• FBI Had Plenty of Clues on Pipe Bomb Suspect

    WASHINGTON (AP) — As Cesar Sayoc entertained patrons as a DJ at the Ultra Gentlemen's Club, he could not have known that lab technicians and federal agents had linked DNA on two pipe bomb packages he was accused of sending prominent Democrats to a sample on file with Florida state authorities. Or that a fingerprint match had turned up on a separate mailing.
    Investigators scouring his social media accounts had found the same spelling mistakes on his online posts — "Hilary" Clinton, Deborah Wasserman "Shultz" — as on the mailings he'd soon be charged with sending.
    In the end, prosecutors who charged Sayoc with five federal crimes Friday say the fervent President Donald Trump supporter unwittingly left behind a wealth of clues about the mailed pipe-bombs.
    Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • How immigrants are saving Detroit

    Two years ago, Hamissi Mamba was living in Burundi. He came to Detroit as a refugee and joined his wife and young twin daughters who were already living in the U.S. — moving to a new country, navigating a new culture, mastering a new language. "I think that was a big challenge for me because I didn't even take a class. I've been watching cartoons with my girls," Mamba says. Quickly, he's gone from cartoon watcher to English-proficient budding restaurant owner in Detroit. Nine years ago, Time magazine ran a cover with a picture of urban American decay. "The Tragedy of Detroit: How a great city fell — and how it can rise again," read the front cover. Today, there are many signs of a comeback in Detroit: new businesses, stores, less urban blight, and more entrepreneurs giving it a go. Many private and public organizations, along with banks, are investing in the area's recovery. And like many Rust Belt cities, Detroit is trying to attract immigrants to help fuel that. "This is a dream come true," Mamba says, walking around the guts of his new space, currently under renovation. "This is going to be Baobab Fare, African restaurant." The restaurant will serve traditional African juices, coffee, and food. "Baobab is a tree, we find it in West Africa," Mamba says. "So, why baobab? Because we came here, the tree grew in the desert, and then is healthy and is strong, so we say, 'We are growing in Detroit.'" But how does a refugee with no experience running a restaurant get started? It can be very difficult for newcomers in the U.S. to get access to traditional lines of credit. Mamba won a $50,000 competition sponsored by the group Hatch Detroit — a contest where residents vote for the type of retail they want in their community. Mamba and his wife organized a pop-up restaurant during the contest. "We sold out over 100 dishes in 30 minutes, and they said, 'We're going to support you,'" Mamba says. "'We're going to vote [for] you.'" From there, Mamba got another $50,000 grant from Motor City Match, a private-public venture between the federal government, the city of Detroit, and the nonprofit the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. "Right now, immigrants are the only growing source of population in the city of Detroit," says Steve Tobocman, the director of Global Detroit, a group partly funded by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and dedicated to helping revive derelict neighborhoods by making Detroit more attractive and welcoming for immigrants. "Michigan is the only state that lost population in the 2010 census." Michigan's population has since stabilized and has grown by roughly 80,000 since the 2010 census, with foreign-born residents making up 6.4 percent of the state. That's only about half the national average, but relatively high compared with other Midwestern states. "They are a source of life and vibrancy, and they are creating jobs that help everyone in the community," says Tobocman, speaking at an Indian restaurant in a neighborhood known as "Banglatown," a community straddling the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck with a lot of South Asian residents. "[Immigrants] are providing retail services that make this community thrive, and providing a tax base. And frankly, occupancy to the vacant structures that are critical to retaining the African-American residents in the region so that this neighborhood doesn't fall the way that some of the more disinvested ones have." Rezaul Karim, originally from Bangladesh, runs the small store Everyday Super Discounts in Banglatown. He crams a lot of stuff into a small space: household items, toys, food, watches. "Almost everything," Karim says. Karim initially moved to Queens, New York, but quickly relocated to Detroit after a friend suggested checking it out. "I could have a job and the living cost is less than New York, so we survived easily here," he says. Karim isn't just supplying items for the neighborhood; he's creating jobs, too. "Right now, three employees excluding me, all from Bangladesh," Karim says. The new immigrant entrepreneurs pay taxes, both personal and property. And these business owners, like Karim, generate other economic activity. "He needs somebody to wash his windows," Tobocman says. "He needs to hire the truck driver." The Detroit area has also attracted a lot of high-skilled immigrants. One quarter of southeast Michigan's practicing physicians and half of the area's engineering PhDs are immigrants, according to research from Global Detroit. Many are lured to the area by automotive engineering jobs, and eventually, many job seekers become job creators — including people like Tel Ganesan, who is originally from India. Ganesan is the founder of Kyyba, an information technology staffing firm with 600 employees in the U.S. and 100 in India. "I'm also a full feature movie producer," says Ganesan. "I'm into so many things, I'm a serial entrepreneur." When the topic arises about recent shifts in the national mood toward immigrants in the U.S., Ganesan gets serious. He says he hasn't experienced anything negative himself, but warns that we can't become short-sighted. "We have to first ask the question: 'What made America the greatest nation on planet Earth?'" Ganesan says. "Because we are a melting pot, because we brought the best of the best from all around the globe, and we put them all together. And that is our strength, that will always be America's strength. And if you try to take that recipe away, we will not be as innovative, we not be as disruptive. Look at all the major companies that are created by the immigrants."

    Tel Ganesan, right, a self-described "serial entrepreneur," and Steve Tobocman, the director of Global Detroit | (Jason Margolis/Courtesy PRI's The World)

    One of Ganesan's spinoffs looks for ways to connect entrepreneurs from around Michigan, and he says he doesn't care if the people he's helping are from India, the U.S., or anywhere else. "Entrepreneurship is agnostic to nationality. The only thing that it cares about is how good is the idea, and can we make this idea into a reality is the question we ask," Ganesan says. "When you connect them, your ecosystem is powerful. It is almost like mimicking the Silicon Valley." And remember, Detroit was the nation's Silicon Valley a century ago, the technology capital of the world, in part driven — even back then — by foreign-born workers. Detroit still has a long way to go in its comeback. But civic and business leaders have taken pains to get out the message: If people from across the globe can speed up the city's revival, they're most welcome.

  • Making Sense of the Selling in the Stock Market

    Get the DealBook newsletter to make sense of major business and policy headlines — and the power-brokers who shape them. __________

    Some stock declines are more foreboding than others.

    The selling that has driven down the markets continued on Friday. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is down 9 percent from its peak in September, and on pace for its worst month since the 2008 financial crisis. Swoons like this one can be unnerving, in part because they suggest all is not well with the broader economy.

    But some of the selling may not augur much.

    Take technology stocks, whose recent declines have played a big role in dragging down the overall market. Shares of big tech companies have soared this year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index was up more than 17 percent at its peak this year and 55 percent since Donald J. Trump was elected president.

    That left tech stocks vulnerable to a sharp sell-off.

    That’s why the declines in shares of companies like Netflix and Amazon this month say more about their stock market valuations than the state of the wider economy.

    Earlier this year, Netflix was trading at 110 times the earnings Wall Street analysts expected the company to make over the next 12 months, according to FactSet. That multiple is many times that of the wider market and suggests that investors were confident Netflix would deliver on its ambitious goals. But big questions, including its ability to finance its growth and rising competition, hang over the company. The drop in Netflix’s stock is thus evidence of healthy skepticism, rather than kneejerk bearishness about its future.

    But other selling cannot be so easily shrugged off.

    Bank stocks are down a lot this year. That’s despite a strong economy, which typically leads to increased lending activity; rising interest rates, which have bolstered the profitability of banks’ core lending business; the tax cuts enacted last year, which had an outsize effect on bank profits; and hopes for deregulation. Yet the shares of Citigroup, the nation’s third largest bank, are down nearly 20 percent from their high earlier this year. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo are all down about 15 percent this year.

    If bank stocks are a barometer for the economy, their poor performance points to some of the questions that keep investors up at night. Will President Trump’s trade war soon start to do real damage to corporate earnings and the global economy? Will the Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases crimp economic activity by depriving companies and households of the loans they need to finance purchases?

    A rout helps investors decide what’s worth really worrying about. With the United States economy growing strongly, they may soon decide they’ve been freaking out too much. A sustained upturn in bank stocks may show that their optimism is returning. But if they remain in the doldrums, real trouble may lie ahead.

  • New York City has changed and small businesses have suffered

    Take a walk around the streets of Manhattan and you’ll notice something: there seems to be fewer small businesses around than ever before. Most of the storefronts that were for decades occupied by small-time merchants – assemblers, dressmakers and jewelers – are now taken up by nationally known brands such as Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Pret a Manger, Walgreens and other big companies. Where did all the small businesses go? And does it really matter? To some, it does. “Psychologists and neuroscientists who study the streets have shown that the monotony of chain stores makes people depressed,” said Jeremiah Moss a licensed clinical social worker psychoanalyst and small-business person. “Senior citizens age faster when they live on blocks with chains instead of small businesses. A diversity of stable mom and pops both improves and extends our lives. But that diversity is being destroyed by unregulated greed. The city’s small business crisis could also be considered a public health crisis.” Moss is also the author of Vanishing New York, a book about how New York is “losing its soul”. He shared his concerns in front of a New York City Council meeting this past week where a not-so-new bill, called the Small Business Jobs Survival Act was being debated. According to the Gothamist, the decades-old bill, which last had a hearing about nine years ago, was resurrected by Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) and 22 other councilmembers. It would require landlords to give their commercial tenants 180-day notice about their intentions to renew their lease and a “legally valid reason” if they couldn’t. If not provided, tenants would be allowed to renew their existing leases for another ten years or go to arbitration. It’s meant to protect the small business owner. Not surprisingly, landlords are not happy. “The market is working,” Steve Soutendijk, a retail broker with Cushman & Wakefield said in the Gothamist report. “It’s imperative we let the forces of supply and demand do their job.” “Big rents translate into tax dollars,” said Joanne Podell, the firm’s executive vice chair. “Self-regulation can be painful, but it really works.” Even supporters of the bill admit there are flaws. A city official thinks that relying on arbitration would put a strain on resources and give wealthier landlords the upper-hand. He also believes that the bill’s regulations would make landlords less likely to offer leases to new businesses. Others feel that the bill, as currently written, would apply to all commercial tenants – even large ones like McDonald’s and Goldman Sachs and therefore put landlords at a significant disadvantage. Both the mayor’s office and the New York City bar liken it to rent control. More importantly, no one really seems to know how many of New York’s estimated 230,000 small businesses would actually benefit. “We don’t have good information. And there is a proposal to legislate in a data vacuum,” said John H Banks, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, in the hearing. He argued, according to Bedford+Bowery, that the decision should be made “based on fact and data, not anecdote”. People are upset because so many small businesses seem to be closing. Taxes, subsidies and other support programs were suggested at the hearing. But is this problem being blown out of proportion? I’m a small-business advocate. I get that there are a lot fewer independent shops, restaurants and owner-managed firms in New York City today than, say, 60 years ago. But I’m also realist. And the reality is: it’s not 1958. People are not complaining. In New York, there are thousands of restaurants and stores – both independently and corporate owned – providing better quality products, faster services and at a lower cost than ever before in American history. The smart shop owners have moved online and the best entrepreneurs are building things out of their homes, writing code, blogging, marketing, designing, analyzing, contracting, sharing workspaces, driving cars and opening up their townhouses and apartments to fee-paying visitors. Many more are freelancers, independents and franchisees who depend on those big chains for their livelihoods. Maybe leasing space is better left to those who really need to do it. In today’s economy, many startups have realized that having a landlord is more of a hindrance than a benefit. New York City has changed. America has changed. Some small businesses have suffered because of it. But many others have prospered. Maybe instead of governments dusting off old bills to prop up a dying breed of proprietors, more should be invested in infrastructure and services that will support our future generations of entrepreneurs.

  • Left warns Democrats in tax reform fight

    Liberal activists who hounded the GOP throughout its failed Obamacare repeal bid are gearing up to hit any Democrat who strays from the fold on tax cuts for the wealthy — including some of the party’s most politically vulnerable incumbents. Democrats were spared the sight of their progressive base battling centrists on Obamacare, which proved a uniquely unifying issue for both wings of the party. But there’s no guarantee that taxes will be another kumbaya moment for Democratic leaders, who have long struggled to contain tensions between red-state lawmakers facing tough reelections and a grass roots emboldened by resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. Read more...

  • Trump dumps CEOs before more could abandon him

    Some of America’s top CEOs were preparing to issue a statement criticizing the president — so he effectively fired them from a White House council first. President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he was ending two business advisory councils amid a stampede of defections and after one of the groups had decided to disband over the president's much-criticized response to the weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Va. A person close to Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum said the group had already told the White House it had resolved to disband and condemn the president's Tuesday claims that "both sides" were responsible for violence at a white supremacist and neo-Nazi gathering and that some "very fine people" were among the marchers defending a Confederate statue. Read more...

  • Investors cool on Canadian banks, turn to insurers, amid housing fears

    Investors are losing enthusiasm for Canada’s banking stocks as a slowdown in the country’s housing market dents banks’ growth prospects, and they see insurance companies as a better bet to benefit from higher interest rates. Home sales in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, plummeted more than 40 per cent in July from a year earlier and prices were down nearly 19 per cent from April following the introduction of a range of measures designed to cool a housing market amid fears of a bubble, including a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers. The slowdown in home sales has investors concerned about the impact on Canadian banks, which derive a big chunk of their earnings from residential mortgages. Read more...

  • Turkey Sees Foes at Work in Gold Mines, Cafes and ‘Smurf Village’

    LONDON — Akin Ipek, one of Turkey’s richest men, was staying in the Park Tower Hotel in London when the police raided his television network in Istanbul. The raid was national news, so Mr. Ipek opened his laptop and watched an unnerving spectacle: an attack on his multibillion-dollar empire, in real time.

    It was an oddly cinematic showdown. Through a combination of shouting and persuasion, the network’s news editor convinced the officers that they should leave, then locked himself in the basement control room with a film crew. For the next seven and a half hours, until the police returned, the news editor spoke into a camera and took calls on his iPhone. One was from Mr. Ipek, who denounced the government’s action as illegal.

    “I was shocked and angry,” Mr. Ipek said in a recent interview in London. “But I thought they would leave after a couple days. There was no reason to stay.”

    Actually, the government never left, and the events were the start of a personal cataclysm for Mr. Ipek. His station, Bugun TV, was taken off the air a few hours after that phone call, on Oct. 28, 2015. His entire conglomerate of 22 companies, Koza Ipek, is now owned and operated by the state.

    Read more...

  • ‘Canada is Hot Right Now’: Port Cities Expect Spike in Cruise Visitors this Summer

    MONTREAL—Canadian port cities expect to get an economic boost this summer from an influx of cruise visitors attracted by a low loonie and the country’s 150th birthday celebrations. Ports across Atlantic Canada, Quebec and British Columbia are anticipating a surge in cruise traffic. “Canada is hot right now,” Pierre Bellerose of Montreal’s tourism board said in an interview. With the opening in May of a $78-million refurbished passenger terminal, the Port of Montreal anticipates the number of cruise passengers and crew members will be up 28 per cent from last year to 110,000 as the city is celebrates its 375th birthday and Canada’s sesquicentennial. “The Port of Montreal is at the heart of those celebrations,” said port CEO Sylvie Vachon. “We know that maritime trade has played an important role in the development of the city and the entire country.”
    The extra passengers are expected to generate an additional $5.5 million in local spending, raising the total this year to about $30 million, says Tourisme Montreal. Ports in Atlantic Canada are also anticipating double-digit increases in 2017 above the nearly 600,000 passengers that landed last year, said Brian Webb, executive director of Cruise Atlantic Canada. “It’s looking great across the board, so every single port looks to be seeing increases,” he said from Nova Scotia.
    Newfoundland and Labrador is expecting a record cruise season with an expected 99,266 passenger and crew visits, up from 50,448 passenger and crew visits in 2016. “We’re definitely excited about the increases because it will mean increased economic activity,” Webb added. While in Canadian ports, cruise ship passengers spent almost $262 million or nearly $150 per person in 2012, according to the latest study conducted by the industry. Average spending was highest in B.C. ports, which accounted for 54 per cent of the more than two million passenger visits and 77 per cent of spending. A new study is slated to be released this spring. Webb attributed most of the growth in visitors to the low value of the Canadian dollar which encouraged cruise lines a couple of years ago to add routes this summer. Canada’s birthday celebrations, the Tall Ships gathering in Halifax from July 29 to Aug. 1 and increased tourism efforts across the region are also contributing factors, said Lane Farguson, spokesman for the Port of Halifax. The Port of Halifax, largest in Atlantic Canada, welcomed 238,000 cruise passengers in 2016, up seven per cent from the prior year. “And things are looking very, very strong for the year ahead,” he said, noting that the favourable currency makes cruising in Canada a cost-effective option for America visitors. Although the number of vessels calling at Halifax decreased last year, the port is seeing larger ships, with the Royal Caribbean’s 4,100-passenger Anthem-of-the-Seas setting a record for most passengers last fall. In Vancouver, Canada’s largest port anticipates a strong cruise season after seeing volumes grow three per cent in 2016 to 830,000 passengers, mainly on Alaskan cruise itineraries. Prince Rupert, B.C., foresees a doubling of the smaller cruise ships that will come ashore at the port on the cruising route near the Alaskan border. “For Prince Rupert, a community of 14,000 people, it’s a significant driver to the economy when a cruise ship sails into Prince Rupert it increases the population by about 13 per cent so it has a huge impact on the local economy,” said port CEO Don Krusel.
    Read More..

  • Canadian Firms Upbeat About post-election U.S. Growth: Survey

    After downgrading its forecast in October, the Bank of Canada offered a rosier outlook Monday for the Canadian economy in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, as businesses in this country anticipate gains from stronger growth stateside. In its winter 2016-17 business sentiment survey, Canada’s central bank says the new U.S. administration is expected to underpin commodity price gains, although concerns over rising consumer costs and trade protectionism in the U.S. cloud the horizon. Companies are generally more optimistic about future sales than at this time last year, and plan to boost investment and hiring as domestic and U.S. demand picks up, the bank said. In its survey last January —when West Texas crude traded below $32 (U.S.) per barrel — the bank forecast a downturn in business spending along with sluggish GDP growth. The bank in its summer 2015 survey of business sentiment found low oil prices undermining confidence and presaged another rate cut that occurred later that year.
    Last October, the central bank held its benchmark interest rate at 0.5 per cent, but cut its economic forecasts through 2018, citing a rebound in the export sector that had not materialized as anticipated. But the bank in its business outlook released Monday said “forward-looking measures of business activity have improved as domestic sales growth gains momentum.” The outlook is based on interviews conducted late last year with about 100 executives from representative firms across the economy. “The drag from the oil price shock and related spillovers is gradually dissipating, and demand growth remains steady in less-affected regions. Foreign demand continues to support export prospects.”
    Overall, the survey said companies expected faster sales growth over the next 12 months, with support anticipated from services, housing and tourism. Exporters cited the weaker Canadian dollar and stronger U.S. demand as the most important supporting factors for improving sales expectations. The survey also found stronger investment intentions among firms for the coming year, especially in Central and Eastern Canada, as well as more-widespread hiring expectations in most sectors and regions. Some respondents to the bank’s survey said suppliers are moving to stabilize or increase prices following cuts over the past two years, or to pass on anticipated increases in commodity costs. The bank said inflation expectations edged up in the survey period from a low level and remain concentrated in the lower half of the bank’s inflation-control range of 1 to 3 per cent. Most respondents pointed to hiring plans over the next 12 months, although the bank said “material excess slack remains” in staffing at resource-related businesses. And the bank said some companies were optimistic about potential moves by the incoming Trump administration. “Firms’ views . . . are divided: some are optimistic about the prospect of increased infrastructure and military spending as well as changes in energy policies, while others are more pessimistic, often because of the risk of increased protectionism,” the central bank said.
    Read More..

  • Trump Reverses: Transition is Going ‘Very, Very Smoothly’

    President-elect Donald Trump’s transition into the White House is going “very, very smoothly,” he said Wednesday afternoon, hours after complaining on Twitter that President Barack Obama’s “roadblocks” had made for a rough changeover of power. When asked by pool reporters whether he thought the transition was going smoothly, Trump replied: “Oh, I think very, very smoothly. Very good. You don't think so?” The reversal apparently comes after Trump and Obama spoke privately. “He phoned me,” Trump told reporters. “We had a very nice conversation.” Trump, however, would not say whether he broached his roadblock allegations in his conversation with the president. “We had a very general conversation,” he said. “Very, very nice. Appreciated that he called.” Later, he told reporters outside his Mar-a-Lago residence that he and Obama "had a good talk about things. He was in Hawaii. It was a very nice call and I actually thought we covered a lot of territory. "Our staffs are getting along very well. And I'm getting along very well with him, other than a couple of statements that I responded to and we talked about it and smiled about it. And nobody is ever going to know because we're never going to be going against each other in that way. It was a great conversation." After weeks of warm words and promises of a smooth transition in the wake of perhaps the most contentious presidential election in modern history, Trump accused Obama in a Wednesday morning tweet of throwing up “roadblocks.” “Doing my best to disregard the many inflammatory President O statements and roadblocks,” he wrote, referring to the president by his initial. “Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT!” The two men, who had little positive to say about each other on the campaign trail, seemingly buried the hatchet during an Oval Office meeting that took place just days after Trump’s surprising victory in last month’s election. Obama and Trump have spoken multiple times since then and both expressed interest in a seamless transition between administrations. Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday during the transition team's daily conference call for reporters that "as the inauguration gets closer, both the current president and his team have been very helpful and generous with their time as far as the actual transition, the mechanics of the transition have gone, and I expect them to continue to speak fairly regularly.” But Spicer also refused to tone down his boss' Twitter rhetoric, telling reporters that the president-elect's social media posts "speak for themselves, I think very clearly." The budding relationship between the president and president-elect has frayed in recent weeks, first over the assessment of the FBI and CIA that the Russian government launched cyberattacks targeting the U.S. electoral process with the intention of aiding Trump's candidacy. Trump has been unwilling to concede the validity of that assessment, or even that Russia was behind the cyberattacks at all, a stance that prompted critical remarks from White House press secretary Josh Earnest. The president-elect also lashed out this week at the Obama administration over its unwillingness to defend Israel at the United Nations against a resolution condemning it for new settlement activity. He told reporters that Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday defending the U.S. abstention “really spoke for itself” and suggested the United Nations has failed to live up to its potential. “When do you see the United Nations solving problems? They don’t,” he said. “They cause problems. So if it lives up to the potential, it’s a great thing. And if it doesn't, it’s a waste of time and money.” In an earlier tweet Wednesday, he said that “we cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect” and urged Israel to “stay strong” because his inauguration on “January 20th is fast approaching!” Obama also has made veiled criticisms of Trump in various public remarks, indirectly attacking the president-elect multiple times during his end-of-year news conference and in his remarks Tuesday at Pearl Harbor, where he warned that “even when hatred burns hottest, even when the tug of tribalism is at its most primal, we must resist the urge to turn inward. We must resist the urge to demonize those who are different.” And in an interview with CNN’s David Axelrod, his former senior adviser, Obama said he was confident that he could have won a third term in a race against Trump running on his “hope and change” message. The president-elect disagreed. “President Obama said that he thinks he would have won against me,” Trump wrote on Twitter Monday afternoon. “He should say that but I say NO WAY! - jobs leaving, ISIS, OCare, etc.” Read More..

  • Economists Say Trump Delivered Hope

    Economists say Donald Trump is right to credit himself for sending consumer confidence to a 15-year high this month as Americans reported a rosy outlook for job creation, business growth and the stock market. The news broke Tuesday, when the Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index soared to 113.7 in December, the highest level since 2001. The jump surprised economists, who say the economy has been slowing down. But it didn’t surprise Trump. "Thanks Donald!” the president-elect said Wednesday morning on Twitter. Trump’s election put the country in a good mood, economists say. “There’s a lot of hope that things are going to change and get better,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo. “Let’s see what happens.” American’s weren’t particularly overjoyed about the economy. What made them cheerful was the hope for a new, better economy. The Conference Board’s measure of expectations, a measure of how consumers feel about the future, leapt to a 13-year high as Trump’s promise of more jobs, lower taxes and a better business climate made people upbeat. “Optimism did surge after the election. The question is can we maintain it,” said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators. “That depends on what happens in terms of the economy and job growth.” It’s not unusual for consumers to feel better after an election, especially when a new party takes office. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama, who won his first presidential campaign in the midst of the Great Recession, enjoyed a boost in consumer optimism the month they were elected. By contrast, optimism sank as the nation waited on hanging chads and Bush v. Gore at the end of 2000. “Elections always give confidence a boost. There’s a sense of relief that it’s behind us,” Vitner said. “There does seem to be something to the Trump bump.” This election year, the economy has been on a long road to recovery since the Great Recession ended in 2009. Consumer confidence has been on the upswing all year. Still, confidence doesn’t boost wages or create jobs, and nine of the past 10 recessions began under Republican presidents. “Trump will be breaking with tradition if we don’t see a recession in the next four years,” PIMCO’s Joachim Fels wrote in a recent blog post. Read More..

  • What Effects Will Donald Trump Have on the Online Gaming Market

    It is no longer news that Donald Trump is the latest United States’ president. From the perspective of those in the igaming world, his existence in the Oval Office may actually be something worth celebrating. The common perception goes like this: Trump operates casinos with his name on them. He likes gambling and might attempt to legalise it nationwide. At least one poker pro considers this to be right and the emotion echoed through the poker world. However, the only thing we have from Donald Trump on the record is that about five years ago, he tacitly supported online betting. For anyone who is familiar with Donald Trump and his presidential campaign, his statement in the past at times has little bearing on what he says or believes now. The Adelson-Trump connection To put more limitation on the idea that a Trump-led administration would never legalise US online betting or poker, consider the following: Sheldon Adelson, the Chief Executive Officer of the Las Vegas Sands Corp funded the efforts to stop online betting at the federal level. He also donated a huge sum of money towards the Trump campaign. This is a relationship that for some time now has been percolating with the possibility of having an effect on online betting legalisation. Perhaps you think Sheldon Adelson will not have Trump’s ear despite the money he donated, then you do not know much about politics. If Congress forwards a bill to Trump’s desk prohibiting online betting, the possibility of him approving it is hard to guess given his relationship with Adelson. Being a billionaire himself, Trump is perhaps the least likely president to succumb to monetary bribes. Going on record saying how he won’t accept a dollar during his presidency, it throws it up in the air whether Trump will help online casinos, such as royalvegas.com, or hinder them. RAWA efforts have failed to date In spite of having the majority in both chambers, the Republicans have failed to secure RAWA or any iteration of language criticising online betting, anywhere near passage. Hearings held by Chaffetz late last year were nothing but a disaster. However, that does not imply that the powers leading RAWA will surrender. They might be encouraged by the fact that Republicans have the majorities in the Senate and the House, plus having control of the presidency. Even with that, the Republicans have not been totally on board with RAWA and its implications. That is, it will reverse the online betting laws passed in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey and would ignore legalisation efforts in states like New York and Pennsylvania. RAWA takes over the Tenth Amendment, several lawmakers concur, by taking the ability to manage a form of betting from states’ hands. And that is not an awfully popular position to take for several Republicans. The impact of Trump presidency on online betting is definitely unknown, other than it is not expected to be a positive one. The most probable and most positive circumstances would be the status quo. That implies online betting can be legalised by the states as they wish, without any change at the federal level. But in the range of outcomes, is the not too unrealistic chance that online betting is banned in the US.

  • Achieve Financial Success And A Fulfilling Life – Unlock Your Repressed Destiny

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  • Samsung Electronics to invest more than $1 billion in US chip production

    Samsung Electronics said on Tuesday it planned to invest more than $1 billion by the end of June 2017 to boost production of system chips at its Austin, Texas, facilities in the United States to meet growing demand. The South Korean firm, the world's second-largest chipmaker behind Intel, said in a statement its investment would boost output of chips for mobile and other electronics devices from its existing facilities in the city. The investment comes after Samsung said last week its capital expenditure for 2016 would rise to a record 27 trillion won ($24 billion), with 13.2 trillion won earmarked for its semiconductor business. While most of Samsung's semiconductor profits come from memory chip sales, it has been trying to boost earnings from other products including its own Exynos mobile processors and contract manufacturing deals with clients such as Qualcomm and Nvidia Samsung did not give further details for its investment plans in Austin, such as how much production capacity would be added.
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Putin’s Real Long Game

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A little over a year ago, on a pleasant late fall evening, I was sitting on my front porch with a friend best described as a Ukrainian freedom fighter. He was smoking a cigarette while we watched Southeast DC hipsters bustle by and talked about ‘the war’ — the big war, being waged by Russia against all of us, which from this porch felt very far away. I can’t remember what prompted it — some discussion of whether the government in Kyiv was doing something that would piss off the EU — but he took a long drag off his cigarette and said, offhand: “Russia. The EU. It’s all just more Molotov-Ribbentrop shit.”

His casual reference to the Hitler-Stalin pact dividing Eastern Europe before WWII was meant as a reminder that Ukraine must decide its future for itself, rather than let it be negotiated between great powers. But it haunted me, this idea that modern revolutionaries no longer felt some special affinity with the West. Was it the belief in collective defense that was weakening, or the underlying certitude that Western values would prevail?

Months later, on a different porch thousands of miles away, an Estonian filmmaker casually explained to me that he was buying a boat to get his family out when the Russians came, so he could focus on the resistance. In between were a hundred other exchanges — with Balts and Ukrainians, Georgians and Moldovans — that answered my question and exposed the new reality on the Russian frontier: the belief that, ultimately, everyone would be left to fend for themselves. Increasingly, people in Russia’s sphere of influence were deciding that the values that were supposed to bind the West together could no longer hold. That the world order Americans depend on had already come apart.

From Moscow, Vladimir Putin has seized the momentum of this unraveling, exacting critical damage to the underpinnings of the liberal world order in a shockingly short time. As he builds a new system to replace the one we know, attempts by America and its allies to repair the damage have been limited and slow. Even this week, as Barack Obama tries to confront Russia’s open and unprecedented interference in our political process, the outgoing White House is so far responding to 21st century hybrid information warfare with last century’s diplomatic toolkit: the expulsion of spies, targeted sanctions, potential asset seizure. The incoming administration, while promising a new approach, has betrayed a similar lack of vision. Their promised attempt at another “reset” with Russia is a rehash of a policy that has utterly failed the past two American administrations.

What both administrations fail to realize is that the West is already at war, whether it wants to be or not. It may not be a war we recognize, but it is a war. This war seeks, at home and abroad, to erode our values, our democracy, and our institutional strength; to dilute our ability to sort fact from fiction, or moral right from wrong; and to convince us to make decisions against our own best interests.

Those on the Russian frontier, like my friends from Ukraine and Estonia, have already seen the Kremlin’s new toolkit at work. The most visible example may be “green men,” the unlabeled Russian-backed forces that suddenly popped up to seize the Crimean peninsula and occupy eastern Ukraine. But the wider battle is more subtle, a war of subversion rather than domination. The recent interference in the American elections means that these shadow tactics have now been deployed – with surprising effectiveness – not just against American allies, but against America itself. And the only way forward for America and the West is to embrace the spirit of the age that Putin has created, plow through the chaos, and focus on building what comes next.

President-elect Trump has characteristics that can aid him in defining what comes next. He is, first and foremost, a rule-breaker, not quantifiable by metrics we know. In a time of inconceivable change, that can be an incredible asset. He comes across as a straight talker, and he can be blunt with the American people about the threats we face. He is a man of many narratives, and can find a way to sell these decisions to the American people. He believes in strength, and knows hard power is necessary.

So far, Trump seems far more likely than any of his predecessors to accelerate, rather than resist, the unwinding of the postwar order. And that could be a very bad — or an unexpectedly good — thing. So far, he has chosen to act as if the West no longer matters, seemingly blind to the danger that Putin’s Russia presents to American security and American society. The question ahead of us is whether Trump will aid the Kremlin’s goals with his anti-globalist, anti-NATO rhetoric– or whether he’ll clearly see the end of the old order, grasp the nature of the war we are in, and have the vision and the confrontational spirit to win it.

***

To understand the shift underway in the world, and to stop being outmaneuvered, we first need to see the Russian state for what it really is. Twenty-five years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed. This freed the Russian security state from its last constraints. In 1991, there were around 800,000 official KGB agents in Russia. They spent a decade reorganizing themselves into the newly-minted FSB, expanding and absorbing other instruments of power, including criminal networks, other security services, economic interests, and parts of the political elite. They rejected the liberal, democratic Russia that President Boris Yeltsin was trying to build.

Following the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings that the FSB almost certainly planned, former FSB director Vladimir Putin was installed as President. We should not ignore the significance of these events. An internal operation planned by the security services killed hundreds of Russian citizens. It was used as the pretext to re-launch a bloody, devastating internal war led by emergent strongman Putin. Tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and fighters and Russian conscripts died. The narrative was controlled to make the enemy clear and Putin victorious. This information environment forced a specific political objective: Yeltsin resigned and handed power to Putin on New Year’s Eve 1999.

From beginning to end, the operation took three months. This is how the Russian security state shook off the controls of political councils or representative democracy. This is how it thinks and how it acts — then, and now. Blood or war might be required, but controlling information and the national response to that information is what matters. Many Russians, scarred by the unrelenting economic, social, and security hardship of the 1990s, welcomed the rise of the security state, and still widely support it, even as it has hollowed out the Russian economy and civic institutions. Today, as a result, Russia is little more than a ghastly hybrid of an overblown police state and a criminal network with an economy the size of Italy — and the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Even Russian policy hands, raised on the Western understanding of traditional power dynamics, find the implications of this hard to understand. This Russia does not aspire to be like us, or to make itself stronger than we are. Rather, its leaders want the West—and specifically NATO and America — to become weaker and more fractured until we are as broken as they perceive themselves to be. No reset can be successful, regardless the personality driving it, because Putin’s Russia requires the United States of America as its enemy.

We can only confront this by fully understanding how the Kremlin sees the world. Its worldview and objectives are made abundantly clear in speeches, op-eds, official policy and national strategy documents, journal articles, interviews, and, in some cases, fiction writing of Russian officials and ideologues. We should understand several things from this material.

First, it is a war. A thing to be won, decisively — not a thing to be negotiated or bargained. It’s all one war: Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, the Baltics, Georgia. It’s what Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s ‘grey cardinal’ and lead propagandist, dubbed ”non-linear war in his science fiction story “Without Sky,” in 2014.

Second, it’s all one war machine. Military, technological, information, diplomatic, economic, cultural, criminal, and other tools are all controlled by the state and deployed toward one set of strategic objectives. This is the Gerasimov doctrine, penned by Valery Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of the General Staff, in 2013. Political warfare is meant to achieve specific political outcomes favorable to the Kremlin: it is preferred to physical conflict because it is cheap and easy. The Kremlin has many notches in its belt in this category, some of which have been attributed, many likely not. It’s a mistake to see this campaign in the traditional terms of political alliances: rarely has the goal been to install overtly pro-Russian governments. Far more often, the goal is simply to replace Western-style democratic regimes with illiberal, populist, or nationalist ones.

Third, information warfare is not about creating an alternate truth, but eroding our basic ability to distinguish truth at all. It is not “propaganda” as we’ve come to think of it, but the less obvious techniques known in Russia as “active measures” and “reflexive control. Both are designed to make us, the targets, act against our own best interests.

Fourth, the diplomatic side of this non-linear war isn’t a foreign policy aimed at building a new pro-Russian bloc, Instead, it’s what the Kremlin calls a “multi-vector” foreign policy, undermining the strength of Western institutions by coalescing alternate — ideally temporary and limited — centers of power. Rather than a stable world order undergirded by the U.S. and its allies, the goal is an unstable new world order of “all against all.” The Kremlin has tried to accelerate this process by both inflaming crises that overwhelm the Western response (for example, the migration crisis in Europe, and the war in eastern Ukraine) and by showing superiority in ‘solving’ crises the West could not (for example, bombing Syria into submission, regardless of the cost, to show Russia can impose stability in the Middle East when the West cannot).

This leads to the final point: hard power matters. Russia maintains the second most powerful military in the world, and spends more than 5 percent of its weakened GDP on defense. Russia used military force to invade and occupy Georgian territory in 2008 to disrupt the expansion of NATO, and in 2013 in Ukraine to disrupt the expansion of the EU. They have invested heavily in military reform, new generations of hardware and weapons, and expansive special operations training, much of which debuted in the wars in Ukraine and Syria. There is no denying that Russia is willing to back up its rhetoric and policy with deployed force, and that the rest of the world notices.

The West must accept that Putin has transformed what we see as tremendous weakness into considerable strength. If Russia were a strong economy closely linked to the global system, it would have vulnerabilities to more traditional diplomacy. But in the emerging world order, it is a significant actor – and in the current Russian political landscape, no new sanctions can overcome the defensive, insular war-economy mentality that the Kremlin has built.

***

How did we reach this point? After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western security and political alliances expanded to fill the zone of instability left behind. The emerging Russian security state could only define this as the strategic advance of an enemy. The 9/11 attacks shattered Western concepts of security and conflict and expanded NATO’s new mission of projecting security. When Putin offered his assistance, we effectively responded “no thanks,” thinking in particular of his bloody, ongoing, scorched-earth war against the Chechens. We did it for the right reasons. Nonetheless, it infuriated Putin. This was the last moment when any real rapprochement with Putin’s Russia was possible.

Since that time, physical warfare has changed in ways that create a new kind of space for Putin to intervene globally. The Obama administration has a deep distaste for official overseas deployments of US troops and the associated political costs. ‘No new wars’ was the oft-repeated mantra — which altered America’s toolbox for, if not the frequency of, foreign interventions. Drone warfare was greatly expanded, as was the reliance on special forces— a politically easy choice due to their diverse capabilities and voluntary career commitment to service. But the actual number of special forces operators is exceedingly small and increasingly exhausted; soldiers deployed in shadow wars and shadow missions have far less protection than troops in traditional ground combat.

As the definitions of war and peace have blurred, creating impossibly vast front lines and impossibly vague boundaries of conflict, Putin has launched a kind of global imperialist insurgency. The Kremlin aggressively promotes an alternate ideological base to expand an illiberal world order in which the rights and freedoms that most Americans feel are essential to democracy don’t necessarily exist. It backs this up with military, economic, cultural and diplomatic resources. Through a combination of leveraging hard power and embracing the role of permanent disruptor — hacker, mercenary, rule-breaker, liar, thief — Putin works to ensure that Russia cannot be excluded from global power.

Putin tries to define recent history as an anomaly — where the world built with American sweat and ingenuity and blood and sacrifice, by the society founded on American exceptionalism, is a thing to be erased and corrected. The Russian version of exceptionalism is not a reflection of aspirational character, but a requirement that Russia remain distinct and apart from the world. Until we understand this, and that America is defined as the glavny protivnik (the ‘main enemy’) of Russia, we will never speak to Putin’s Russia in a language it can understand.

There is less and less to stand against Putin’s campaign of destabilization. It’s been 99 years since America began investing in European security with blood, and sweat, and gold. Two world wars and a long, cold conflict later, we felt secure with the institutional framework of NATO and the EU — secure in the idea that these institutions projected our security and our interests far beyond our shores. The post-WWII liberal world order and its accompanying security architecture ushered in an unparalleled period of growth and peace and prosperity for the US and other transatlantic countries.

I spend most of my time near the Russian frontier, and today that architecture seems like a Kodachrome snapshot from yesteryear. We joke that we yearn for a fight we can win with a gun, because the idea of a physical invasion is actually preferable to the constant uncertainty of economic, information, and political shadow warfare from the Kremlin.

Combatants in these shadow wars bear no designations, and protections against these methods are few. From the front lines, in the absence of the fabric of reassurance woven from our values and principles and shared sacrifice — and in the absence of the moral clarity of purpose derived from “us and them” — civil society is left naked, unarmored. Putin has dictated the mood of the unfolding era — an era of upheaval. This past year marks the arrival of this mood in American politics, whether Americans deny it or not. The example of Eastern Europe suggests that without renewed vision and purpose, and without strong alliances to amplify our defense and preserve our legacy, America too will find itself unanchored, adrift in currents stirred and guided by the Kremlin.

President-elect Trump harnessed this energy of upheaval to win the American presidency — a victory that itself was a symptom of the breakdown of the post-WWII order, in which institutional trust has eroded and unexpected outcomes have become the order of the day. Now it is his responsibility to define what comes next — or else explain to Americans, who want to be great again, why everything they’ve invested in and sacrificed for over the past century was ultimately for nothing.

As Obama did, Trump has already made the first mistake in negotiating with the Russians: telling them that there is anything to negotiate. Trump likes to discuss Putin’s strengths. He should also understand that much of it is smoke and mirrors. A renewed approach to dealing with Putin’s Russia should begin by addressing the tactics of Russia’s new warfare from the perspective of strength.

We have to accept we’re in a war and that we have a lot to lose. We need to look at this war differently, both geographically and strategically. For example, it’s hard to understand Ukraine and Syria as two fronts in the same conflict when we never evaluate them together with Moscow in the center of the map, as Russia does. We also need a new national security concept that adds a new strategic framework, connects all our resources, and allows us to better evaluate and respond to Gerasimov-style warfare: we have to learn to fight their one war machine with a unified machine of our own. This will also strengthen and quicken decisionmaking on critical issues in the US — something we will also need to replicate within NATO.

Exposing how the Kremlin’s political and information warfare works is a critical component of this strategy, as is acting to constrain it. We must (re)accept the notion that hard power is the guarantor of any international system: security is a precondition for anything (everything) else. That the projection of our values has tracked with and been amplified by force projection is no accident. Human freedom requires security. NATO has been the force projection of our values. It hasn’t just moved the theoretical line of conflict further forward: the force multiplication and value transference has enhanced our security. This is far cheaper, and far stronger, than trying to do this ourselves.

It’s also important to acknowledge that a more isolated, more nationalist America helps Putin in his objectives even while it compromises our own. We need to accept that America was part of, and needs to be part of, a global system — and that this system is better, cheaper, and more powerful than any imagined alternatives. For many years, the United States has been the steel in the framework that holds everything together; this is what we mean by ‘world order’ and ‘security architecture,’ two concepts that few politicians try to discuss seriously with the electorate.

Taken together, these steps would be a critical realignment to our strategic thinking and internal operations, and would allow us to plow through this era of upheaval with greater certainty and for greater benefit to the American people.

***

In an era increasingly cynical about American ideals, and skeptical about intervention abroad, how can the US build support for a new, more muscular global resistance to what Russia is trying to do?

We already have one model: the Cold War. Putin and his minions have spent the past 15 years ranting about how the West (specifically NATO) wants a new Cold War. By doing so, they have been conditioning us to deny it, and made us do it so continually that we have convinced ourselves it is true. This is classic reflexive control.

The truth is that fighting a new Cold War would be in America’s interest. Russia teaches us a very important lesson: losing an ideological war without a fight will ruin you as a nation. The fight is the American way. When we stop fighting for our ideals abroad, we stop fighting for them at home. We won the last Cold War. We will win the next one too. When it’s us against them, they were, and are, never going to be the winner. But when it’s “all against all” — a “multipolar” world with “multi-vector” policy, a state of shifting alliances and permanent instability — Russia, with a centrally controlled, tiny command structure unaccountable for its actions in any way, still has a chance for a seat at the table. They pursue the multipolar world not because it is right or just, but because it is the only world in which they can continue to matter without pushing a nuclear launch sequence.

We must understand this, and focus now, as Putin does, on shaping the world that comes next and defining what our place is in it. Trump has shown willingness to reevaluate his positions and change course — except on issues relating to Russia, and strengthening alliances with the Kremlin’s global illiberal allies. By doing so, he is making himself a footnote to Putin’s chapter of history — little more than another of Putin’s hollow men.

Trump should understand, regardless of what the Russians did in our elections, he already won the prize. It won’t be taken away just because he admits the Russians intervened. Taking away the secrecy of Russian actions — exposing whatever it was they did, to everyone — is the only way to take away their power over the US political system and to free himself from their strings, as well. Whatever Putin’s gambit was, Trump is the one who can make sure that Putin doesn’t win.

Trump should set the unpredictable course and become the champion against the most toxic, ambitious regime of the modern world. Rebuilding American power — based on the values of liberal democracy — is the only escape from Putin’s corrosive vision of a world at permanent war. We need a new united front. But we must be the center of it. It matters deeply that the current generation of global revolutionaries and reformers, like my Ukrainian friend, no longer see themselves as fighting for us or our ideals.

In a strange way, Trump could be just crazy enough — enough of a outlier and a rogue — to expose what Putin’s Russia is and end the current cycle of upheaval and decline. This requires non-standard thinking and leadership — but also purpose, and commitment, and values. It requires faith — for and from the American people and American institutions. And it requires the existence of truth.

The alternative is accepting that our history and our nation were, in fact, not the beginning of a better — greater — world, but the long anomaly in a tyrannous and dark one.

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