it has also been a wellspring for local instability: the fields had been seized in 2014 by the Kurdistan Regional Government, who piped oil across the Turkish border, a few hundred kilometres to the north. The fields were only retaken by government forces in October 2017.

Baghdad is attempting to reassert its authority throughout its provinces and according to Iraq’s Minister for Oil, Jahbar Ali al-Allaibi, Thursday’s announcement will “speed up the rehabilitation process”.

During the Saddam Hussein era, the fields suffered irrecoverable damage due to poor management. Excess production was reinjected back into the ground making Kirkuk’s oil thicker and therefore harder to extract.

On Wednesday al-Allaibi met with Britain’s ambassador, John Wilkes, where according to the ministry’s website, they talked about joint cooperation between the two countries in the oil and gas industry.

Keep reading |  2 min read

America

Trump’s Presidency and Russian Relationship: The Future

 4 min read / 

Trump Russia

Much has been said about Donald J. Trump’s love affair with Russia. Questions deserve a thorough and honest investigation. As distasteful and risky it may be, the best outcome of the enquiry is accusations continue to swirl, Trump limps through three more years, and in 2020, he is crushed at the ballot box. The world moves on. If removed from office, odds are Trump whips his base into a frenzy. Only the height and duration of civil unrest is in question. A worse case is that Trump emerges emboldened, eager to settle Putin’s longstanding challenge.

Putin Mocks Trump

The competition is real. Putin’s economic and political dominance gnaws Trump. Putin knows this. So, he taunts the President and dares Trump to employ the same ruthless tactics he exploited to consolidate power and possibly become the world’s richest man. Since Trump only sees green, he took the bait. The race is on to be the world’s first trillionaire.

Russia’s population is 142 million. Its $3.86trn translates into a measly $26,900 per capita GDP. In contrast, the 326 million people of the United States generate $18.62trn in GDP, nearly five times Russia’s total. The US per capita GDP of $57,600 more than doubles Russia’s. Despite Russia’s meek economy and reports  that Putin has embezzled up to $200bn in assets, Putin remains incredibly popular in Russia.

The apathy regarding this unparalleled heist makes Trump and Putin salivate over what they could jointly pilfer from the world economy. To advance their contest, the pair will identify a common threat. US-Russia relations will warm. Under the guise of “Peace through strength,” Russian sanctions will be lifted, and the Magnitsky Act repealed.

The administrative state in retreat, animal spirits will run wild. Trump’s name will be emblazoned across the globe. Countries desperate for jobs will be compelled to forge deals sponsored by Putin and Trump. Ethics be damned, the race to the bottom of the $120trn global economy will prompt a wave of corruption never seen before. Every facet of human decency will be compromised: environmental regulations, free and fair-trade by-laws, intellectual property, and human rights protections. The collusion is real.

In time, complicity will turn to double-crossing. It’s the Trump-Putin way. Makeshift “me-first” trade deals will collapse. Boycotts, divestitures and sanctions will be commonplace. Cooperation will evaporate. New political boundaries will be drawn with little world condemnation.

It doesn’t have to happen this way. Patience is a virtue. The checks and balances of the three branches of government are powerful mechanisms to thwart overt corruption.

Yet, for the impatient who seek Trump’s impeachment or removal via the 25th Amendment, be careful what you wish for. Only Trump can tame his army. To assume Trump will plead mercy at the feet of the administrative state contradicts Trump’s lifelong persona. He will relentlessly counterpunch and encourage his followers to do likewise. The short and long-term political and social risks are astronomical.

If Trump stems the tide, consolidates power and aggressively partakes in Putin’s race for two terms, the risks outstrip his forced removal. The consequences will be multi-generational.

Rope-a-Dope Is the Key to Containing Trump

The only path that possibly prevents extensive collateral damage is to check Trump into policy oblivion. Legislators must play rope-a-dope for as long as it takes, even three years if necessary. If Democrats take back both houses in 2018, the tactic will not set up Trump and his base for a final knock-out punch in 2020. For that to occur, numerous members of the GOP must join the effort. They too must throw periodic jabs at Trump then absorb a barrage Trump’s counterpunches.

With foes in every corner, even Trump – the self-proclaimed greatest counterpuncher in history—and his base will wear themselves out well before 2020. Then the decisive knockout punch can be delivered at the ballot box—without collateral damage.

Trump is severely wounded. If he gracefully and peacefully surrenders the Presidency, great. But don’t expect it. Rope-a-dope deployed by both parties is the countries best hope for a peaceful end to the Trump Presidency. Any other scenario risks the once unthinkable; an ‘American Spring’.

Keep reading |  4 min read

Europe

May Meets Macron

May Macron

The UK prime minister agreed to pay £44.5m towards tighter border security at Calais.

Editor’s Remarks: The French president arrived in the UK for the Anglo-French summit amid widespread complaints from the Tory party about just why Britain is paying another £44.5m for tighter security in France. One Tory MP pointed out that this addition brings the total figure the UK has paid to France in recent years up to £170m. France, meanwhile, says that the amount is necessary because the migrants in Calais are trying to get to the UK, who must, therefore, contribute towards their costs. The talks were also consumed by the imminent task of reaching consensus over the UK’s trade deal with the UK after Brexit goes through.

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