Thursday, October 20, 2016

Iran Steps Up Weapons Supply To Yemen's Houthis Via Oman

By Yara Bayoumy and Phil Stewart 
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Iran has stepped up weapons transfers to the Houthis, the militia fighting the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, U.S., Western and Iranian officials tell Reuters, a development that threatens to prolong and intensify the 19-month-old war.

The increased pace of transfers in recent months, which officials said include missiles and small arms, could exacerbate a security headache for the United States, which last week struck Houthi targets with cruise missiles in retaliation for failed missile attacks on a U.S. Navy destroyer.

Much of the recent smuggling activity has been through Oman, which neighbors Yemen, including via overland routes that take advantage of porous borders between the two countries, the officials said.

That raises a further quandary for Washington, which views the tiny Gulf state as a strategic interlocutor and ally in the conflict-ridden region. A senior U.S. administration official said that Washington had informed Oman of its concerns, without specifying when.

"We have been concerned about the recent flow of weapons from Iran into Yemen and have conveyed those concerns to those who maintain relations with the Houthis, including the Omani government," the official told Reuters.

Oman denies any weapons smuggling across its border, and its officials could not be reached for comment. Yemeni and senior regional officials say the Omanis are not actively involved with the transfers, but rather turning a blind eye and failing to aggressively crack down on the flow.

(Graphic: tmsnrt.rs/2dNo0nL)

In an interview with Saudi newspaper Okaz last week, Omani Foreign Minister Yousef bin Alwi said:

"There is no truth to this. No weapons have crossed our border and we are ready to clarify any suspicions if they arise."

The Iran-allied Houthis gained a trove of weapons when whole divisions allied to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh sided with them at the start of the war last year. But Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s exiled government say they also receive substantial amounts of weapons and ammunition from Iran. Tehran views the Houthis as the legitimate authority in Yemen, but denies it supplies them with weapons.

Some Western officials have been more skeptical of the view that the Houthis are receiving large-scale support from Iran.

The U.S. and Western officials who spoke to Reuters about the recent trend in arms transfers said it was based on intelligence they had seen but did not elaborate on its nature. They said the frequency of transfers on known overland smuggling routes had increased notably, though the scale of the shipments was unclear.

Even U.S. officials warning of Iran's support for the Houthis acknowledge intelligence gaps in Yemen, where the U.S. posture has been sharply reduced since the start of the conflict. The sources all declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"We are aware of a recent increased frequency of weapons shipments supplied by Iran, which are reaching the Houthis via the Omani border," a Western diplomat familiar with the conflict told Reuters.

Three U.S. officials confirmed that assertion.

One of those officials, who is familiar with Yemen, said that in the past few months there had been a noticeable increase in weapons-smuggling activity.

"What they're bringing in via Oman are anti-ship missiles, explosives..., money and personnel," the official said.

Another regional security source said the transfers included surface-to-surface short-range missiles and small arms.

A senior Iranian diplomat confirmed there had been a "sharp surge in Iran's help to the Houthis in Yemen" since May, referring to weapons, training and money.

"The nuclear deal gave Iran an upper hand in its rivalry with Saudi Arabia, but it needs to be preserved," the diplomat said.

Washington's Gulf allies have warned that U.S. President Barack Obama's rapprochement with Tehran through the landmark nuclear deal signed last year will only embolden Iran in conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere.

U.S. Looking Into Missile Origin


The increase in transfers comes as the civil war drags on and threatens to pull the United States deeper into a conflict that has killed 10,000 people and which pits two regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran, against each other. A U.N.-brokered 72-hour ceasefire went into effect on Wednesday.

Since the beginning of the war, the Houthis have used short-range Scud missiles, and the United Nations says they have also used surface-to-air missiles, improvised to operate as surface-to-surface rockets against Saudi Arabia.

But a suspected Houthi missile attack against a United Arab Emirates vessel in a strategic Red Sea shipping lane this month, as well as the attempted strikes against the U.S. warship, raise worries about the rebels' capability to launch bolder attacks.

The Houthis have denied attacking the USS Mason.

Two officials said the United States was looking into whether components of the missiles, including the warhead, might have benefited from Iranian parts or come from Iran but acknowledged the assessment was so far inconclusive.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, said he suspected an Iranian role in arming the Houthis and noted that Iran was one of the possible suppliers of the kinds of shore-based missile technology seen in Yemen.

"I do think Iran is playing a role in some of this. They do have a relationship with the Houthis," he told a forum in Washington.

A senior Western diplomat told Reuters that Iran's role in helping the Houthis had increased substantially since March 2015, when the Saudis intervened to restore President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to office.

The diplomat said there was concern Oman had not tackled Iranian smuggling as strongly as it should have done.

"In my mind, the level of Iranian arms smuggling probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.”

Washington has generally shied away from being too publicly critical of Muscat, especially as it played a historic role in brokering the nuclear deal.

A senior Yemeni official told Reuters there had been an increase in smuggled weapons reaching the Houthis via Oman but could not say definitively whether the weapons were Iranian.

Yemen's army chief of staff, Mohammed al-Maqdishi, said in a recent interview on state television that Oman should be “a lot stricter” on smuggling. “We are now in the process of heavily guarding the border points more and more."

A senior Yemeni military source told Reuters that one of the smuggling routes is through Shehen, a sort of no-man’s land and entry point in Mahra province along the 288-km (179-mile) long Yemeni-Omani border. Although formally under government control, the region is a well known haven for smuggling and central authority is weak.

In addition to smuggling via secondary ports along Yemen’s coastline, the source said the frequency had also increased “because Iran feels the Houthis are in a difficult situation and want to show them they’re with them till the end.”


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Thursday, October 20, Morning Global Market Roundup: Asian Stocks Ride US Momentum, Mexican Peso Edges Up After Presidential Debate

By Nichola Saminather
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Asian stocks advanced on Thursday, propelled by strong U.S. earnings and oil prices near a 15-month high, as the third and final U.S. presidential debate before the Nov. 8 election ended.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.2 percent. Japan's Nikkei extended gains to 1 percent.

China's CSI 300 reversed earlier gains to fall 0.1 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.5 percent.

In the final debate between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump tried to reverse the momentum in an election that polls show is tilting away from him.

"Never in the history of the U.S. has a candidate faced such a deficit in the polls as Trump currently holds, with at least two well-known sites (that model the probability of the outcome) putting an 85-90 percent chance of a Clinton win," Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note."But as 2016 has shown us, not just in politics, but in markets too, it can often pay to expect the unexpected."

At the end of the debate, the Mexican peso had inched up against the dollar.

The U.S. dollar slipped 0.2 percent to 18.46 pesos, extending losses to 2.9 percent this week.

Trump's radical positions on Mexican migration and trade could severely disadvantage the U.S's southern neighbor if he wins, so a stronger Mexican peso reflects lower market expectations of a Trump win.

Trump refused to say in the debate whether he would accept the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, after earlier urging supporters to patrol polling places in inner cities to prevent voter fraud.

Trump and Clinton sparred over the influence of Vladimir Putin, with Clinton calling Trump the Russian president's puppet and Trump claiming Putin had repeatedly outsmarted Clinton.

Trump also accused Clinton's campaign of orchestrating a series of accusations by women who said the businessman made unwanted sexual advances against them, saying the stories were "totally false."

Overnight, the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.2 percent, after Morgan Stanley posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit to round out a string of solid results from big U.S. banks.

With 70 companies in the S&P 500 having reported earnings through Wednesday morning, 80 percent have topped earnings expectations. Third quarter earnings are now expected to increase 0.5 percent, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, which would be the first quarter of growth in five.

"We're up because the (earnings) numbers are so great, the forward guidance is great and the banks just knocked it out of the park," said Ken Polcari, Director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York.

Energy shares also contributed to the gains on Wall Street, as oil prices jumped after a surprisingly large inventory drop of 5.2 million barrels, compared with a forecast for a 2.7-million barrel build. It was the sixth week of declines in seven weeks.

U.S. crude slid 0.4 percent to $51.39 on Thursday, after surging 2.6 percent to close at $51.60 in the previous session. It earlier touched $51.93, the highest since July 2015.

Brent crude slipped 0.2 percent to $52.56 on Thursday, after climbing 1.9 percent on Wednesday.

The dollar was steady at 103.52 to 103.62 yen on Thursday after falling 0.4 percent on Wednesday.

The Australian dollar retreated 0.4 percent to $0.7692 after data showed Australia shed a whopping 53,000 full-time jobs in September, although unemployment held at a three-year low of 5.6 percent.

The euro was flat at $1.0979, ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting on Thursday.

Investors are focused on whether ECB President Mario Draghi will give any indication of if and when the central bank may begin tapering its bond purchase program.


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Euro On Defensive Before ECB; Mexican Peso Firms To 6-Week High After U.S. Debate

By Lisa Twaronite and Masayuki Kitano 
Reuters
October 20, 2016

The euro stood near a three-month low ahead of a European Central Bank meeting later on Thursday, while the Mexican peso rose to a six-week high after the conclusion of the final U.S. presidential debate before the November election.

The euro eased 0.1 percent to $1.0969 EUR=, not far from Wednesday's near three-month low of $1.0955.

The main focus for investors is whether or not ECB President Mario Draghi will give any indications that the bank is poised to taper its bond purchase program. The ECB may defer until December any changes to its asset purchase, sources familiar with the discussion said last week.

"If Mario Draghi puts greater emphasis on the need for more stimulus, further losses are likely but if he's optimistic and emphasizes resilience and we think he will given recent data, EUR/USD could find its way back to 1.11," wrote Kathy Lien, managing director at BK Asset Management.

Major currencies showed limited reaction to the third and final debate in the U.S. election campaign between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump, while the Mexican peso edged higher.

The Mexican peso, which is closely watched because Mexico is seen as most vulnerable to Republican Donald Trump's economic policy proposals, rose to 18.4555 MXN=D2 to the dollar at one point, its highest level since Sept. 8.

The Mexican peso last stood at 18.4760, up around 0.2 percent on the day.

Since most recent opinion polls have favored Clinton, the market's focus had been on whether Trump would be able to use the third and final debate to regain momentum in the final weeks ahead of the Nov. 8 vote.

"There didn't seem to be anything in the latest debate that put Clinton in a tight spot," said Kota Hirayama, senior economist for SMBC Nikko Securities in Tokyo.

A CNN snap poll of debate watchers found Clinton won with 52 percent, and Trump trailed with 39 percent, the network said.

Given the possibility of further unwinding of bearish bets against the Mexican peso and taking into account recent gains in global oil prices, the peso could rise to levels around 18.2 to 18.3 in the near term, Hirayama said.

The dollar was little changed against a basket of six major currencies at 97.925 .DXY. Against the yen JPY=, the dollar edged up 0.2 percent to 103.62 yen.

The pound held steady at $1.2281 GBP= ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May's first European Union summit since taking the helm following Britain's June 23 vote to exit the bloc.

A source in May's office said the prime minister would use a dinner at the summit in Brussels to outline her Brexit plan to the other 27 leaders.

The Australian dollar fell 0.6 percent to $0.7679 AUD=D3 after a surprise drop in Australian employment in September was seen as adding to the risk of a further cut in interest rates.

Earlier on Thursday, the Australian dollar touched a two-month high of $0.7735, shrugging off a report that the mid-year federal budget update could be the catalyst for Australia to lose its AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor's after the ratings agency put it on negative watch.

If Australia were to be stripped of its AAA credit rating that could gradually prompt investors to shift funds away from the Australian dollar to higher-yielding emerging market currencies, said Masashi Murata, currency strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman in Tokyo.

"Australia's AAA rating is a key reason why money flows globally into the Australian dollar," Murata said.

"Given that Australian interest rates might be lowered and that the AAA rating could be cut, I think that may prompt a shift in funds to emerging markets," Murata said, adding that such moves could occur if risk sentiment remains stable.


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Oil Prices Dip After Strong Rally, But Sentiment Remains Confident

By Henning Gloystein
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Oil prices dipped on Thursday on profit taking after markets rallied the previous day due to a draw in U.S. stocks and an expectation of an OPEC-led cut in production.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $51.38 per barrel, down 22 cents from their last close.

International Brent crude futures were trading at $52.56 per barrel, down 11 cents.

Traders said that the price dips were a result of profit taking following a rally the previous day, which saw WTI settle at a 15-month high, fueled by a reduction in U.S. crude stocks by 5.2 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 14 to 468.7 million barrels.

"Oil prices continued to rise overnight on optimism over OPEC supply restraint and weaker-than-expected inventories," ANZ bank said on Thursday.

The overall mood in oil markets remained confident, with most analysts expecting further increases.

Reuters technical commodity analyst Wang Tao said U.S. oil is expected to break a resistance zone of $51.67 to $52.11 per barrel, and then rise towards $52.78. Meanwhile, Brent oil may stabilize around a support at $52.49 per barrel and then retest a resistance at $53.45.

BMI Research even said that "we see significant potential for an upwards break in Brent towards $60 per barrel... driven by bullish technical drivers and supportive conditions in the broader financial markets," although it added that current fundamentals did not warrant much higher prices.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) plans to meet on Nov. 30 and hopes to decide on a half a million to 1 million barrels per day oil production cut, and the producer cartel hopes that non-OPEC exporters, especially Russia, will cooperate.

Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Wednesday that the cut will help reduce a huge overhang of supplies and stimulate new investments in the sector.

However, Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson said that cost cutting in the U.S. shale oil sector had made some wells profitable at as low as $40 a barrel. This means that North America has effectively become a swing producer that will be able to respond rapidly to a cut or unforeseen supply shortage.


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Dudley, In Clear Signal, Expects Fed Rate Hike This Year

By Jonathan Spicer
Reuters
October 20, 2016

The Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates later this year if the U.S. economy remains on track, one of the most influential Fed officials said on Wednesday in perhaps the clearest policy signal yet from the central bank.

"If the economy stays on its current trajectory I think ... we'll see an interest rate hike later this year," New York Fed President William Dudley told a modest dinner gathering at the Lotos Club, downplaying any market-related risks of tightening monetary policy in December.

Dudley, a permanent voter on policy and a close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, added that a quarter-point hike this year "is not really that big a deal" given the economy is "reasonably close" to the Fed's goals of 2 percent inflation and maximum sustainable employment.

The Fed left rates unchanged at 0.25-0.5 percent last month, though published forecasts showed that most of its 17 policymakers expected a hike before year end. Economists and traders now expect the Fed to again stand pat at its next meeting, a week before the U.S. election on Nov. 8, but to finally hike in December.

Dudley's comments appeared to reinforce that notion.

Asked about the risk of raising rates in December as investment funds wind down bets and as banks trim balance sheets for year-end, Dudley, who also oversees the Fed's market operations, said he was "definitely not worried about the timing" given the Fed smoothly hiked rates from near zero last December. That was the first time in almost a decade that the Fed raised rates.

"We have made quite good progress toward our objectives ... so clearly as we get closer to our objectives it's likely that we'd want to make monetary policy somewhat less accommodative," he said.

"That's quite different than saying there is this urgency to tighten policy aggressively," he said. "I don't see that urgency," he added, because unemployment has recently remained flat around 5 percent, inflation is still below target and also because of the economy's sub-par growth rate.


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Security Breaches Feared In Up To 3.2 Million Indian Debit Cards

By Devidutta Tripathy
Reuters
October 20, 2016

A slew of banks in India will either replace or ask customer to change the security codes of as many as 3.2 million debit cards on fears of potential breaches, the Economic Times newspaper reported on Thursday.

The move comes a day after the country's No. 1 lender State Bank of India (SBI.NS) said that it had blocked cards of certain customers.

Of the debit cards affected, 2.6 million are on Visa and MasterCard platforms, while 600,000 are on the home-grown RuPay platform, the paper said citing unnamed people aware of the matter.

The worst-hit of the card-issuing banks are State Bank of India, HDFC Bank (HDBK.NS), ICICI Bank (ICBK.NS), Yes Bank (YESB.NS) and Axis Bank (AXBK.NS), the paper said.

Yes Bank said in a statement on Thursday it had proactively undertaken a review of its ATMs and found no evidence of any breach.

SBI had on Wednesday said that it had been informed by card network providers about a potential risk to some cards, and was replacing those cards as a precautionary measure.

Other banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There were 697.2 million debit cards in India as of end-July, according to data from the central bank.


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Obama To Give His Diagnosis For What Ails Obamacare

By Roberta Rampton
Reuters
October 20, 2016

President Barack Obama on Thursday will head to the election battleground state Florida to give his prescription for fixing the Affordable Care Act, his signature healthcare law, but any remedies will be left up to his successor and the next Congress.

Battling a barrage of negative headlines about rising health insurance premiums and shrinking doctor networks for people participating in the program, Obama is urging more young, uninsured people to sign up for the subsidized insurance plans offered under the law.

He also wants to encourage lawmakers to create a government-run health insurance option to help U.S. states where there is little or no competition among private insurers.

"That added competition in all 50 states would, we believe, have the effect of further challenging private health insurance companies to improve their offerings and reduce their prices," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday.

Obama will speak about Obamacare in Miami before heading to a rally for Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 8 presidential election, who has said she would add a public option and expand tax incentives for healthcare costs. Republican Donald Trump has pledged to repeal and replace the law.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by Obama in March 2010. It created online exchanges, which opened in 2014, where consumers can shop for individual health insurance and receive income-based subsidies.

Republicans who control Congress have bitterly fought the program, saying it creates unwarranted government intervention in personal healthcare and private industry.

The government forecasts 13.8 million people will sign up for Obamacare plans in 2017, up 1.1 million from 2016.

There are 10.7 million uninsured people who are eligible for the exchanges but have not enrolled, and about 40 percent of those are young, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said on Wednesday.

Nationwide, not enough young and healthy people have signed up to provide a revenue stream that offsets the costs of covering members with serious illnesses.

As a result, several big insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc, Aetna Inc and Humana Inc, are pulling out of the online marketplaces selling the subsidized plans, citing bigger than expected financial losses.

Monthly premium prices have climbed, which further discourages some people from signing up.

"Next year will tell whether those are growing pains, or they are more serious issues," Drew Altman, chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an interview.

Analysis conducted by the nonpartisan foundation suggests at least 16 million people need to enroll before the online Obamacare insurance marketplaces stabilize.

Obama credits the Affordable Care Act, one of his main legislative achievements, with reducing the number of uninsured Americans from 49 million in 2010 to 29 million in 2015, according to an August article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Much of the decline is due to the law's provision allowing states to expand Medicaid health coverage for the poor.

The law also prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans if they already had medical problems, and allowed parents to keep children insured on their health plans until age 26.

Some health policy experts on both the political left and right say Congress may be more receptive to bipartisan efforts to fix the Affordable Care Act after its creator leaves office. Some Republican governors who refused to expand Medicaid may also be more willing to do so after the election.

"I think the piece of Obamacare that people don't like is Obama," Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's former Health and Human Services secretary who oversaw the program's launch, said in an interview. "This has become a very personal battle about this president, which is I think really unfortunate."


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German Pharma, Transport Sectors To Feel Most Brexit Pain: Study

By Paul Carrel
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Germany's pharmaceutical and transport industries - including the aerospace and rail construction businesses - are likely to suffer most from Britain leaving the European Union, a study showed on Thursday.

The Mannheim-based ZEW think tank found these sectors were the most exposed in Germany to the fallout from Brexit but that smaller European countries would take a bigger trade hit.

It said countries such as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium would suffer more than Germany, which has a high degree of diversification of trading partners and business sectors.

Brun-Hagen Hennerkes, chairman of the Family Enterprise Foundation which commissioned the research, said the economic fallout from Brexit was nonetheless hard to predict.

"Even if the German economy is doing well and tax revenues are churning, no one can really foresee the consequences of Brexit," he said in a statement. "No one should rely on the monetary policy of ECB President Mario Draghi."

Fighting the risk of deflation, the European Central Bank has cut interest rates into negative territory, regularly offers banks free loans and has already bought over 1 trillion euros of assets, hoping to boost lending, economic growth and in turn inflation.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she would invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty by the end of March next year, starting a two-year divorce procedure.


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China's Xi Hopes Duterte's Visit Can Fully Improve Ties

By Ben Blanchard
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that he hopes Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's "milestone" visit to China could help "fully improve" ties between the two countries, which have suffered over disputes in the South China Sea.

Duterte arrived in Beijing on Tuesday with at least 200 top business people to pave the way for what he calls a new commercial alliance, amid deteriorating relations with longtime ally the United States.

The effort to engage China, months after a Hague ruling over South China Sea disputes in favor of the Philippines, marks a reversal in Philippine foreign policy since Duterte took office on June 30.

Xi told Duterte during a meeting at Beijing's Great Hall of the People that China and the Philippines are brothers and that the two sides could appropriately handle disputes, though he did not specifically mention the South China Sea row.

Duterte pressed his message that he wished to improve cooperation with China, saying the roots of the two countries' bonds could not be easily severed and that it was a "springtime" in relations.

Duterte's congenial tone in Beijing is in contrast to the language he has used with long-time ally Washington, having called U.S. President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch", and railed against U.S. criticism of his war on drugs, which has led to the deaths of 2,300 people.

China has welcomed the Philippines' policy shift, even as Duterte has vowed not to surrender any sovereignty to Beijing, which views the South China Sea maritime ruling as null and void.


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Tesla Says Self-Driving Hardware To Be Built Into All Its Cars

By Alexandria Sage
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Wednesday all new Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA.O) models will come with hardware to enable them to be fully self-driving, as the Silicon Valley electric car company bids to be the first among many rivals to get autonomous vehicles on the road.

The company said that its Model S and Model X electric cars are already being produced with the new hardware, which includes eight cameras, 12 updated sensors, and radar with faster processing.

The new hardware package will cost $8,000, Musk told reporters on a conference call. The software to enable fully autonomous operation is still being tested, he said.

Musk said he expects that by the end of 2017 a Tesla would be able to drive in full autonomous mode from Los Angeles to New York "without the need for a single touch" on the wheel.

He has set ambitious deadlines for Tesla many times, only to see timetables slip. Rival automakers have said they expect to be able to field autonomous driving capability by 2019 or 2021.

Meanwhile, older Tesla vehicles without the additional cameras, sensors and upgraded processors will not be able to drive autonomously, although their Autopilot software would continue to be improved, Musk said.

For a time, cars with the new hardware will have less capability to assist drivers with steering or braking than older cars running Tesla's Autopilot, Musk said. By December, he said, he expects the newer models to reach parity with the older vehicles.

Musk said the software system is being built in-house and will run on an Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) Titan chip.

Vanity Purchase?


It is unclear how Tesla's future autonomous driving system will be greeted by regulators. Musk said it will be twice as safe as a human driver. However, federal and state regulators in the United States are proposing new, more rigorous standards to control the development and deployment of such systems.

Edmunds Inc analyst Jessica Caldwell questioned the value of purchasing a self-driving car before regulations catch up, calling it a "vanity purchase" that cannot be used in the real world.

In the meantime, rival carmakers could introduce better solutions, Caldwell said, potentially making Tesla's hardware "obsolete almost as soon as it's activated for prime time."

Most notably, Tesla has chosen not to include Lidar laser-based sensors, a tool most other car makers believe is necessary for full autonomy.

Tesla's self-driving announcement is the latest in a series of efforts over the last few months by Musk to maintain investor interest in Tesla as its stock price has fallen. The company is expected to raise more cash from capital markets within the next 12 months.

Shares of the company, which closed on Wednesday at $203.56, have fallen 23 percent since an April high, as the company has suffered a difficult few months.

The death in May of a Tesla driver using the company's Autopilot system, which prompted an investigation by safety regulators, and the decision to acquire money-losing rooftop solar developer SolarCity Corp (SCTY.O), have increased scrutiny on Tesla's financial and regulatory challenges.


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Nintendo To Release Next-Generation Console Teaser

By Makiko Yamazaki
Reuters
October 20, 2016

Japan's Nintendo Co Ltd said it will release a short video later on Thursday of the next-generation game console it plans to launch globally in March - an announcement that sent its shares up more than 4 percent.

The Kyoto-based games company has disclosed few details of the console beyond its codename, NX. The three-minute video will be available to watch on the company's website at 11 p.m. (1400 GMT).

The console's success will be crucial to Nintendo as the firm still places console gaming at the center of its business, even as casual gaming shifts from living rooms to smartphones.

Sales of Nintendo's current Wii U console have reached 13 million units since its 2012 launch. Its predecessor, the Wii, launched in 2006, sold 101 million units.

The disappointing sales added impetus to shareholders and observers urging Nintendo to embrace smartphone gaming. Earlier this year, Nintendo finally decided to bring some of its popular characters to mobile, leading to the runaway success of its game Pokemon GO.

Shares of Nintendo rose as much as 4.4 percent during Thursday trade in Tokyo, outpacing the broader Nikkei average share price index.


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Another North Korea Missile Fails After Launch, Say U.S. And South Korea

By Ju-min Park and Eric Walsh
Reuters
October 20, 2016

North Korea test-fired a missile that failed immediately after launch early on Thursday, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said, hours after the two countries agreed to step up efforts to counter the North's nuclear and missile threats.

The missile was believed to be an intermediate-range Musudan and was launched from the western city of Kusong, where the isolated state attempted but failed to launch the same type of missile on Saturday, the U.S. Strategic Command and South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The launch came shortly after the United States and South Korea agreed in Washington to bolster military and diplomatic efforts to counter the North's nuclear and missile programs, which it is pursuing in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The failed missile launch was the eighth attempt in seven months by the North to launch a weapon with a design range of 3,000 km (1,800 miles) that can be fired from road mobile launchers, the two militaries said.

"We strongly condemn the North's continued illegal acts of provocation," the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Japan condemned the launch and said it would make a formal protest to the North through its embassy in Beijing.

North Korea has been conducting activities related to its nuclear and missile programs at an unprecedented pace this year in defiance of U.N. sanctions and diplomatic pressure and is believed to be making progress in its efforts to develop a nuclear missile.

In June, North Korea launched a Musudan missile that flew about 400 km (250 miles), more than half the distance to Japan, a flight that was considered a success by officials and experts in South Korea and the United States.

After Wednesday's talks in Washington between U.S. and South Korean foreign and defense ministers, the countries said they would set up a high-level group to leverage "the full breadth of national power – including diplomacy, information, military coordination, and economic elements" in the face of the North Korean threat.

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking before the failed missile launch, said the United States would do "whatever is necessary" to defend itself, South Korea and other allies against North Korea.

Kerry and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter reaffirmed that any attack by North Korea would be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons "met with an effective and overwhelming response," a joint statement said.

As part of the military effort, Kerry said the United States would deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system to South Korea "as soon as possible".

China strongly opposes deployment of the U.S. system, saying it would impinge on its own strategic deterrence.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, also speaking in Washington before the failed launch, said North Korea was nearing the "final stage of nuclear weaponisation" and the allies would mobilize "all tools in the toolkit" to defend themselves.

A U.S. aerospace expert, John Schilling, said this week in a report on the 38 North project that despite the failures, the pace of testing could enable the North to put the Musudan missile into operational service sometime next year.


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Samsung's Biggest Mistake

By Adam Minter
The Bloomberg View
October 20, 2016

This week, Samsung representatives are standing by at some of the world's busiest airports, ready to exchange Galaxy Note 7 phones for something new and less combustible. After dozens of fires, two recalls and the complete cancellation of the product, the U.S. government on Saturday warned that anyone knowingly bringing a Galaxy Note 7 and its potentially explosive battery onto a plane could be subject to criminal prosecution.

There's plenty of reason to blame Samsung for this debacle. It rushed the phone to market. It didn't subject the batteries to independent testing, as its competitors routinely do. It was slow to acknowledge the scale of the problem. And it failed to properly coordinate its response with regulators.

But perhaps Samsung's biggest mistake was one common to many phone makers: In the race to make the slimmest devices possible, it created a product that can no longer be easily repaired or refurbished. For years, this trend has been harmful to consumers and the environment; now it's clear that it can hurt a manufacturer's bottom line and reputation, too.

The immediate problem with the Galaxy Note 7 is a manufacturing defect that makes its batteries prone to short-circuiting and combustion. That didn't need to be a fatal flaw: As recently as 2014, one of the top selling points for Galaxy Note phones was that a user could switch out the battery pack with ease. If the Note 7's batteries could have been quickly replaced, the toll of the current crisis would have been far smaller.

In 2015, however, Samsung began to transition away from replaceable batteries. It wanted to produce a thinner device, which made accessing interior components more difficult. And it wanted to make its phones waterproof, which required embedding batteries and made DIY repair a fantasy except for the most competent technicians. (One expert recently explained that replacing a Note 7 battery requires "blasting the back of the phone with hot air, prying away the glass and pulling out a layer of components before going after the battery with a tiny plastic crowbar.")

Samsung's new approach offered one other advantage. Replacing batteries is now a high-margin business for phone makers. Apple charges $79 to swap out a battery on an out-of-warranty iPhone 6, even though replacement kits, complete with tools, can be found online for less than $30. Those who already have the tools -- such as the fast-growing independent phone-repair industry -- can purchase the batteries online for less than $10. Samsung had the same idea: It costs $45 for an authorized service center to swap out a battery for the premium S6. But many owners will simply upgrade instead of going through the trouble. And that's precisely what the manufacturers want: An overly expensive battery replacement is really just the starting point for upselling a new phone.

The Note 7 recall is a blunt reminder that, in a crisis, those harder-to-repair phones can become a vast liability. Instead of switching out 2.5 million batteries, Samsung is now preparing to "dispose" of 2.5 million phones, at a cost that will easily exceed $1 billion, not to mention long-term reputational damage.

And the cost to the environment may be steeper. By one estimate, the average new phone requires 165 pounds of raw materials, including gold, copper, rare earths and oil. Even under the best circumstances, recyclers can recover only a small percentage of such ingredients. Samsung hasn't disclosed what it plans to do with all those recalled phones, but it's a safe bet that it will amount to an enormous waste.

It doesn't need to be this way. Manufacturers are fully capable of designing products for easier repairs, and some are doing so. When Apple designed the iPhone 7 to be water resistant, it didn't rely on adhesives but instead opted for repair-friendly gaskets and sealsFairPhone, a Dutch social enterprise, has sold tens of thousands of premium modular phones that allow customers to snap out batteries with ease. LG has carved out a profitable niche making high-end phones that do the same.

These companies are figuring out something that the auto industry realized years ago: There's a market for durable products that can be repaired and upgraded, either in a driveway or at a service center. Repairable devices can be a hedge against a Note 7-type recall. They also allow companies to make money over the lifespan of their products by selling replacement parts, while cementing long-term relationships with their customers. Auto dealerships mastered this art long ago. Samsung, when it finishes cleaning up the mess left behind by the Note 7, should try to do the same.


Article Link To The Bloomberg View:

Saudi Arabia Launches $17.5 Billion Bond Sale To Global Investors

Sale could be biggest-ever emerging-market debt issue; comes as kingdom works to keep economy afloat as oil income dwindles.


By Carolyn Cui, Ahmed Al Omran, and Christoper Whittall
The Wall Street Journal
October 20, 2016

Banks and investors flocked to buy Saudi Arabia’s first global bonds, a milestone in the giant oil producer’s efforts to diversify its economy and embrace global financial markets.

The $17.5 billion sale, the largest-ever debt sale by a developing country, marks a crucial step for the kingdom as it undertakes an ambitious plan to move away from decades of dependence on oil revenue, which has fallen in recent years along with the global crude price, and to accelerate growth in its private sector.

Strong demand for the debt, sold primarily to U.S. investors in a private placement and to Asian institutions, allowed the Saudis to reduce the yields below initial marketing plans while reaching out to an expanding investor base.

The offering attracted about $67 billion in orders, according to one investor familiar with the deal. Five-year bonds paid a yield of about 2.58%, compared with initial guidance of 2.83%. Ten-year notes yielded around 3.4%, and 30-year bonds were priced at 4.62%, both lower than initial guidance.

Wednesday’s sale is the latest in a flurry of efforts to broaden the economy by Saudi officials seeking to close a widening budget gap that the government expects to reach $87 billion this year. The country in April borrowed $10 billion from a group of international banks, its first foreign borrowing in more than a decade. It is preparing to list part of its state oil giant, Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, in 2018 and created a new sovereign-wealth fund to invest its reserves more aggressively in hopes of higher returns.

Buyers cited the appeal of above-average yields for a large, relatively rich country at a time of ultralow global interest rates and soft growth, as well as recent stability in the price of crude oil. Oil prices Wednesday rose 2.6% to $51.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a one-year high and well above the 13-year low hit earlier this year of less than $30 a barrel.

“This is a huge boost to sentiment,” said Florence Eid-Oakden, chief economist at Arabia Monitor, a London-based research and strategy firm. “They now know they can tap the international market at a reasonable rate and with amounts that are record shattering.”

Yet many analysts and investors remain skeptical of the Saudi turnaround story, which will force the nation to sharply cut subsidies in what could be a difficult economic rebalancing, and many cited lingering questions about the kingdom’s commitment to providing clear information on economic development and investment risks to bond buyers.



Some money managers said they bought in because the giant bond offering will be a significant part of certain global bond indexes. Some Middle Eastern banks that do business with Riyadh also gobbled up bonds, people familiar with matter said.

Marco Santamaria, co-head of the emerging-markets team at AllianceBernstein, said he bought the bonds to pick up yield at a time when interest rates among more stable countries are low or negative.

Saudi Arabia, he said, “is facing significant challenges coming from falling oil prices and requiring some significant expenditure adjustments. The borrowing needs are quite large.”

Others passed, saying the kingdom didn’t offer enough yield for the inherent risks of a country undergoing dramatic change or because they said Saudi officials weren’t sufficiently forthcoming. The Saudi Ministry of Finance didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The kingdom is trying to wean itself away from crude and create new jobs for a fast-growing young population in a country that has long depended on government spending and cheap foreign labor.

Saudi Arabia’s fiscal deficit widened to about 16% of nominal gross domestic product in 2015, as oil income tumbled. With income from crude exports accounting for nearly three-quarters of government revenue, the kingdom posted a record deficit of $98 billion last year. It is also embroiled in costly conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Saudi Arabia’s plan to overhaul the economy has been dubbed Vision 2030 and is led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a 31-year-old son of the king. It calls for giving the kingdom access to different sources of financing and relaxing rules on investment to attract foreign investors to the Saudi stock market.

Beyond the borrowing and Aramco sale, Saudi officials have taken other steps. Japanese technology company SoftBank Group Corp.said this month it is teaming with Saudi Arabia to create an investment fund with plans to invest as much as $100 billion in tech companies, part of the kingdom’s effort to lessen its dependence on oil.



Even on the energy front, Saudi Arabia is trying to diversify. Khalid al-Falih, Saudi energy minister and chairman of Aramco, said at a London industry conference Wednesday that the state oil company plans to boost its refining and chemicals business and expand into cleaner energy such as nuclear power.

The sale surpasses a $16.5 billion bond offering that Argentina sold earlier this year, a record at the time for a developing country. Investors buying those bonds cited a belief in Argentina’s promise as an economic turnaround story. Argentina sold bonds between three years to 30 years, with the benchmark 10-year note yielding at 7.5%.

Amy Kam, an investment manager at GAM Holding in London, said there are early signs of Saudi Arabia diversifying its economy, but there have yet to be material changes.

She placed orders for the five-year bonds because the recent discussions among members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries about a production cut gave her the “expectation there could be some stability” in crude prices.

Some investors said Saudi efforts to curb its budget deficit and limit public spending didn’t carry over to the bond’s roadshow. Some officials flew into the U.S. on private jets and held a glitzy luncheon event at Manhattan’s luxury St. Regis hotel, according to investors who attended the event.`

Richard House, head of emerging-market debt at Standard Life Investments in London, said he didn’t buy the Saudi bonds because he thought the price was too high. But he also said he left roadshow meetings with Saudi officials uncertain how the economic plan would work.

“It’s hard not to believe their intentions,” Mr. House said. “How they go about doing it, they weren’t really that clear.”


Article Link To The Wall Street Journal:

After A Sedate Start, Donald Trump Takes The Bait

The GOP nominee returns to familiar, feisty ground against Democrat Hillary Clinton


By Gerald F. Seib
The Wall Street Journal
October 20, 2016

For a while Wednesday night, at this year’s final presidential debateDonald Trump was a more sedate and persuasive candidate, the one who calmly explains his positions while avoiding verbal fisticuffs.

Then his favorite topic—building a wall to stop illegal immigration across the southern border—came up, and Democrat Hillary Clinton said Mr. Trump met Mexico’s president and failed to repeat face-to-face his demand that Mexico pay for building that wall. “He choked,” she said.

At that point, the tenor of the evening changed. If Mrs. Clinton was baiting Mr. Trump, he took the bait. He considers himself a master counterpuncher, and he began punching back.

She kept punching, on all sorts of topics. A familiar, nasty cloud descended over the conversation, and a kind of downward spiral began, until Mr. Trump said Mrs. Clinton shouldn’t even have been allowed to run. Then, stunningly, he refused to say he would honor the results of the election. “What I’m saying, I will tell you at the time,” he said. “I will keep you in suspense.” That is unprecedented and will be the answer for which this debate will be remembered.

It’s also an answer that will leave other Republicans scrambling. They already had been distancing themselves from his earlier comments that voting would be “rigged.” Casting doubt on the validity of voting is an invitation to the party’s own supporters not to bother voting, other Republicans fear, and GOP candidates up and down the ballot hope to win in November in elections that are seen as fair and valid.

In sum, for a debate that had a refreshingly substantive start, the tense and nasty exchanges that led to that moment, and the ones that followed it, took the front seat. To that extent, it felt a bit like a repeat, and one that seemed unlikely to change the shape of the race—which, if so, is to the advantage of Mrs. Clinton, the clear leader heading into the night.

Mr. Trump accused Mrs. Clinton of wanting to open the nation’s borders and having criminally destroyed 33,000 emails from her private server. She, in turn, said he would be a Russian “puppet” who has encouraged the Kremlin to hack into the email systems of her supporters to influence the outcome of the election.

He accused her of running a “very sleazy campaign” that hired thugs to disrupt his campaign rallies. She said he has been discovered to be a predator to women and denied it by insulting women.

She said he is unqualified to have the codes to the country’s nuclear weapons. He said she was responsible for the birth of Islamic State. She stayed on the attack, on his tax returns, on his use of immigrant labor and onward, and smiled as he responded. He grew angry and resumed interrupting her answers.

To anyone who has been listening, there was little new of substance. To the extent there was substance, both nominees appeared to be framing their arguments designed more to lock down their supporters than to expand their universe.

Mr. Trump answered initial questions, about the Supreme Court, by underscoring his support for gun rights and his desire for judges who would stand for those rights. She said she would seek justices who uphold liberal priorities including gay rights, restrictions on gun ownership and limits on campaign finance.

Similarly, on abortion, they spoke to the base of their parties, she delivering a passionate argument for abortion rights and he asserting he would be happy with a Supreme Court decision that overturns the Roe v. Wade decision establishing abortion rights, returning the issue to the states.

The two candidates entered the debate facing different but parallel strategic choices, reflecting both their relative standing in the polls and their potential paths through the remainder of the campaign.

For Mr. Trump, the question was whether to carry what amounts to his scorched-earth strategy—bash Mrs. Clinton as corrupt and dishonest and proclaim that the election and the political process is rigged—or pivot back to his populist economic message about lost jobs and bad trade deals. The latter approach might broaden out his appeal. But the former approach has ginned his base, and that along with dragging down Mrs. Clinton seem to be the primary goals of the Trump enterprise at this point.

Mrs. Clinton, by contrast, had to choose whether to duke it out with Mr. Trump on his terms, going on the attack on his personal flaws and answering his attacks in kind, or ignore that terrain and try to strike a more positive note in what was essentially her closing argument to voters.

The positive note had some appeal to Clinton advisers who would like to give wavering and uninspired voters reason to vote for her in the end. But the fear was that there also would be great danger in leaving Trump attacks unanswered. A whole series of Republican candidates tried that approach in the primary season and suffered as a result.

In the end, each tried a bit of both approaches available to them. It seems unlikely that the debate did little more than confirm the views of voters who already seem mostly locked in on their choices. Mr. Trump needed to shake up a race in which he is trailing, and Mrs. Clinton made clear she wasn’t going to sit back and allow him to find an opening to do that.


Article Link To The Wall Street Journal:

Poll: Clinton Clinches Third Debate Victory

By Ben Kamisar
The Hill
October 20, 2016

Hillary Clinton won CNN's instant after the third and final presidential debate Wednesday, giving her a clean sweep of the three matchups. 
 
The new poll results from late Wednesday night showed Clinton winning with 52 percent of debate watchers compared to 39 percent who thought Trump won the night.

Clinton's 13-point margin is the closest in CNN's polls of the three debates — she won with a 23-point margin during the second debate earlier this month and won the first debate in September by a 35-point margin in the same poll.

The debate served as the final cage-match for the presidential hopefuls with less than three weeks left before Election Day.

The candidates steered clear from personal attacks for the most part, a departure from the earlier debate. But Trump made the headlining comment of the night when he refused to promise to unilaterally abide by the results of the election.


Article Link To The Hill:

Campaign Manager: Trump Will Accept Results Because He'll Win

By Lisa Hagen
The Hill
October 20, 2016

Donald Trump's campaign manager late Wednesday said the candidate will accept the result of the presidential election — but only because he's going to defeat Hillary Clinton.

"Donald Trump will accept the results of the election because he will win the election, so they’ll be easy to accept,” Conway told CNN’s Dana Bash following the the year's final presidential debate.

At the Las Vegas bout, Trump refused to say he would accept the Election Day results and will keep the country in "suspense."

For weeks, Trump has repeatedly warned of "rigged" elections and made allegations of widespread voter fraud. His running mate, Mike Pence, urged supporters to monitor polling places to prevent fraud but has said the ticket will "absolutely" accept the election results.

"I will look at it at the time. I'm not looking at anything now," Trump said.

"The media is so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile-on is so amazing, The New York Times wrote an article about it. They don’t even care, it's so dishonest, they’ve poisoned the minds of the voters, but unfortunately for them, I think the voters are seeing through it.”

Clinton condemned his answer and called it "really troubling."

"This is how Donald thinks — it's funny, but it's really troubling. That is not the way our democracy works," Clinton said.

"We've been around for 240 years, we've had free and fair elections, we've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them, and that's what should be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election."


Article Link To The Hill:

Donald Trump Doesn’t Deserve America

He has assaulted our democracy throughout his entire campaign, and he was unrepentant in the final debate.


By Graham Vyse
The New Republic
October 20, 2016

Forget the relative normalcy of the first half of the final presidential debate on Wednesday. Disregard the fact that a low-energy Donald Trump managed to tone down his odiousness, keeping mostly to smirks and snide remarks and even a talking point or two. The key moment came near the end, when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump about his most galling pronouncement in this election—that he isn’t committed to accepting its outcome because it’s “rigged.”

Wallace tried reasoning with Trump. He noted that Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, haspledged to accept the will of the voters, as have members of Trump’s campaign. Wallace explained how America has a proud tradition of peaceful transitions of power between governments, with the loser conceding to the winner, and asked Trump, incredulously, whether he would really break from that norm. “Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?” he asked.

The Republican nominee, who has spent this entire campaign disregarding American’s best principles, remained noncommittal.

“I will tell you at the time,” he said. “I’ll keep you in suspense.”

As he has in recent days, Trump also raised the specter of voter fraud—“millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be”—even though it’s never been a widespread problem. He whined about media bias, ignoring the absurdity of believing the press can rig an election. And in the end, he simply couldn’t bring himself to pledge to accept the people’s verdict on November 8.

This, as Hillary Clinton said immediately afterward, is “horrifying.” She accused Trump of “denigrating and talking down our democracy”—and that’s exactly what he did. It’s what he’s been doing throughout his entire campaign.

Over and over, from the moment he announced his candidacy, Trump has shown not just that he’s unfit to lead the nation but that he’s at odds with the country’s fundamental values. He’s hostile to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. He’s a casual racist and a vicious sexist who rejects equality and practices prejudice regularly. And now he’s engaged in a dangerous attempt to de-legitimize our electoral system that could well end in violence.

This is why, simply put, Donald Trump doesn’t deserve America.

Over the course of Trump’s campaign, some of his most shocking affronts to our national character have come in his assault on the First Amendment—a beacon of true American exceptionalism if ever there were one. Instead of championing free speech, he seeks to crush it with an authoritarian fist, inciting violence against peaceful protestors and launching frivolous lawsuits to silence his critics. As Amanda Carpenter, a conservative commentator and former Ted Cruz aide, recently wrote, “Trump’s eagerness to use the courts and other agents of government power against his political opposition is not the mark of a leader. It’s a common trait among tyrants.”

Tyrants also commonly likes to silence journalists. Just last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists released an unprecedented statement “recognizing that a Trump presidency represents a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.” The group cataloged how Trump has vilified and demeaned reporters, expelled Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from his press conference, and refused to credential more than half a dozen major media organizations that cover him critically. He’s also promised to “open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

When it comes to America’s original founding freedom, religious liberty, Trump is even worse. One of his signature policy proposals is “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.” The plan has been condemned as “not what this country stands for” and an idea that comes “at the expense of our American values”—that was the verdict from House Speaker Paul Ryan. Another Republican, former Vice President Dick Cheney, was slightly firmer, saying the ban “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

Which isn’t to say Trump’s proposal was surprising coming from him, given the way he treats other marginalized minority groups. Trump said Gonzalo Curiel, an Indiana-born federal judge, couldn’t do his job impartially because of his Mexican heritage—a violation of the American ideal of equal opportunity. Ryan correctly called this “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Mark Kirk—both Republicans—were more to the point when they called the remark “un-American.”

At the top of the debate, Clinton identified what she sees as the central question of this election: “What kind of country do we want to be?” It’s a good question. Trump certainly knows what kind of country he wants it to be—and it starts by destroying some of America’s most cherished principles. Even when he spoke reverently of “the Constitution the way it was meant to be,” it became clear he meant the explicit appointment of pro-life judges and an even broader interpretation of his favorite amendment, the Second. That’s his plan for how to Make America Great Again: more guns, fewer individual rights, and a founding American document in shreds.


Article Link To The New Republic:

Trump's Reliance On WikiLeaks Discredits His Case Against Clinton

By Eli Lake
The Bloomberg View
October 20, 2016

To get an idea of how much Donald Trump has debased the party that nominated him, consider that he relies on an organization dedicated to disclosing state secrets to prosecute his opponent for endangering them.

This just came up at the third presidential debate. Trump bellowed about how the FBI and the attorney general colluded to let Hillary Clinton off for mishandling classified information when she used a private e-mail server as secretary of state. Trump said this alone should have disqualified her from seeking the presidency.

This charge would be more credible if it weren't coming from a man who tells his supporters that evidence of Clinton's criminality can be found in e-mails published by WikiLeaks, an organization whose unofficial motto is "We steal secrets."

The U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the e-mails of leading Democrats being released by WikiLeaks were stolen by hackers working for the Kremlin. As Clinton herself said, "The Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans."

For WikiLeaks this is not surprising. While it started out targeting all state secrets without preference, today the group is objectively in the pro-Russian camp. Julian Assange himself, the leader of WikiLeaks, has parroted the Russian line in recent years on issues like Ukraine and Syria. He briefly hosted a talk show distributed by the Russian state network, RT. A New York Times investigation published at the end of August concluded: "Whether by conviction, convenience or coincidence, WikiLeaks’ document releases, along with many of Mr. Assange’s statements, have often benefited Russia, at the expense of the West."

In this sense Assange is on the same page as Trump, who has praised Russian president Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and proposed a partnership with him in fighting terrorists in Syria. Last night he hemmed and hawed when asked to condemn Russia's role in hacking the e-mails of leading Democrats. Russia also came up in the second debate. When pressed about his running mate's suggestion that the U.S. should counter-escalate Russian aggression in Syria, Trump said he disagreed.

All of this is getting to be too much for some Republicans. One GOP lawmaker told me this week that Trump has ignored advice to stop praising Wikileaks, much like he has ignored advice on just about everything else. Senator Marco Rubio, whose position on Trump has vacillated from denunciation to endorsement to denunciation again, this week warned his party about the Wikileaks e-mails. He told ABC News that the leaks were part of a foreign government's campaign to interfere in the U.S. elections. "Today it is the Democrats," he said. "Tomorrow it could be us."

Rubio is in a position to know about these things. He sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and he has been a persistent critic of President Barack Obama's policy toward Russia. Had Rubio been the nominee, he would have likely seized on the administration's Russia policy to attack Clinton, who implemented a "reset" of relations with Moscow.

That is a worthy target for the party of Reagan. Representatives Devin Nunes and Mac Thornberry, the Republican chairmen of the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, this week released a letter to Obama blasting the White House for failing to punish Russia for its violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. They assert in the letter that Obama has stifled the military from pursuing policy options to address this.

Admittedly, this isn't as sexy as suggesting that Clinton should be drug tested or declining to say you will accept the results of the election. But what it lacks in reality-television pizazz, it makes up for in coherence. It also has the benefit of being true.

But Trump is in no position to argue that Clinton was too trusting of Russia when she was secretary of state. Clinton herself proved that in the third debate. When Trump attacked her for being out-smarted by Vladimir Putin, she turned the tables. She said Putin would rather have a puppet in the White House. Most years that would be considered a low blow. But in a year when Russia's cyber spies are trying to elect Trump, it's on the nose.


Article Link To The Bloomberg View:

Trump Looked Presidential - For About 30 Minutes

Well behind in most polls, he needed to beat Hillary decisively. He didn’t, especially when he declined to say he’d accept the election results.


By Jeff Greenfield
Politico
October 20, 2016

There was a half hour or so when it looked as if Donald Trump had finally absorbed the hopes, pleas, entreats, and desperate groveling of his most ardent supporters, and had decided to behave a serious, responsible candidate for president of the United States.

His voice was pitched low. He gave an answer on the Supreme Court that followed the mainstream conservative line, saying his nominees “will interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it interpreted and I believe that’s very important.” He even cited by name the Court’s Heller decision, which established an individual right to arms.

Trump cited examples to make his point about the costs of illegal immigration. (“I was up in New Hampshire the other day…heroin is pouring across their borders…"). When Clinton tried to turn the revelations about the Wikileaks to an attack on Russia, Trump responded: “Great pivot off the fact that you want open borders.”

And then, about a half hour in, the Donald Trump we have seen for the last year and half began to emerge: slowly at first, with the interruptions (“Wrong!”) and then with increasingly depressing familiarity, right up until the point where he refused to say he would recognize the results of the Nov. 8 election—plainly the headline of the night—and then spewed out: “You nasty woman!”

When the issue of Russian interference with the election came up, Trump didn’t acknowledge this was happening and then brushed aside the concerns of national security officials who have asserted that it is. All he said was: “I never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along with Russia, it wouldn't be so bad. Let me tell you, Putin has outsmarted her and Obama at every single step of the way.” When Clinton confronted him on his casual approach to nuclear weapons, he began what became a steady stream of “liar” accusations. Trump also appeared to oppose the U.S.-backed assault on Mosul, saying that only Iran would benefit (though he didn’t explain how), even though he’s based his presidential campaign on the pledge that he would destroy ISIS.

And when the question of his treatment of women arose, he did not even bother to follow Chris Wallace’s question and raise the issue of whether she had participated in attacking the women who had accused Bill Clinton of bad behavior.

Instead, he ignored the accusations of nine different women and said, “I didn't know any of these women. I didn't see these women. These women, the woman on the plane, I think they want either fame or her campaign did it. … If it wasn't, they get their ten minutes of fame, but they were all totally—it was all fiction. It was lies and it was fiction.”

But nothing demonstrated the limits of Trump’s ability to behave like a serious candidate than the simple question of whether he would abide by the results of the election. His running mate, his campaign manager, the GOP speaker of the House have all said in no uncertain terms that of course they would.

Trump’s answer: “I’ll look at it at the time. What I've seen is so bad. The media is so dishonest and so corrupt and the pile on is so amazing.”

An incredulous Wallace said: “But, sir, there is a tradition in this country, in fact, one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power and no matter how hard fought a campaign is that at the end of the campaign the loser concedes to the winner. … Are you saying you're not prepared now to commit to that principle? “

“I'll tell you at the time,” Trump said. “I'll keep you in suspense, okay?”

And that gave Clinton the opening for her best moment of the debate.

“It just shows you're not up to doing the job,” she said. “Let's be clear about what he's saying and what that means. He's denigrating and talking down our democracy. I, for one, am appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position. “

Perhaps if there had been four or five more debates scheduled, Trump would have been able to conduct a full, 90-minute debate worthy of a major party nominee for president. But this was the final debate, and Trump delivered an underwhelming performance at a moment when he’s well behind in most polls only three weeks from the election.


Article Link To Politico: