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Zero Hedge
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24 октября, 06:45

Israel's Defense Chief Says "No Choice But War" As Forces Build Along Gaza Border

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We reported over the weekend that Israel has mustered its largest build-up of tanks and armored personnel carriers since 2014 at a deployment area along the border with Gaza and that "all-out war" looks inevitable after weeks of heightened tensions with Hamas. This after special UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov late last week warned the UN Security Council that "we remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict." It now appears Israel is ready to act, as on Monday Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli parliament that he's been left with "no choice" but to launch military action against Hamas militants. Last week rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip, with one landing dangerously near the densely populated city of Tel Aviv, and unrest along the border fence has continued largely unabated for months.  Palestinians protesting along the Gaza border fence. Via Reuters.During his bellicose speech before lawmakers, Lieberman threatened invasion of Gaza: “Wars are only conducted when there is no choice, and now there is no choice,” the defense minister said. He indicated that anything less than the “toughest response” to Hamas is not being considered as Tel Aviv has “exhausted the other options.” He said of protests which Israeli forces have somewhat routinely fired upon as Palestinians approach the fence and a security "no-go" zone: “There is no popular uprising,” and added, “There is violence organized by Hamas. Fifteen thousand people don’t come by foot to the border at their own will. They come by bus and are paid.” Lieberman's accusation that Hamas pays large sums to protesters comes as international human rights groups have frequently decried Israel's lose of live ammo to stop protesters from approaching the fence, which have over the past six months resulted in dozens of Palestinian casualties.  The defense minister said further that Hamas “controls the levels of the flames,” but Israel can take deterrent and defensive measures, according to the Jerusalem Post. “I don’t believe in reaching an arrangement with Hamas,” he argued. “It hasn’t worked, doesn’t work and won’t work in the future.” Israeli tanks staging at Gaza border, via ReutersLast week tensions escalated further after Israel retaliated against Hamas rocket attacks on Wednesday by unleashing limited airstrikes on Gaza, which reportedly killed at least one Palestinian while injuring several more. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet on the same day of the Gaza rocket launches and promised to take "very strong action" if such attacks continued. It does indeed look like broader military action is coming as a Reuters photographer had by the close of last week documented some 60 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers stationed along the Gaza-Israel border - with that number likely growing since - which Reuters noted is the largest reported mustering of forces since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

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24 октября, 06:25

College Scraps Homecoming King, Queen For Gender-Neutral Titles

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Authored by Jacob Floam via Campus Reform, Administrators at Stony Brook University (SBU) in New York caved to pressure from activists on the Student Affairs Homecoming Committee to get rid of the homecoming king and queen titles, traditions since 1984, and replace them with three “Stony Brook Royals.”  The change, which was originally reported by Stony Brook News, was also pushed by the University’s LGBTQ Services along with LGBTQ Services assistant director, Chris Tanaka.  "Programs, events, and competitions that are categorized by gender put folks in the awkward position of either choosing to not be seen or affirmed for who they are or just not participating at all," Tanaka said to Stony Brook News. "This change has opened the door for more students to feel like Homecoming is an event in which they can fully participate.” Under the new format, ten students, regardless of their gender and without ratio, will be chosen as finalists to become Stony Brook Royals. The previous format required that five men and five women be chosen as finalists. “I applaud the Homecoming Committee for making this innovative change," Chief Diversity Officer Lee Bitsoi told Stony Brook University News. "This is another step toward building a welcoming, caring, supportive and inclusive campus community where all students feel that they belong.” "It's a dream come true," Stony Brook "nonbinary" student and homecoming finalist, Allilsa Fernandez told NEWS12. "It doesn't take away any opportunities from students who would like to be either king or queen," Stony Brook student RJ Samodal told WABC-TV. "You can still apply. It's just the title is different." The scrapping of the homecoming queen and king titles is nothing new on college campuses. San Diego State replaced the titles in 2015.   In 2017, Northwestern University announced that students would vote on a “Homecoming Wildcat,” rather than a King and Queen. Penn State made the award gender-neutral in April of the same year. This September, Purdue University followed suit.  Stony Brook University also has a decade-old gender-inclusive housing program, which lets students "from across the gender spectrum" live together. SBU is a publicly-funded school in Suffolk County, Long Island and is part of the State University of New York system. The university has not shied away from public controversy.  During spring 2018, Campus Reform reported on an incident in which SBU's Students for Justice in Palestine club threatened to "eradicate" Zionism on campus. Also, last semester, in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., the Young Democratic Socialists of America group at Stony Brook demanded that the campus police be disarmed.  Campus Reform  reported that the university’s Graduate Queer Alliance claimed that a debate in which a Christian author participated was “hate speech" in 2015. Furthermore, the entire SUNY system, which comprises of more than sixty colleges and universities, passed a resolution to “Create Transgender Health Care Education at SUNY Campuses” in Jan. 2017.

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24 октября, 06:05

'Overheating' US Economy Sparks Buying Frenzy For Private Jets

Nothing says "healthy middle class recovery" quite like the luxury private jet market catching fire, which is the phase where the global economy finds itself right now with private aircraft getting so "hot" that even used planes are difficult to find. According to Bloomberg,  only a dozen pre-owned Falcon 7X planes are on the market currently, down from about 35 that were on sale a ayear and a half ago. As the market is tightening, buyers of luxury private aircraft are getting more aggressive, according to aircraft broker Steve Varsano. Varsano found out that bidding aggressively in the luxury plane market doesn’t even work sometimes. He recently bid on a plane sight unseen for a client who wanted a Dassault Aviation SA aircraft in India. He lost the bid when three other buyers emerged, and commented to Bloomberg: "The tables have turned. Just last year, the person running the sale would have been calling me everyday saying, ‘Hey, when are you coming over?'" Luxury jets had been in a glut for years, allowing buyers to call the shots. However, tax cuts in the United States have put sellers in control and companies like Emerson Electric and NextEra Energy Inc are helping the market rebound with recent purchases. And it’s great news for companies that make these planes like Embraer SA, Textron Inc. and General Dynamics Corp.’s Gulfstream division. They are all in the process of rolling out new models and are expected to deliver 8% more aircraft next year than this year. That stat defies the trend of deliveries being flat or down since 2014. The resurgence in the industry is coming mostly from the United States. About 70% of new plane deliveries have gone to the US, which already houses about 60% of the world's private jets. The reduction of corporate taxes in the United States, from 35% to 21% has made companies flush with cash for large purchases. In addition, the rule change to allow for depreciation of capital investments has increased the incentive to buy aircraft. According to Bloomberg, here are some of the new models that will be hitting the market soon: Bombardier is awaiting certification from the U.S. and Europe to begin deliveries of the Global 7500, the largest purpose-built corporate jet. Gulfstream, whose G650 is the current holder of the biggest-jet crown, delivered a somewhat smaller plane, the G500, in September. It expects another model, the G600 to begin service early next year. Cessna, a unit of Textron, is awaiting certification of its Longitude. The midsize jet is bigger than the company’s existing Latitude plane. Not to be outdone, Embraer is increasing the range and improving cockpit controls of its similarly-sized Legacy planes and giving them a new moniker: Praetor. Switzerland’s Pilatus Aircraft began deliveries earlier this year of its first jet aircraft, the PC-24. In addition, demand is also spiking for brand new planes that are based on older designs. For instance, Anadarko took delivery last month of a 2018 Gulfstream G550. This was the plane that Gulfstream made prior to the popular G650. Synovus Financial Corp. and NextEra Energy both recently purchased 2018 Embraer Legacy 500s. In September, Emerson purchased a used 2013 Falcon 7X. The company told Bloomberg: "Emerson is retiring an aging corporate aircraft. The 30-plus-year-old plane is significantly less efficient than the 2013 plane, which will offer better fuel efficiency and a much improved range to access global facilities." As a result of purchases like these, prices have stabilized in the industry and used jet inventory is depleted.  According to Honeywell, pre-owned private jet inventory is down 13% from a year ago. For jets that are younger than 10 years, the number is more pronounced: inventory has decreased by 30%. The lowering of inventory in the used jet market foreshadows robust new jet sales. Honeywell estimates that 7,700 planes will be delivered over the next decade. Barry Justice, president of Corporate Aviation Asset Professionals, told Bloomberg: "Inventory is getting picked over. Good airplanes with high-quality avionics and interiors in good condition are getting harder to come by." To be sure, the private jet market - which is reserved for the ultra high net worthy and corporations - is a bright spot in the US, where the stock market is just now starting to show some semblance of volatility. The recession, now nearly a decade ago, wound up throwing the jet market into turmoil at the time. Some in the industry haven't lost sight of that.  Brian Foley, a business-aircraft consultant who spent 20 years as marketing director for Dassault’s North American jet unit, stated: "There’s one bogeyman hanging out there and that’s how long can this U.S. expansion go."

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24 октября, 05:45

"It's Like A Western Movie" - Paul Craig Roberts Fears A US-Russia Showdown In The Making

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts, It has taken the US military/security complex 31 years to get rid of President Reagan’s last nuclear disarmament achievement - the INF Treaty that President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev achieved in 1987. The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was ratified by the US Senate on May 27, 1988 and became effective a few days later on June 1. Behind the scenes, I had some role in this, and as I remember what the treaty achieved was to make Europe safe from nuclear attack by Soviet short and intermediate range missiles, and to make the Soviet Union safe from US attack from short and intermediate range US nuclear missiles in Europe. By restricting nuclear weapons to ICBMs, which allowed some warning time, thus guaranteeing retaliation and non-use of nucular weapons, the INF Treaty was regarded as reducing the risk of an American first-strike on Russia and a Russian first-strike on Europe, strikes that could be delivered by low-flying cruise missiles with next to zero warning time. When President Reagan appointed me to a secret Presidential committee with subpoena power over the CIA, he told the members of the secret committee that his aim was to bring the Cold War to an end, with the result that, in his words, “those God-awful nuclear weapons would be dismantled.” President Reagan, unlike the crazed neoconservatives, who he fired and prosecuted, saw no point in nuclear war that would destroy all life on earth. The INF Treaty was the beginning, in Reagan’s mind, of the elimination of nuclear weapons from military arsenals. The INF Treaty was chosen as the first start because it did not substantially threaten the budget of the US military/security complex, and actually increased the security of the Soviet military. In other words, it was something that Reagan and Gorbachev could get past their own military establishments. Reagan hoped that as trust built, more nuclear disarmament would proceed. Now that President Reagan’s remaining achievement has been destroyed, what are the consequences of the Trump administration’s concession to the profits of the US military/security complex? There are many, none good. The massive US military/security complex profits will increase as more increasingly scarce American resources flow into the production of intermediate range missiles in order to counter “the Russian threat.” The Republicans will want to pay for this by cutting Social Security and Medicare. I am unsure that the Democrats would be any different. The Zionist neoconservatives now have their hope rekindled of re-establishing American and Israeli hegemony with an undetected first strike nuclear cruise missile attack on Russia. More pressure will be on Putin’s government from Alexei Kudrin, the Jewish Lobby, and the billionaire oligarchs put in place by Washington and Israel during the Yeltsin years when Russia was degraded to an American vassal state. These Russian traitors are so powerful that Putin has to tolerate them. With neoconized Washington doing everything it can possibly do to damage the Russian economy and to draw Russian resources off from economic and infrastructure needs to military spending, Kudrin and the Western-supported elements of the Russian media will, with their demands to accommodate Washington, encourage Washington to put yet more pressure on Russia with the intention of forcing Russia into a vassal status with the Germans, British, French, and the rest of Europe, along with Canada, Australia, and Japan. The Russian government, by its meek response to extraordinary provocations, continues to encourage more provocations, as the provocations cost the US and its vassals nothing. The Russian government’s toleration of traitors, such as Kudrin, does not convince Western peoples that Russia is an open, free speech society. Instead, they believe Kudrin, not Putin. Americans believe that Putin is a thug who stole $50 billion and is one of the world’s richest men. I heard this yesterday from my own cousin. The Western media never paints a correct picture of life in Russia. The only achievement of the Russian government’s non-confrontational response to the West and toleration of treason within its own government is to convince Washington that Putin can be overthrown, just like the pro-Russian president of Ukraine and the presidents of Honduras, Brazil, Argentina. In the 20th century Americans, or that small percentage that is sentient, were influenced by dystopic novels such as Kafka’s The Trial, Orwell’s 1984, and Huxley’s Brave New World. We identified these novels with life in the Soviet Union, and we feared being conquered and subjectged to such life. It was a long time before I realized that the “Soviet threat” was a hoax, like Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” like “Iranian nukes,” like “Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” like . . . you can provide the examples. The vast majority of the peoples in the world have no idea what is happening. They are trying to find or to keep jobs, to provide housing and food, to find the money for a mortgage or car or credit card payment in the US, and in much of the world water to drink and a bit of food to eat. They are stressed out. They have no energy to confront bad news or to figure out what is happening. They are abandoned by governments everywhere. Outside of Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, where is there a government that represents the people? Even in Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, are there governments that actually believe in themselves instead of in Western propaganda?

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24 октября, 05:25

As Trump Approval Hits Record High, Dems Fear Low Millennial, Hispanic Turnout

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With just two weeks left until the midterm vote, Democrats are worrying that their get-out-the-vote efforts (which have included such novel strategies as catfishing people on twitter) won't mobilize the two demographic groups that are seen as crucial to a Democratic victory: Young people and Hispanics, per Bloomberg. Meanwhile, the latest Gallup poll shows that support for President Trump surged to 44% during the first two weeks of October, just one percentage point below his personal best, which was reached during his first week in office. Gallup attributed the bump to the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as the decades-old accusations of sexual misconduct apparently galvanized support for the president. The boost in Trump's approval rating helped push his average approval rating for his seventh quarter in office, which began July 20 and ended October 19, to 41.2%. This Q7 average  fell short of his 41.9% sixth-quarter average, but it's still nearly 5 percentage points above where it stood one year ago. And while Trump's Q7 approval is still comparatively low, it's not much lower than similar ratings for Bill Clinton (41.4% in 1994), Ronald Reagan (41.7% in 1982) and Jimmy Carter (42.3% in 1978). Trump's immediate predecessor, Barack Obama, also registered a weak Q7 approval rating during his seventh quarter in office, averaging 44.7% job approval in the late summer and early fall of 2010. In addition to Kavanaugh, several other notable developments occurred during Trump's 7th quarter. The BEA confirmed that GDP growth expanded to 4.2% during the second quarter, consumer confidence climbed to its highest level in 2 decades while the S&P 500 broke through 2,900 for the first time. Unsurprisingly, Americans who identify or lean Republican have consistently given Trump higher job approval ratings, and during his seventh quarter in office, their average approval rating increased from 81% to 85%, a sign that the president is slowly winning over more voters who were likely once members of the "#NeverTrump" camp. His average Q7 approval rating among independent voters also improved by 3 percentage points. And while poll suggest that Republicans are closing the gap with Democrats, increasing the likelihood that they retain control of the House and the Senate following the Nov. 6 midterm, the Dems are worried that signs of interest among Latino voters won't translate to the voting booth. According to Bloomberg, one survey released Sunday found 71% of Latinos registered high interest in the midterms, a jump from the 49% of Latinos who said that in mid-September. Among voters under 35, the poll said 51% expressed high interest, which is lower than the 65% average for all registered voters. This is hugely problematic for Democratic strategists, because there are 31 GOP-controlled districts where Hispanics make up one-quarter of the population or more. "It’s just a really, really big question about who’s going to turn out to vote," Lake said. "We could lose Senate seats over it. We could lose - the margin in the House could be greatly reduced. There are a good 15 seats where the millennial and Latino vote make a huge difference, could be the margin of victory." In the past, any interest ahead of the vote expressed by young voters and minorities didn’t translate at the ballot box, as both demographics largely sat out the midterms in 2014, 2010 and 2006. Historically, the trend in non-presidential elections is that voters are older, white and married - demographics that often benefit Republicans. In 2014, Hispanics comprised 25.1% of eligible voters but just 6.8% of the electorate. In 2010, they accounted for 21.3% of eligible voters and 6.6% of the electorate. In 2006, a strong year for Democrats, they were 17.3% of eligible voters and just 5.6 percent of the electorate. One strategist perfectly summed up the contradiction in the data: while young voters are "very, very fired up, but the question is: Are they fired up for the next protest or for the next election?"

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24 октября, 05:05

The Last Two Times The US Economy Was This Strong, A Recession Was Less Than A Year Away

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Submitted by Lakshman Achuthan of ECRI Damned Lies and Statistics There’s been an air of euphoria about the economy – a sense that the boom times will keep going – with GDP growth over 4% and the jobless rate under 4%. Yet, the last two times we saw this combination, in 2000 and way back in 1969, a recession was less than a year away.  We don’t believe in forecasting by analogy, because much is different today. But while we aren’t predicting an imminent recession, for months ECRI has been making the case that the economy isn’t as strong as everyone believes. Few realize how poorly the headline data function as recession predictors. Indeed, a decade after the financial crisis, nobody recalls how deceptively strong GDP growth was in the actual lead-up to that downturn. Stock prices hit an all-time high in October 2007, when the latest GDP data showed nearly 4% second-quarter growth. Equally strong third-quarter GDP growth, released later that month, was revised up to almost 5% a month later. This was right on the verge of the Great Recession, which began in December 2007. Nor did this illusion of strength go away as stock prices continued their decline. In June 2008, half a year inside the recession, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke declared that the risk of a “substantial downturn appears to have diminished,” stressing the “the upside risks to inflation” instead. The futures markets agreed wholeheartedly, betting on more than a full percentage point of Fed rate hikes by year-end. This was smack in the middle of what turned out to be the worst recession since the Great Depression. When Lehman Brothers collapsed in August 2008 – nine months after the Great Recession began – the GDP data showed it rising in every single quarter since 2001, barring a miniscule dip at the end of 2007. Those numbers were downgraded only after the recession ended, with much of the revisions coming years later. Today’s GDP data is also likely to be exaggerating the economy’s strength. Indeed, since GDP tends to be substantially revised years after the fact, it’s useful to cross-check it with the data on Gross Domestic Income (GDI), an equivalent measure of output growth, based on income rather than purchases. Importantly, one study showed that initial GDP growth estimates tend to get revised toward initial GDI growth estimates, but not vice versa. So it’s surely worth noting that, in the second quarter of 2018, GDI grew at a scant 1.6% pace, far below the 4.2% GDP growth rate. Indeed, while year-over year (yoy) real GDP growth has been rising steadily, and has climbed to a three-year high (upper panel, light blue line in chart), yoy real GDI growth has been in a yearlong slowing trend, declining to a 1¼-year low (dark blue line). Both real GDP and real GDI have shortcomings. Therefore, the Philadelphia Fed – regarding both as “noisy indicators of true, underlying, latent” real output – extracts from them an “optimal estimate” called GDPplus. Like yoy real GDI growth, yoy GDPplus growth has been in a shallow cyclical downswing for a year, and has just touched a 1¼-year low (lower panel). This narrative stands in stark contrast to headlines heralding accelerating GDP growth. At the same time, the unemployment rate, which declines substantially in long expansions – especially when demographics slow labor force growth – hasn’t been this low since 1969. But few understand a key reason for its decline: the enormous increase over the decades in the proportion of college graduates, whose jobless rates are always much lower. Today, over 34% of Americans are college graduates, over triple their 1969 population share. But those lacking high school diplomas – nearly half the 1969 population – make up only a tenth of the population now. Notably, their jobless rate is usually double to over quadruple that of college graduates, who are now far more numerous and thus pull down the headline jobless rate. College graduates’ unemployment rate is now the lowest since 2007, not 1969, while their share of overall wages is well over half, having doubled since 1969. But the wage share of those without high school diplomas – which equaled that of college graduates in 1969 – has plunged to under 4%, meaning that their plummeting jobless rate since 2010 offers hardly any support to consumer spending.  Since GDPplus is a better measure than GDP or GDI, its sobering message is worth heeding. And while the headline jobless rate is the lowest since the 1960s, for college graduates it was lower as recently as 2006. As Mark Twain observed, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. That’s why it’s really important to cross-check, and cross-check again, to get at the truth buried under the headlines. And in this case, the reality is that economic growth is slowing, not speeding up.

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24 октября, 04:45

Kyle Bass: Trump Has "Strongest Negotiating Position We've Ever Had" Against China

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After spending two years in the dog house, Hayman Capital Management and its founder, Kyle Bass, are finally seeing some positive returns on the fund's signature short-Chinese-yuan play, which has returned more than 10% since the beginning of 2018 after the fund recorded a 20% loss last year. Since he first went public with the short in 2016, Bass has stood by his view that a looming capital outflow crisis would eventually cause the Chinese yuan to shed 30% of its value vs. the dollar. And luckily for him, Trump showed up and decided to expedite this process by waging his economically disruptive trade war. So during an interview with CNBC, Bass said that China is facing its "worst financial situation" since the financial crisis after that 6.5% yoy GDP print, which has only given Trump more leverage to press his trade advantage. In making his case, Bass pointed to first-quarter data that showed for the first time in 17 years China ran a current account deficit, meaning it imported more goods and services than it exported, even as it continued to run a massive trade surplus with the US, even as it ran a massive trade surplus with the US. While this is consistent with China's goal of transitioning into a service-reliant economy, the shortage of foreign capital will create serious economic headwinds in the short term. "And so, the US is in a very particularly interesting negotiating position today. We are in the strongest negotiating position we’ve ever had against China. They’ve kind of leveled the playing field a little bit more with their, let’s say, subversion of WTO rules, their intellectual property theft and basically everything they’ve done to take advantage of the US over the past 15, 17 years." The Trump administration needs to level the playing field on trade, Bass said, and "it looks like they are doing so." And it certainly helps that Trump's trade push, while initially reviled by globalists in both parties, has since won the reluctant support of both Democrats and Republicans as the US economy has largely escaped any serious repercussions so far. But ultimately, the arbiter of government money and influence over the domestic economy is the yuan-dollar exchange rate. And as the yuan sinks, foreign ownership of Chinese assets is falling as the PBOC runs "a structural and more permanent" current-account deficit with the rest of the world as the US continues to institute trade barriers. "So they can change a lot of things domestically, but their - the arbiter of the Chinese plan is their cross rate or their exchange rate with the rest of the world. China Inc.’s working capital account is now going South because they’re running what we believe to be a structural and more permanent deficit on the current account. And so, ie, their working capital, their dollar balance whether it’s dollars, euros, yen or pounds, it’s mostly dollars." All of this instability risks toppling the mountain of bad debt upon which China's economic growth in recent years has depended. Already, corporate defaults have surged in 2018 to the highest level on record.  With all of these factors at play, China is running what Bass described as "the largest financial experiment the world has ever seen." "And they’ve got, you know, $40 trillion worth of credit, somewhere between 40 and 50, no one knows, in a system with only a couple trillion dollars’ worth of equity. And so China is running the largest financial experiment the world has ever seen. And the economic tides have turned negative for them. If you notice the narrative amongst the United States, it’s actually a bipartisan narrative whereby you’re seeing both sides of the aisle pushing back on China taking advantage of the US." And with the yuan poised to break below the key technical level of 7 to the dollar, Bass and Hayman might finally be able to make up for the losses on their yuan short, as a break below 7 would likely invite a speculative attack.  Watch the full video below: Watch CNBC's full interview with Hayman Capital's Kyle Bass from CNBC.

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24 октября, 04:25

Socialized Medicine Won't Solve America's Obesity Problem

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Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute, Last week, researchers at the the University of Washington released a new study predicting that US life expectancy would fall further and further behind other countries over the next twenty years. Life expectancy will continue to increase, but at a slower rate than many other countries. Whether or not these predictions ever come true, depend on many of the study's assumptions also coming true. Nevertheless, it's not hard to see why the general health of Americans isn't exactly headed toward a renaissance. While recent news stories have pointed toward drug overdoses and suicides as a driver behind rising mortality in the US, the health of Americans continues to be imperiled primarily by obesity and its resulting diseases : Obesity is a grave public health threat, more serious even than the opioid epidemic. It is linked to chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Obesity accounts for 18 percent of deaths among Americans ages 40 to 85, according to a 2013 study challenging the prevailing wisdom among scientists, which had placed the rate at around 5 percent. This means obesity is comparable to cigarette smoking as a public health hazard; smoking kills one of five Americans and is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States... Obese people are between 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to die of heart disease than people with normal body mass indices (BMIs). Yet, when we hear about these trends, advocates for socialized medicine are often quick to claim that life expectancy would surely be higher if only the United States had a government health-care system instead of the quasi-market system it has now. Ignoring the fact that the US already spends more government money on health care than nearly every other country, there's really no reason at all to assume that, in light of the obesity reality in the US, a European-style healthcare system would lead to a European-style life expectancy. After all, according to the OECD, the US has an obesity rate of a whopping 40 percent, followed by Chile and Mexico with rates of 34 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Canada's obesity rate, meanwhile, is 28 percent, and it's 26 percent in the United Kingdom. It's a mere 23 percent in Germany, and 17 percent in France. The gaps in life expectancy aren't nearly as large as this. Thus, if anything, we might conclude that the US's healthcare workers are doing an unexpectedly good job given how committed Americans are to consuming immense numbers of calories, while exercising little. Given that the US obesity rate is 69 percent higher than that in Germany, one might conclude it's quite surprising that the German life expectancy is only 2.1 percent higher than the US life expectancy. Indeed, instead of assuming that adopting a more bureaucratized health care system would extend life expectancy, we might best look at the burdens that added obesity puts on the health care system, including efforts at prevention. As the Commonwealth Fund - hardly a libertarian organization - points out, "The medical costs of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are estimated at $147 billion in 2008 dollars," and "Providing affordable health care to Americans will prove increasingly difficult as weight gain continues to ravage the United States." In other words, American obesity means Americans are starting out less healthy before they even engage the healthcare system — and are requiring that vital healthcare resources be redirected toward prevention and treatment of diseases related to obesity. The end result is more expensive healthcare, more disease, and ultimately, more death. Often advocates for more government solutions will then claim that some more government money for nutrition programs, or regulations for food labeling will solve the problem. Except, there's little evidence thatdieting programs or food labeling mandates work. So, simply having more contact with a physician who's going to tell you to cut out the snacking isn't going to make any meaningful difference. What is needed are sizable changes to everyday food culture, and to the nature of daily physical activity. Neither of these things would be significantly changed by simply spending an extra few billion on medicare. As far as daily activity goes, the ease and affordability of private transportation looks to be a significant factor. And when it comes to diet, it's long been recognized that the American diet is especially unhealthy given the prominence of processed food and fast food. Over time, fast food portions have become much larger, which means these foods have been gradually replacing unprocessed foods. Not surprisingly, combined with a lack of physical activity, the end result has been obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Poverty Doesn't Cause Obesity Still looking for a government "solution," many advocates for more government intervention in the American diet have attempted to claim that "inequality" or poverty causes obesity. They point to a correlation between low income and high obesity rates. They further point to the alleged existence of "food deserts" in which low-income people supposedly can't access food other than fast food or convenience-store food. The problem with this theory is that the evidence doesn't support it. In the waning days of the Obama administration, the USDA concluded "improving access to healthful foods by itself will likely not have a major impact on consumer diets or generate major reductions in diet-related disease." The USDA was specifically referring to a study in which residents of neighborhoods with a new grocery store and increased access to food did not act to improve their diets. "Consumption of fruits and vegetables did not improve," the study found. In fact, its unlikely that "food deserts" exist : Three more-recent studies, by the United States Department of Agriculture, researchers at the RAND Corporation, and myself (publishing in Social Science and Medicine), have all found that low-income neighborhoods have at least as many and often more grocery stores and supermarkets than do wealthier communities. Nor do all low-income groups surrender themselves to American dietary habits. For example, researchers have long known that immigrants tend to be healthier than the US population overall. States with larger foreign-born populations tend to have longer life expectancy, and as immigrants become more "Americanized" they become less healthy: “There’s something about life in the United States that is not conducive to good health across generations,” said Robert A. Hummer, a social demographer at the University of Texas at Austin. For Hispanics, now the nation’s largest immigrant group, the foreign-born live about three years longer than their American-born counterparts, several studies have found. Why does life in the United States — despite its sophisticated health care system and high per capita wages — lead to worse health? New research is showing that the immigrant advantage wears off with the adoption of American behaviors — smoking, drinking, high-calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles. Keep in mind that immigrant groups also tend to have lower incomes and less access to health care services than the general population. And yet their health outcomes tend to be better. But, continued exposure to American dietary habits can overwhelm the better habits of immigrant groups over time. Japanese-Americans, for example, have far less heart disease than the native white population in the first two generations after emigration. On the other hand, one study shows "cardiovascular risk factors in the third generation Japanese American immigrants are becoming more similar to those in whites." So, as the immigrant experience has shown, health is not simply a function of income or accessibility to certain foods and to health services. And even the left-wing Guardian in the UK appreciates the centrality of diet in life expectancy. Last week, in response to new research claims that Spain will soon move to the top of global life expectancy, the Guardian looked to the role of the Spanish diet: For Consuelo Borrás, a lecturer in physiology at the University of Valencia, lifestyle remains the most important factor in life expectancy. Even if the modern world has begun to take its toll on the Mediterranean diet, “it’s still fairly well lodged in the Spanish mentality and we know it’s something that’s important”. And yet, perhaps not surprisingly, the article repeated the myths around food deserts and American accessibility to health food: “Fruit and vegetables are affordable for everyone,” he said. “It’s not like in the US, where you have these so-called ‘food deserts’ where you have to drive for miles before you can find a fruit and vegetable store — and, when you do, it’s ridiculously expensive.” These words were spoken by a researcher at the University of Barcelona, although his assertions appear to be based on conjecture. Not only are there no food deserts, but two recent studies have found that fruits and vegetables are no more expensive than other foods: The researchers found that the average cost per serving size of the fruit or vegetable snack was $0.34, while the unhealthy snacks was $0.67. The average price per serving of vegetable side dishes was $0.27, compared to the unhealthy side dishes at $0.31. The findings are consistent with a 2012 study from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that found healthy foods were less expensive than unhealthy foods on the basis of edible weight or average portion. It's tempting to think that some change in law, or some government program can easily offer the solution to issues with American health. Some look at life expectancy in other parts of the world and conclude that supposed difference in public policy must explain away differences in life expectancy as well. This ignores the reality of deep-seated differences between native-born Americans and the rest of the world in terms of lifestyle, diet, and other behavior affecting health. The idea that a few more government regulations will solve these problems is fanciful at best.

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24 октября, 04:05

"Treason": FBI Failed To Mention Trump Aide's Denial Of Russian Collusion To Undercover Spy

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While applying for a FISA warrant on Trump Campaign aide Carter Page, the FBI failed to include the fact that George Papadopoulos - another adviser, vehemently denied that the Trump Campaign was involved in the hacking and release of Hillary Clinton's emails, reports The Hill's John Solomon.  While being pumped for information by FBI spy and Cambridge Professor Stefan Halper, Papadopoulos said that colluding with Russia would be "treason," and that he had nothing to do with it.  “He was there to probe me on the behest of somebody else,” Papadopoulos told me in an interview this week, recalling the Halper meeting. “He said something along the lines of, ‘Oh, it’s great that Russia is helping you and your campaign, right George?’” Papadopoulos said Halper also suggested the Trump campaign was involved in the hacking and release of Hillary Clinton’s emails that summer. “I think I told him something along the lines of, ‘I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. What you are talking about is treason. And I have nothing to do with that, so stop bothering me about it,’” Papadopoulos recalled. -The Hill Papadopoulos will testify this week behind closed doors in front of two House panels.  According to Solomon's sources who have seen the FISA warrant and its three renewals, the FBI failed to mention Papadopoulos's denial, which Solomon describes as "an omission of exculpatory evidence that GOP critics in Congress are likely to cite as having misled the court."  Another source, meanwhile, tells Solomon that the FBI has at least one transcript which calls the Trump campaign's collusion with Russia into question - specifically citing information pertaining to Papadopoulos. False pretenses The FBI officially launched its counterintelligence operation against the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016, after Australian diplomat Alexander Downer said Papadopoulos revealed knowledge of Russia hacking Hillary Clinton's emails. Papadopoulos has vehemently denied any knowledge of the conversation and suggested in a series of September tweets that he was set up.  So basically, for those paying attention, we have a Clinton friend, connected to the MI6, and private intelligence organizations in London, probing me about my ties to the energy business offshore Israel. Nothing about the US-Australia relationship. — George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) September 10, 2018 Yet I supposedly told THAT individual about emails. Something I have no recollection ever discussing. — George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) September 10, 2018 The notion that Downer randomly reached out to me just to have a gin and tonic is laughable. Some organization or entity sent him to meet me. For the sake of our republic and the integrity of this investigation, I think it's time Downer is as exposed as Christoper Steele. — George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) September 11, 2018 Would be a very very big problem if British intelligence was weopanized against an American citizen. — George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) September 11, 2018 What's more, Papadopoulos was fed the information about Clinton's emails by (missing) Maltese professor and self-professed Clinton Foundation member, Joseph Mifsud.  In other words: Mifsud seed the information, Downer says Papadopoulos admitted it in a drunken state, and then undercover spy Stefan Halper pumped him for information about it - all in an attempt by the Obama administration and others to dig up (or fabricate) dirt on the Trump campaign.  Halper also tried conducted espionage on Carter Page - while former UK spy Christopher Steele assembled the Trump-Russia dossier, paid for in part by Hillary Clinton and the DNC - which the FBI later used to apply for the FISA warrant on Page (omitting Papadopoulos's "treason" remarks).  The FISA warrant was drafted to target surveillance at Page but also cited Papadopoulos in a section that suggested Russia was coordinating election collusion through Page and "perhaps other individuals associated" with Trump's campaign. “The truth is, the Papadopoulos predicate went into reversal, but rather than shut down the probe at that point, the bureau turned to other leads like Steele and Page without giving the court a full picture,” one source said. Some in Congress are bracing for the possibility that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might argue in his interview with lawmakers that the FBI did not have an obligation to disclose all exculpatory evidence to the FISA judges. Such an argument is contrary to how the court works, according to officials who prepare FISA warrants. The FBI is required to submit only verified information and to alert the court to any omissions of material fact that cast doubt on the supporting evidence, including any denials, these officials told me. -The Hill Papadopoulos's communications with Halper was just one of over a half-dozen such interactions that Western intelligence figures established with Papadopoulos during the campaign.  Read more at The Hill

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24 октября, 03:46

Trump Escalates Attack On Powell: "Every Time We Do Something Great, He Raises Interest Rates"

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Though the NYFRB's Plunge Protection Team swooped in to rescue US markets later in the afternoon, the sea of red in markets was just one more unwelcome distraction on a day when Trump and his administration already had its hands full with the rolling diplomatic crisis in Saudi Arabia. And never one to pull punches when he's in a sour mood, Trump once again unleashed on the Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, during a 30-minute Oval Office interview with the Wall Street Journal, once again blaming the central bank for the market chaos that's erupted over the past few weeks. Ignoring the pleas of his closest advisors and practically every financial professional in the US, the president stepped up his attacks on Powell, telling the chronicle of American capitalism that it's "too early to tell" if he regrets nominating the Fed chairman. That, of course, cuts against comments made by the president earlier this month when he insisted that he has no intention of firing Powell (though it's unclear whether he would have the authority to remove a sitting Fed chair). And for those who have until now brushed aside Trump's angry attacks as an example of the president "just venting" over the recent pullback in markets, Trump told WSJ in no uncertain terms that he was "intentionally sending a direct message to Mr. Powell that he wanted lower interest rates." While the Fed is supposed to be independent "in theory", Trump suggested that he wouldn't keep quiet and let the central bank wreck the economy. He said the Fed was supposed to be independent “in theory,” but “To me the Fed is the biggest risk, because I think interest rates are being raised too quickly,” Asked what would push him to try and remove Powell, Trump refused to answer with specifics. Mr. Trump demurred when asked under what circumstances he’d remove Mr. Powell. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’m just saying this: I’m very unhappy with the Fed because Obama had zero interest rates.” Mr. Trump said it was “too early to tell, but maybe” if he regrets nominating Mr. Powell. Pressed about what he believes is the biggest threat to the US economy, Trump replied: "The Fed" adding that every time he tries to do something great, they spoil the party. “Every time we do something great, he raises the interest rates,” Mr. Trump said, adding that Mr. Powell “almost looks like he’s happy raising interest rates.” The president declined to elaborate, and a spokeswoman for the Fed declined to comment. Notably, Trump also referred to the economy as "my economy" and complained that he couldn't be expected to compete with Obama, who benefited from near-zero rates during his entire tenure in office. The president’s caustic comments about Mr. Powell came as Mr. Trump repeatedly described the economy in personal terms. He referred to economic gains during his time in office as “my numbers,” saying, “I have a hot economy going.” He described his push for growth as a competition with former President Obama’s record, saying that increases under his Democratic predecessor were skewed because of low-interest rates. [...] Citing the rate increases, Mr. Trump said, “How the hell do you compete with that? And Obama — remember this, it’s very important — Obama had zero interest,” the president said. Though some have dismissed them as angry venting, it's clear that Trump's comments have already had an impact on interest-rate expectations. Since President Trump has begun talking against The Fed, the rates market has shifted towards a more dovish stance, as the chart below shows. While we're sure Trump's comments will send members of the liberal intelligentsia (and certain employees of the Eurasia Group) into apoplectic fits as they screech about how Trump is degrading essential American institutions, none other than Paul Volcker, the legendary Fed chairman who famously tamed America's runaway inflation during the early 1980s, recently recalled a 1984 meeting with former President Ronald Reagan when then-chief of staff James Baker flatly told Volcker: "The president is ordering you not to raise interest rates before the election." "I was stunned," Volcker said. "I later surmised that the library location had been chosen because, unlike the Oval Office, it probably lacked a taping system." But amid the crush of comparisons to Turkey, a few twitter commentators came through with some more lighthearted takes... Powell is going to wake up with a horse's head. — Mike Zaccardi, CFA, CMT (@MikeZaccardi) October 23, 2018  

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24 октября, 03:45

China's Oil Addiction Is Its Main Weakness As A Superpower

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Authored by Tim Daiss via Oilprice.com, For decades, the U.S. was so reliant on foreign crude oil imports that it dictated much of the country’s foreign policy spanning numerous presidential administrations. As far back as the 1970s, especially after the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo that threatened economic survival, foreign policy decisions became increasingly subservient to OPEC, and mostly Saudi oil imports. This dynamic can still be felt currently as yet another president, this time Donald Trump, juggles another Middle Eastern geopolitical dilemma with no easy answers over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi likely at the hands of Saudi agents inside Turkey. Now, however, the U.S. has positioned itself among the top three global oil producers, and it has also removed the vulnerability that saw the U.S. embroiled in several middle eastern conflicts. Additionally, it still has the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet guarding oil exports leaving the Middle Eastern region, including the volatile and strategic strait of Hormuz. While the U.S. still has to figure out its game plan going forward amid a record 11 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil production, and the increasingly complex relationship with long term key ally Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, China is now also finding itself in an increasingly vulnerable spot as it relies more on both foreign crude oil and natural gas imports to fund its growing economy. Gas thirst Just the numbers coming out of China should be cause for concern for Beijing energy planners. First, China’s gas consumption in 2017 soared to new record highs, reaching 235.2 billion cubic meters (bcm), marking an increase of 17 percent or 34 bcm from the previous year. However, the real story has been China’s LNG demand spikes. China bypassed South Korea last year to become the world’s second largest LNG importer, after Japan, while China’s LNG demand increased by more than 50 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year to around 38 million tonnes. The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said earlier this year that China will become the world’s top overall imports of natural gas sometime in 2019. In its Gas 2018 annual report, the IEA said Chinese demand for natural gas will rise by almost 60 percent between 2017 and 2023 to 376 bcm, including a rise in its LNG imports to 93 bcm by 2023 from 51 bcm in 2017. Last week, energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie said that China already accounts for 50 percent of overall growth in global LNG demand. Oil majors, particularly forward-thinking Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s largest LNG producing company, are going long again on projected LNG demand and China's gas thirst. As a consequence of that growing demand, Wood Mackenzie now predicts 2019 will see a record number of final investment decisions on new LNG projects in Russia, the U.S., Qatar and Mozambique. China’s LNG demand will also shorten the ongoing supply overhang in LNG markets by several years from a previously predicted time frame of 2022-2023. Moreover, China's gas demand has also seen it blink in the face of ongoing trade tensions with Washington as it lowered a possible LNG tariff to 10 percent from as high as an initial 25 percent. Oil addiction Even as China’s growing dependency on imported gas continues, both in the form of LNG and pipeline gas, its oil thirst is even more problematic. In 2017, China's apparent oil demand rose 5.5 percent year on year to 11.77 million bpd. So far this year, in-spite of a bitter trade war with the U.S. and other economic headwinds, refinery throughput in China, the world's largest oil importer, increased in September to a record 12.49 million bpd, government data showed earlier this month. A CNBC report said that the refinery throughput data feeds hopes about oil demand in China, even though economic growth slowed in the third quarter to its weakest since the global financial crisis. While ongoing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing could dent Chinese oil demand in the short term, long term demand will nonetheless continue to grow in lock step with the country’s economic growth, projected above 6 percent per annum for the next several years. And, it’s this very economic growth that will see China increasingly reliant on crude oil imports from friend and foe alike, including greater reliance on lighter sweet crude imports from U.S. shale producers once ongoing trade tensions recede. The correlation between foreign oil dependency and national security will be one of Beijing’s greatest and most complex issues as the next decade approaches. It will increasingly dictate the government’s foreign policy decisions as it juggles both its own hegemony goals in the Asia-Pacific, extending to Africa and beyond. Lessons from U.S. oil dependency Just since the late 1970s, U.S. oil dependency dedicated American foreign policy, ranging from Washington’s response to the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s, American support of Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq war for most of the 1980s, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent two Gulf Wars, while financing the second Gulf War is in large part to blame for the country’s now massive national debt. Though Beijing will likely not be as heavily involved in geopolitical affairs as the U.S., it will nonetheless find itself hampered by its own oil needs, while its rapidly growing blue ocean navy may one day also be called on to defend global shipping lanes just as the U.S. has done for decades. Several years ago Washington think-tank the Brookings Institute said that amidst the many uncertainties looming over China’s future political and economic circumstances, “one thing is evident: whatever the pace of economic development may be, China must address its rapidly growing demand for natural energy and resources. Oil will be at the top of this list.”

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24 октября, 03:24

Category 3 Hurricane Willa Makes Landfall In Mexico Tonight - 500,000 Tourists In Path  

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Category 3 Hurricane Willa is expected to make landfall in and around Mexico's Pacific Coast Tuesday evening with "life-threatening storm surge, wind, and rainfall," according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).  Willa briefly sustained Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds on Monday, then weakened in the overnight to a Category 3, but still packs a significant punch with sustained winds around 125 mph.  As of Tuesday morning, Willa passed through Las Islas Marias, an archipelago of four islands 60 miles offshore of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Willa is expected to make landfall near Isla del Bosque around or after 6 pm this evening, local time. "An extremely dangerous storm surge is likely along portions of the coast of southwestern Mexico in southern Sinaloa and Nayarit, especially near and to the south of where the center of Willa makes landfall," the NHC said Tuesday.  Hurricane warnings are posted from San Blas Mazatlan along the western Mexico coastline. Tropical storm warnings extend to surrounding areas, including Bahia Tempehuaya, Playa Perula, and Puerto Vallarta.  Forecasters expect the storm to make landfall this evening just south of Mazatlan, a resort town with about 500,000 people mainly from U.S. and Canada, said The Washington Post.  When Willa's core slams into the resort town this evening, there is a strong possibility that widespread tree damage, power outages, flooding, and structural damage could be seen. The Weather Channel expects six to 12 inches of rain -- and at most 18 inches -- in and around landfall areas. The resort town has terrain that quickly transitions from beaches to mountains terrain, which has a high risk of flash flooding and landslides.  Although Willa is less impressive since it reached peak intensity on Monday, it was the rapid intensification of the storm from Sunday to early Monday that caught many forecasters off guard.  As for now, all eyes on the resort town where tens of thousands of Americans and Canadians are hunkering down before Willa makes landfall in the coming hours. Here are social media users in various resort towns preparing for Willa this evening:  #HuracánWilla #PuertoVallarta pic.twitter.com/YLy2BVf8mJ — Martha BM Laínez 🖤 ♑️ (@soybiensanta) October 23, 2018 #HuracanWilla en #PuertoVallarta. Solo tenemos oleaje alto y tomar muchas precauciones. No estar a la orilla y hacer caso a las recomendaciones de la autoridad y medios de comunicación. Esperemos que a nuestros hermanos de #Sinaloa no les vaya mal 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/6CpDXjman7 — Godinez Municipal (@AlonsiniBoy) October 23, 2018 WATCH: Residents of Mazatlan prepare for Hurricane Willa as the Category 4 storm approaches Mexico's west coast pic.twitter.com/kL4T9PGD1g — TicToc by Bloomberg (@tictoc) October 23, 2018 More preparations in Mazatlan’s main tourist drag ahead of arrival of Hurricane #Willa pic.twitter.com/YqQcWpDFvE — David Alire Garcia (@aliregarcia) October 23, 2018 Me envían desde México este video de #Willa aproximándose a #Mazatlan. pic.twitter.com/WkunRxVB7I — Marcos🌪🎃 (@marcosobes) October 23, 2018