Evoking Soviet Failure in Afghanistan, Syrian Rebels Foresee a Tough War with Russia
Rebels who have inflicted big losses on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad say Russia’s intervention in support of its ally will only lead to an escalation of the war and may encourage the rebels’ Gulf Arab backers to pour in more military aid. Russia’s deployment is prompting a reassessment of the conflict among insurgents whose advances in western Syria in recent months may have been the catalyst for Russia’s decision. US officials say Russian forces are already arriving. Rebels interviewed by Reuters say they have already encountered stronger government resistance in those areas — notably the coastal heartland of Assad’s Alawite sect — and now predict an even tougher war with Russian involvement. Some see an opportunity in the Russian deployment, predicting more military aid from states such as Saudi Arabia. That signals one of the risks of Russian involvement: a spiral of deepening foreign interference in a conflict already complicated by a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Hoping to galvanize more support, rebels are evoking the Soviet failure in Afghanistan as a model for their struggle, and depicting Russia as a new occupier. But they also say this means the war, already in its fifth year, will go on even longer. “It is in our calculations that the battle will now extend for more years than it would have without the Russians,” said Abu Yousef al-Mouhajer, a rebel fighting in the Latakia area where Russian forces have deployed at an airfield.
Exclusive: ‘Putin’s banker’ Pugachev files $10 billion claim against Russia
Sergei Pugachev, a tycoon once dubbed “Putin’s banker” because of his influence in the Kremlin, has filed a claim against Russia for more than $10 billion after his business empire was carved up when he fell out of favor with President Vladimir Putin. The claim was filed in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on Monday, a source close to Pugachev told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Lawyers for Pugachev will outline his claim against Russia on Tuesday in Paris, the source said. It was not immediately possible to get a response from the Russian government. Russia is already fighting a separate ruling by the same court in 2014, which ordered Russia to pay $50 billion for expropriating the assets of Yukos, once Russia’s biggest oil producer and run by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Pugachev, who helped Putin’s 1999 ascent to Russia’s top job during the last days of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, fell out with some of Putin’s most powerful allies in the years following the 2008 financial crisis. Since leaving Russia in 2011, Pugachev has accused Putin’s allies of bringing his multi-billion dollar business empire to its knees before picking off some of its best assets, which included major shipyards and a giant Siberian coal deposit. Russia says Pugachev, 52, is wanted for embezzlement and misappropriation of assets after the collapse of his bank, which had gained loans from Russia’s central bank. Pugachev denies those charges. At Russia’s request, Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Pugachev.
Cameron’s rasher days
LONDON — It’s the first day of the U.K.’s party conference season, when Parliament takes a three-week break so that the main political parties can gather to set their priorities for the year. But Westminster insiders are gripped by only one question: Did Prime Minister David Cameron put his genitals inside the mouth of a dead pig? The extraordinary allegation — unconfirmed, based on an anonymous source — was made by the Daily Mail Monday, in a front-page story based on a forthcoming biography of the prime minister. It sparked a commotion on social media, including countless pig-related jokes. “I’ve never been more pleased to be a vegetarian,” tweeted Tim Farron, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats, whose party conference was completely overshadowed by the unlikely story. The startling claim appears in Call Me Dave, a new book about Cameron written by Lord Ashcroft, a wealthy businessman, pollster and Conservative backer, and Isabel Oakeshott, a journalist and former political editor of The Sunday Times. Excerpts of the biography published in the Mail on Monday alleged that Cameron indulged in “drug taking and debauchery” while a student at Oxford University in the 1980s. In an initiation ceremony at an elite drinking society, Cameron allegedly “put a private part of his anatomy into a dead pig’s mouth,” the authors said. The claim is attributed to an unnamed MP, who first made the allegation “out of the blue at a business dinner in June 2014.” The authors said they were told that there is photographic evidence, but were unable to obtain it. The incident reportedly occurred at a meeting of the Piers Gaveston Society, a secretive university club, whose past members include the actor Hugh Grant. According to an article in Tatler magazine in September 2014, the society is still going and among the coolest on campus. “Their summer ball in the last week of Trinity term is the most sought-after ticket in town,” Tatler reported. At one recent event, guests were driven to a secret location deep in the countryside. “Phones and cameras were confiscated and the location kept secret. Guests arrived to find a live sex show on a stage and a decadent dance tent.” Lord Ashcroft, a billionaire businessman who was one of the Tories’ biggest donors, fell out with Cameron after being passed over for a senior position when they took office in 2010. The Mail portrayed his new book’s explosive allegations as revenge against the prime minister. The Mail, a right-wing newspaper that has never been a strong supporter of Cameron, said in an editorial that it “fought off strong competition from rival newspapers” for the rights to serialize the book. It was a thoroughly-researched, even-handed account by a figure at the heart of the Tory establishment and provided Mail readers “first sight of what is an important, if controversial, anatomy of modern politics,” the newspaper said. The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said: “I’m not intending to dignify this book by commenting on it.”
Inside the astonishing village where about 1 in 90 kids are born girls and become boys at puberty
They call them the “machihembras” — the men who are born as women. The group, who live in Salinas, an isolated village in the south-western Dominican Republic, suffer from a genetic deformity that has stunned scientists. Despite appearing to be girls at birth, they are biologically male and only when they approach puberty do they develop male organs. Johnny is one of the many children affected. While his story may seem extraordinary, cases of little girls turning into boys are so prevalent in the village of Salinas that it is no longer considered abnormal. Johnny, 24, was originally named Felecitia by his parents and brought up as a girl. “I remember I used to wear a little red dress,” he said. “I was born at home instead of in a hospital. They didn’t know what sex I was. I went to school and I used to wear my skirt. I never liked to dress as a girl. When they bought me girls toys I never bothered playing with them. All I wanted to do was play with the boys.” His story will be featured in a new BBC Two series Countdown To Life – The Extraordinary Making Of You, presented by Dr. Michael Mosley. The rare genetic disorder occurs because of a missing enzyme, which prevents the production of a specific form of the male sex hormone – dihydro-testosterone – in the womb. All babies in the womb, whether male or female, have internal glands known as gonads and a small bump between their legs called a tubercle. At around eight weeks, male babies who carry the Y chromosome start to produce dihydro-testosterone in large amounts, which turns the tubercle into a penis. But some male babies are missing the enzyme which triggers the hormone surge, so they appear to be born female. It is not until puberty, when another large surge of testosterone is produced, that the male reproductive organs emerge and their voices deepen. What should have happened in the womb, happens around 12 years later. For Johnny, it happened at the age of seven. He claimed that he had never felt like a little girl and was far happier after he fully became a boy. “When I changed I was happy with my life,” he said. A little boy named Carla is currently going through the same transformation, aged nine. Despite being brought up as a girl, his mother noticed that from the age of five he was more inclined towards the rough and tumble play of boys. He has recently had his hair cut short after wearing plaits. Many decide not to change from their female names, so some men in Salinas have names such as Katherine. Also referred to as the Guevedoces – which translates to “penis at 12” – they were first discovered by Dr. Julianne Imperato an endocrinologist at Cornell University in the 1970s. Further cases have since been seen in the Sambian villages of Papua New Guinea, although the Sambians often shun the children – unlike the Dominicans, who celebrate the change.
“Reality is setting in:” why some ISIS fighters are packing up and going home
Imagine you’re a new ISIS recruit. You’ve been lured to Iraq or Syria with promises of brotherhood and a glorious, apocalyptic battle against Shia and Western infidels. Islamic utopia, you believe, is at your fingertips. But when you get there, it’s nothing like what you’d expected. At best, you’re carrying a gun in a dirty, vicious, inconclusive civil war. At worst, you’re scrubbing toilets — or being fitted with a suicide vest. Wouldn’t you want to get out? There haven’t been waves of mass defections from ISIS, but a few people have left the group. A new report from the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) looks at the cases of ISIS volunteers who’ve grown disillusioned, quit, and survived to tell the story. ICSR’s researchers verified 58 publicly-reported cases between January and August of this year alone. The true number of defectors is likely higher — and the pace of defections from ISIS, according to ICSR, is increasing. To understand what’s going on and what these defections mean for ISIS, I spoke to Peter Neumann, ICSR’s director. Neumann said he believes there’s lot more that the US and other Western powers could do to encourage defections and use them against ISIS. What follows is a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity.
Volkswagen Says 11 Million Cars Worldwide Are Affected in Diesel Deception
FRANKFURT — Volkswagen said on Tuesday that 11 million diesel cars worldwide were equipped with the same software that was used to cheat on emissions tests in the United States. The company issued a de facto profit warning because of the costs of repairing vehicles to comply with pollution standards. The statement was the carmaker’s first admission that diesel cars outside the United States may have the software that led the Environmental Protection Agency to accuse the carmaker of deliberately evading pollution tests. Previously, the company had acknowledged only that the problem affected about 500,000 vehicles in the United States. Volkswagen said it would set aside 6.5 billion euros, or about $7.3 billion, to cover the cost of servicing the affected vehicles “and other efforts to win back the trust of our customers.” The money would be booked in the third quarter, Volkswagen said. The German carmaker said that “a noticeable deviation between bench-test results and actual road use was established” for 11 million so-called Type EA 189 engines. Other diesel cars made by the company have the same engine management software, but it has no effect, Volkswagen said.
How UBS Spread the Pain of Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis to Clients
UBS had a good thing going in Puerto Rico. The Swiss bank served as an adviser to the commonwealth’s Employees Retirement System, led the underwriting of a $2.9 billion bond issue for the pension agency in 2008, and then stuffed half of those bonds into a family of closed-end mutual funds it sold exclusively to customers on the island. It collected fees at every step. Now, with the U.S. territory in the downward spiral of a government debt crisis, it’s all coming apart for UBS, long the biggest retail brokerage on the island. After UBS helped the government dig itself into a deeper hole and put island customers on the hook for the losses that followed, its Puerto Rico saga has become a cautionary tale of how risks can multiply. Angry customers have filed hundreds of arbitration claims with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They’re seeking more than $1.1 billion in damages from UBS after huge losses in the tax-free bond funds, sold as high-income investments that would preserve their capital, and in the bonds themselves. Three of UBS Puerto Rico’s five offices have closed since 2010, and nearly 60 of the unit’s 140 financial advisers have departed. The bank’s retail brokerage market share on the island has dropped to 33 percent from 48 percent over that period.
You’ve been pronouncing Nutella wrong your whole life…
Well, this is awkward. According to Nutella maker Fererro, the word ‘Nutella’ is not pronounced phonetically – which means we’ve all been saying it wrong. Out loud. In public. For the past 51 years, many of us have assumed the popular hazlenut-chocolate hybrid was spoken as it appeared on the jar, ‘Nut-ell-uh’, but Fererro recently cleared up the confusion on the FAQ’s page of the brand’s website. The astonishing truth is that instead of the first syllable being nut – pronounced as in nut – it’s actually pronounced ‘new-tell-uh’.
The Coming Democratic Crack-Up
Nobody explained the crack-up of the New Deal coalition better than New York Mayor Ed Koch at the 1980 Democratic convention: When I ran for Mayor, I went up to a Bronx senior citizens center, and I told 200 senior citizens: “Ladies and gentlemen, a judge I helped elect was mugged recently. And do you know what that judge did, ladies and gentlemen? He called a press conference and he said to the newsmen, ‘This mugging of me will in no way affect my decision in matters of this kind.’ And an elderly lady got up in the back of the room and said, ‘Then mug him again.’” It was crime more than any other single issue that drove blue-collar voters in the industrial states from the party of Truman and Johnson to the party of Nixon and Reagan. In 1974—a year of energy shock, inflation, recession, Watergate, Vietnam, and other crises—Americans told pollsters they regarded crime as the single-most important issue facing the country. That year, the Department of Justice introduced a new and more accurate method of collecting crime statistics. It found that 37 million American households—one out of four—had suffered a rape, robbery, burglary, assault, larceny, or auto theft in the previous year. It was crime—and the welfare programs thought to incubate crime—that elected Republicans across the American industrial heartland in the 1990s: governors like Michigan’s John Engler, New York’s George Pataki, Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge, and Wisconsin’s Tommy Thompson, as well as mayors like Rudy Giuliani in New York City and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles. It was crime that separated New Democrats from Old in the 1980s. Bill Clinton was determined that nobody would Willie Horton him. He backed the death penalty, endorsed longer sentences, and funded local police forces, all with a view to stopping crime by punishing criminals. Then the crime rate fell. It fell suddenly, it fell fast, and it fell far. By 2010, rates of crime against person and property had fallen to levels not seen since the early 1960s. In New York City, crime rates tumbled even lower. The great crime decline reshaped cities, remade the economy, and transformed American politics. As crime declined, the law-and-order issue faded—and the national Democratic party revived.
Pope Francis’s Visit Spells Trouble for Republican Presidential Candidates
New Jersey governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie had no problem disagreeing with the head of his church. “I just think the Pope is wrong,” Christie said during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, when asked about Pope Francis’s Cuba policy. The pontiff, who arrives in the U.S. for his first papal visit this week, was a key figure in the re-establishing of diplomatic ties between America and Cuba, a move that infuriated American conservatives and placed Christie, a Catholic, in an awkward spot. “The fact is that his infallibility is on religious matters, not on political ones,” Christie said. He’s not the only one grappling with his faith in this unusual way: upon learning that Francis plans to dedicate a great portion of his upcoming congressional address to the topics of global warming and income inequality, the Catholic half of the Republican presidential field likely suffered low-grade anxiety attacks. Senator Marco Rubio, who will attend, will likely find himself the subject of several cutaway reaction shots. Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal will likely be watching from afar, waiting for the moment when His Holiness denounces supply-side economics from the podium. In a normal election cycle, with a more traditional Pope, these politicians would fall over themselves to get a photo with the Pontiff. But Francis’s papacy, which also includes secretly brokering a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, has led to a new phenomenon: Catholic Republican presidential candidates opposing the Pope on issues, as his statements draw favor with American liberals and moderates but remain anathema to the positions held by the self-proclaimed party of faith. “What’s different this time around is that you have a Pope who’s emphasizing issues that generally play to Democratic strengths,” said Stephen White, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, adding that, at the very least, the G.O.P. had advance warning to brace themselves: “We’ve been reminded of that since he first started opening his mouth.” It’s a far cry from the days in the 2004 election, when Catholic bishops called for then-presidential candidate Senator John Kerry to be denied communion for his pro-choice views. These days, however, it’s a Republican point of almost-pride to differ from Francis’s teachings: upon the publication of Francis’s encyclical on global warming, for instance, both Santorum and Bush prominently dismissed the paper, saying that they were not obligated to take their policy positions from the Pope. (That attitude is reflected in Congress, as well: a Catholic Republican congressman announced that he would boycott Francis’s speech due to his views on global warming.) That said, while Kerry’s position on abortion directly contradicted the Church’s teaching, some believe Republicans have a chance at characterizing their differences with Pope Francis as deviations in policy, rather than fundamental breaks. “You can make a proposal on immigration that might not be what the Pope would want, but [say] you’re not anti-immigrant,” White said, using Rubio’s proposal to halt illegal immigration before attempting reform as an example. “You don’t deny that immigrants need to be welcomed, that they need to be cared for, [but] you have a [different] way of going about that.” Threading that needle, however, could prove difficult for the Republican field. “You have a Pope who talks about climate change. You have a Pope who really, really emphasizes care for the poor,” White said. “You have a Pope who speaks often about being open and welcoming of immigrants, and that doesn’t look really good for the G.O.P.”
JPMorgan C.E.O Jamie Dimon Says It’s Pointless to Slash C.E.O. Pay
Cutting C.E.O. pay wouldn’t do much to close the nation’s wealth gap and income inequality, according to a theory from billionaire JPMorgan C.E.O. Jamie Dimon. Dimon told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press that lowering executive pay wouldn’t do much to solve the problem. “If you took all the compensation of all the C.E.O.s of the top 500 companies in America it wouldn’t make a dent in this problem,” he said on Sunday, when Todd told him that he would get a bunch of viewer e-mails saying that Dimon is paid too much. The comments come at a time where C.E.O.s are making 300 times more than typical workers, the Economic Policy Institute found. Since 1978, compensation for chief executives has increased by 997 percent. Simon himself became a billionaire in June, and took home $20 millionlast year. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that presidential candidates have been hurling a whole lot of vitriol Wall Street’s way on the campaign trail. Simon, for his part, said on Sunday that he gets it. “You know, we had a crisis. A lot of people got hurt. And the average American looks at what happened and they kind of blame Wall Street which I would—it’s generally true.” He noted, though, that Wall Street has owned up to its mistakes and has done a lot of “great stuff,” too. Dimon made it clear that he wants lower and middle-income households to do better, and that more jobs and education would help with growth. “I think it’s one of the great shames in America that in a lot of low income areas, half the kids don’t graduate high school,” he said. “And I also say among those kids, there might have been an Einstein or aSteve Jobs or a Barack Obama and we will never know.” Dimon did acknowledge that income inequality has gotten worse while speaking at an event in Detroit last week, according to a report from Bloomberg. Despite this, he said things are looking up, things are pretty darn good. “If you go back 20 years ago, cars were worse, health was worse, you didn’t live as long, the air was worse. People didn’t have iPhones.” Sure, the typical American family income may have been $53,657 last year. Nearly 47 million Americans are in poverty, and the federal minimum wage is $7.25. But we have smart phones. They’re even coming out with the iPhone 6S. And cars, they’re cooler too. What a time to be alive.
Empty Floor at Goldman Puts Change on Display
When Goldman Sachs moved into its new tower near the Hudson River in 2009, the sprawling trading desks on the fourth, fifth and sixth floors were some of the most active and lucrative in the world. Now, nearly six years later, the glass-walled sixth floor — stretching much of a city block — has become something of a ghost town, all but empty save for a few still-occupied offices. Goldman’s trimmed-down trading operations are now consolidated on two floors instead of three. The emptying out of the sixth floor this year is a sign of the declining expectations for growth in a financial industry that is being challenged by new regulations and quickly changing technology that is making fewer traders necessary. At an industry conference last week, executives from other big Wall Street banks said they expected their trading revenue to fall roughly 5 percent in the current quarter from a year ago. The reorganization at Goldman’s Manhattan headquarters is particularly notable because the firm is seen as the shrewdest trading house on the Street. While other banks have been shrinking their desks, Goldman — which has not publicly disclosed the emptying-out of its sixth floor — continues to have ambitions for the kind of trading that went on there. The move to consolidate people on the fourth and fifth floors was partly driven by a desire to have traders work in closer proximity to promote collaboration, said Goldman executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Still, revenue growth at the firm has been difficult, and Goldman executives say that because of all the pressures that the firm and the industry are facing, even successful firms have had to economize and rely on technology, rather than humans, wherever possible, leading to reductions on the trading desks that used to occupy the sixth floor.
Scott Walker suspends presidential campaign
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is immediately suspending his presidential campaign to “clear the field” and make it easier for voters to assess the Republican candidates, he announced on Monday evening in Wisconsin, effectively ending a once-promising GOP presidential bid that collapsed amid tepid debate performances and other missteps. Walker said he is making this “difficult decision” because the crowded field of Republicans has become too focused on personal attacks and has lost sight of the important issues that matter most to voters. He said that he reflected on the decision during church on Sunday and decided: “I believe I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field.” When Walker launched his campaign just more than two months ago, he was considered a top-tier candidate. Since then, he has seen his campaign overshadowed by Donald Trump, along with his own misstatements and missteps on the campaign trail. Walker’s backers saw a campaign discombobulated by Trump’s booming popularity and by his provocative language on immigration, China and other issues. They saw in Walker a candidate who — in contrast to the discipline he showed in state races — continued to commit unforced errors, either out of lack of preparation or in an attempt to grab part of the flamboyant businessman’s following.
Why Some People See Ghosts and Other Apparitions
In the 2013 science-fiction thriller, Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut who gets stranded in a capsule in space following a catastrophe in which she is the apparent lone survivor. Cold, frightened, and alone, she resigns herself to her fate and shuts down the cabin’s oxygen supply to commit suicide. As she begins to lose consciousness, she is visited (or is she?) by the astronaut played by George Clooney, whom she believed to be dead. He gives her a pep talk and a survival plan—and then he leaves. She eventually realizes that Clooney’s visit did not really happen, but the experience still gives her the strength to continue on. By following “his” plan, she is able to survive what seemed to be a hopeless situation. The movie was science fiction, but the encounter that Bullock’s character has with a “being” who appears in a moment of desperation is a human experience far more common than you might think. Psychologists refer to it as the “sensed presence.” The sensed presence usually happens to individuals who have become isolated in an extreme or unusual environment, often when high levels of stress are involved. These individuals report a perception or feeling that another person is there to help them cope with a hazardous situation. The vividness of the presence can range from a vague feeling of being watched to a clearly perceived, seemingly flesh-and-blood entity such as Clooney’s character in Gravity. This entity might be a god, a spirit, an ancestor, or someone personally known to the observer. Sensed presences usually appear in environments with little variation in physical and social stimulation; low temperature is also a common ingredient. Possible explanations for a sensed presence include the motion of boats, atmospheric or geomagnetic activity, and altered sensations and states of consciousness induced by changes in brain chemistry triggered by stress, lack of oxygen, monotonous stimulation, or a buildup of hormones. There is in fact exciting new evidence (link is external) from a research group led by Olaf Blanke (link is external) demonstrating that it is the precise stimulation of specific brain regions that tricks people into feeling the “presence” of a ghostly apparition. Environmental psychologist Peter Suedfeld also thinks that what we do cognitively changes under these circumstances and may play a role. Suedfeld proposed that we normally spend most of our time attending to and processing external, ambient stimuli from the physical world surrounding us. However, persistent exposure to stimuli that we are evolutionarily unprepared to process, or a lack of change in our surroundings, may cause us to focus more within ourselves, which most of us are much less experienced at doing. Most likely, the experience of the sensed presence is the result of many of these factors interacting at once. Some of the most compelling descriptions of sensed presences come from lone sailors who have experienced hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. In one famous incident, Joshua Slocum, the first person to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly, swore that he saw and spoke with the pilot of Columbus’s ship the Pinta. He claimed that the pilot steered his boat through heavy weather as Slocum lay ill with food poisoning. Many other startling, vivid examples of such apparitions reported by sailors, mountain climbers, and polar explorers are described in a 1987 article by Suedfeld and Mocellin. These include recurring reports by polar explorers that they felt as if someone was following them on their treks; Mt. Everest climbers stranded in snow holes hallucinating rescuers; and survivors of sinking ships counting extra persons in their lifeboats. Although sensed presences are most frequently reported by people in weird or dangerous places, it is not unreasonable to assume that such experiences can happen in more mundane surroundings. For example:
How Genome Sequencing Creates Communities Around Rare Disorders
The last two years have been a whirlwind of good news for Lilly Grossman. She graduated high school and successfully applied for college, where she’ll be majoring in English. She went to her prom and was crowned homecoming queen. She edited her school newspaper. She even visited the White House and met Barack Obama. But the two most important aspects of Lilly’s recent life seem far more mundane to other people. She has been sleeping. And she has been planning for a future that, for the longest time, her parents doubted she would have. Ever since she was a small child, Lilly’s body has been wracked by painful and relentless muscle tremors. At first, they only happened at night, robbing her and her parents of anything but the most fleeting stretches of sleep. Then, they crept into the daylight hours, leaving her with muscle weakness and balance problems, and making her dependent on walkers or wheelchairs. No one knew what was wrong. The family bounced from one physician to another, each one offering a different but equally wrong diagnosis. Her parents, Steve and Gay, compiled a dossier of medical records, thick with the results of unfruitful and often-painful tests. Life was hard, birthdays especially so. With the most likely diagnosis being some kind of mitochondrial disease—a class of conditions that often come with poor prognoses—Steve and Gay felt that the sand was draining from their daughter’s hourglass. Everything changed when the family learned about a study called IDIOM, led by Eric and Sarah Topol at the Scripps Translational Science Institute. IDIOM was an attempt to diagnose people with “serious, rare and perplexing health conditions” by sequencing their entire genomes and uncovering the faulty genes that presumably lay behind their problems. Lilly fit the bill perfectly. She became the first IDIOM volunteer—and its most successful by far. Within Lilly’s DNA, the Scripps team found a mutation in a gene called ADCY5, which is highly active in parts of the brain involved in coordinating movements. Based on these results, Lilly’s doctor decided to try her on a drug called Diamox, which had helped the only other known family with faults in ADCY5 (more on them later). When Lilly tried the drug, she started sleeping soundly for the first time in years. More:
Without Calming Voice, G.O.P. Is Letting Divisive Ones Speak on Muslims
WASHINGTON — When Ben Carson said on Sunday that he would not want to see a Muslim elected president, he did not just reignite a volatile conversation about the role of Islam in American life — he also exposed another fissure between many Republican leaders and elements of the party’s grass roots. In the years since President George W. Bush sought to separate the Islamic extremists behind the Sept. 11 attacks from the millions of practitioners of what he called a religion of peace, many in his party have come to reject the distinction. It is hardly the only point of disagreement between Republican leaders who are determined to reorient the party to win in a changing country, and activists who are uneasy about what they see as threats to their way of life. But the debate over Islam is particularly worrisome for Republicans because it so vividly highlights the vacuum that has been created by the absence of a unifying leader who can temper the impulses of the rank-and-file. The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for Ben Carson to withdraw from the presidential race after saying Muslims are not fit to serve as president. But with many conservatives in the Obama years now seeing themselves as under siege, there are significant incentives for would-be leaders to cater to what Mr. Lewis called “their sense of victimhood.”For Democrats, there is an opening to use the criticism of Islam to portray Republicans as intolerant, reinforcing an image that has damaged the party’s brand. “I call on every Republican to denounce Dr. Carson’s disgusting remarks,” Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor Monday, posting a photograph on Twitter of the star-and-crescent-bedecked headstone of a Muslim American soldier who died in Iraq. Muslim leaders also denounced Mr. Carson. “My heart was so saddened to hear those words come out of the mouth of an individual who is seeking the highest office in our land,” said Mahdi Bray, an imam and director of the American Muslim Alliance, at a news conference in Washington. “Not only because it’s inconsistent with the United States Constitution, but what do I tell my kids?”
From ‘the Scarlet Whore’ to Pope Francis: A Brief History of America and the Papacy
It would have amazed the Founders that a pope would be willing to speak to Congress—and that Congress would want to hear him, for that matter. Americans were not seeking papal approval as they sought to begin the world anew, in Thomas Paine’s words, and they had their own reasons to keep some distance from Rome (while happily accepting military aid from Catholic monarchies like France and Spain). They were delighted that a wide ocean separated them from Europe’s frequent religious wars, and the first amendment to the Constitution spelled out clearly that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The Catholic Church, for its part, had little reason to pay attention to the upstart country. When the United States came into existence, 249 popes had come and gone, and the church had seen huge empires rise and fall—a deep history that helps explain the longstanding mutual ambivalence between two great forces, one new, one old, each aspiring to be the world’s conscience. America has never been simple for the Church. When Columbus made his way across the Atlantic, he found new plants and animals never mentioned by the Bible, and certain key ingredients missing (like grapes, needed to make wine for the Lord’s Supper). In the aftermath of the discoveries, a Spanish pope, Alexander VI, awarded most of the hemisphere to Spain, and set in motion changes that were catastrophic to indigenous peoples. When the 13 colonies were carved out of North America (many with grants stretching across the Spanish domains to the Pacific), their settlers inherited an English distrust of the papacy. Religious tensions were never far from the surface, even during a Revolution that went to some lengths to keep religion out of the new government. The leaders of the Revolution were overwhelmingly Protestant (only one signer of the Declaration was Catholic, Charles Carroll of Maryland), and many still cherished a worldview in which popes were regarded as corruptors of religion. Anti-pope festivals were held in many colonies, especially after the Quebec Act of 1774 terrified the colonists into thinking the British were merging them with the Catholics to the North. Effigies of the pope were paraded around American cities, and flags unfurled which read “No Popery.” Especially in New England, ministers used colorful language to denounce “the Scarlet Whore,” and routinely saw papal interventions into European politics as signs of the apocalypse, which they zealously correlated with the Book of Revelation in their dog-eared Bibles. On October 21, 1774, the Continental Congress sent England a note condemning its support for a Roman Catholic religion that “disbursed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellions through every part of the world.” So stood relations between Congress and the pope on the eve of independence.
The Influence of Fiorina at Lucent, in Hindsight
As Carly Fiorina has risen in the polls over the last week, there is renewed focus on her controversial tenure as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. Yet her career at Lucent Technologies has been treated as little more than a footnote. It shouldn’t be. “My story — from secretary to C.E.O. — is only possible in this country,” Mrs. Fiorina likes to say on the hustings. In between her stint as a receptionist for a real estate company in the late 1970s and her being named Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive in 1999, Mrs. Fiorina worked for nearly 20 years at AT&T and then Lucent, the telephone giant’s spun-off equipment business. It was at Lucent — Latin for “light-bearing” — that Mrs. Fiorina made her name, running several of its divisions and overseeing its successful initial public offering, which at the time was the largest I.P.O in American history. In 1998, she appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine, ranked No. 1 on its inaugural “Most Powerful Women in Business” list. Yet her celebrated tenure at Lucent has been clouded by what happened two years after she left in 1999. The once-highflying business worth more than $250 billion at its peak nearly collapsed in the face of an accounting scandal and the telecommunications bust. The company laid off 50,000 employees in 2001 alone. Today the company, after merging with Alcatel of France, is worth only about $10 billion. Lucent, like some its rivals, artificially burnished its financial performance through vendor financing — lending money to customers so they could buy its products. In 2004, the company settled charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission that accused it of perpetrating a $1.1 billion accounting fraud.
Oath of office of the President of the United States
While the Constitution does not mandate that anyone in particular should administer the oath, the oath is typically administered by the Chief Justice, but sometimes by another federal or state judge (George Washington was first sworn in by Robert Livingston, the chancellor of the State of New York in 1789, while Calvin Coolidge was first sworn in by his father, a Justice of the Peace and a Vermont notary public in 1923). By convention, incoming Presidents raise their right hand and place the left on a Bible or other book while taking the oath of office. William R. King is the only executive official sworn into office on foreign soil. By special act of Congress, he was allowed to take his oath of the office of the Vice President on March 24, 1853 in Cuba, where he had gone because of his poor health. He died 25 days later. From 1789 through 2013, the swearing-in has been administered by 15 Chief Justices, one Associate Justice, three federal judges, two New York state judges, and one notary public. To date the only person to swear in a president who was not a judge was John Calvin Coolidge, Sr., Calvin Coolidge‘s father, a notary whose home the then-Vice President was visiting in 1923 when he learned of the death of President Warren G. Harding. Sarah T. Hughes is the only woman to administer the oath of office. She was a U.S. District Court judge who swore Lyndon B. Johnson into office on Air Force One after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The Constitutional language gives the option to “affirm” instead of “swear”. While the reasons for this are not documented, it may relate to certain Christians, including Quakers, who apply this scripture literally: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (James 5:12, KJV). Franklin Pierce was the only president known to use the word “affirm” rather than “swear.” Herbert Hoover is often listed to have used “affirm” as well, owing to his being a Quaker, but a newsreel taken of the ceremony indicates that the words used were “solemnly swear.” Richard Nixon, who was also a Quaker, also swore, rather than affirm. There have been two forms of administering, and taking, the oath of office. Under the first form, now in disuse, the administrator articulated the constitutional oath in the form of a question, and modifying the wording from the first to the second person, as in, “Do you George Washington solemnly swear …” and then requested an affirmation. At that point a response of “I do” or “I swear” completed the oath. It is believed that this was the common procedure at least until the early 20th century. In 1881, the New York Times article covering the swearing in of Chester A. Arthur, reported that he responded to the question of accepting the oath with the words, “I will, so help me God.” In 1929, Time magazine reported that the Chief Justice began the oath uttering, “You, Herbert Hoover, do you solemnly swear …”, Hoover replied with a simple “I do”. Under the second, and current form, the administrator articulates the oath in the affirmative, and in the first person, so that the President takes the oath by repeating it verbatim. Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933, stood silent as Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes recited the entire oath, then repeated that oath from beginning to end himself. By the time of Harry Truman’s inauguration in 1949, the practice was for the Chief Justice to utter the oath in chunks, with the President-elect repeating those chunks, until the oath was completed. Many times the President-elect’s name is added after the “I”; for example, “I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, do … ” Lyndon B. Johnson did not add his name when swearing his first oath of office after Kennedy’s death since he was never asked to say his name; there is evidence that in all other inaugurations since Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s first, the name of the president was added to the oath. Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law, with the intention that he was swearing on the constitution. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal on Air Force One. Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama each swore the oath on two Bibles. Washington took his oath of office with an altar bible borrowed from the St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons lodge in New York and he kissed the Bible after taking the oath of office. Subsequent presidents followed suit, up to and including Harry Truman, but Dwight D. Eisenhower broke that tradition by saying his own prayer instead of kissing the Bible.. More:
First inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt – Just some History
It was decided to conduct the inauguration immediately due to the tragic and politically charged circumstances of the President’s death. The most appropriate site was determined to the Ansley Wilcox House. Approximately 50 dignitaries, family members and cabinet officials gathered in the front library for the inauguration. Federal Judge John R. Hazel prepared to administer the oath. Borrowing Wilcox’s morning coat, Roosevelt did not swear on a Bible, in contrast to the usual tradition of US presidents. There were also no photographs, as inauguration photos were not allowed after a rival photographer unceremoniously knocked down another’s camera, although the room was heavily photographed after the inauguration had concluded.
Some state agencies looking at severe cuts
With the budget for 2016 put in place Thursday, state agencies began to review their General Fund allocations. Many didn’t like what they saw. While the $1.7 billion budget maintains funding for large agencies, such as Medicaid, Mental Health and the state’s trial court system, some agencies saw far more severe reductions. Others with smaller cuts said the cuts fell on critical programs. Even level-funded agencies said rising costs could affect services. • The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said it would raise fees on some permits by as much as 20 percent, and warned the cuts could draw federal scrutiny. • The Department of Senior Services said cuts fell heaviest on a program providing meals to seniors, and that they would work to shift money around to make up the difference. • The Attorney General’s Office said they are trying to prevent the impact on their workforce from a cut the office estimated at $1 million. State agencies receive funding from other sources, including the federal government. But federal funding is targeted for specific purposes, and state funding often determines how much outside money comes into Alabama. The Legislature approved the 2016 budget after more than six months of clashes over how to address a $200 million shortfall. While legislators approved cigarette tax increases and a use tax transfer to address the shortfall, they also imposed cuts on all but six agencies. Legislators said Wednesday they tried to keep cuts to between 4 and 6 percent. “In our opinion, as we talk about right-sizing government, we think that puts on enough pressure without being devastating, to encourage those agencies to downsize,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. But the pressure is crushing for some departments. The Alabama Department of Environmental Management saw its General Fund appropriation cut from $1.2 million to $280,000, a 77 percent cut to its General Fund allocation. Since 2008, ADEM has lost more than 96 percent of its funding from the General Fund. Lance LeFleur, director of ADEM, said the agency will try to make up the loss by increasing the cost of various permits sought by business. Some could increase 20 percent. “They are, in effect, willing to let industry cover the cost of budget cuts,” he said. LeFleur said the cuts could draw scrutiny from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is already watching ADEM for “insufficient state-provided funding.”
Can ISIS infiltrate Alabama? Byrne seeks answers on Syrian refugee crisis
Amid concerns that ISIS could infiltrate the U.S. by posing as refugees, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, wants to know how the State Department will ensure that ISIS or its sympathizers don’t take advantage of the president’s plan to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country. The debate over the handling of refugees is a topic that hits home for Alabama, considering that Mobile houses an affiliate of the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. The center is likely to play a role in the admittance of Syrian refugees amid a worldwide crisis. “Given this information, I have legitimate concerns about the safety and security of my constituents in Southwest Alabama,” Byrne wrote in a letter Thursday to Anne Richard, the State Department’s assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. The Mobile congressman made the letter public on Monday. “I would like to know what precautions are being made to ensure these refugees are not affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or other terrorist organizations,” the congressman added, referring to an alternate name for ISIS. Byrne cited National Intelligence Director James Clapper for his concern. Clapper said he would not “put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.” Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor said in an editorial that the concerns of ISIS infiltrating the U.S. are overblown. “Experts on IS [Islamic State] and the Syrian migration say this fear is unfounded,” the editorial said. “IS has plenty of easier ways to send people to the West or to find potential recruits already living there. In addition, most Syrian refugees have lived for years in the neighboring countries of Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan without people in those countries having much concern about militant radicals in their midst.” The congressman asked Richard what kind of vetting process and security screenings the refugees will undergo, under what criteria refugees will be denied entry and how the U.S. will monitor the refugees. Byrne also wants to know what safeguards will be put in place to ensure national security while the refugees are being admitted and whether Congress will need to authorize additional funding to take in the refugees.
Deaths from highly addictive Fentanyl on the rise in Jefferson County
JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) – The highly addictive pain reliever Fentanyl can be twice as powerful as heroin, and it’s killed nearly six times as many people in Jefferson County this year as it did last year. While heroin deaths are down so far in Jefferson County, Fentanyl deaths have risen at an alarming rate. From January to July of last year, there were seven Fentanyl deaths in Jefferson County. This year, for that same time period, there have been 41 Fentanyl deaths. Fentanyl is most commonly used by cancer patients and normally comes in the form a prescription patch or it’s used directly in hospitals. But it is 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Many street drugs are sold by the gram, but Fentanyl is so potent, it’s sold by the milligram. Law enforcement officers are also finding it’s being sold on the black market, coming in from overseas suppliers. Because it’s so similar to heroin, many times drug dealers think they’re getting heroin, but it’s really the deadlier Fentanyl. “The drug enforcement administration is extremely concerned now that we have Fentanyl in our source of supply for drugs streaming throughout Alabama, specifically northern Alabama and Birmingham, that is great cost for those who abuse drugs, it’s also a great cost for law enforcement. It’s very dangerous to actually handle Fentanyl if you do not know it’s Fentanyl, you could literally inhale of few grains of Fentanyl and it’s enough to cause an overdose,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Clay Morris said. Morris said Fentanyl is not taking the place of heroin; often the same people who use heroin are also using Fentanyl, although they may not realize it.
Alabama One Email Saga: New Details Surface
Following years of regulatory inspections, allegations of fraud and lawsuits, John Dee Carruth, president/CEO of the $598 million, Tuscaloosa, Ala.-based Alabama One Credit Union, said he has proof of a state government conspiracy against him, several of his colleagues and his financial institution. Carruth shared dozens of emails, depositions and other documents with CU Times, which he said is evidence that attorney Justice D. “Jay” Smyth, III conspired with his political friends to force Alabama One to settle lawsuits for millions of dollars. Smyth has denied these allegations, and drama could ensue in a lengthy court battle. Email exchanges discussed or took place between Smyth’s friend and former law partner David Byrne, who is now the chief legal advisor for the governor of Alabama; Alabama Governor Robert Bentley; aides for both of them; State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa); Alabama Credit Union Administration Administrator Sarah Moore; an FBI agent; a retired judge and several others. CU Times detailed a few of these emails in a previous article after Carruth and his attorneys provided documentation stating that the Alabama Supreme Court denied Smyth’s request to keep them from being used in the lawsuit. Carruth said he feels the emails prove that Smyth used his connections with Bentley, others in his office and ACUA regulators to settle his lawsuits. Alabama One filed a federal lawsuit June 29 against Byrne, Allen, Moore, Smyth, law firm Albert Lewis Smyth Winter Ford LLC, Lewis, Tuscaloosa attorney Bobby Cockrell, former ACUA Administrator Larry D. Morgan and Doug Key, president/CEO of the $140 million Mutual Savings in Hoover, Ala., who served as a temporary CEO for Alabama One in 2014. Alabama One alleged in the suit it received letters of commendation from the ACUA and NCUA in April of 2013, as well as a positive Examination Report dated Dec. 31, 2013. Morgan suspended Carruth and three other Alabama One employees in February 2014, but reversed the order in March and abruptly resigned. He was replaced by Moore, who issued a cease and desist order April 2 requiring Carruth and other executives to resign. Alabama One fought the order in court. Download a PDF of the ACUA’s cease and desist order. The NCUA said that per agency practice, it could not comment on matters relating to supervision. A number of Alabama One members began filing suit after former member Danny Ray Butler’s arrestover losses they said they had suffered because of loans the credit union made for Butler in their names – suits the credit union has now declared are part of an alleged conspiracy against Alabama One. According to the complaint, Smyth represented five of those lawsuits against Alabama One, et all. The complaint alleged that a suit filed by Jerry and Brenda Griffin, and Sammy and Tommie Colburn, were settled with no monies being paid by Alabama One to the plaintiffs. However, CU Times previously reported, court documents revealed that the Griffin suit resulted in significant cost to the credit union. According to the settlement agreement, the credit union modified the Griffins’ loans and loan terms, renewed or extended loan agreements, made additional loans at advantageous interest rates, canceled debts, released and sold property and improvements, canceled injunctions and refunded bonds, and released claims against the couple. More, Stay tuned to cutimes.com for more details on Alabama state officials’ alleged conspiracy against Alabama One, including Smyth’s side of the story.
REP HENRY ACCOSTS SPEAKER HUBBARD AT CONCLUSION OF SPECIAL SESSION
As we mentioned last week there was an interesting unsuccessful attempt at a power play in the House by Reps. Ed Henry, R-Decatur, and Will Ainsworth, R-Guntersville, who challenged a ruling by Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. Fast-forward a few days and Henry confronts the Speaker again claiming Hubbard had unrightfully prevented him from bringing forward a point of order to dispute what he considered disparaging remarks by Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, who said those who had voted against revenue measures’ should be “ashamed.” Eyewitnesses tell IAP immediately after Speaker Hubbard adjourned the House sine die a screaming and cussing Rep. Henry accosted the Speaker and the two men exchanged chest bumps before being separated by Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Cullman. There were several shouts for security by other legislators. “The speaker has all the power, and he can do what he wants,” Henry said after the incident. “I don’t have to support him”, said Henry.
AL Repro Rights Activists Have ‘Daily Show’ Ally Against Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore really wants to rent this house, but a team of dedicated reproductive freedom activists says they’ll do whatever it takes to keep him from succeeding. As they rally to raise $11,000, the Montgomery Area Reproductive Justice Coalition has a big endorsement from Lady Parts Justice, a cabal of writers and comics associated with comedienne Lizz Winstead. Lady Parts Justice calls themselves a “not safe for work, rapid response reproductive justice messaging hub that uses comedy, culture and digital media to sound an alarm about the terrifying erosion of reproductive access.” When BU covered the gathering of Operation Save America (OSA) in Montgomery, Alabama this July, we brought you the story of how one local anti-abortion hectoring and verbal abuse of patients’ families ended up ruining any chance for the OSA group to rent the house next door to the Reproductive Health Services clinic. Weeks before OSA arrived, a flustered woman struck the building, which is the former headquarters of Equality Alabama, with her car. Professional protester David Day had distracted the driver with vicious taunts as she tried to get her children away from him. That incident underlines a key reason why reproductive rights organizers have kept the converted private residence long after the OSA event ended: it’s not just the patients who need protection from the protesters. Their families and friends often need a safe refuge, too. Volunteers have now transformed the Perry Street residence into the POWER (People Organizing for Women’s Empowerment and Rights) House, a safe place for families and companions to wait while women access services at the clinic, where children are not allowed in the waiting area. In a trend also observed at many clinics around the country, protesters at the Montgomery location seem to target companions even more than patients.
From the shadow of death, county official saw the light of Alabama’s people
There are times when politics do not matter. There are moments when all the things that so often bug us and bother us and divide us amount to nothing at all. Now is such a time for Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos. Now and the last whole year. Oh, what a year it has been. What a life-changing, mind-altering whirlwind of a year. It started, of all the ironic places, at Cooper Green Mercy Hospital, where Petelos went for a meeting one day last year. He knew something was wrong. He felt the pain and stopped at Cooper Green’s urgent care facility before he left. “They told me I needed to see my urologist,” he said. And then it all came pouring out. Petelos learned he had stage 2 bladder cancer, far enough along that it invaded his muscle walls. His whole bladder was removed, and the guy who four years ago prior climbed three miles high to Base Camp at Mount Everest was suddenly unable to walk to his mailbox. And suddenly there was nothing but the numbers. In the last 12 months he seen: Three major surgeries; seven radiations; 15 infections; six emergency room visits; four tubes sticking out his back; one external bladder; and 1,000 expressions of support. Maybe more. And that’s the thing that gets Petelos. Not the pain or the weakness, the recurring surgeries or the rehab. Not the shock or the fear or the life changes such a disease demands. It is the people who stop him as he buys coffee to wish him well and lend him strength. It is the people of all description – white people and black people, Protestants and Catholics and Muslims in the community who lift him with their prayers. It is cards from friends and total strangers. It is letters that pile up by the hundreds in a basket he keeps at home. “They are praying for me. They tell me their church is praying for me,” he said. “It’s a wonderful feeling. We may not agree on some things, but this is a loving community and a very generous community.” Oh, he didn’t start out being so graceful. His initial diagnosis knocked the stuffing out of him, he admits. “I felt sorry for myself for a couple of days,” he said. “Then I popped out of it. I thought OK, there’s nothing I can do other than get medical help, to accept it and move on.” There was no choice, I guess. None but to stay home and wallow in Judge Judy, to forget about work and purpose and the point he wanted to make four years ago when he took the job at Alabama’s largest and then most messed up county. But he soon watched more TV than he could take. It wasn’t him, and it sure wasn’t the him he wanted to be. So Petelos was back to work. Which is good for Petelos. And good for the county, according to County Commission President Jimmie Stephens, who stops by Petelos’ office most mornings to see how he is doing. “The county runs more smoothly when Tony is here,” Stephens says. Petelos intends to be there a while. He has no plans to call it quits, but he does have a new outlook on the job, on his work, and on the life he no longer takes for granted. “I sleep great at night, then I get up and I come here,” he said. ” I work and I go home and I leave work here. I just don’t let the little things bother me anymore,” he said. Because life is short, he said. Because “we get bogged down in little things.”
WALKER OUT; THE JEB WORLD VIEW — A Jeb Bush donor/fundraiser emails about the exit of the Wisconsin governor: “Running for president is far more difficult in reality than in theory, and the marathon rules of politics still seem to apply. Walker found that out the hard way, and, to his credit, was clear-eyed and cut his losses.
“His donors now have to choose – boring but built to last Jeb, or The Talented Mr. Rubio, who gives great speeches from time to time but has struggled to manage even his basic family finances. Team Jeb will be patient and respectful, but will press the case for Jeb with Walker donors as the only primary candidate who can take on Trump and win.”
Tom Krebs is a securities attorney in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
WHERE DO WALKER’S SUPPOTERS GO? — It’s not like there that many but … GOP strategist Kevin Madden emails: “It’s not a monolithic bloc of support that just shifts toward one other candidate. If you’re Fiorina or Rubio, though, it helps to be rising in the polls as others are dropping out. Also, Kasich could make a play for those voters who were looking for a governor from the Midwest with a reformer reputation.”
WHEN THE MUSIC (AND MONEY) STOPS … POLITICO’s Eli Stokols reports: “Scott Walker decided to end his 2016 campaign Monday after burning through cash and disappointing donors who thought the one-time frontrunner would be one of the last men standing this primary season. …
“The announcement came on the heels of a new CNN poll that showed Walker registering as an asterisk – less than 1 percent – following a second straight lackluster GOP debate performance. Walker spent the day in private meetings before the planned announcement. ‘Finances just aren’t there,’ the Wisconsin governor said on a conference call with staff minutes before his press conference” http://politi.co/1KrdprL
LEW HITS CHINA ON EVE OF XI VISIT — Treasury Secretary Jack Lew in a WSJ op-ed: “The signals from Beijing over the last several months have been mixed. Restrictions on the purchase of foreign technology products, and excessively broad reviews for foreign investments, have underscored long-standing questions about China’s business climate. After a period of yuan appreciation, the recent abrupt change to its exchange rate policy led to a 3 percent drop in its value against the dollar and contributed to turbulence in international financial markets …
“Beijing therefore should set its sights on policies that will further their reform agenda, such as targeted fiscal stimulus to boost consumption. Chinese officials also need to demonstrate their intent to allow the yuan to be subject to upward pressure that would drive the currency up, not just down.”
XI DEFENDS MARKET MOVES — WSJ’s Charles Hutzler: “Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his government’s economic stewardship and said that China’s slowing growth and market fluctuations won’t deter needed reforms. In his first interview with foreign media since the Chinese stocks skidded this summer, Mr. Xi told The Wall Street Journal that this summer’s government intervention to arrest the plunge was necessary to ‘defuse systemic risks.’
The rescue was akin to acts taken by governments in ‘some mature foreign markets,’ the president said in written responses to questions submitted by the Journal ahead of his first official state visit to the U.S. On the slowdown that has appeared sharper than both global markets and Beijing expected, Mr. Xi urged foreign investors to take the long view and compared the world’s second-largest economy to a vessel in rough seas.” http://on.wsj.com/1FZuIMn
DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: NO JOBS REPORT! — Guggenheim’s Chris Krueger: “We continue to assign a 30 percent probability that a compromise cannot be worked out and that the government shuts down on October 1 … We believe that the Health Care/Pharma/Biotech, Tourism, and the Defense sectors all have the most negative risk associated with a partial shutdown given their linkage to federal discretionary spending versus other sectors. … In a government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics would also shut down, which would halt economic data releases (including the September Jobs Report).
“Given the Federal Reserve’s very busy fourth quarter and data-dependent approach, a government shutdown could influence the behavior of the Fed. We do not opine on interest rates; we are merely pointing out that a data-dependent Fed would literally be without a key public source of data during a potential shutdown.”
ONLY 15 percent CHANCE! — Compass Point’s Isaac Boltansky and Alison Ashburn: “Although well-respected budget observers have increased their odds of a government shutdown [see Collender, Stan], we maintain our view that lawmakers are likely to reach a short-term agreement and believe there is only a 15 percent probability that the government shuts down next week. Political and procedural realties reinforce our view that GOP leadership is committed to punting the spending fight to November or December”
GOP HARDLINERS STAND FIRM — Reuters: “As a possible U.S. government shutdown loomed, the leader of the House of Representatives’ most conservative Republicans vowed … to oppose any stop-gap funding bill that keeps federal money flowing to Planned Parenthood. In a showdown that threatens to jolt financial markets and the economy [not really], Republican leaders were struggling to craft a government funding extension that meets anti-abortion conservatives’ demands to cut off the women’s healthcare group.
“Congress has five legislative days left before the fiscal year ends. On Oct. 1. If no action is taken, funding will run out for ‘non-essential’ agencies and personnel. Republican House Speaker John Boehner has yet to articulate a plan” http://reut.rs/1QuVbXP
REAL ESTATE PORN: FULD COMPOUND SOLD — Business Insider’s Julia La Roche: “Former Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld’s gorgeous Sun Valley, Idaho compound sold last week for a ‘record-breaking’ price at an auction. The winning bidder for the 71.3-acre Big Wood River Estate is an unidentified person from the Pacific Northwest, Concierge Auctions said in a release.
“It’s unclear how much was paid. The minimum bid was $20 million. Concierge Auctions’ said in a statement that it was the most expensive residence ever known to sell at auction, and the highest known price for a residence in Sun Valley. Concierge Auctions previously estimated that the property could fetch from $30 to $50 million.” http://read.bi/1gIlqxH
WHAT ABOUT FIORINA AND LUCENT? — NYT’s Andrew Ross Sorkin: “As Carly Fiorina has risen in the polls over the last week, there is renewed focus on her controversial tenure as chief executive of Hewlett-Packard. Yet her career at Lucent Technologies has been treated as little more than a footnote. It shouldn’t be. … [H]er celebrated tenure at Lucent has been clouded by what happened two years after she left in 1999. …
“The once-highflying business worth more than $250 billion at its peak nearly collapsed in the face of an accounting scandal and the telecommunications bust. The company laid off 50,000 employees in 2001 alone. Today the company, after merging with Alcatel of France, is worth only about $10 billion.” http://nyti.ms/1itUUtc
GOOD TUESDAY MORNING — Happy birthday to Jenna Wallenstein, who against all logic and reason continues to be my amazing wife. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Twitter @morningmoneyben and wish Jenna (@jaw229) a happy bday.
DRIVING THE DAY — Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Seattle for a meeting with tech CEOs … Pope Francis arrives in DC … Treasury Secretary Jack Lew this morning will participate in a roundtable discussion on market structure with industry leaders and academics hosted by the New York University Stern School of Business … Bank of America shareholders at 10:00 a.m. vote on whether Brian Moynihan should retain both chairman and CEO titles … Hillary Clinton gives a speech on drug pricing … Redbook chain store sales at 9:00 a.m. expected to rise 1.7 percent …
TENSIONS HIGH AS XI ARRIVES — FT’s Geoff Dyer in Washington and Jamil Anderlini in Beijing: “When Xi Jinping begins a week-long visit to the US in Seattle on Tuesday, the Chinese president will be accorded all the pomp and ceremony of an important world leader. In between Washington state and Washington DC, he will meet a large slice of the American corporate elite and will receive a 21-gun salute and a state dinner at the White House. …
“Beneath the surface, however, Mr Xi will encounter an America that is itching to take a more confrontational approach towards China over both commercial and security issues. From the Pentagon to the justice department, the Obama administration has been preparing tougher steps to take against China over cyber theft of trade secrets and over its efforts to assert more control in the South China Sea. The White House has so far held off approving the measures, in part for fear they might poison Mr Xi’s visit, but is holding them open as a threat.” http://on.ft.com/1KwHbrU
IS CHINA STABILIZING? — Bloomberg: “Data culled from China’s most-used search engine, biggest online outlet and main bank-card network are signaling stabilization in the nation’s economy. Three alternative indicators suggest less of a deceleration in the world’s second-largest economy, and reduced risk of a hard landing. That was also the conclusion of a private survey released this week showing little danger of economic collapse after the stock-market plunge and currency devaluation. …
“Online interest in small- and medium-sized enterprises is seeing a rebound in September after recently falling to the lowest level since 2010, according to a preliminary reading of an index developed by Beijing-based Baidu Inc., which handles more than 6 billion searches a day. Baidu tracks how often users click links to smaller companies. … Consumer-price inflation has picked up amid gains in food prices while a three-year streak of factory-gate deflation deepens. An index developed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., China’s largest e-commerce company, shows consumer prices quickening more than the government’s official reading” http://bloom.bg/1OMU8UN
FED CALL WAS A CLOSE ONE — WSJ’s Michael S. Derby: “Federal Reserve officials who have spoken following last week’s high-profile policy meeting say a rate increase this year remains in the cards. In fact, central bankers say they weren’t far from taking that first step to start raising short-term interest rates. The decision not to raise rates was a ‘close call,’ Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said Monday in Atlanta. Given all the tumult tied to China and other foreign economies and the resulting market churn, he said ‘I thought it prudent to wait’ longer to raise rates.
“Other Fed officials also indicated in recent days the decision was close. The camp advocating caution won over [FOMC], which voted 9-1 on Thursday to keep its benchmark rate near zero … to get a better read on how global economic turbulence and unsettled markets are affecting the outlook. While officials agree rates should rise this year, comments since the meeting show a split on when exactly that should happen.” … The decision not to act was countered by two other policy makers who believe the economy has improved enough for the central bank to begin moving toward a more historically normal policy stance now” http://on.wsj.com/1Mnkf21
DIMON WON’T DONATE TO CLINTON — New York Post: Hillary Clinton “can’t count on campaign dollars from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the billionaire executive said … ‘I am not going to get involved in the politics at this point,’ Dimon said when asked if he would pledge his support, as he did in 2007 and 2008.” http://bit.ly/1V5wZN0
VW TANKS — NYT’s Jack Ewing: “Since the [emission test] news broke on Friday, Volkswagen has scrambled to control the damage. … Volkswagen said it would stop selling the remainder of its 2015 model Volkswagen and Audi diesels and not offer its 2016 diesel cars, which were just arriving in showrooms in the United States. These measures did not stop Volkswagen shares from plummeting more than 20 percent when trading opened in Europe on Monday. …
“The software used to manipulate emissions tests in the United States, and the extensive attempts by Volkswagen to deflect official scrutiny before admitting misconduct this month, suggest that the cheating was not just the work of a few rogue engineers. … German authorities said on Monday that they would conduct their own tests to make sure that Volkswagen diesels were complying with European laws. The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, has contacted Volkswagen as well as the Environmental Protection Agency for details, a commission spokeswoman said.” http://nyti.ms/1gIrINL
INVERSIONS CONTINUE DESPITE TREASURY MOVES — WSJ’s Liz Hoffman and John D. McKinnon: “When Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd. last October abandoned plans to buy an Irish drug company and move its headquarters overseas, it was chalked up as a win for Washington over ‘inversion’ deals that were structured to avoid U.S. taxes. The victory was short-lived. In the year since the Treasury Department tightened its rules to reduce the tax benefits of such deals, six U.S. companies have struck inversions, compared with the nine that did so the year before. Meanwhile, foreign takeovers of U.S. companies have soared, with similarly draining effects on U.S. coffers. Just six months after calling off its inversion, Salix itself was sold to a Canadian rival, which expects to shave more than $560 million off Salix’s tax bill over the next five years, new documents show. …
“The results highlight the challenge for Washington in holding onto corporate tax dollars amid a global mergers-and-acquisitions boom. U.S. businesses, which are subject to a 35 percent tax rate, are worth more in the hands of more lightly taxed foreign rivals. The savings let overseas buyers offer high prices for those assets, which ramps up pressure on American boards to sell. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) called the Treasury’s regulations ‘a Band-Aid.’ He added: ‘The U.S. tax code is noncompetitive. Until we fix that, we’ll continue to see American companies leave, one way or another.’” http://on.wsj.com/1QuT5r4
ALSO FOR YOUR RADAR —
REDUCING COST OF FUNDS DOESN’T HELP BORROWERS — Per a study by NYU Stern Professor Johannes Stroebel: “Households with the lowest FICO scores had the highest willingness to borrow. Despite lower-cost capital, banks were reluctant to lend to these potential borrowers. The authors estimate that a one percentage point reduction in the costs of funds for banks raises optimal credit limits by only $127 for consumers with low FICO scores. … A bank’s propensity to lend is negatively correlated with a household’s propensity to borrow (i.e., the more likely a household is to borrow, the less likely a bank is to grant additional credit).”
CLINTON TWEETS SLAMS BIOTECH STOCKS — FT’s David Crow: “Hillary Clinton … knocked $15bn from the value of US biotech stocks on Monday by pledging to take on ‘outrageous’ price-gouging in the pharmaceuticals industry. ‘Price gouging like this in the speciality drug market is outrageous. Tomorrow I’ll lay out a plan to take it on,’ Mrs Clinton wrote in a tweet, referring to a company that hiked the price of a medicine for a form of parasitic infection from $13.50 to $750 overnight. … The tweet sent the Nasdaq biotech index down by almost 5 per cent in New York trading. Shares in Valeant, a Canadian pharmaceutical group that has a reputation for implementing steep price hikes, fell by 5.4 per cent. …
“Mrs Clinton’s tweet referred to the case of Daraprim, a 62-year old drug for a life-threatening parasitic infection. It was bought in August by privately held Turing Pharmaceuticals, which immediately raised the price by more than 5,000 per cent. … In an interview with CNBC, Martin Shkreli, Turing’s chief executive, defended the price hike and said the company planned to use the extra revenues to fund research into a better alternative.” http://on.ft.com/1Yxq18b
10:30 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
4:00 pm || Greets Pope Francis; Joint Base Andrews
All times Eastern
Live Stream of White House briefing at 12:30 pm
The Senate will take a procedural vote on proceeding to the 20-week abortion legislation. Sixty votes will be needed to overcome the procedural hurdle.
The Senate will also likely recess form 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly policy lunches.
The House isn’t in session.