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Global Affairs

Breakfast Briefing: SpaceX, Ethereum’s Run and Kalanick Sells

SpaceX’s NASA Mission

Elon Musk’s SpaceX completed its first mission of 2018, known as codename Zuma.

Editor’s Remarks: SpaceX launched a classified payload into low-earth orbit on behalf of the US government using the company’s flagship Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage rocket managed to land and, therefore, can potentially be reused in future launches. SpaceX was chosen for the mission by defence contractor Northrup Grumman, which picked the company due to the substantial cost savings it offers. Following a spate of bad weather on the East Coast and heightened security checks, the NASA mission was pushed back several times in late 2017. SpaceX aims to launch a total of 30 flights this year after a record 18 were completed last year.

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Kalanick to Sell Uber Stake

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is selling 29% of his shares in the company.

Editor’s Remarks: After SoftBank acquired one-fifth of Uber, the Japanese conglomerate is now buying 29% of Kalanick’s stake in the company. The recent SoftBank deal devalued Uber, down to $48bn from as high as $70bn in previous funding rounds. For Kalanick, 2017 was a rollercoaster year that saw him ousted from his own company, which itself was rocked by a number of scandals across the globe. He is likely to pull in around $1.4bn for the sale. Additionally, Benchmark, one of Uber’s earliest investors plans to sell around 15% of its own holding, amounting to around $900m.

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Ethereum Extends Price Run

After breaking through $1000, the price of ether has moved above $1200.

Editor’s Remarks: Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin has recently warned that the cryptocurrency market has not done enough to justify the huge amounts of cash sloshing around the cryptosphere. The market appears to have taken his statement as further evidence of his growing role as a figurehead for the blockchain world, and investors are piling into his platform. Nearly every ICO takes place on the Ethereum network and it currently dominates the market for decentralised applications. Following the latest price rally, Ethereum has retaken the number two spot from Ripple, which had occupied the position since the new year.

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Investors Pressure Apple

Two investors want to investigate whether the iPhone is too addictive for children.

Editor’s Remarks: In a letter to Apple sent over the weekend, shareholders Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System urged the company to enable parents to restrict their children’s iPhone usage. Part of their concerns come from the potential link between high iPhone usage and poor mental health, which the investors say Apple must investigate. Governments around the world are also moving to curb how much time children spend on their phones. France, for instance, aims to ban smartphones in primary and middle school. The call follows Apple’s announcement that all of its Mac and iOS devices are vulnerable because of flawed chip designs.

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UK Wants EU Medicine Regulation

The UK hopes to remain under the watch of the EU medicine regulator after Brexit.

Editor’s Remarks: Despite calls from the some EU nations that the UK cannot cherry-pick the aspects of the single market that it will enjoy after leaving the bloc, Britain is pushing to remain under EU regulation for medicine. Similar moves have been made for the UK’s chemicals and aviation industries, which some hope will stay adherent to European safety standards and the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The apparent “red line” drawn by Theresa May regarding any future role of the ECJ in British affairs post-Brexit has evidently been blurred in recent months.

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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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