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Aug 31, 2018

Labor claims Michaelia Cash avoiding scrutiny in AWU raid investigation | Australia news I The Guardian

theguardian.com

Paul Karp



Michaelia Cash did not provide any additional information to police investigating the tipoff to the media about the raid on the Australian Workers’ Union headquarters, leading Labor to accuse her of refusing to cooperate with the police.
Guardian Australia understands the former employment minister’s evidence to the police consisted of only a witness statement detailing her evidence already in the public domain and she was not asked follow-up questions.

While Labor leapt on the revelation as a sign of Cash’s evasiveness on the AWU raid leak, sources close to Cash believe it supports her version of events that neither she nor her office is under investigation.
The Australian Financial Review, which first reported the revelation, suggested the leak made Cash a victim of payback culture within the Liberal party after she helped depose Malcolm Turnbull in last week’s leadership clash.
A senior Liberal source was quoted as saying that Cash was “asked to cooperate and she didn’t”, although Cash insists she did cooperate with the police but simply did not know anything more about the tipoff.
In October, journalists and television cameras were present when the police raided the AWU headquarters as part of the Registered Organisations Commission’s investigation into $100,000 in donations from the union to the campaign group GetUp in 2005.

I am 'absolutely not covering up' AWU raid, says Michaelia Cash – video
In Senate estimates, Cash repeatedly denied that her office was involved, but on 25 October her then senior media adviser David De Garis resigned after Buzzfeed revealed that he had tipped off the media about the raid.
Cash corrected her evidence, claiming the tipoff was made without her knowledge after her staff member found out about the raid “from a media source”. The AFP then set up an investigation into the leak.
Since then, Cash has repeatedly invoked public interest immunity in refusing to answer further questions about the tipoff.
On Friday, the acting shadow employment minister Tanya Plibersek said the revelation was “yet another example of the minister going out of her way to avoid scrutiny”.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that Senator Cash continues to be a minister yet reportedly refuses to cooperate with an AFP investigation,” she said.
The Labor senator Kimberley Kitching suggested Cash’s responses on the leak inquiry were circular because she “tells the Senate she can’t answer questions ... because there’s a police probe” and “tells [the federal police] she won’t answer questions because she’s got nothing to add to what she’s told the Senate”.

Kimberley Kitching ­č玭čç║ (@kimbakit)
­čśí@SenatorCash tells the Senate she can't answer questions about her office's criminal conduct because there's a Police probe
­čÜöCash tells @AusFedPolice she won't answer questions because she's got nothing to add to what she's told the Senate #auspolhttps://t.co/AJ01QKyHpe pic.twitter.com/vLNrN7KsXK

August 31, 2018
A spokeswoman for Cash said: “The minister absolutely refutes the allegations that have been made, as she has refuted them in the past.
“As the minister has consistently said, neither her or her office are under investigation.”
The spokeswoman said the minister “will not be giving a running commentary on misinformation being peddled by the AWU”.

The Australian federal police has referred material to commonwealth prosecutors relating to the media tipoff, culminating in a full brief of evidence. Police believe at least one offence may have been committed.
The AWU challenges the legality of the raid and is still locked in litigation against the Registered Organisations Commission.
Cash has been issued a subpoena to give evidence in the case, but insists she will apply to have the subpoena set aside.
Cash was moved from her role as employment minister to the jobs and innovation portfolio in December. After the leadership spill that deposed Turnbull, the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, demoted her to minister for small and family business, skills and vocational education.

EU FX: Dollar up for a second day on global trade tension I CNBC


CNBC


The dollar rose for a second straight session on Friday on concerns about global trade conflict, this time between the United States and the European Union.
On the week, the dollar index, a gauge of the greenback's value against six currencies was still up 0.4 percent. Over the last two weeks, the dollar has fallen 1.3 percent.
The greenback had rallied late Thursday in a safe-haven move after Bloomberg News reported that U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to move ahead on a plan to impose tariffs on Chinese imports worth $200 billion next week. That concern spilled over to the European Union after Trump also said the European Union's proposal to eliminate auto tariffs was "not good enough".
Shaun Osborne, chief FX strategist, at Scotiabank said the markets have a "distinct risk-off look" the day after Trump's comments. "President Trump's pronouncements on Bloomberg late yesterday, which are critical of the...EU, willing to move on Chinese tariff...are adding to market concerns broadly," he said.
The euro was down 0.6 percent at $1.1601 after losing about 0.3 percent overnight when a rise in Italian government bond yields put additional pressure on the currency. The Japanese yen and Swiss franc also rose on safe-haven buying, with investors fearful about Europe's outlook.
Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on cars assembled by German automakers Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG and BMW AG. Trump also threatened in an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday to withdraw from the World Trade Organization if "they don't shape up."
Those remarks dampened any positive sentiment following negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The cautious mood helped lift the yen against the dollar, which stayed flat. The Swiss franc rose for the sixth successive session versus the dollar, which fell 0.1 percent to 0.9670 franc.
Emerging market currencies fell, as well. The Argentinian peso , the world's worst-performing currency this year, was down about 1 percent against the dollar, which last traded at 38.00 pesos. On Thursday, the Argentine peso tumbled 10 percent, bringing month-to-date losses to 27 percent. Argentina's central bank voted unanimously at an emergency meeting on Thursday to raise its benchmark rate to 60 percent from 45 percent.

Bonds & Fixed Income Report: Treasury yields slip as global trade friction resurfaces I CNBC

cnbc.com

Thomas Franck, Alexandra Gibbs




Friday marks the deadline for a new trade deal to be secured by the U.S., Mexico and Canada. While an agreement has been struck between the States and Mexico to replace the current NAFTA pact, Canada has yet to secure its place.
In the latest, the U.S. and Canada worked deep into the night on Thursday to push for an alternative to NAFTA, however Canada's trade minister said they are still working to "get the right deal, not any deal" on the refurbished trade accord; Reuters reported. With the deadline fast approaching, investors will be keeping a close eye on the developments.
Trade turmoil continues to shake up investors worldwide however, following a Bloomberg report citing sources suggesting that the U.S. administration was on standby to inflict additional levies on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as soon as next week.
In an interview with Bloomberg, the U.S. leader went onto warn that he may remove the country from the World Trade Organization (WTO), if "they don't shape up." Equity markets around the world are on edge Friday, with Asia and European stocks posting solid declines.
Consumer sentiment in the United States rose slightly in August, beating economist expectations for a slight decline. The University of Michigan's month;y survey of consumers hit 96.2 in the final reading of August, better than the drop to 95.5 expected by economists polled by Reuters.

Oil Price at Close Report: Oil holds near $70 as Iran sanctions offset trade war worries I CNBC


CNBC




Oil pumpjacks in silhouette at sunset.
Oil pumpjacks in silhouette at sunset.
Oil prices slipped on Friday but remained near $70 a barrel as impending U.S. sanctions on Iran and falling Venezuelan output offset concerns over the impact of a global trade war.
Benchmark Brent crude oil was down 35 cents a barrel at $77.42 by 2:18 p.m. ET. U.S. light crude ended Friday's session down 45 cents lower at $69.80.
Despite Friday's losses, both Brent and U.S. light crude jumped about 2 percent this week after strong gains in the last two sessions. U.S. light crude gained 1.5 percent in August, while Brent was on track for a rise of 4.3 percent.
Some analysts say the uptrend in crude prices will continue.
"Brent prices will exceed $80 per barrel before the end of the year," U.S. bank Jefferies forecast on Friday.
Oil markets are tightening with a recent surplus draining, trade figures show. The volume of unsold crude stored in the Atlantic basin has dwindled from around 30 cargoes to just a handful in recent weeks, a Reuters analysis showed.
"The contracts are in a strong up-trend," said Robin Bieber, who watches price charts for brokerage PVM Oil Associates.
Investors are worried that, with Venezuelan supply falling sharply, Iranian crude supply will be cut sharply ahead of the imposition on U.S. sanctions on Tehran in November.
"The November deadline to comply with the U.S. demands for an Iran oil embargo is moving closer, and in anticipation, buyers seemingly have begun reducing their purchases," said Norbert Ruecker, commodity analyst at Swiss bank Julius Baer.
"Venezuela remains equally concerning," he added.
U.S. President Donald Trump threatened in an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday to withdraw from the World Trade Organization, his latest salvo in a deepening dispute between the United States and its major trading partners.
Economists are worried that rising trade barriers between the world's major economies will drag on global growth and, by extension, erode energy demand.
"You have to wonder if it (crude) can sustain these prices in a world where President Trump doubles down on his battle with the EU and China at the same time," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at futures brokerage AxiTrader.
Trump is prepared to ramp up a dispute with China and has told aides he is ready to impose tariffs on $200 billion more Chinese imports as early as next week, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
Oil analysts cut their price forecasts for 2018 for the first time in almost a year in August, as concerns about the impact of the global trade war deepen, a Reuters poll shows.
A Reuters survey of 45 economists and analysts forecast Brent would average $72.71 in 2018, 16 cents below the $72.87 projected in July and above the $71.96 average so far this year. The price was forecast to average $72.58 in 2019.
— CNBC's Tom DiChristopher contributed to this report.

Gold Price at Close Report - Gold rises, set for longest monthly losing streak in 5½ years I CNBC


CNBC


Gold ticked higher on Friday as the dollar rose and investors grew jittery about an escalation in the U.S.-China trade dispute after fresh threats by U.S. President Donald Trump, though bullion is still heading for its fifth straight monthly decline.
Spot gold stayed flat at $1,199.48 an ounce while U.S. gold futures were up slightly at $1,205.30 an ounce.
Gold prices are down 1.6 percent in August, with losses this year totaling more than 7 percent.
Trump is prepared to ramp up a trade war with China and has told aides he is ready to impose tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports as soon as a public comment period on the plan ends next week, Bloomberg reported on Thursday.
"Trump's plans have had a significant impact on sentiment and the slightly weaker dollar is supporting gold," said Peter Fertig, analyst at Quantitative Commodity Research, adding that the emerging-market currency crisis was also supporting gold.
A lower U.S. currency makes dollar-priced gold cheaper for holders of other currencies and would potentially boost demand. This is a relationship used by funds to generate buy and sell signals.
However, the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates next month and again before the end of the year is a negative. The U.S. Federal Reserve next meets on Sept. 25-26 and twice more in November and December.
Higher U.S. rates raise the opportunity cost of holding gold, which yields no interest and costs money to store and insure. This is why many investors have sold their gold holdings, as can be seen in exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
The holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest gold-backed ETF at 24.36 million ounces, are down 13 percent since late April.
"The ongoing outflows from ETFs, record-high speculative shorts and upbeat U.S. economic data are still the major headwinds for gold and signify the recovery might be short- lived," said Religare Securities analyst Sugandha Sachdeva.
Silver was down 0.3 percent at $14.49 an ounce, palladium advanced by 1.7 percent to $981.10 and platinum was down 0.7 percent at $782.75.

Wall Street At Close Report: Stocks clinch best August performance in over 4 years despite trade turmoil I CNBC.


Michael Sheetz, Thomas Franck, Alexandra Gibbs


U.S. stocks dropped Friday as the United States and Canada put off resolving their trade dispute. Several indexes closed with historic highs for the month of August, as both the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 notched all-time highs this week.
Friday marks the U.S.-imposed deadline for a new trade deal to be secured by the U.S. and Canada. The latter country's trade negotiator Chrystia Freeland is expected to make a statement at 4:30 p.m. ET. It is not accurate to say talks have broken off, an administration official said, and they are expected to continue next week.
Representatives from the Canadian and U.S. governments worked deep into the night Thursday to devise an alternative to the trade agreement. By late Friday morning, Canadian trade negotiator Chrystia Freeland said that "we're not there yet."
The talks were reportedly upset Friday morning after the Toronto Star published leaked comments President Donald Trump made to Bloomberg News on Thursday.
The president said he is not making any compromises in the talks with Canada but that he has been unable to say so publicly because "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal," the newspaper reported. Stocks hit sessions lows following the news.

"What's affecting the market is that we haven't seen any good news out of the Canadian negotiations yet. Coming in today we had a higher level of confidence we'd see something accomplished and that seems to be dissipating with a plethora of news stories," said Art Hogan, B. Riley FBR chief market strategist.
The U.S. dollar strengthened 0.7 percent against the Canadian dollar.
Trade concerns continued to weigh on investor sentiment this week following a report that the Trump administration remains committed to imposing tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese goods as soon as next week.
Trump appeared to confirm the Bloomberg News report later Thursday, adding that he may remove the U.S. from the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Trade-sensitive stocks such as Boeing and Caterpillar hit their session lows Thursday following the report. Shares of Boeing and Caterpillar dropped 0.9 percent and 2 percent in the prior session, respectively.
"We had the headline news on the tariffs, which knocked some things around, but we'll see how the day plays out as people start going away" for the weekend, said Jeremy Klein, chief market strategist at FBN Securities.
"In September, it's going to come down to how the economy's doing: Are companies still confident in their ability to put up the big numbers?" FBN's Klein added.
Markets will be closed Monday, Sept. 3 for the Labor Day holiday.
Despite the trade troubles Friday, both the Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 notched all-time highs this week, with a 5.9 percent weekly rally in Amazon and a 5.5 percent weekly gain in Apple carrying the indexes to new records. Apple gained 1.3 percent Friday while Amazon gained nearly 0.75 percent.
The Dow and the S&P 500 remain on track for their best August since 2014; the Nasdaq Composite was poised to clinch its best August since 2000. The indexes are up 2.2 percent, 3 percent and 5.7 percent for the month, respectively.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Consumer sentiment in the United States rose slightly in August, beating economist expectations for a slight decline. The University of Michigan's month;y survey of consumers hit 96.2 in the final reading of August, better than the drop to 95.5 expected by economists polled by Reuters.
Shares of Coca-Cola fell nearly 1 percent Friday after the company said it agreed to buy coffee chain Costa for $5.1 billion including debt to further its venture into healthier drink options.
The move, which pits Coca-Cola against established coffee options at Starbucks and Nestle, will add Costa's almost 4,000 outlets to the world's largest soda company.
— CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report

HBO’s Misguided Quest to Become Netflix – No Mercy I Medium


Scott Galloway


From the age of 25–40, my range of emotions could generously be described as “narrow.” I loved nobody, and the only real emotions I felt were satisfaction or disappointment from my ambition as I howled in the money storm. My approach to life could best be summarized as “I want more, fucking more.” Problem is, “more” started getting harder to define. During that 15-year period, I laughed out loud a lot less than before and didn’t cry once. Not once.
The only time I ever really “felt” anything was under the influence of media, in particular TV. A hundred years from now, TV will be recognized as the defining art form of our age.
  • The final scene from the series finale of Six Feet Under, as we see the deaths of all the characters we’ve come to know over the last seven years
  • Michael (Six Feet Under) realizes he’s on the bus that killed his father and begins to sob
  • A mob soldier (Sopranos), seeing no way out, looks at photos of his family at the Shore and, clinging to seashells from the trip, hangs himself
  • Walt (Breaking Bad) runs over a drug dealer with his Pontiac Aztek, shoots the dealer in the head, turns to his partner, Jesse, and advises him to … “Run”
  • Pretty much any scene with Hank (The Larry Sanders Show)
  • Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne offers to represent Tyrion Lannister in battle against the Mountain to avenge his sister: “I will be your champion.”
Note: Try to ignore the evidence that I appear capable of feeling emotion only in the context of death, bisexual warriors, or Jeffrey Tambor.
What do most of these scenes from the timeless art form have in common? Three things:
  1. H
2. B
3. O
HBO changed the landscape, full stop. Yes, they should have seen Netflix coming, but Netflix was able to execute on a strategy the markets would not grant HBO’s parent, Time Warner — cheap capital that didn’t demand profits. When I first read the remarks of John Stankey, the new head of Warner Entertainment, addressing his troops at HBO, I felt… bereft. From the NYT:
Mr. Stankey described a future in which HBO would substantially increase its subscriber base and the number of hours that viewers spend watching its shows. To pull it off, the network will have to come up with more content, transforming itself from a boutique operation, with a focus on its signature Sunday night lineup, into something bigger and broader.
On the face of it, makes sense. AT&T’s strategy is to create an alternative to the Duopoly (Facebook and Google). There is another, btw: Amazon Media Group. But I digress. To achieve this, Mr. Stankey feels HBO will need to become more Netflix-ish and go for quantity. This is a terrible mistake.

iOS & Android

Consumers are busy, and the fastest way to digest and process information is the optimal method for any processor: binary. Most consumer sectors are bifurcating into a mass offering where you are the product (ad supported) or a niche, quality offering where you pay vs. having you or your data rented out. You can get a great deal at a fairly nice resort in Cabo for $100 a night if you endure a two-hour tour of their time-share units, or you can pay $685 a night at Las Ventanas. This is happening everywhere. iPhones only command 18% of the market, but garner 87% of the profits, as Android dominates market share and uses that data to support Alphabet’s supernova business model — digital marketing.
Emirates and JetBlue survive and prosper. Delta/American/United will soon regress to the value-hemorrhaging entities we know and love. In education, there’s Wharton/Duke/Berkeley — and online courses that give you 80% of the knowledge for 1% of the price. There’s Gucci or Amazon, LVMH or H&M, Mercedes or Toyota. In education, 77% of children in the top household-income bracket graduate college, vs. 9% in the lowest.
HBO is iOS, garnering not only awards but billions in EBITDA every year despite spending less on original content. How have they done this?

Process: The Secret Ingredient

From Above Avalon about the Four and how they achieved $4T in value:
It is easy to think that today’s giants are where they are today because of a particular product, feature, or core competency. However, this isn’t the case. Instead, each company has developed a culture and process to create value for customers. It is this process, and the sheer level of difficulty found with changing such a process, that will serve as a roadblock for today’s giants.
Time Warner / HBO and Disney are the only firms over the last several decades that have developed a process for pulling off the impossible — scaling creativity. Lucasfilm couldn’t do it. (Have you seen Attack of the Clones?) Cond├ę Nast hasn’t been able to do it; they’re consolidating. The process at HBO attracted and retained the not-so-secret sauce in media — A-list talent. I’m fairly certain neither Al Pacino nor Paul Thomas Anderson are developing projects at Bravo or Rodale.
AT&T may have the correct strategy, but Mr. Stankey is taking unnecessary, even reckless risks with a unique process/culture. And it’s a process that’s a moat wide enough to protect Westeros. Amazon is the second-largest spender on original content, and they have nothing to match Girls, much less Game of Thrones. Amazon appears to be able to roll over anybody with cheap capital, except HBO. HBO should be the prize for switching from Verizon to AT&T, where the handset and the messaging/apps/etc can molest people’s data and pitch marketers on their “we’re number three” strategy.
To move HBO to a Netflix strategy is to walk into the Mus├ęe d’Orsay and announce, “We need to scale this.” Mr. Stankey’s approach feels like the strategy of the CTO of DirecTV who is suddenly charged with overseeing one of the most creative communities ever assembled. Which is exactly what this is. Mr. Stankey was the CTO of DirecTV.
When your firm is acquired, the fear is somebody shows up and provides rational reasons for actions that will ultimately kill what’s unique and special about the asset they acquired. Trying to transform HBO from Emirates to United will produce Spirit Airlines.
Mr. Stankey cemented his budding reputation as the Prince of Tone Deaf when he used the following analogy to describe the coming year to HBO employees: “You will work very hard, and this next year will — my wife hates it when I say this — feel like childbirth,” he said. “You’ll look back on it and be very fond of it, but it’s not going to feel great while you’re in the middle of it.”
Pretty sure he knows about as much as I do about giving birth: nothing. It’s not easy to turn off 50% of your audience that elegantly. #impressive.
So, Mr. Stankey, HBO is not just your handsome and skilled Prince of Dorne. He is your champion. If the massive and freakishly strong hands of AT&T crush the skull of HBO, a community even smaller than HBO viewers will be my champion — AT&T shareholders.
Life is so rich,
Scott
Originally published at www.l2inc.com.

European Markets at Close Report: Europe ends deep in the red amid renewed global trade war concerns; Whitbread climbs 14.3% I CNBC


Sam Meredith, Alexandra Gibbs


European stocks slumped by Friday's close, amid heightened fears surrounding the state of trade between the U.S. and other major economies.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 0.83 percent by the provisional close. On the week, however, the pan-European index closed down just 0.37 percent. Almost all sectors ended Friday in negative territory, with travel and leisure being the only industry to hold onto its gains.
Bourses across the region saw heavy losses by the finish, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 falling 1.11 percent, the French CAC 40 having dropped 1.3 percent and the German DAX ending down 1.04 percent. All peripheral indexes closed in the red.
 
FTSE FTSE 7432.42 -83.61 -1.11% 806718292
DAX DAX 12364.06 -130.18 -1.04% 93069064
CAC CAC 5406.85 -71.21 -1.30% 91887845
IBEX 35 --- --- --- --- --- ---
Automakers were Europe's worst performers Friday, with the sector tumbling 1.65 percent after President Donald Trump reportedly said the European Union's proposal to eliminate auto tariffs was "not good enough." The U.S. president also told Bloomberg on Thursday that the bloc's trading policies were "almost as bad as China." Michelin, Continental and Pirelli all fell 1.9 percent or more by the close.
Looking at individual stocks, Britain's Whitbread surged to the top of the European benchmark after the company said it had agreed to sell coffee chain Costa to Coca-Cola for an enterprise value of £3.9 billion ($5.1 billion). Shares of Whitbread — which also owns the Premier Inn hotel brand — came off session highs, to close up 14.3 percent.
On the other end, Sage was one of the STOXX 600's biggest losers, down over 7.5 percent, after the British software firm announced Chief Executive Officer Stephen Kelly is set to leave next year. The group's chief financial officer, Steve Hare, will run the business until a new CEO is appointed.
Another weak performer was Edenred, which sank 5 percent after Berenberg cut the French group's rating from "hold" to "sell." Meantime, Lufthansa was cut to "sell" by Citi, leading shares to fall almost 4 percent.
Europe's worst performer was Casino, which saw shares tank over 10 percent amid concerns over its debt burden. According to Reuters, short seller Muddy Waters stated on Twitter that one of the retailer's subsidiaries hadn't filed its 2017 accounts. A company spokesman responded, stating that the delay was simply "technical" and would be available next week, Reuters added.

Trade war

Market focus is largely attuned to global trade developments, following a report that Trump could be preparing to step up a trade dispute with China. Investors were also concerned about emerging market currencies, after Argentina's peso continued to fall in the previous session.
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. administration was on standby to impose more tariffs on $200 billion worth of goods from Beijing as soon as next week. The president also threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the World Trade Organization, (WTO) if they do not "shape up," escalating fears over global trade turmoil.
In markets overseas, most Asia-Pacific indexes posted losses as concerns over the trade war between the States and China resurfaced. On Wall Street, stocks were mixed to lower around Europe's close as the U.S. and Canada neared a key trade agreement deadline with no apparent resolution.
Friday marks the U.S.-imposed deadline for a new trade deal to be secured by the U.S., Mexico and Canada. While Mexico and the U.S. have already announced a bilateral trade deal, Canada has yet to secure its place.
Representatives from both Canada and the U.S. worked until late Thursday to devise an alternative to the current NAFTA deal. However, Canada's trade minister has stated that they are working to "get the right deal, not any deal," according to Reuters.
On the data front, euro zone inflation slowed in August, supporting the European Central Bank's (ECB) view that a recent spike may prove to be short-lived. Inflation in the 19 countries sharing the single currency eased to 2 percent this month, down from 2.1 percent in July, according to data from Eurostat. The ECB targets inflation at just below 2 percent.

Exclusive: Chief U.S. spy catcher says China using LinkedIn to recruit Americans I Reuters


Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay8 Min Read


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States’ top spy catcher said Chinese espionage agencies are using fake LinkedIn accounts to try to recruit Americans with access to government and commercial secrets, and the company should shut them down.
William Evanina, the U.S. counter-intelligence chief, told Reuters in an interview that intelligence and law enforcement officials have told LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft Corp., about China’s “super aggressive” efforts on the site.
He said the Chinese campaign includes contacting thousands of LinkedIn members at a time, but he declined to say how many fake accounts U.S. intelligence had discovered, how many Americans may have been contacted and how much success China has had in the recruitment drive.
German and British authorities have previously warned their citizens that Beijing is using LinkedIn to try to recruit them as spies. But this is the first time a U.S. official has publicly discussed the challenge in the United States and indicated it is a bigger problem than previously known.
Evanina said LinkedIn should look at copying the response of Twitter, Google and Facebook, which have all purged fake accounts allegedly linked to Iranian and Russian intelligence agencies.
“I recently saw that Twitter is cancelling, I don’t know, millions of fake accounts, and our request would be maybe LinkedIn could go ahead and be part of that,” said Evanina, who heads the U.S. National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center.
It is highly unusual for a senior U.S. intelligence official to single out an American-owned company by name and publicly recommend it take action. LinkedIn boasts 562 million users in more than 200 counties and territories, including 149 million U.S. members.
Evanina did not, however, say whether he was frustrated by LinkedIn’s response or whether he believes it has done enough.
LinkedIn’s head of trust and safety, Paul Rockwell, confirmed the company had been talking to U.S. law enforcement agencies about Chinese espionage efforts. Earlier this month, LinkedIn said it had taken down “less than 40” fake accounts whose users were attempting to contact LinkedIn members associated with unidentified political organizations. Rockwell did not say whether those were Chinese accounts.
“We are doing everything we can to identify and stop this activity,” Rockwell told Reuters. “We’ve never waited for requests to act and actively identify bad actors and remove bad accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources including government agencies.”
Rockwell declined to provide numbers of fake accounts associated with Chinese intelligence agencies. He said the company takes “very prompt action to restrict accounts and mitigate and stop any essential damage that can happen” but gave no details.
LinkedIn “is a victim here,” Evanina said. “I think the cautionary tale ... is, ‘You are going to be like Facebook. Do you want to be where Facebook was this past spring with congressional testimony, right?’” he said, referring to lawmakers’ questioning of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Russia’s use of Facebook to meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections.
China’s foreign ministry disputed Evanina’s allegations.
“We do not know what evidence the relevant U.S. officials you cite have to reach this conclusion. What they say is complete nonsense and has ulterior motives,” the ministry said in a statement.
EX-CIA OFFICER ENSNARED
Evanina said he was speaking out in part because of the case of Kevin Mallory, a retired CIA officer convicted in June of conspiring to commit espionage for China.
A fluent Mandarin speaker, Mallory was struggling financially when he was contacted via a LinkedIn message in February 2017 by a Chinese national posing as a headhunter, according to court records and trial evidence.
The individual, using the name Richard Yang, arranged a telephone call between Mallory and a man claiming to work at a Shanghai think tank.
During two subsequent trips to Shanghai, Mallory agreed to sell U.S. defense secrets - sent over a special cellular device he was given - even though he assessed his Chinese contacts to be intelligence officers, according to the U.S. government’s case against him. He is due to be sentenced in September and could face life in prison.  
While Russia, Iran, North Korea and other nations also use LinkedIn and other platforms to identify recruitment targets, the U.S. intelligence officials said China is the most prolific and poses the biggest threat.
U.S. officials said China’s Ministry of State Security has “co-optees” - individuals who are not employed by intelligence agencies but work with them - set up fake accounts to approach potential recruits.
They said the targets include experts in fields such as supercomputing, nuclear energy, nanotechnology, semi-conductors, stealth technology, health care, hybrid grains, seeds and green energy.
Chinese intelligence uses bribery or phony business propositions in its recruitment efforts. Academics and scientists, for example, are offered payment for scholarly or professional papers and, in some cases, are later asked or pressured to pass on U.S. government or commercial secrets.
Some of those who set up fake accounts have been linked to IP addresses associated with Chinese intelligence agencies, while others have been set up by bogus companies, including some that purport to be in the executive recruiting business, said a senior U.S. intelligence official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the matter.
The official said “some correlation” has been found between Americans targeted through LinkedIn and data hacked from the Office of Personnel Management, a U.S. government agency, in attacks in 2014 and 2015.
Small toy figures are seen between displayed U.S. flag and Linkedin logo in this illustration picture, August 30, 2018. To match Exclusive LINKEDIN-CHINA/ESPIONAGE REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
The hackers stole sensitive private information, such as addresses, financial and medical records, employment history and fingerprints, of more than 22 million Americans who had undergone background checks for security clearances.
The United States identified China as the leading suspect in the massive hacking, an assertion China’s foreign ministry at the time dismissed as `absurd logic.`   
UNPARALLELED SPYING EFFORT  
About 70 percent of China’s overall espionage is aimed at the U.S. private sector, rather than the government, said Joshua Skule, the head of the FBI’s intelligence division, which is charged with countering foreign espionage in the United States.
“They are conducting economic espionage at a rate that is unparalleled in our history,” he said.
Evanina said five current and former U.S. officials - including Mallory - have been charged with or convicted of spying for China in the past two and a half years. 
He indicated that additional cases of suspected espionage for China by U.S. citizens are being investigated, but declined to provide details.
U.S. intelligence services are alerting current and former officials to the threat and telling them what security measures they can take to protect themselves.
Some current and former officials post significant details about their government work history online - even sometimes naming classified intelligence units that the government does not publicly acknowledge.
LinkedIn “is a very good site,” Evanina said. “But it makes for a great venue for foreign adversaries to target not only individuals in the government, formers, former CIA folks, but academics, scientists, engineers, anything they want. It’s the ultimate playground for collection.”
Reporting by Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay; Additional reporting by John Walcott; Editing by Kieran Murray and Ross Colvin

Buffett Buys More Apple, Calls iPhone 'Enormously Underpriced' I CNBC


Daniel Libert




Warren Buffett continues to add to his already large stake in Apple Inc. (AAPL).
In an interview with CNBC on his birthday, the famous investor said that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) had bought “just a little [more]” shares in the iPhone maker since the end of the June quarter.
According to its last regulatory filing, Buffett’s firm had increased its stake in Apple to 252 million shares in the second quarter. According to Bloomberg, Berkshire's investment in Apple is worth more than $50 billion, making it the third-biggest shareholder in the Cupertino, California-based company with a more-than 5% stake. (See also: Warren Buffet's Berkshire Portfolio is Now 24% Apple: 13F.)

Buffett Believes the iPhone is "Enormously Underpriced"

Buffett told CNBC that he continues to buy Apple shares because of the strength of the company's brand and ecosystem. The investor was particularly enthusiastic about the iPhone, describing Apple’s flagship product as an indispensable device for a large portion of the world’s population.
"I do not focus on the sales in the next quarter or the next year," he said. "I focus on the ... hundreds, hundreds, hundreds millions of people who practically live their lives by it [iPhone]."
Buffett also brushed off criticism that the latest iPhone models are too expensive. Rather than balk at paying $1,000 for the device, he said people should put the cost into perspective and appreciate that the iPhone is so important that it surpasses the value of many more expensive objects. That observation led him to describe Apple’s flagship product as “enormously underpriced.”
“I have a plane that costs me a lot, a million dollars a year or something of the sort,” he said. “If I used the iPhone -- I use an iPad a lot -- if I used the iPhone like all my friends do, I would rather give up the plane.”
To further emphasize his point about the iPhone being undervalued, the Oracle of Omaha said that some people spend $1,000 on a dinner party. "Now it's got competition so you can't push the price, but in terms of its utility to people and what they get for a thousand dollars...you can have a dinner party that would cost that, and here this is, and what it does for you, it's incredible,” he added. (See also: Apple Buys Maker of Augmented Reality Lenses.)

Stocks making the biggest move premarket: KO, LULU, ULTA, BIG & more


Peter Schacknow


Check out the companies making headlines before the bell:
Coca-Cola – Coca-Cola struck a deal buy Costa, the world's second-largest coffee chain, from Britain's Whitbread for $5.1 billion, including assumed debt. Costa has nearly 4,000 locations across a variety of international markets.
Lululemon – Lululemon reported second-quarter profit of 71 cents per share, well above the consensus estimate of 49 cents a share. The athletic apparel maker's revenue also beat Wall Street forecasts. Lululemon's results were helped by a big boost in online sales, and the company gave an upbeat outlook for both the current quarter and the full year.
Ulta Beauty – Ulta beat estimates by 5 cents a share, with quarterly profit of $2.46 per share. The cosmetics retailer's revenue matched Street forecasts, however Ulta gave weaker-than-expected guidance on both earnings and comparable-store sales.
Big Lots – The discount retailer reported quarterly profit of 59 cents per share, 8 cents a share below estimates. Revenue also came in slightly below Street forecasts. Big Lots reported a better-than-expected 1.6 percent increase in comparable-store sales, but the company also gave weaker-than-expected full-year earnings guidance.
American Outdoor Brands – The company reported adjusted quarterly profit of 21 cents per share, 9 cents a share above estimates. The Smith & Wesson parent's revenue also beat forecasts, helped by new products and reduced discounts. The company also issued stronger-than-expected guidance for the current quarter.
Ambarella – Ambarella nearly doubled the consensus estimate of 13 cents per share for its second quarter, reporting profit of 25 cents per share. The chip maker and GoPro supplier's revenue came in slightly above forecasts, however shares are being pressured by a revenue outlook that falls well below analysts' estimates.
Campbell Soup – Campbell is facing an accelerated effort by shareholder Third Point to replace the food maker's board members, according to a Reuters report. Third Point is said to be unconvinced that the food maker adequately explored selling the entire company, after its announcement Thursday that it was putting its international and refrigerated foods units up for sale.
TeslaBlackRock funds voted in favor of a recent shareholder proposal to replace Tesla CEO Elon Musk with an independent chairman, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the asset manager. The proposal was unsuccessful, and would not have affected Musk's status as the automaker's CEO.
Nutanix – Nutanix lost an adjusted 11 cents per share for its fiscal fourth quarter, compared to the 21 cents a share loss that Wall Street had been expecting. The cloud computing company's revenue exceeded Street forecasts, although it did predict lower-than-expected revenue for the current quarter, as well as a bigger-than-expected loss.

China's agriculture ministry says containment of African swine fever complex and serious I Health News I Reuters





AMES, Iowa (Reuters) - An outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in China’s hogs is probably bigger than what has been reported publicly, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said on Thursday.
Piglets are seen by a sow at a pig farm in Zhoukou, Henan province, China June 3, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer
“We think that it probably has been underreported in China - the way they’re able to control their media about that,” Perdue said at Landus Cooperative office in Ames, Iowa.
China on Aug. 3 reported its first cases of the deadly ASF in Liaoning province and found another outbreak in Zhengzhou in central Henan province two weeks later.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs on Thursday said ASF has infected 185 pigs on a farm in Wuhu, in eastern Anhui province, China’s fifth outbreak of the deadly disease this month.
The news has pushed up U.S. hog prices and raised concerns of the disease spreading into other parts of Asia. [LIV/]
ASF has been detected in Russia and Eastern Europe as well as Africa, though never before in East Asia, and is one of the most devastating diseases to affect swine herds.
It would be “devastating” if ASF entered the United States, not only for hogs but for grain handlers and farmers who grow crops used as animal feed, Perdue said.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for keeping out foreign animal diseases.
That is why there are agricultural checks made at borders and airports, Perdue said.
“We try to have a really hard line over the protections of international travel,” he said. “APHIS is on the job every day trying to keep any of that kind of thing from coming because it would be absolutely devastating.”
Reporting by Tom Polansek; writing by Caroline Stauffer, editing by G Crosse

When liberals are rooting for Jeff Sessions, you know something’s wrong: Top Opinion I The Washington Post





How on earth did Jeff Sessions — Jeff Sessions! — find himself abandoned by the right and embraced by the left?
For sure, President Trump has a special talent for matchmaking strange bedfellows. He has somehow gotten liberals to feel a begrudging sympathy or even admiration for figures they once reviled. Think: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), James B. Comey, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (however briefly), the Kochs. Even ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is getting some love (and donations) from left-wingers.
But, surely, the unlikeliest of the left’s adopted underdogs is Trump’s embattled U.S. attorney general.
Publicly and privately, the president has expressed his displeasure with Sessions. Trump complains that Sessions has been disloyal and disgraceful, that he has gone soft on Hillary Clinton and the “deep state,” and even that he talks funny.
Look, there are lots and lots of reasons to criticize Sessions. But his Southern drawl and supposed pro-Clintonism are not among them.
Instead, look to his policy record.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex on Aug. 16. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
This is a man who called the landmark Voting Rights Act “intrusive” in confirmation hearings, and who has since worked to nullify that intrusion. In his post as Alabama attorney general, Sessions pushed to execute drug traffickers, as well as defendants who were mentally ill or intellectually disabled. In his current job, he reinterpreted asylum law to turn away victims of domestic violence and defended the administration’s family separation policy.
In a better world, someone with Sessions’s repugnant record on civil rights, voting rights, criminal justice and immigration would get nowhere near the attorney general’s office. Right now, however, even his ideological enemies know he needs to stay in that job — because he’s somehow all that stands between the country and another Saturday Night Massacre.
And let’s be clear: That is 100 percent the fault of the cowards in Congress.
Trump’s real grudge against Sessions, of course, is that the attorney general recused himself from the Russia investigation. With Sessions gone, Trump could appoint a new, un-recused top prosecutor, who could interfere with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe or even fire Mueller and shut down the inquiry altogether.
If Republican lawmakers had any spine left, they would pass legislation to protect Mueller from being dismissed without cause. Or they could signal that having Mueller fired or otherwise interfering with his investigation would constitute criminal obstruction of justice warranting impeachment. 
Under such circumstances, Sessions could, would and should go. We’d no longer need to rely on him to prevent the leader of the free world from killing an ongoing investigation involving his own campaign, family and finances.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has refused to bring the bill protecting Mueller to the floor.
This refusal does not appear to be driven by complicated constitutional questions over whether such a bill would usurp executive power. Rather, both McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) have said no congressional action is necessary to ensure Mueller’s investigation continues because Trump wouldn’t dare try to stop it.
“I don’t think he’s going to fire Mueller,” Ryan said in April, with a straight face, despite Trump’s not-so-subtle threats to the contrary.
More recently, Republican lawmakers have even been signaling to Trump that they’d be cool with another Saturday Night Massacre.
“The president’s entitled to an attorney general he has faith in,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters. He added: “Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn’t have the confidence of the president.”
Likewise, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chair of the Judiciary Committee, told Bloomberg News that he could find time to squeeze in some hearings for a new attorney general, despite saying in the past that the committee would be too busy.
Even the reported behind-the-scenes efforts by GOP legislators to prevent Trump from obstructing justice by firing Sessions are not really about permanently preventing him from obstructing justice. They’re about asking Trump to pretty-please wait until after the midterms.
Rather than engaging in oversight of the executive branch, the Republican-led Congress sees its primary role as protecting Trump. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said as much in a leaked recording of a closed-door talk with donors. “If Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones” left to shield the president, he said.
Questions about Trump’s possible Russia ties aren’t the only ones that GOP legislators have been thwarting, by the way. Republicans have also been circulating a long list of executive-branch scandals that their Democratic colleagues have been begging to investigate, according to Axios.
If Republican lawmakers are unwilling to treat Congress as the equal branch of government that it is, they do have a choice. They can step aside, “spend more time with their families” and let the grown-ups — whether in the special counsel’s office or a different political party — do the job instead.

Will stocks slump if the US dumps Trump? I Money Week


By: Chris Carter


Bill Clinton © iStockphotos
Stockmarkets were unfazed by the Clinton impeachment drama
Following chatter that he might be impeached, President Donald Trump warned that any such move would lead to a market crash and “everybody would be very poor”. He was speaking after his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to violating election rules. But what would impeaching Trump actually mean for financial markets?
Not a lot, is the likely short answer. The first reason for this, according to Fidelity’s Tom Stevenson in The Daily Telegraph, is that his most economically positive policies have already been implemented. Were Trump to be removed, his replacement Mike Pence would be unlikely to change tack. Besides, investors are generally happy to overlook political dramas in Washington and focus on the economic and market fundamentals instead.
When Richard Nixon resigned rather than face removal from office, the market, says Stevenson, responded positively “to a clearing of the air after the Watergate scandal”. Following the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 after he lied about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, the markets remained unperturbed too.
At present the US economy continues to gather steam. Corporate profits are rising strongly, driven in part by Trump’s corporation-tax reforms. Wages have gone up by 2.7% during the year to July, while employment has fallen below 4%.
But by 2019 the boost from tax cuts will begin to fade, interest-rate increases will start to bite, and the global economy will be slowing as a result of protectionism, says The Observer. That’s why the mid-term elections could result in a Congress hostile to Trump. “All bull markets… end sooner or later” and the second 18 months of Trump’s presidency presage “a choppier time” for Wall Street, says The Observer, whether Trump is impeached or not.