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Global Affairs

Breakfast Briefing: Kodak’s Idea, SpaceX’s Satellite Saga & Trump

Kodak’s Blockchain Adventure

Blockchain is the media’s favourite buzzword right now and the markets are no different.

Editor’s Remarks: Yesterday Kodak announced a partnership with Wenn Digital to build a “photo-centric cryptocurrency” that would enable photographers and agencies to have greater control over rights to their images. On the news, Kodak shares jumped 44% following a recent trend in the stock market that has seen virtually any company that mentions cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology immediately witness a strong rally. The KODAKCoin, once minted, will operate on the KODAKOne platform, where rights to photographs are digitised before being registered, licensed or sold. Perhaps 2018 will see more companies leverage the blockchain to upgrade their business models.

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SpaceX’s Satellite Saga

Following the apparently successful launch of a NASA payload on Sunday, the satellite is now missing.

Editor’s Remarks: The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off without any hitches from its Cape Canoveral launch pad carrying a classified military satellite codenamed Zuma. However, despite SpaceX’s COO Gwynne Shotwell insisting that the company’s data suggests that everything went smoothly, the US military said that it cannot track the satellite. During the launch, it was confirmed by SpaceX that Zuma and the second stage rocket continued to their final orbit. The US Senate and House of Representatives have been briefed on the apparent failure, which is estimated to have cost billions of dollars. It is yet unclear what the episode will mean for SpaceX’s relationship with the US government.

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Bridgewater Hires Poker Star

Vanessa Selbst, the world’s most successful female poker player, has joined Bridgewater Associates.

Editor’s Remarks: Over the past 12 years, Selbst has won $11.9m playing poker and now, aged 33, she is changing careers. She has joined Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund with over $160bn under management. Her role, which she actually took up over four months ago, focuses on trading research and strategy. Although she has not made any formal comment, Selbst posted on Facebook that her role felt “a lot like poker did back in the day — a bunch of nerdy kids collaborating to beat our opponents”. Ray Dalio’s latest star hire is not just a poker ace, however; she graduated from Yale before joining McKinsey and later completed a law degree also at Yale.

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Trump’s Latest Escapade

Despite sparking anger and disbelief at every turn, Donald Trump is on something of a winning streak.

Editor’s Remarks: After entering office, Trump was quick to lambast California as “out of control”; now, the western state is fighting back. The latest demonstrators have been prompted by the Trump administration’s sweeping tax cuts, stance on immigration, its crackdown on net neutrality and most recently the expectation that Jeff Sessions will roll back marijuana legalisation laws. Californians are also annoyed that Florida, which supported Trump in the 2016 election, recently received a waiver for an unpopular drilling plan. Pro-Democrat California, however, did not. Abroad, however, South Korea’s president – albeit with a smile on his face – said that the US president was instrumental in bringing his country closer to its northern neighbour.

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Ethereum Powers Ahead

The world’s second largest cryptocurrency continues to post major gains. 

Editor’s Remarks: After being briefly eclipsed by Ripple last week, Ethereum is now firmly back in the number two spot in the cryptocurrency world. Its market cap is now $133bn – the same as Ripple roughly this time last week – while the former, which is still in third place, has fallen to $75bn. Ethereum’s co-founder, who has since left the Ethereum Foundation, recently predicted that the cryptocurrency market will experience an imminent crash followed by a rapid wave of consolidation as it becomes clear which platforms and coins have real world application and which face insurmountable tech-related obstacles. At the time of writing, Ethereum is nearing $1,400 after crossing $1,000 just a few days ago.

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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 contested 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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Keep reading |  1 min read

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