In Brief – N.40 – November 4, 2016

The diplomatic chill between the United States and Russia deepened dramatically as the US suspended dialogue between them on ending the war in Syria. It leaves the US with scant options as the misery in Syria, and particularly for residents of the city of Aleppo, continues unabated.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has appointed a team of senior government officials to launch talks with the opposition on changes to a peace deal with the FARC rebel group. The peace deal was rejected by a narrow margin in a referendum on October 2, 2016.

Afghan officials said security forces were still battling Taliban insurgents on October 4, 2016 in the key northern city of Kunduz, more than a day after the militants staged a multipronged offensive.

About 6,055 migrants were rescued and 22 found dead on the perilous sea route to Europe from Libya on October 3, 2016, one of the highest numbers in a single day, Italian and Libyan officials said.

Russia has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile defense system to Syria – the first time the S-300 machinery has been used in the region – to protect against US jet strikes.

Yahoo built software to secretly scan its users’ emails at the behest of US intelligence officials, especially the NSA. This news came after Yahoo announced it has been the victim of a “state sponsored” hack that leaked the personal details of over 500 million of its users.

Global economic growth will remain subdued this year following a slowdown in the United States and Britain’s vote to leave the EU, the IMF said. Global growth will be at 3.1% in 2016, with slight increase to 3.4% next year.

Many banks need to adapt to this new era of low growth and low rates, as well as a changing regulatory and market environment. We have one third of the banks struggling to show sustainable profitability,” said Peter Dattels, IMF Deputy Director, in a direct reference to Deutsche Bank.

The next United Nations Secretary General will likely be Portuguese Antonio Guterres, replacing Korean Ban Ki-moon on January 1, 2017. This former Prime Minister of Portugal previously led the UN High Commission for Refugees (HCR).

World powers attending EU talks in Brussels have pledged USD 15 billion to fund Afghanistan until 2020. The government in Kabul is facing a resurgent Taliban 15 years after US forces helped to oust the group from power.

German exports rebounded more than expected in August 2016, recording their biggest rise in more than six years and dispelling fears that Europe’s biggest economy is heading for a slowdown.

French President Francois Hollande has postponed a visit to Poland, after Warsaw dropped a major defense deal with French company Airbus to buy 50 of its Caracal helicopters for around EUR 3.14 billion.

A week after a deadly stampede brought anti-government protests and violence to a fever pitch, Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said the declaration is necessary for the government to protect both property and citizens’ lives.

Thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets of the capital, Sanaa, to protest after an air strike killed more than 140 people. Demonstrators gathered outside the UN headquarters demanding an international investigation into the strike, blamed on the Saudi-led coalition.

The Eurogroup welcomed the implementation of the 15 milestones set for Greece in the context of the first review of the European Stability Mechanism’s program which resulted in the unlocking of just EUR 1.1 billion instead of the full EUR 2.8 billion tranche expected.

The Alstom-led consortium Expolink, also composed of ACCIONA and Gulermak, has signed a contract with RTA (Roads & Transport Authority) to design and build the extension of Dubai’s Red metro line and upgrade the system of the existing line. The total value of the project, also called Route 2020, is EUR 2.6 billion.

On the occasion of the World Energy Congress in Istanbul (Turkey) and in the presence of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian and Turkish Energy Ministers signed an intergovernmental agreement on the Turkish Stream pipeline.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has indefinitely postponed a trip to France after Paris had revised its program for the visit and said it would talk about nothing else but the Syrian crisis.

Though they have long used them for surveillance, ISIS is now arming small drones with explosives for use in attacks against American and Kurdish troops in Iraq, US officials said.

Theranos Inc. and founder Elizabeth Holmes were accused in a lawsuit of duping investors about the embattled medical-testing firm’s performance and technology in an effort to raise about USD 100 million in funding.

China’s September exports fell 10% from a year earlier, far worse than expected, while imports unexpectedly shrank after picking up in August 2016, suggesting signs of steadying in the world’s second-largest economy may be short-lived. That left China with a trade surplus of USD 41.99 billion for September 2016, instead of USD 53 billion expected.

Total billionaire wealth declined in 2015 by USD 300 billion to USD 5.1 trillion while average billionaire wealth fell from USD 4.0 billion to USD 3.7 billion due to headwinds such as the transfer of assets within families, commodity price deflation and an appreciating US dollar. 210 people have become billionaires, now making a total of 1,400 people in the world.

President Juan Manuel Santos has extended a cease-fire until December 31, 2016 with Colombia’s largest rebel movement FARC in a bid to give more time to efforts to save a peace deal signed on September 26, 2016 and unexpectedly rejected by voters.

The battle for Mosul – and Iraq – has started. One day into the Iraqi-led operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS), a hopeful Pentagon proclaimed the effortahead of schedule,” well aware the outcome could have a significant impact on US strategy in the region.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said that if Hillary Clinton is elected, Republicans will unite to block anyone she nominates to the Supreme Court. “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” he declared.

New survey showed a lot of millennials – aged 16 to 20 years – like socialism, think Bush killed more people than Stalin. Only 55% of the younger generation take issue with communism, 45% say they would vote for a socialist and 21% say they’d vote for a communist.

Apple may be starting a central long-term shift in the field of Artificial Intelligence (IA) by setting up a new research team and by recruiting prominent expert and Carnegie Mellon university Professor Ruslan Salakhutdinov.

The end of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has entered an active phase since the Mission’s officials have signed with the country’s authorities a withdrawal plan which would be definitive by 2017. Support measures will help the plan’s achievement.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has started an official visit to three African countries – Rwanda, Tanzania and Ethiopia – as his country seeks to reintegrate the African Union (AU) that it has left in 1984 with a view to protesting against the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which claims independence of Western Sahara.

« Every option is open in case there wouldn’t be a ceasefire that’d be respected and in case there would be willingness to crush a city (Aleppo), a martyr city, » said French President François Hollande about the possibility of European sanctions against Moscow.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced his “separationfrom the United States, declaring that it had “lost” and he had realigned with China as the two agreed to resolve their South China Sea dispute through talks.

Global wine production in 2016 has fallen by 5% because of “climatic events” causing steep drops in production in most of the southern hemisphere, particularly Chile and Argentina. Italy produced the most wine in 2016, followed by France, Spain, the US, Australia and China.

A former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, 51-year-old Harold Martin, suspected of stealing US hacking tools that have recently been put up for sale online allegedly was found hoarding two decades’ worth of classified materials, more than 50 terabytes of information.

Spain’s embattled Socialists have voted to lift a longstanding veto that has prevented conservatives and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy from forming a minority government, in what could end a 10-month political impasse.

Theresa May’s government could halve Britain’s headline corporation tax rate to 10% if the European Union (EU) refuses to agree a post-Brexit free trade deal or blocks UK-based financial services firms from accessing its market.

Saudi Arabia would spend around USD 8 billion per year to train Salafist preachers then sent around the world, said former French Defense Ministry officer Pierre Conesa according to whom this is 2 to 3 times more than what the Soviet budget for political commissioners at the height of the Cold War.

Opposition against French President François Hollande is growing even amongst his fellow socialists as new polls of which the results haven’t been disclosed yet are said be “catastrophic“. On several occasions, Hollande has reached record lows in popularity.

The decision by former State Secretary, Iraq War supporter and Republican Colin Powell to endorse Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for President has been further evidence of a growing polarization of politics between “Globalists” and “Nationalists.”

The world scene has been quite agitated too since Gambia has announced its withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC), after similar moves by two other African countries – Burundi, South Africa – recently.

Belgium has finally reached a common stance on Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and Canada (CETA), making its signature possible soon. According to Minister-President Paul Magnette, federal region Wallonia’s requests have been met.

Although its revenue is lower than its cost and it highly participates in France’s loss of attractiveness, the last existing wealth tax (ISF) among developed economies remains well appreciated by 72% of the French people who said they’d be against its removal.

Qualcomm has commenced a tender offer to acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of NXP Semiconductors for USD 110 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of approximately USD 47 billion. The NXP acquisition will accelerate Qualcomm’s strategy to extend its leading mobile technology into new opportunities.

The United Kingdom (UK)’s economic growth has been higher than expected following the vote in favor of the Brexit in June 2016, reaching 0.5% in Q3 2016. Analysts remained cautious however considering that UK’s process of exiting the European Union (EU) has yet to start officially.

After having bought the energy branch of France’s Alstom and having invested around USD 10 billion in recent years, General Electric (GE) announced it “is in discussion with Baker Hughes on potential partnerships.” While nothing is concluded, “none of these options include an outright purchase,” the US conglomerate stated.

Members of France’s National Assembly have finally voted the installation of social contributions for individuals who rent places on social networks like Airbnb or Drivy beyond EUR 7,720 in annual revenues.

Despite protest by the Syrian government and as the international coalition continues its military offensive on Mosul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops currently operating in Syria would be going to Raqqa, the other stronghold of ISIS.

It turns out that Americans want to put aside differences with Russia and join forces against the Islamic State (ISIS), according to a University of Maryland poll. This has confirmed data already published long ago by Cyceon.

Only days before the presidential election, the FBI released an archive of documents from a long-closed investigation into Bill Clinton’s 2001 presidential pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, prompting questions from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign about its timing.

Herbalife (HLF) Chief Executive Michael Johnson will step down next year, capping a tumultuous 13-year tenure that was marked by a bitter fight with activist investor William Ackman who accused HLF of being a Ponzi scheme.

Google’s Threat Analysis Group revealed a vulnerability in most versions of Windows that was being used actively by the same threat group involved in the hacks that led to the breach of data from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma may finally have to step down after a report confirmed corruption allegations and several thousand people demonstrated to demand that Zuma quit.

After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Bank of England (BOE) governor and Canadian national Mark Carney said he will step down in June 2019, staying for an extra year that would provide “continuity and stability” as UK negotiates the Brexit.

Egypt took the unprecedented step of allowing its currency to trade freely as it announced a series of sweeping measures to stabilize the economy, sending its stock index up 8.3%.

According to Eurostat, the euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 10% in September 2016, stable compared to August 2016 and down from 10.6 % in September 2015. Since Spring the decrease in unemployment has slowed.

Following an investigation started in 2014, French prosecutors recommended that HSBC Holdings PLC should stand trial for allegedly helping people evade taxes in France, worth a total of at least EUR 1.6 billion. HSBC could stand trial in Paris in the first half of 2017.