Iraq launches Mosul offensive to drive out Islamic State
Iraqi government forces launched a U.S.-backed offensive on Monday to drive Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, a high-stakes battle to retake the militants’ last major stronghold in the country. Two years after the jihadists seized the city of 1.5 million people and declared a caliphate from there encompassing tracts of Iraq and Syria, a force of some 30,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Sunni tribal fighters began to advance. Helicopters released flares and explosions could be heard on the city’s eastern front, where Reuters watched Kurdish fighters move forward to take outlying villages. A U.S.-led air campaign has helped drive Islamic State from much of the territory it held but 4,000 to 8,000 fighters are thought to remain in Mosul. Residents contacted by phone dismissed reports on Arabic television channels of an exodus by the jihadists, who have a history of using human shields and have threatened to unleash chemical weapons. “Daesh are using motorcycles for their patrols to evade air detection, with pillion passengers using binoculars to check out buildings and streets,” said Abu Maher, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. He and others contacted were preparing makeshift defences and had been stockpiling food in anticipation of the assault, which officials say could take weeks or even months. The residents withheld their full names for security reasons and Reuters was not able to verify their accounts independently. The United States predicted Islamic State would suffer “a lasting defeat” as Iraqi forces mounted their biggest operation in Iraq since the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But the offensive, which has assumed considerable importance for U.S. President Barack Obama as his term draws to a close, is fraught with risks. These include sectarian conflict between Mosul’s mainly Sunni population and advancing Shi’ite forces, and the potential for up to a million people to flee Mosul, multiplying a refugee crisis in the region and across Europe. “We set up a fortified room in the house by putting sandbags to block the only window and we removed everything dangerous or flammable,” Abu Maher said. “I spent almost all my money on buying food, baby milk and anything we might need.” Qatar-based al-Jazeera television aired video of what it said was a bombardment of Mosul that started after a speech by Prime Minister Haider Abadi, showing rockets and bursts of tracer bullets across the night sky and loud sounds of gunfire. “I announce today the start of the heroic operations to free you from the terror and oppression of Daesh,” Abadi said on state TV. “We will meet soon on the ground in Mosul to celebrate liberation and your salvation,” he said, surrounded by commanders of the armed forces.
Big Winner From London’s Brexit Exodus Isn’t Even in Europe
The ultimate winner if Brexit forces banks to flee London may lie 3,500 miles away, far beyond the borders of Europe. New York, even more than Frankfurt or Paris, is emerging as a top candidate to lure banking talent if London’s finance industry is damaged by Britain’s divorce from the European Union, according to politicians and industry executives. That’s because the largest U.S. city, rather than European finance hubs, is the place that rivals the depth of markets, breadth of expertise or regulatory appeal boasted by London. Continental Europe will win some bank operations to satisfy regional rules ensure time-zone-friendly access to its market, but more may eventually shift across the Atlantic to the only other one-stop shop for business. “There is no way in the EU there is a center with the infrastructure or regulatory infrastructure to take the role London has,” particularly in capital markets, John Nelson, chairman of Lloyd’s of London, said in an interview. “There is only one city in the world that can, and that is New York.” For many global investment banks, London is their largest or second-biggest headquarters. If the benefits of scale are diminished by having to move roles to Europe, banks may look to shrink their London operations even further by moving any workers able to do their job just as well from a different time zone, including global-facing roles in merger advisory, trading and back-office technology and finance. More:
Iraqi Forces Attack Mosul, a Beleaguered Stronghold for ISIS
ERBIL, Iraq — Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls, while the city’s Islamic State rulers have feverishly expanded their underground tunnel network and tried to dodge American drones. After months of maneuvering, the Iraqi government’s battle to reclaim Mosul, the sprawling city whose million-plus population lent the most credence to the Islamic State’s claim to rule a fledgling nation, has finally begun. In the early hours Monday, an announcement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of the campaign’s opening was accompanied by artillery barrages and a rush of armored vehicles toward the front a few miles from the city’s limits. Those forces will fight to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul. Among them were refugees who managed to sneak out in recent weeks and residents reached by contraband cellphones in the city. Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading. More:
21 Chibok Schoolgirls, Reuniting With Parents, Tell of Boko Haram Slavery
ABUJA, Nigeria — They were taken deep into the Sambisa Forest to Boko Haram’s stronghold, where the more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok were offered a choice: Join the militants or become their slaves. About half of them chose to join and marry the fighters and were taken away, never to be heard from. Those who refused endured more than two years of servitude, washing, fetching water and cooking for Boko Haram. The girls, nearly all of them Christians, lived in grass huts and were forced to convert to Islam. At first they ate rice and maize. But then food became scarce. During their captivity in the forest, a few of them died. These were the stories that parents of the schoolgirls from Chibok heard Sunday from 21 girls released last week after the Nigerian government negotiated their freedom. The parents of the freed girls, as well as parents of girls still held captive, were bused to the nation’s capital for a joyful reunion ceremony at a hospital run by the country’s secret police service. Videos of the ceremony showed reunited families hopping up and down together in celebration, singing Christian songs of praise. “I felt like it was the day that I born her into this world,” said Ruth Markus, the mother of Saratu Markus, one of the freed girls. “I danced and danced and danced.” The girls are in the custody of the secret police, and they are receiving medical and psychological care, government officials said. They were scheduled to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday. Mr. Buhari, who took office a year ago, had pledged during his campaign to find the girls. Officials have said they expect more girls to be released soon. As many as 276 girls were taken in April 2014 when members of Boko Haram stormed their boarding school during exam week. About 50 escaped in the initial days after the abduction, but before last week only one had been found since: Amina Ali, who was discovered this year roaming in the forest with a baby. Boko Haram fighters have captured and killed large groups of other schoolchildren, but the kidnapping of the students from Chibok caught the world’s attention, fueled by a #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign. More:
Meet Matteo Renzi — the Justin Trudeau of Italy and the Obamas’ final state dinner honoree
On Tuesday, the president and first lady will welcome Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the White House for what is likely to be the last state dinner of the Obama administration. It’s bound to be a big, glittery affair: Celebrity chef Mario Batali will be in the kitchen, and singer Gwen Stefani will perform after dinner. At the center of it all: Renzi, 41, the youngest prime minister since Italy became a unified nation in 1861. Haven’t heard of him? You should — he’s charismatic, ambitious and a master of social media. Here’s everything you need to know about one of Europe’s rising stars: Nickname: Renzi is known as “Il Rottamatore,” which translates roughly as “the Scrapper” or the “Demolition Man,” for his willingness to toss old programs and policies on the trash heap. He’s bold, impatient and not afraid to make enemies to move his country forward. “It’s when I have everyone against me,” he told Vogue in an interview this month, “that’s when I have the most fun.” Renzi has been compared to both Machiavelli and “House of Cards” president Francis Underwood. The Florentine Machiavelli, he told students last year, has a bad rap: He was actually a great leader in Italian history. Underwood, on the other hand, is an exaggerated fictional character. President Obama, for one, is a fan. “I have been very impressed with the energy and the vision and the reforms that he is pursuing to unleash the potential of the Italian people and the Italian economy,” he said after a White House meeting with Renzi last year. “His willingness to challenge the status quo and to look to the future has made him a leading voice in Europe.” How he got the job: Renzi wasn’t elected to his current role. He became prime minister in February 2014 after a bloodless internal coup in his party. He rose through the ranks of Italy’s Democratic Party, a center-left coalition, and was elected secretary three years ago. Not long after, he pressured the sitting prime minister — unpopular and politically weak — to resign so that Renzi could create a new government. His cabinet, the youngest in Italy’s history, has an equal number of male and female ministers.
Customers pile in, analysts fret as U.S. banks offer rich card awards
Morrie Low, a 27-year-old Seattle cocktail server, has found an unlikely new source of pleasure: credit card companies. After working off card balances he built up during college, Low started collecting new cards in May specifically to reap the increasingly lucrative travel awards banks are offering to encourage spending on their cards. In August, Low snagged a new Sapphire Reserve card, from JPMorgan Chase & Co, which has become a magnet for millennials willing to pay the $450 annual fee for a sign-up bonus worth as much as $1,500 in travel, plus $300 in annual spending credits and more freebies. Now Low is planning a trip to Germany with his girlfriend on JPMorgan’s dime. “I have never been to Europe, so that is something pretty cool about this hobby,” he said. The Reserve card opens up a new front in the war among banks to build up their lucrative credit card businesses. While it may be fun for customers, investors and analysts worry that battle will eat away the fat profit margins that made the sector so attractive to banks in the first place. “You have five or six big national players and they are going around killing one another,” said Chris Kotowski, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. More:
Lack of new blood casts doubt over Wells Fargo’s change plan
Wells Fargo & Co’s decision not to introduce new names onto its board or into the ranks of its senior management in the wake of a sales scandal has raised questions about whether it can truly fix the culture which caused its problems. The United States’ third-largest bank by assets has been plunged into crisis by revelations that its branch staff created as many as 2 million accounts without customers’ knowledge in order to meet internal sales targets. John Stumpf, the bank’s chairman and chief executive, left last week in response to a public outcry and the bank put Tim Sloan, a 29-year Wells Fargo veteran and Stumpf’s heir apparent, into the CEO role. Once viewed as an unambiguous asset, Sloan’s long tenure at the bank is now prompting questions about whether he has the necessary critical distance to overhaul an aggressive sales culture that allowed the misconduct to fester for years. “There’s something wrong with Wells on a cultural basis and you’d think they’d need to bring in an outsider to fix it,” said Paul Miller, an analyst with FBR Capital Markets. Wells Fargo declined comment. The San Francisco-based bank has long had a reputation as a place where a tight-knit group of senior managers worked together to deliver industry-leading returns. But the recent episode has made the closeness of top executives look like a handicap. During Sloan’s first earnings call last week, Miller asked him whether the bank would bring an outsider into its executive leadership ranks. “It’s a fair question and one we’ve been getting asked,” the new CEO replied. However, Sloan said that following recent changes, the board “is comfortable with and very supportive of the management team.” More:
Puerto Rico’s Governor Warns of Fiscal ‘Death Spiral’
Reach for your wallets. It is going to be expensive to pull America’s largest territory out of its death spiral, Puerto Rico’s outgoing governor warned the island’s new federal oversight board on Friday. Even if Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents keep tightening their belts, and even if the creditors who lent it $74 billion agree to less than full repayment, the island will still “need the assistance of the federal government to bring this economic and humanitarian crisis to an end,” said Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, addressing the panel that the Obama administration set up to handle the territory’s staggering debt. He urged the board’s seven members to join him “in one voice before Congress” to seek help. Twenty floors below the room in Lower Manhattan where the governor made his remarks, protesters chanted their opposition to colonialism — which is how they view the power that the panel holds to make decisions about Puerto Rico’s future. It was the first substantive meeting of the board, known in Spanish as the junta, the Spanish word for political group, that Congress created this year to direct Puerto Rico’s financial affairs. The group is similar to the control boards that have led other distressed American jurisdictions, like New York City in the mid-1970s. But because of heightened sensitivities about Puerto Rico’s colonial history, Congress gave Puerto Rico’s governor, and not the board, the authority to draft the 10-year fiscal plan that will become the basic road map for moving Puerto Rico out of its financial troubles. Most of Friday’s meeting was devoted to the governor’s delivery of his fiscal plan and questions from the board. Next, the board will review the plan and decide whether amendments are needed. More:
The drug industry’s answer to opioid addiction: More pills
Cancer patients taking high doses of opioid painkillers are often afflicted by a new discomfort: constipation. Researcher Jonathan Moss thought he could help, but no drug company was interested in his ideas for relieving suffering among the dying. So Moss and his colleagues pieced together small grants and, in 1997, received permission to test their treatment. But not on cancer patients. Federal regulators urged them to use a less frail — and by then, rapidly expanding — group: addicts caught in the throes of a nationwide opioid epidemic. Suddenly, Moss said, investors were knocking at his door.
“As clinicians, we wanted to help palliative patients,” said Moss, a professor and physician at University of Chicago Medicine. “The company that bought our work saw a broader market.” Today, Moss’s side project is hailed as the next billion-dollar drug. And the once-disinterested pharmaceutical industry is bombarding doctors and the public with information about a serious, if previously unrecognized, condition common among the millions of Americans who take prescription painkillers. They call it “opioid-induced constipation,” or “OIC.” The story of OIC illuminates the opportunism of pharmaceutical innovators and the consequences of a heavily drug-dependent society. Six in 10 American adults take prescription drugs, creating a vast market for new meds to treat the side effects of the old ones. Opioid prescriptions alone have skyrocketed from 112 million in 1992 to nearly 249 million in 2015, the latest year for which numbers are available, and America’s dependence on the drugs has reached crisis levels. Millions are addicted to or abusing prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that, from 1999 to 2014, more than 165,000 people died in the United States from prescription-opioid overdoses, which have contributed to a startling increase in early mortality among whites, particularly women — a devastating toll that has hit hardest in small towns and rural areas. More:
Wall Street Is Starting to Talk About a Big Democratic Sweep in November
With Clinton strengthening her lead on Trump, Wall Street strategists are wondering if a Democratic sweep is a possibility in D.C. next month. Markets have performed very well under the gridlock of the last several years, so theoretically a sweep by one party or another could disturb that status quo.
A note out from Morgan Stanley this morning sheds more light on what Wall Street is now expecting come November. Throughout the election cycle, they had by and large predicted that Clinton would win the presidency, but fail to gain control of both chambers of Congress. They also expected that if Trump were to pull off an upset, he could see a Republican sweep, leading to the prospect of less gridlock in D.C. In recent weeks, however, Clinton’s gains have led some to ask if a win by her would also be able to see a Democratic sweep. The team at Morgan Stanley, led by Michael Zezas, says not so fast.
“To date, the biggest risk to our ‘policy incrementalism’ view had been a Republican sweep of the White House and both houses of Congress,” they write. “With Trump’s chances fading, and Clinton’s lead growing, the ‘Democratic Sweep’ now carries greater, albeit still small, odds, raising the prospects for increased infrastructure spending and for heavier regulation of the financial and pharma sectors,” they said, adding that while they don’t expect to see a big comeback in Trump’s polling numbers between now and November 8, they also don’t expect them to fall much further. More:
Trump’s son-in-law discussing post-election Trump TV network
Donald Trump‘s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has reportedly contacted a top dealmaker in the media industry within the past couple of months about creating a Trump television network, the Financial Times reported. Kushner and Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder and chief executive of LionTree, a boutique investment ban, reportedly had a short conversation regarding the possibility of setting up a Trump television network following the presidential election. But there have been no other developments.
Vanity Fair in June reported the GOP nominee was mulling the idea of creating a cable channel as his personal media company. The publication said Trump had talked about a “mini-media conglomerate” for the “audience” after his presidential campaign. The Republican nominee has since said he has “no interest in a media company.” He called the prospect a “false rumor” in an interview last month with The Washington Post. Trump often rails on the media’s coverage of his campaign. In recent days, he has argued the media, in connection with Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, is rigging the election.
When Trump goes looking for a media brawl, this feared lawyer steps in
When Donald Trump has needed a legal brawler, he has often turned to Marc Kasowitz, a hard-edged Manhattan attorney whose website cites a description of him as one of the most “feared lawyers in the United States.” Kasowitz fits into the long-running pattern of Trump pursuing confrontational legal strategies and embracing tough allies, including the late attorney Roy Cohn, who Trump said earlier this year “could be a nasty guy” as he helped the businessman’s real estate empire grow in Manhattan.
Last week, when the New York Times wrote about women’s claims of sexual assault by Trump, Kasowitz sent a letter demanding “a full and immediate retraction and apology.” Two weeks earlier, when the Times released three pages of Trump’s 1995 income tax returns, Kasowitz sent a letter threatening “prompt initiation of appropriate legal action.” Years before that, Kasowitz helped lead Trump’s losing battle against an author who cited sources claiming Trump was not a billionaire. “It’s a trench fight with them. It’s just brutal stuff,” said Roddy Boyd, a former New York Post and Fortune reporter who covered Kasowitz’s cases a decade ago. Boyd says he personally was threatened by Kasowitz with a suit over his reporting on two companies the attorney represented. Kasowitz’s firm also subpoenaed Boyd to obtain his hard drive and notes he had taken while reporting on a third company, Boyd said, adding the subpoena was rejected in court in 2011. Kasowitz did not respond to requests for comment, and Trump was not made available for comment. In 2004, Trump told the magazine the American Lawyer that members of Kasowitz’s law firm were “not good lawyers, they’re phenomenal lawyers.” More:
A Funny Thing May Happen on Way to Trump-Clinton Thursday Roast
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will attempt the improbable, if not the impossible Thursday night: to act civilly and good-naturedly rib each other at New York’s annual Al Smith charity dinner. The dinner, named after the state’s 42nd governor and the first Catholic U.S. presidential candidate, includes the Democratic and Republican White House nominees almost every four years. Smith became known as “The Happy Warrior” for his friendly style of political combat and for pushing some of the state’s early worker-protection and child-welfare laws. Now the ecumenical goodwill that has characterized past dinners may be in doubt amid an election season marred by hostility, personal attacks and sex-scandal accusations. The event will occur just 24 hours after the campaign’s third and final debate. Trump has declared his intention to wage a “scorched Earth” strategy in the run-up to the Nov. 8 election, and Clinton, citing Trump’s remark, accused him of engaging in a “hateful, divisive campaign.” “We’re all craving some level of decency,” said foundation board member Maureen Sherry, a former Bear Stearns Cos. managing director and author of “Opening Belle,” about sexism on Wall Street. “Whoever will prevail on that evening will be the one who can take the higher road.” As has been the custom over the dinner’s 71-year history, the audience inside the Waldorf Astoria ballroom will include about 1,500 in white-tie formal attire. They have paid $3,000 to $15,000 per person, raising about $5 million for Catholic charities providing services to impoverished New York children, said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for New York’s archdiocese.
The state’s top elected officials will attend, as will Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Zwilling said he didn’t know whether Dolan would be placed between the two candidates, as has been the practice in some past years. Sherry, an independent who said she isn’t voting for either major candidate, said Trump may use his appearance before the cardinal to remind the group of last week’s WikiLeaks disclosure, in which Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director, said that for some the Catholic faith is “the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion.” “If I was writing his speech that would be an obvious dig,” Sherry said. “But again, we’re hoping for the high road.” More:
WATCH: Here’s the fake-debate “SNL” skit that caused Donald Trump to melt down in real life
Lawyer: Three of suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore’s law clerks fired
The clearing of vestiges of suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore’s tenure on the Alabama Supreme Court included the firings of three of his clerks, according to Moore’s attorney. Moore’s head law clerk and two other law clerks were fired by acting Chief Justice Lyn Stuart and Justice Michael Bolin, according to a statement from Mat Staver, of the legal group Liberty Counsel which represents Moore. The firings followed Stuart’s request in an Oct. 10 letter asking Moore to arrange for the removal of his personal effects from his office and to return his keys to the state’s Judicial Building on or before Oct. 18.
Moore is appealing his suspension without pay for the rest of his term by the Alabama Court of Judiciary. The COJ found he violated canons of judicial ethics for a Jan. 6 administrative order he issued to the state’s probate judges. The COJ found that Moore’s order tried to get the probate judges to defy the U.S. Supreme Court and refuse to issue same-sex marriage licenses. “This is outrageous,” Staver stated Friday of the firings and order to remove personal effects. “The appeal is pending but these justices are acting as if the case is over.” The actions were taken despite Moore’s pending motion for the recusal of four Alabama Supreme Court justices and three former justices from hearing the appeal of his suspension, Staver stated. “The hostile treatment of Chief Justice Moore, the demand he remove his personal effects, and the abrupt termination of his three law clerks (who had been temporarily reassigned to other justices) is unseemly,” Staver stated. “The case is still pending, yet these justices make it appear like they have already decided against Chief Justice Moore.” Moore last week again defended his administrative order to probate judges in an interview with television station WSFA in Montgomery.
“It came on a legal order, and I will stand by this order till I hear one judge tell me which paragraph in this order is illegal, immoral, or unethical, they can’t do it,” Roy Moore said told the television station.
Bentley-Mason Rendezvous is “Backstory” to Latest Document Leak
MONTGOMERY—Under the guise of cooperation, Gov. Robert Bentley’s office released a second round of internal documents to the House of Representative’s Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary is looking into the possibility of impeaching the Governor. Portions of these documents, like the first batch turned over to the committee earlier this month, have been selectively leaked to media outlets in an attempt to shift the investigation and public attention away from Bentley and on to Alabama’s former top cop, Spencer Collier. The latest round of accusations shows Collier supposedly asking Bentley’s then-body-man Ray Lewis to delete or alter log-in sheets at the Governor’s mansion. Sign-in/sign-out logs are kept at the Governor’s mansion, as well as at the Blount Estate and beach property, as one of the security protocol’s to ensure the Governor’s safety. Out of over 10,000 pages Bentley’s office say were turned over to the committee, at least 61 pages were secreted away in a scheme staffer’s link to the Governor’s alleged mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Last week, Huntsville’s WHNT19 reported ALEA staffer, Ashley Cook, stated, “[Ray] was being asked to delete certain things, and get rid of certain things, mansion logs and different things. Ray said he would not do it. He also said Mrs. Bentley was aware of the logs and that it, and her lawyer was, and that it would not be in the best interest for anybody to do that.” As for the sign-in logs at the Mansion, those with knowledge of the events described by Cook challenge the accuracy of the leaked portions provided to the press. “This is not what happened at all,” said one former trooper. “This all snowballed because Mrs. Bentley looked at the logs on a particular Sunday, and found Mrs. Mason had spent much of the night with the Governor while she was out of town.” Those with direct knowledge of the events surrounding the first “document dump” say Mason hand-selected many of the so-called quotes to paint Collier in an unflattering light and chose which reporters should receive them.
Alabama Supreme Court rejects Shelby DA’s appeal of stand your ground case
The Alabama Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office of a judge’s order tossing out the murder indictment against a former Marine in the shooting death of a mentally unstable woman. The case was a test of Alabama’s stand your ground law. In a decision with no opinion, the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday refused to review the case of Demetrius R. Watson, of Calera. Watson’s attorney, Richard Jaffe, issued a statement after Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court. “Richard Jaffe and Brett Knight of the Birmingham, Alabama law firm of Jaffe, Hanle, Whisonant & Knight have maintained from the beginning that Demetrius Watson did everything he could not to use his weapon while defending children and elderly family members on his property,” according to a statement from Jaffe. “Even the warning shot he fired did not stop the threats on his life while being attacked.”
Shelby County District Attorney officials did not respond to requests for comment and whether they could continue the appeals. More:
How Siri Became a Southern Belle
I was late coming to the iPhone party. Several years ago, my husband and I were taking a drive when my old phone, a Droid, passed away. Suddenly, it started barking, “Droid! Droid! Droid!” over and over again. We couldn’t figure out how to make it stop, so we pulled over and put it in the trunk till it finally talked itself to death. The minute we got home, I splurged on an iPhone with Siri, the talking iPhone assistant who, I was told, could take dictation and free me from typing text messages. (In order for me to type swiftly on that flat surface, I would need an iPhone the size of my turkey platter.) My first dictated message went something like this: “Well, I finally got an iPhone!” Siri heard: “Whale, I finally got an iPhone.” Later I tried: “Just wanted to see how y’all are.” Siri heard: “Just wanted to see how are you out there.” Bless her heart, she couldn’t even get the text address right. Siri asked: “To whom shall I send it?” I replied: “Jerry White.” [Awkward silence] [More awkward silence] Finally, Siri said: “I do not understand Ferierai.” At the time, I was a frequent blogger, so I posted an open letter to the good people at Apple, whose work I have long admired: Dear Apple, Before your next upgrade to the iPhone, please help Siri get her Southern on. Send her to an SEC game, a crawfish boil, and maybe a cotillion. Feed that girl some catfish and fried green tomatoes, for heaven’s sake. In all honesty, we think she would be happier with a Southern name like Lillian or Annabelle or maybe something double like Celia June. And tell her it’s a little rude to rush right in there and ask why we’re pestering her. She should start by asking about the family and inquiring as to our health—maybe swap a couple of recipes. It’s not just our own convenience we’re concerned about. It’s Siri’s well-being. Don’t you want the Charleston Junior League to think she was raised right? She’ll never pass for a Kappa without a little more polish. Sincerely, A Misunderstood Customer in Alabama. Now here I am, two upgrades later, and I am amazed at the progress Siri has made. Sure, it’s possible that her newfound Southern-ese is just a byproduct of more advanced technology. On the other hand, maybe she spent a semester at Ole Miss. (I wonder if she went out for cheerleader?) The important thing is that she can understand “y’all” now. And the all-important “Mama.” Granted, our girl still struggles a bit with “fixin’ to.” And she occasionally gets completely stumped by the Southern word for “my mother and her close extended family,” also known as “Mama ’n ’em.” (Baby steps.) But over all, Siri is dangerously close to being ready to hold her own at a Rush party. (She’s not quite ready for the homecoming court, but it’s just a matter of time before she achieves pageant hair.)
Nostalgia for the Grace of George H.W. Bush
The suggestion, the vice president told his 1988 campaign diary, was “strange and unbelievable.” twenty-eight years ago, George H. W. Bush, fresh from securing the Republican presidential nomination to succeed Ronald Reagan, was about to choose a running mate of his own. His campaign manager, Lee Atwater, always on the lookout for the unconventional and the unexpected, had apparently had informal talks with Donald J. Trump, the New York developer. Mr. Trump, Mr. Atwater told his boss, was willing to be considered for the second spot on the Republican ticket. Mr. Bush found the thought outlandish and, after reporting the conversation in his diary, promptly forgot about it. Now, nearly three decades later, much of America, like the George Bush of 1988, finds the possibility of a Trump administration “strange and unbelievable.” Unlike Mr. Bush, however, we don’t have the luxury of being able to put the New York mogul out of mind. Of all of 2016’s many madnesses, large and small, one stands out for the historically minded: In the relatively short span of a quarter century, the Republican Party has veered so far out of its usual lane that George H. W. Bush has privately said that he will be voting for the wife of the man who dispatched him from the White House — the 92-year-old’s first-ever vote for a Democratic nominee.
It’s worth recalling that the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, was relatively stable and sane as recently as two decades ago. As Henry Adams once remarked of the movement from Washington to Grant, the journey from George H. W. Bush to Donald J. Trump disproves Darwin. More:
14 amendments? Sorting through the sneakery
There’s one solid rule when it comes to amending Alabama’s impenetrable constitution: If in doubt, say no. In November, voters will be asked to approve 14 confusing and debatable amendments, which is like adding 14 more ineffectual chapters to War and Peace. Ours is the longest constitution in America and probably the world, a dodgy document from the start, convoluted and confused by so many absurd amendments that nobody anywhere is a genuine expert on all it says. These 14 would push the number of amendments to Alabama’s constitution above 900 – or 34 times as many amendments as the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution has its bill of rights. Alabama’s is a bill of goods. So my default is no. If there is a shred of doubt about an amendment, just say no.
Amendment 1, changing the way Auburn University Trustees rotate off the board. Perhaps it’s an innocuous housekeeping. Or perhaps it’s a way to keep Trustee Jimmy Rane or someone else on the board just a tad longer. Not today.
Amendment 2 would ban shifting state park money to other uses, and would let parks uses private companies for some park operations. I’m a fan of keeping park money in the parks, but if the privatization language makes your squeamish, default to doubt.
Amendment 3, changing the way local constitutional amendments are voted on. If the Legislature unanimously agrees, a local amendment would only be voted on by the county in question. It speaks to the absurdity of the constitution, but cleans up the ballot and clears some of our constitutional nuisances. It’s a yes.
Amendment 4 would give a little more home rule to county commissions. If you think the best government is the most local, this one is a yes.
Amendment 5 would reorganize sections of the Alabama Constitution that address Alabama separation of powers, purportedly not changing the substance of those powers. So why? Why why why? It’s a no.
Amendment 6 would clarify a two-thirds vote of the Alabama Senate to impeach a state official. They ought to be clarifying this one in a year when they are not trying to impeach a governor. Unless this is a referendum on the future of Robert Bentley.
Amendment 7 is local to Etowah County, which is one of the stupid things about Alabama’s constitution. If you don’t live in Etowah County, just butt out and don’t vote on it.
Alabama is already a “right to work” state, meaning employees can’t be forced to join a union. Amendment 8 would “enshrine” that in the state constitution. Because we need more enshrining. No.
Amendment 9 would let judges in Pickens County be appointed until the age of 75. Which makes the spider sense tingle enough to say no. But if you aren’t from Pickens County, stay out of it.
Amendment 10 is local to Calhoun County. If you ain’t from around there, don’t meddle.
Amendment 11 would immortalize and incentivize manufacturing zones for business recruitment, which have no business in a constitution. No.
Amendment 12 would set up a governing body to oversee Baldwin County toll roads. Again, if you live in Baldwin make your pick. If you don’t, skip it.
Amendment 13 would remove age restrictions and ban future age restrictions for government officials, except for judges. Oh hell no.
And Amendment 14 would guarantee that bills passed in questionable circumstances under Budget Isolation Resolution would remain in effect, rather than face possible court challenge. You might as well call it the “we-play-by-our-own-rules-and-we-make-’em-up-as-we-go-along amendment. No, on 14, even if it could allow challenge on 600 local bills. The bill that spawned this amendment, after all, could create a slush fund for Jefferson County legislators.
If they have to follow the rules of the constitution in the first place, maybe they will see a need for a new one.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2017 — If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, as seems likely, she will have a challenging time corralling a liberal wing that wants to block trade deals and ostracize the party’s corporate wing. Getting anything done on business taxes will be hard. We have more on how the left is feeling about Clinton these days below. But she may face even tougher sledding among Republicans, who at this point seem likely to hold onto power in the House and possibly the Senate as well.
MM spoke to the University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee, who served as a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama about the challenge ahead as the GOP navigates a post-Trump world. “I think the Trump experience has deeply scarred the GOP. They kind of can’t be for anything because they don’t fully understand who their electorate is and you see that play out on trade agreements where Republicans used to provide two-thirds of the votes. …
“A lot of mainstream Republicans are no longer for mainstream Republican views because they don’t know what their electorate is for. That’s going to be a much bigger problem for her. There’s actually a lot of common ground between the Elizabeth Warren people and the Clinton people … I think the hard part is going to be finding any of cadre of Republicans to go for anything even if it’s totally reasonable.”
WHAT WALL STREET WANTS — MM spoke with one of the top banking lobbyists in Washington late last week. No, the industry doesn’t expect Wall Street names to run Cabinet agencies or for Clinton to roll back Dodd-Frank. They just hope she puts some people in the West Wing and around the government that have some experience in the business world: “The idea that you would have no one with industry experience at Treasury or the Fed on in the Cabinet is such horrible public policy. Should we have no doctors at NIH? No ranchers at the Agriculture Department? No one who ever built a rocket at NASA?
“You need a blend of people at every cabinet agency. … If we hadn’t had people with industry experience dealing with the financial crisis our response would have been much worse. … Just because you have industry experience doesn’t mean you are going to carry their water. Just look at Gary Gensler.”
HACKED EMAILS GIVE LEFT HOPE ON HILLARY — POLITICO’s Zachary Warmbrodt and Ben White: “While Hillary Clinton comes off as cozy with Wall Street bankers in emails released by WikiLeaks, there’s one group that sees potentially positive signs in the hacked messages: progressives. Some of those who have been pushing hardest for a crackdown on corporate excess say many of the emails underscore how she’s trying to wrestle with liberals’ demands and come to grips with the growing populist sentiment in the Democratic Party.
“There are numerous examples of the campaign trying to figure out where it stands in relation to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders … And at times, Clinton’s attempts at a leftward shift caused some in the finance industry to feel shunned by the former New York senator. ‘The campaign was clearly evolving toward the left in the exact sort of way I imagine Bernie Sanders was seeking to push her,’ said Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Revolving Door Project” Read more.
GOLDMAN TRANSCRIPTS HACKED — The hacked emails dumped over the weekend included transcripts of Clinton’s paid Goldman Sachs speeches. And they were just as MM previously reported: pretty soft on Wall Street and often embarrassingly fawning. They were also wonky, detailed and for the most part quite boring. Clinton boasted of her strong relationships with Wall Street, suggested the industry could help with further regulation and expressed openness to revisiting at least parts of Dodd-Frank. These things could have been damaging during the primary against Bernie Sanders. They are mostly a nothing burger now. You can find them here.
FLASHBACK: HILLARY TOOK IT EASY ON GOLDMAN — From me in February.
A PUTIN COUP ATTEMPT — A smart DC wonk emails: “People are not taking the daily disclosure of hacked emails by Wikileaks seriously enough. This is not mere hacking. This effort is being directed by an enemy of the United States for the purpose of inflicting serious if not lethal political damage to one candidate for the Presidency of the United States. It is a Cyber-coup, the equivalent of days gone by when an enemy would use guns to install a friendly stooge or strongman to take over a government.
“The battleground and weapons may be cyber, but it is just as serious as any other coup: Russia is trying to politically kill Clinton’s presidential prospects and to get Trump elected. Trump and his people know this and are already rewarding Putin and Russia by their favorable statements, including regarding future foreign and defense policy. Everyone regardless of party affiliation should treat this like any other coup attempt attack on the United States.”
ICYMI — The hacked John Podesta emails include one from 2008 in which Mike Froman, then a Citigroup executive and now USTR, emailed lists of potential executive appointments for then-Senator Barack Obama. Many wound up in exactly the office Froman suggested. The email caught fire with both left and right with critics saying it showed undue influence from Citi, which would later receive a massive federal bailout. The email and lists are here.
ASIA SHARES DIP — Reuters: “Asian shares dipped on Monday while the dollar held firm near seven-month high against a basket of major currencies after comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen boosted long-dated U.S. bond yields. … Yellen said on Friday the Fed may need to run a ‘high-pressure’ economy in order to reverse damage from the global financial crisis that depressed output. Her remarks were not addressing immediate policy concerns directly and did not change prevailing view that the Fed is likely to raise interest rates in December.
“Yet speculation that she may prefer to keep easy monetary policy stance for a long time even if inflation exceeds its 2 percent target pushed up long-dated U.S. bonds, with the 30-year bond yield hitting a four-month high of 2.565 percent … As higher U.S. bond yields could attract more foreign investors, they helped the dollar post its largest weekly rise against a basket of six major currencies in more than seven months last week.” Read more.
DRIVING THE WEEK — Final 2016 presidential debate takes place Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. in Las Vegas and will last 90 minutes. Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate. Topics will include immigration, entitlements and debt, the Supreme Court, the economy, foreign policy, and each candidate’s fitness to serve as president. … Trump campaigns in Green Bay, Wisc. on Monday … Bernie Sanders and Chelsea Clinton are among the surrogates on the trail for Clinton on Monday. The candidate does not have any appearances scheduled before the debate … Industrial Production at 9:15 a.m. Monday expected to rise 0.2 percent … Consumer prices at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday expected to rise 0.3 percent headline and 0.2 percent core … Index of leading indicators at 10:00 a.m. Thursday expected to rise 0.2 percent … Bank of America reports earnings Monday, Goldman Sachs on Tuesday and Morgan Stanley on Wednesday … China releases GDP figures Wednesday … ECB announces latest policy decision on Thursday.
WHERE THE RACE STANDS NOW — FiveThirtyEight has Clinton’s chance of winning at 86.6 percent. RCP average has Clinton up 5.5 percent. ABC/WP poll out Sunday had Clinton up 4 while NBC/WSJ had her up 11.
CENTRAL BANK BALANCE SHEETS SOAR — Bloomberg: “The world’s biggest central banks are bulking up their balance sheets this year at the fastest pace since 2011’s European debt crisis to boost lackluster economic recoveries with asset purchases that are supporting stock and bond prices. The 10 largest lenders now own assets totaling $21.4 trillion, a 10 percent increase from the end of last year, data collected by Bloomberg show.
“Their combined holdings grew by 3 percent or less in both 2015 and 2014. The accelerating expansion of central banks’ balance sheets comes as debate rages over whether their asset purchases and continued low interest rates are creating bubbles, especially in the bond market. Such quantitative-easing programs are aimed at driving up the prices of the securities they purchase to lower bond yields, encourage investment and boost economic growth.” Read more.
STOCKS HIT BY ANTI-TRADE MOOD — WSJ’s Riva Gold and Georgi Kantchev: “Some big global investors worry that the broad slowdown in world trade and growing populist opposition to new trade agreements are undermining corporate profits and could be the next big drag on the stock market. U.S. equity prices have been supported for the past three decades by an acceleration of global trade and a freer flow of capital. Those lifted economic growth and allowed companies to take advantage of new markets and economies of scale. The S&P 500 is up nearly ninefold since October 1986, according to FactSet.
“But now there is worry that the party is ending. ‘We believe globalization has probably reached its peak,’ said Marino Valensise, head of the multiasset team at Barings, a member of the MassMutual Financial Group with $275 billion in assets under management. ‘The market won’t like it.’” Read more.
PROGRESSIVES PLEASED — Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s call for Mary Jo White to step down as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is pure red meat for progressives. Jeff Hauser, Director of the Revolving Door Project, comments: “I think White has been building up a record for years that puts her in a position for the most disappointing appointment of the Obama Administration.”
GOP BUILDING FIREBOMBED — NYT’s Liam Stack: “A firebomb tore through the Republican Party headquarters in North Carolina’s Orange County on Saturday night, and graffiti warning its members to flee town was painted on the walls of a neighboring building, the party and police officials said on Sunday.
“The party posted images on Twitter of the damaged building in Hillsborough, N.C., on Sunday afternoon that showed blackened walls, charred couches and burned campaign signs for Donald J. Trump and several local candidates. A window was broken, and a swastika was spray-painted nearby alongside the words ‘Nazi Republicans leave town or else.’” Read more.
BATTLE FOR MOSUL BEGINS — AP’s Adam Schreck: “Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of military operations to liberate the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants early Monday, launching the country on its toughest battle since American troops left nearly five years ago.
“Before the prime minister’s announcement, Brig. Gen Haider Fadhil told The Associated Press in an interview that more than 25,000 troops, including paramilitary forces made up of Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias, will take part in the offensive that will be launched from five directions around the city. In addition to carrying out airstrikes, the U.S.-led international coalition will also offer artillery fire, he added.” Read more.
BUYING OFF BREXIT — FT’s George Parker, Martin Arnold and Alex Barker: “Britain would continue to pay billions of pounds into the EU budget after Brexit to maintain cherished single-market access for the City of London and other sectors under plans being discussed by Theresa May’s cabinet.
“To appease Tory Brexiters, ministers are looking at ways to finesse future payments. For example, Britain might make bigger-than-expected contributions to EU security programmes or use the aid budget to fund European projects.” Read more.
CUBAN CIGAR CAPS CUT — Washington Post’s Abha Bhattarai: “The Obama administration on Friday lifted restrictions on how many cigars and bottles of rum Americans can bring back from Cuba, part of continuing efforts to mend more than five decades of strained relations between the nations.
“Under the new rules, which take effect Monday, Americans may bring back up to 100 Cuban cigars, whether purchased in Cuba or other countries, for personal consumption without paying customs taxes.” Read more.
PUERTO RICO PLEADS CASE — POLITICO’S Colin Wilhelm: “Puerto Rico’s governor painted a dire picture of his island’s future Friday, arguing his case in Lower Manhattan before a federal oversight board to allow the island to restructure its debts through a bankruptcy-like proceeding.
“Padilla pressed for congressional action on another significant budget area, health-care spending on Medicare and Medicaid, since federal funding from Obamacare will expire next year.” Read more.
DEFICIT WATCH — Bloomberg’s Saleha Mohsin: “The U.S. budget deficit as a share of the economy widened for the first time in seven years, marking a turning point in the nation’s fiscal outlook as an aging population boosts government spending and debt. ‘The slowdown in tax collections suggests some cooling in labor market activity,’ said Gennadiy Goldberg, a strategist at TD Securities LLC in New York. He sees the higher budget deficits implying more borrowing needs by Treasury.” Read more.
CURRENCY KUMBAYA — WSJ Ian Talley’s: “The U.S. Treasury Department sharply toned down its criticism of China and other Asian export giants in its latest currency report to Congress on Friday, an assessment in stark contrast to the heated election-year rhetoric targeting Beijing’s exchange-rate policy as a central threat to the U.S. economy.
“Treasury said authorities in China, Japan and Korea have resisted the temptation to use their currencies to gain a stronger export advantage, a marked turnaround from recent years and the fruits of a successful global campaign. Preserving a two-decade precedent, no country was named a currency manipulator.” Read more.
ASKTHE BRITS: DON’T SLEEP ON TRUMP — Matthew Goodwin in POLITICO Magazine: “Don’t underestimate the power of nativist populism. That’s the harsh lesson we in Britain learned less than four months ago, when Brexit blew up in our faces and confounded nearly every prediction. It’s one the Austrians and French are learning even now, as they keep counting out (then are forced to count back in) right-wing populist backlashes to the establishment.
“And it’s the lesson that American pundits who are already predicting a comfortable victory for Hillary Clinton over the embattled Donald Trump — if not a historic landslide — should take on board before they start relaxing too much in the next few weeks.” Read more.
FIRST LOOK: GOP CANDIDATE DEFENDS GREENBERG — From statement going out Monday from New York GOP state senator and House candidate Jack Martins: “The New York State Attorney General’s office has hit a new low in its 11-year crusade against Hank Greenberg by trying to use his military service against him. Maurice R. ‘Hank’ Greenberg is an American hero; a highly decorated Army captain who stormed the beaches at Normandy, participated in the liberation of the Dachau death camp and served his country with honor in the Korean War.”
FIRST LOOK II: JPM COMMITS MORE TO SMALL BIZ — Per release out this a.m.: “JPMorgan Chase is announcing today a $75 million commitment to support women, minority and veteran-owned small businesses. … Small Business Forward provides access to necessary capital, seeds new funds for underrepresented businesses and expands opportunities for them in high-growth business.” Release is here.
10:00 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
11:25 pm || Delivers remarks about his record on education; Benjamin Banneker Academic High School; Washington
2:30 pm || Releases the “Cancer Moonshot Report”
All times Eastern
Live stream of White House briefing at 12:45 pm
The Senate meets in a pro forma session at 11 a.m. The House is out.
The Tide rolled to another victory Saturday, trouncing Tennessee 49-10. And unfortunately, Ohio State is still undefeated. Onward!
Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Patrick Murphy face off in a televised debate co-hosted by POLITICO Florida. The Orlando Sentinel’s Steven Lemongello with more: http://bit.ly/2ecmR8u
With just three weeks until election day and the Senate majority in play, Republicans are facing a big problem: lack of cash. “Republicans are set to be massively outspent on TV ads in seven of the eight states that are likely to decide control of the chamber,” report Alex Isenstadt, Seung Min Kim and Kevin Robillard.
“The spending disadvantage could badly hinder the GOP’s prospects, and it has led to growing frustration among the party’s top strategists — many of whom are convinced it’s long past time to cut Trump loose and focus almost exclusively on preserving the Senate majority. … As of Friday afternoon, the [NRSC] had reserved just $5 million for the four week stretch — a small fraction of the $40 million booked by the DSCC.”