• 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.

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  • ‘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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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

    A desire to achieve financial success and a fulfilling life is a fairly ubiquitous goal that we share as humans, but achieving these two goals at the same time seems to elude most of us.  Fortunately for us, Iain Balmain has found his calling in life as both an esoteric healer and career consultant who seeks to impart his spiritual insights about the human soul to unlock a life path that often eludes our conscious state of mind. He has been practicing as an intuitive consultant in Britain and now seeks to bring his energy, experience and wisdom to America, in an effort to help spread more happiness and fulfillment. In the U.S. in particular, our struggles to achieve financial success and fulfilling lives at the same time seem to be often rooted in the confusion we feel, when we are trying to figure out which degree to pursue, in our efforts to obtain a university or college education.  If we do graduate, we often end up pursuing careers that seem to only existentially drag us down.  This feeling often occurs regardless of how much we earn. In our experiences, which have been documented in countless case studies, the efforts to elevate oneself from economic insecurity up the employment ladder to greater levels of financial security, does not lead us to a greater sense of fulfillment. Research on this issue has been the source of many studies by organizational psychologists who have sought to help businesses yield a more productive workforce, for corporate shareholders. While corporations have sought to shape the minds of their workforce, individual workers and managers have been without a champion who could help them individually achieve the happy, fulfilling and “productive” lives they have always wanted but felt they could never attain. Indeed, we may finally access relatively high paying jobs and finally get to enjoy the material comforts of life that we always thought we had wanted, but still not feel fulfilled as human beings.  We may have simply gone from stressful lives without economic security to the correspondingly negative stresses of higher paying jobs, that we dread going to everyday, in our surrender to the “matrix” of a global capitalist economy. In such a context, we may simply seek to pursue moments of “escapism” through vacations or, worse case scenarios, taking our frustrations out on others, in an effort to dump our negative energies, or through taking drugs and narcotics in an effort to “treat” and contain negative energy. However, we often get inspired when we do occasionally hear about some people, who left a job that they didn't care for, to find a career path in which they were able to feel both financially secure and fulfilled as human beings. Luckily, these people, men and women, were able to unlock their own hidden destiny and live their lives in ways that they were meant to live, by tapping into their souls mission.  It is our soul as human beings –the essence of who we really are - that gets hidden from us in the confusion and chaos of modern life. In this confusion, it is often impossible for most of us to pursue the fulfilling lives that we desire to have while also seeking financial security in order to have that which is imposed upon us as part of living up to this competitive environment, which America stands for: the land of tremendous opportunities. In the new era of Donald Trump as President, whether we voted for him or not, we might feel a renewed need to “find ourselves” onto a path of security and fulfillment in these uncertain but exhilarating times. Thankfully, Iain Balmain is now seeking to further share his spiritual insights in helping America unlock much of its untapped potential, one human being at a time; Americans who have not been luckily enough to stumble across and embrace their soul's destiny. By connecting with a person's soul, through his professional consultations, Iain wishes to awaken and clarify who we really are, that “who” repressed by artificial personae molded by society's chaos, which so often stunts the fruition of our identities. These artificial personas are essentially counterfeit or “fakes” that, if adopted, often mislead us into directions that create frustrations and negative stresses, eventually resulting in unfulfilled lives, the cause of bad health and many other problems. If you're feeling frustrated, lost, confused or uncertain about your career path and also seek a more fulfilled life, you may very well owe it to yourself to find a consultant like Iain Balmain who will inspire your divine potential.  A service like Iain's will save, not only precious time and money, but also promise to rejuvenate the course of personal health from the stresses that impact our daily lives. You contact Iain here - http://innerconsult.co.uk/

  • 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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  • GM sales drop 1.7 pct; U.S. auto sales seen off Despite Discounts

     General Motors' sales in October fell a less-than-forecast 1.7 percent as hefty gains for pickups and SUVs offset declines for its sedans but the industry was expected to report a larger drop.
    U.S. auto sales in October were seen declining between 6 percent and 8 percent, according to industry analysts, as higher consumer discounts failed to prevent a fall-off from last year's record high. GM said on Tuesday U.S. industry auto sales will be 17.4 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, slightly weaker than most industry analysts expected. GM's two full-size pickup truck models, Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, collectively fell 7.6 percent. GM's Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon large SUVs collectively gained 69 percent versus a year ago. The vehicles are hugely profitable for GM. The rate of decline in October from a year ago will not be known until later this week because Ford is delaying its sales report due to a fire at its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters on Monday. Fiat Chrysler's sales slid 10 percent, hampered by outsized drop-offs of two sedans it will soon stop making, and a rare decrease of 7 percent for its Jeep SUV brand. Cherokee sales were down 23 percent. Ford, the second-biggest automaker in the U.S. market with a 15 percent share of sales through September, has not said when it will issue its sales report. Analysts expect Ford to show a decline of between 9 percent and 11 percent from a year ago, which some analysts said was due to better discipline on the use of discounts. Others pointed out that the company stemmed production at North American F-150 pickup truck plants and sedan plants to counteract weak demand. Comparisons to last October are pressured because of two fewer selling days. But even with that factored in, sales would likely have been weaker if not for the big consumer discounts, known as incentives, analysts said. TrueCar said October incentives industrywide rose nearly 16 percent from a year earlier, or about $3,600 per new vehicle sold. Nissan's sales fell 2.2 percent, though sales of its SUVs and pickup trucks rose 13 percent.
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  • Asian shares lower; ASX, Nikkei, Kospi, HSI drop more than 1%

    Most Asian markets dropped more than 1 percent after Wall Street's "fear index" spiked on jitters over the U.S. presidential elections. "Markets have been rankled by some polls putting Trump ahead of Clinton for the first time, given Trump's controversial policy platform of re-looking at trade deals and clamping down on immigration," Chang Wei Liang, FX strategist at Mizuho Bank, said in a Wednesday note. Australia's ASX 200 closed down 1.16 percent, or 61.47 points, at 5,229 dragged by its energy subindex, which was down 1.81 percent, and its financials subindex, which fell 1.43 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 ended down 1.76 percent, or 308.07 points, at 17,134.68, likely due to the stronger yen which is seen as a safe haven currency. The yen strengthened against the greenback, fetching 103.86 a dollar as of 1:57 pm HK/SIN, compared to 104 levels seen on Tuesday. In South Korea, the Kospi closed down 1.42 percent, or 28.45 points, at 1,978.94. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.44 percent as of 3:09 pm local time. Mainland China's Shanghai composite was down 0.62 percent, or 19.48 points, at 3,102.97, while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.63 percent, or 13.06 points, at 2,060.05.
    The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.58 percent at 18,037.1, the S&P 500 ended 0.68 percent lower at 2,111.72, and the Nasdaq composite closed down 0.69 percent at 5,153.58, after a choppy day in which better-than-expected earnings failed to cancel out worries about the U.S. election. The CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX), called the "fear index" because it shows the market's expectations on volatility over a 30-day period, went above the key 20 point during U.S. trading, taking its rise to more than 40 percent over the past six days. It is the first time the VIX has risen for six straight days since the period just before the U.K.'s shock vote to leave the EU, and traders told CNBC the latest climb was due to the increased possibility of a Donald Trump presidency. The VIX last traded at 18.56 as of 4:14 am HK/SIN time.
    Symbol
    Name
    Price
    Change
    %Change
    NIKKEI NIKKEI 17134.68 -307.72 -1.76%
    HSI HSI 22810.50 -336.57 -1.45%
    ASX 200 S&P/ASX 200 5228.99 -61.48 -1.16%
    SHANGHAI Shanghai 3102.96 -19.48 -0.62%
    KOSPI KOSPI Index 1978.94 -28.45 -1.42%
    CNBC 100 CNBC 100 ASIA IDX 6837.65 -75.88 -1.10%
    The Federal Reserve will finish its two-day meeting on Wednesday in the U.S. The central bank is considered very unlikely to hike at the meeting, according to the CNBC Fed Survey, which found that 100 percent of respondents did not expect a move, but 86 percent did forecast a quarter-point hike at the December 13-14 meeting. Meanwhile, it's been a bruising few days for Trump rival Hillary Clinton, after the FBI said it was investigating new emails related to her controversial use of a private server while she served as secretary of state. "Even if the Fed does signal an inclination to lift rates in December, markets will take the view that this is unlikely if a Trump victory leads to uncertainty and a surge in financial market volatility. This view was played out in markets last night with the U.S. dollar falling sharply and gold rallying," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a Wednesday note. Spot gold traded at $1,293.02 per ounce, compared to last week's levels as low as $1,266. In currency markets, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of currencies, stood at 97.696 as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN, down from 98 levels on Tuesday. The Mexican peso extended its fall against the dollar, fetching 19.308 per dollar as of 3:12 pm HK/SIN. The peso had sold off as much as 1.3 percent against the greenback to 19.1102 pesos on Tuesday. The Korean won weakened against the greenback to 1,148.45, a three-and-a-half month low. In October, the KRW/USD had depreciated as much as 3.5 percent. "The woes surrounding labor strikes in Hyundai and Samsung's battery flame-outs were part of the domestic reasons that led to the underperformance versus the USD. Arguably, these issues may be partially reflected in the price, but we think that the room for more KRW weakness ahead has increased meaningfully." analysts at National Australia Bank said in a Tuesday note. Singapore's major banks were mixed, OCBC stock was down 0.47 percent at S$8.46 per share, United Overseas Bank slipped 1.12percent to S$18.50, while DBS traded up 0.07 percent at S$15.00 A Moody's Investors Service report on Wednesday warned that the three banks could see their profitability come under further pressure, as seen in their latest financial results. The ratings agency assigned a negative outlook to the banks' ratings in March. "The Q3 results for DBS, OCBC and UOB show a further weakening in the banks' asset quality and profitability, because of the persistent challenges that they face in relation to their oil and gas exposures," said Eugene Tarzimanov, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody's Investor Service, in the note.
    Australia's CSR sees a lift in H1 profits
    Australia's CSR sees a lift in H1 profits  
    Australia's CSR jumped 8.61 percent to A$3.89 after it reported half-year revenue was up 8 percent to A$1.24 billion, and half-year net profit after tax rose 12 percent to A$103.1 million. The building materials company has risen more than 31 percent year-to-date. Shares in Virgin Australia were down 4.17 percent at A$0.23per share, after the airline operator reported an underlying loss before tax of A$3.6 million. Hong Kong-listed Standard Chartered dipped 6.45 percent to HK$63.05 a share, after it reported a 6 percent decline in income from the previous year on Tuesday. The bank also warned that it might have compliance and regulatory struggles ahead, confirming that Hong Kong's financial regulator planned to take action against it because of its role as a joint sponsor in an initial public offering in 2009. Oil majors in the region were all lower, Australia's Santos was down 4.27 percent, Oil Search fell 1.35 percent and Woodside Petroleum dropped 1.07 percent, Japan's Inpex slipped 1.63 percent, while South Korea's S-Oil was up 1.23 percent, China's Shanghai Pechem was down 1.52 percent and Petrochina was down 0.82 percent. U.S. crude futures were down 0.77 percent, at $46.31 a barrel, after it had settled to $46.67 on Tuesday. Global benchmark Brent was down 0.60 percent at $47.85 after it settled at $48.14. The American Petroleum Institute (API) said crude inventory rose by 9.3 million barrels in the week to October 28. A Reuters poll had forecast stockpiles to rise by 1 million barrels. Traders will likely look to the Energy Information Administration's official inventory data, due for release later Wednesday, for further direction.
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  • Homeowners Twice as House rich as Five Years Ago

    America's housing market is heating up again, fortifying the finances of current homeowners and frustrating potential first-time buyers. After hitting bottom in 2012, home prices took off dramatically before leveling off a bit in mid-2014. In the last two months, though, they turned higher again. The amount of equity homeowners now have — the value outside their mortgage debt — has doubled in the last five years, according to CoreLogic. The latest read on September home prices showed a 6.3 percent annual gain, a touch bigger than August and a clear sign that prices are heating up again after cooling through much of spring and summer. "Home-equity wealth has doubled during the last five years to $13 trillion, largely because of the recovery in home prices," said Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. "Nationwide during the past year, the average gain in housing wealth was about $11,000 per homeowner, but with wide geographic variation."
    Housing by the numbers
    Housing by the numbers  
    All real estate is local, and while most states show gains in home values, the variance is wide. Connecticut and Alaska are the only states seeing annual price declines. For Connecticut, it is jobs plain and simple. The loss of major employers there, like General Electric's decision to move its headquarters to Boston, have hit the housing market hard. Other states, like Arkansas, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Maine and Maryland, are barely in the black. On the flip side, as tech companies flee California, nearby states like Washington and Oregon are seeing double-digit home price gains, with Colorado and Utah not far behind. Homeowners today show more wealth on paper, but they are not extracting it at nearly the rate they did during the last housing boom. Near-record-low mortgage rates have certainly prompted thousands of borrowers to refinance and lower their monthly payments, but a very small share have extracted cash in these refinances and home equity lines of credit (HELOC). "That weakness of active home equity withdrawal looks in large part to reflect tight credit conditions. Although lenders have reported loosening lending standards for HELOCs in each of the past 15 quarters, that easing has been modest compared to the conventional mortgage market," wrote Matthew Pointon, property economist with Capital Economics. "Indeed, median credit scores for new HELOC originations have not declined at all over the past couple of years, despite the serious delinquency rate on those loans dropping to its lowest since records began in 2008." So homeowners get richer, and those trying to become homeowners have to face not just higher prices, but a severe lack of homes for sale, especially at the entry level. There is clearly demand, just not enough supply. "After all, measures of home purchase sentiment are elevated, and there is evidence that first-time buyers are making a welcome return to the market," added Pointon. They are returning, but still not hitting their historically normal share of homebuyers. While the National Association of Realtors reported a jump in first-time buyers in September sales, other measures show they have been dropping pretty steadily from a high of 40 percent in May to 34.8 percent in September, according to Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance. That was the lowest level recorded since April 2014.
    The slowdown in first-time buyers is likely due to higher home prices. First-time buyers are much more price-sensitive than the rest of the market, and they are also more limited in credit availability. Housing affordability is now below average in half of the nation's top 20 metropolitan markets, according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting. These include Denver, Houston, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee. "This means that they are at high risk of a sharp price correction whenever the next recession hits," the Burns researchers said.
    Read More..

  • The Garbage Indicator: What trash is Telling us About the Economy Now

    It is said that one man's trash is another man's treasure. It also happens that all of our trash could collectively make for a great economic indicator.

    In addition to other, more conventional indicators, Deutsche Bank's chief international economist, Torsten Slok, consults freight rail waste data put out by the Association of American Railroads for a check on how the economy is doing. Given the drop in oil prices and rise in the dollar, "a lot of economic statistics were distorted and you did see a slowdown in a lot of places. ... This indicator is an attempt to get a more pure view of where the business cycle is at the moment," Slok said Monday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." At this point, the garbage transport gauge "is indeed suggesting that the recovery continues, or that the economic expansion is moving forward from here." Slok isn't the first to notice the connection between waste carloads and the GDP growth. Michael McDonough, an economist at Bloomberg, has followed growth in the waste carloads indicator for years. Indeed, the data series has been shown to have a high correlation to changes in GDP. This makes some intuitive sense, given that consumption, construction and other such activities generally create waste. While peering deeply into trash may sound strange, "all joking aside, this is really an attempt to capture what is the economic activity when we measure it from a whole different angle than we normally do," Slok said. He added that it generally confirms what economic data have shown, but "if anything, this also points to that there are some upside risks to the outlook from where we are at the moment." In more conventional data, Tuesday's ISM reading showed that the manufacturing sector expanded in October. The October employment report is set to be released Friday. Read More..

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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