How Trump the Vulgar Boosted the Hallmark Channel

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 8/23/2017 03:06:00 PM
The Hallmark Channel is everything Trump's America is not: civil, polite, and uplifting.
Despite his improbable appeal to certain segments of the American electorate--you'll have to point them out to me since I can't find any sensible reason why--I'll bet they would agree that Donald Trump is a walking obscenity. Insulting anyone and everyone--people of color, people of other faiths, foreigners, white people who don't agree with him and so on--he arguably sets new lows for public discourse. His exceedingly crass manner has dragged American public discourse and the rest of the world's views of the United States into the gutter.

However, there is a bright side. Sort of. Given the putrid state of American life, wouldn't it be nice to go to a place of civility, kindness, and people lifting each other up instead of tearing them down? Well, there is such a place. It's called "The Hallmark Channel." Personally, I do not watch it because the story lines are exactly the opposite of what Trump sees. Instead of American Carnage, it's American Fluff. Neither is quite an accurate portrayal of North American reality, but hey, when you have too much of the former, I guess people pine for the latter. That is, a bygone era that's largely conjured suits more and more people:
It’s been called feel-good fluff by both critics and viewers alike, but the fact of the matter is Hallmark Channel, with its sugary sweet TV movies and shows, is currently one of the highest-rated TV channels in the United States.  Shows like Chesapeake Shores (starring Jesse Metcalfe) and saccharinely titled movies like A Dash of Love and Love at First Bark provide the mindless, wholesome entertainment people are turning to in Donald Trump’s America[...]
So what’s the deal here? Why are people flocking so heavily to Hallmark?

“It makes sense that in an era of war and political conflict, people turn to their TVs for feel-good escapism,” said Amber Dowling, TV critic and former president of the Television Critics Association. “Historically that’s been true over the years, and has usually led to an increase in production on family comedies and stories. Hallmark churns this type of programming out, so they’re able to easily fit that current appetite.”

Indeed, it’s true: Hallmark shows and movies, for the most part, are squeaky clean. No swears, no sex, closed-mouth kisses, and enforced “family values” can go a long way when the rest of TV is a melange of excessive violence and sex. Many contemporary TV shows try to go the other way, towards whatever forbidden button needs pushing. Hallmark and channels like it are salves, oases away from the chaos of network and cable TV. It’s no surprise its tagline is “The heart of TV.”

Trump's America is not a happy place, and people need to escape somewhere:


“The environment is undeniably contentious,” said Bill Abbott, chief executive of Crown Media, which owns Hallmark. “We are a place you can go and feel good. We intentionally branded ourselves as the happy place.” While Hallmark’s ratings have been going up consistently over the last few years, it’s gotten a noticeable bump since late 2015, when the latest presidential election cycle started. 
 I'll bet you the owners of this channel are secretly wishing for the continued reign of Trump. Just as cable news channels keep blasting him but wish he remains in office to get more viewers, so do the owners of the feelgood, happy ending channel wish for the endless torrent of misery that is the Trump administration. 

Heaven help us all.

Leave Banking, Hawk Cryptocurrencies for a Living

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 8/03/2017 04:56:00 PM
There's plenty of these already--with boatloads more to come.
Manias in the business world are nothing new. In the technology realm, we've had any number of these already like the dot-com boom followed by the dot-com bust earlier in this century. In the realm of finance, the latest and greatest gold rush concerns the issuance of cryptocurrencies. Instead of initial public offerings of shares of stock, the marquee events here are initial coin offerings (ICOs). As no shortage of issuers and investors buy the gospel (or Kool-Aid for skeptics) that cryptocurrencies represent the future widely-used form of money, there is a lot to be made (or lost).

A surefire sign of optimism about opportunities is when folks leave otherwise well-paying if predictable jobs for the Wild West of trading these largely unregulated instruments. Bloomberg says that's already happening with many ex-bankers setting their sights on the larger promised returns of virtual monies:
From Hong Kong and Beijing to London, accomplished financiers are abandoning lucrative careers to plunge into the murky world of ICOs, a way to amass quick money by selling digital tokens to investors sans banks or regulators. Cut out of the action, a growing cohort of banking professionals are instead applying their talents toward buying or hawking cryptocurrency.

They’re going in with eyes wide open. For [ex-banker Richard] Liu, who put together some of China’s biggest tech deals in his old job, the chance to shape the nascent arena outweighs the dangers of a market crash or crackdown. Loosely akin to IPOs, ICOs have raised millions from investors hoping to get in early on the next bitcoin or ether, and their unchecked growth over the past year is such that they’ve drawn comparisons to the first ill-fated dot-com boom. Yet with stratospheric bonuses largely a thing of the past, the allure of an incandescent new arena far from financial red-tape has proven irresistible to some.

“Traditional investment banks and VCs need to monitor this space closely, it could become very big,” said the 30-year-old partner at $50 million hedge fund FBG Capital, which has backed about 20 ICOs. He’s off to a quick start, getting in on this year’s largest sale: Tezos, a smart contracts platform that raised $200 million to outstrip the average Hong Kong IPO size this year of around $31 million.
That said, the potential for huge gains trading these monies comes with correspondingly huge risks as their critics point out:
Critics say many ICOs are built on little more than hyperactive imaginations. A cross between crowdfunding and an initial public offering, they involve the sale of virtual coins mostly based on the ethereum blockchain, similar to the technology that underpins bitcoin. But unlike a traditional IPO in which buyers get shares, getting behind a startup’s ICO nets you virtual tokens -- like mini-cryptocurrencies -- unique to the issuing company or its network. That means they grow in value only if the startup’s business or network proves viable, attracting more people and boosting liquidity.

That’s a big if, and the sheer profusion of untested concepts has spurred talk of a bubble. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission signaled greater scrutiny of the red-hot sector when it warned on Tuesday that ICOs may be considered securities, though it stopped short of suggesting a broader clampdown. The regulator however did reaffirm its focus on protecting investors: part of the appeal of ICOs lies in the fact that -- for now -- anyone with a bold idea can raise money from anybody.
Actually, the dot-com boom may illustrate the future of these virtual monies. Most startups of course went bust. However, those that survived for the longer run eventually did well enough and have introduced widely-adopted consumer standards. The survivors are exceedingly well-known including the likes of Amazon, EBay, Google, and so on. Like before, these newfangled entities cannot survive on novelty alone but must offer some sort of unique selling proposition to customers.

It will take some time to sort the Amazons from the Pets.coms of the cryptocurrency world. Meanwhile, there apparently be many gamblers drawn to this realm--even from the relatively stolid world of banking.

Blockaded Qatar Takes Saudi, UAE to WTO

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/01/2017 04:57:00 PM
Of course Qatar knows the WTO. The current [?] WTO negotiations were initiated in the capital of Doha.
I am fascinated with the blockade on Qatar by fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, supposedly for supporting "terror." For the country where most 9/11 attackers came from and which has funded fundamentalist education throughout the world, Saudi Arabia is particularly noteworthy. My belief is closer in line with those who believe Qatar acts more as a neutral ground for those wary of Middle East authoritarianism--even if these folks may include Hamas and Hezbollah who have representative offices in Qatar.

There is also the not-so-small issue of broadcast network al-Jazeera, which is widely viewed not just in the region but throughout the world. Its continuous criticism of other GCC countries rankles the others, and I must also point out that Qatar is not entirely faultless in its media coverage. After all, Qatar is just like the rest of them: As yet another absolute monarchy, Qatar is hardly a bastion of democracy. As al-Jazeera viewers would note, Qatar's leaders--who set up the network in the first place--are never criticized.

Having failed so far diplomatically in resolving this dispute--the United States which has bases in Qatar but nonetheless was bashed by Trump as a state sponsor of terror has been of little use--Qatar now turns to international organizations to help its cause:
Qatar has lodged a formal complaint with the World Trade Organisation against the “illegal siege” imposed by four Arab neighbours that have accused the Gulf state of sponsoring terrorism. The complaint, lodged with the WTO’s dispute-settlement body, described the embargo as “unprecedented”, accusing Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain of “violating the WTO’s core laws and conventions on trade of goods and services, and trade-related aspects of intellectual property,” the ministry of economy and commerce said in a statement on Monday.

On June 5, the quartet of Arab allies cut off air, sea and land links to their gas-rich neighbour, closing off airspace to Qatar-bound flights, refusing to handle goods bound for the gas-rich state and cutting diplomatic ties. While Qatar has shifted supply chains, bringing in food from Turkey and Iran and using Omani ports, its imports nonetheless slumped 40 per cent in June as the embargo hit home. “The arbitrary measures taken by the siege countries are a clear violation of the provisions and conventions of international trade law,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassem bin Mohammed Al Thani, the minister of economy and commerce. “Furthermore, the illegal siege is unprecedented in the framework of economic blocs.”
The complaint at the ICAO will also mirror the WTO complaints since Qatar has had a very hard time sending and receiving Qatar Airlines and other flights with the likes of UAE closing their airspace to Qatar. While I have little doubt that Qatar's case is a fairly good one against such a wide range of sanctions without apparent cause--especially trade-related ones--you have to wonder: Given that WTO cases are usually resolved over a year's time, will there still be much of a commercial center left of Qatar if things take that long to resolve?

Ultimately, I believe that a diplomatic solution, whoever may broker it, will need to be found. Litigation will only get you so far and may leave a bad aftertaste besides.

Of China, Korean Missile Defense and Makeup Sales

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/28/2017 04:03:00 PM
AmorePacific owns several internationally well-known cosmetics brands--especially among PRC buyers.
Whew! That post title is a bit of a mess, but believe me (Trump-style) it is accurate. A few weeks ago, I discussed the potential economic hit to South Korea from deploying the US-sourced THAAD missile defense system. The PRC does not want South Korea to deploy it on the Korean peninsula out of concern that its advanced detection capabilities potentially compromise China's military defenses. I like to think that South Koreans are a sensible sort not prone to provoking the Chinese without any sane reason...but maybe nuclear annihilation at the hands of North Korean crazies is just cause? Some (Chinese) people are being irrational and unreasonable IMHO.

At any rate, aside from the company that provided the land for the deployment of THAAD--Lotte--another Korean firm has had its business activities negatively affected as well to a significant extent. AmorePacific is the umbrella group of several top Korean makeup brands, which are all the rage here in Asia. Let's just say a PRC embargo on all things Korean as a result of the THAAD deployment has hit AmorePacific's bottom line...like a missile attack, in fact:
AmorePacific Corp, South Korea's biggest cosmetic company, reported a 58 percent slump in operating profit in the second quarter on Wednesday, as the once investor-darling bore the brunt of diplomatic tensions with China that dampened demand from Chinese tourists.

Chinese visitors, the largest population of the total tourists to South Korea, fell 66 percent in June from a year earlier, resulting in a significant plunge in the number of customers to domestic duty-free shops. Since mid-March, Beijing has banned travel agencies from selling trips to South Korea following Seoul's decision to deploy a U.S. missile system to counter North Korean threats, despite China's objections.

"Cosmetic giants such as AmorePacific tend to rely on profits produced from duty-free stores," said Cho Yong-sun, an analyst at HMC Investment Securities.
The gist of it is that PRC package tours to Korean have been discouraged by the government, resulting in the droves of Chinese tourists buying makeup at Korean duty-free outlets to drop precipitously. While unfair in many respects, you do have to wonder why such a major cosmetics group is so dependent on a certain type of foreign visitor to account for so much of their revenues.

Amorepacific, diversification would be good for you. 

Is Kaspersky Labs a Security Threat to the US?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/27/2017 04:03:00 PM
Is Kaspersky anti-spyware...or is it Russian government spyware? That's the question for US state & local gov't users.
Arguably one of the best-known Russian companies in the world is Kaspersky Labs, the maker of anti-spyware software. Cheekily, you may say that if anyone knows how to spy on others online, it's the Russians given that the US presidency is currently enmeshed in several investigations involving Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections. Forthcoming additional sanctions against Russia (among others) aside, however, the commercial implications of alleged Russian spying are limited.

Consider Kaspersky, though. Given its line of business and the country it hails from, it's become something of a hot potato for government procurement Stateside in the anti-spyware arena. Given that the putative head of the US federal government is the president, you may be amused to note that it's the federal government and not local or state governments who have provided guidance against buying Kaspersky's stuff. From the Washington Post:
The federal agency in charge of purchasing, the General Services Administration, this month removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from its list of approved vendors. In doing so, the agency’s statement suggested a vulnerability exists in Kaspersky that could give the Russian government backdoor access to the systems it protects, though they offered no explanation or evidence of it. Kaspersky has strongly denied coordinating with the Russian government and has offered to cooperate with federal investigators.
This action has left state and local governments in a quandary whether to follow suit in avoiding Kaspersky-branded products which some believe may open a backdoor for Russian state spies into US government activities:
The GSA’s move on July 11 has left state and local governments to speculate about the risks of sticking with the company or abandoning taxpayer-funded contracts, sometimes at great cost. The lack of information from the GSA underscores a disconnect between local officials and the federal government about cybersecurity.
Interviews suggest that concerns in recent months from Congress and in the intelligence community about Kaspersky are not widely known among state and local officials, who are most likely to consider purchasing the Russian software. Those systems, while not necessarily protecting critical infrastructure, can be targeted by hackers because they provide access to troves of sensitive information.
Meanwhile accusations and denials are coming up think and fast among the company and its critics:
James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said “it’s difficult, if not impossible” for a company like Kaspersky to be headquartered in Moscow “if you don’t cooperate with the government and the intelligence services.”

Kaspersky has worked to protect its image since the GSA decision. It said this month that it would be willing to turn over its software source code to federal investigators.
The gist of it all is that there is no evidence that Kaspersky Labs is in cahoots with Russian spies, or even that there is an alleged "backdoor" for these spies to exploit. Unless proven otherwise, this instance really is as fine as you'll get of "guilt by association"--flimsy circumstantial evidence of [i] a Russian firm [ii] marketing anti-spyware or even [iii] operating in Moscow are enough to label it guilty as charged.

I personally find Kaspersky cumbersome so I don't use it. However, you'd think there would have to be a higher burden of proof to conclusively order its discontinuance of use in US government offices than what has been provided thus far.

Twin Peaks Revival and Critiquing Anti-Globalization

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/18/2017 05:26:00 PM
Dr. Amp throws the finger [x2!] at global capitalism.
After embarking on a fairly lengthy discussion of how Donald Trump should be a hero and not a hate figure of the anti-globalization movement amid violent protests at the recently-concluded G-20 meeting in Hambug, here is something a bit more lighthearted. I've been watching the return of the seminal show Twin Peaks to television after a 25+ year hiatus. Its off-kilter blend of melodrama, tragicomedy, horror, and science fiction has always been appealing to me.

However, what caught my attention in the context of anti-globalization was Dr. Jacoby--he of the different colored glasses--sliding further into madness in the revival. He's turned into some sort of crazed conspiracy theorist who goes by the name of Dr. Amp, selling sh_t shovels to dig ourselves out of the filth of modern life:


Instead of having to listen to the likes of Naomi Klein repeat the same old global corporate takeover shtick, why not have essentially the same message delivered in an entertaining way? I'd rather hear the Dr. Jacoby version any day...at least it's amusing in a self-deprecating (instead of self-important) manner. All the same, this satire points out the shortcomings of this genre of foolishness:
  1. Conspiracy - there are vast, unseen forces working against us in so many ways. Once more, the level of coordination implied usually is not demonstrable that there are several actors out just to get the rest of us.
  2. Logical inconsistency - going back to the point about Trump, anti-globalization arguments do not usually benefit from having parts that fit together. For instance, if globalization is providing employment to workers in poorer countries "stealing jobs", would they be "better off" if there were no global economic integration and everything consumed in rich countries was made in the US/Europe/Japan/ANZ, etc.? If anti-globalization activists are presumably concerned about the welfare of poor people (especially workers) elsewhere, then why deny them a living wage by "Making America Great Again" and reshoring virtually all manufacturing operations?
  3. Profit motive - Selling $29.99 "sh_t shovels" is the entire point of Dr. Jacoby's operations. Yes, he is interested in making money. If you were, say, Naomi Klein, and believed that your work contained the wisdom to right the wrongs caused by capitalism, then why not distribute it for free instead of charging us money and enriching some multi-billionaire like Amazon's Jeff Bezos?
Bottom line: As I've said before, most of these anti-globalization types are in it for the money too. The only difference between them and most of those whom they criticize is that they simply don't admit doing so by adopting self-righteous rhetoric.

Go ask Dr Amp.

Shouldn't Anti-Globalization Activists [Heart] Trump?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 7/07/2017 01:07:00 PM
G-20 Hamburg protests: why the hate for anti-globalization champion Trump?
For years, anti-globalization protesters have gone out to all sorts of notable economically-related gatherings worldwide, be they G-7, G-8 or G-20 summits; World Economic Forum gatherings; World Bank and IMF meetings; WTO ministerial conferences, and so on and so forth. The boilerplate accusation is that world leaders betray the interests of the common people in favor of a faceless global capitalist class. To this, the common people must stand up for what they believe in. So far, nothing is new here.

What's interesting with the emergence of Donald Trump in world politics is that he espouses much of the same rhetoric: the [American] working class has been hurt by globalization, and therefore globalization should be rolled back to protect the common people from the ravages of world trade. As such, it's always struck me how vehemently opposed anti-globalization campaigners are to Trump when he's actually done much more to stop further economic integration than all of them combined. From single-handedly dooming the Trans-Pacific Partnership to oblivion to refusing to agree that trade protectionism is to be avoided during economic summits, he should be the man of anti-globalization writer Naomi Klein's dreams. But alas, he is not. This Canadian who likes meddling in Yanks' affairs just cannot stop blathering about how awful Trump is. (It's a form of globalization I don't appreciate when some foreigner thinks she's "active" in US domestic politics.)

There are, of course, all sorts of wrinkles here. Coming from the left, the anti-globalization vision of eliminating world trade is complemented by replacing it with folks being self-sufficient in small, sustainable communities. Meanwhile, the Trumpian vision is instead a triumph of American industry making everything that those in the United States wish for and more--to the exclusion of considering everyone else's welfare. Another line of argument is that Trump is only masquerading as a champion of the working class and is actually globalizer in disguise.

Then you also have a panoply of leftist causes that are the exact opposite of what Trump champions. These include climate change, racial tolerance, and so on. But, if you really think about it, Trump may be the one who is *really* anti-globalization in outlook here if the criteria is sheer isolationism. Consider:
  • You don't want international cooperation on climate change since, well, it involves representatives of different nations discussing things. A global elite should not be dictating what the free peoples of the world do to their piece of the planet;
  • You don't want tolerance of other people with different creeds, colors, or races. If the opposite of "globalist" is "nationalist," then you cannot have a nation-state which when it is largely indistinguishable from all others.
Abhorrent as those ideas may be, they're arguably more consistent with extricating ourselves from the rest of the world. In this sense Trump is the true anti-globalist, whereas those championing all sorts of progressive causes are not, really.

If anti-globalization means going it alone no matter what everyone else thinks, Trump is its best representative.

Anti-globalization activists should therefore celebrate Trump's arrival, full stop, wherever in the world he shows up. The attention he brings to the cause is unrivaled--especially compared to a ragtag group of anarchists and flunky writers like Klein.

After Trump Killed TPP, is Japan-EU FTA Imminent?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 7/05/2017 04:03:00 PM
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida may have an FTA soon.
Given its recent efforts to join the ill-fated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Japan actually has an effective grand total of zero [0] FTAs involving more than one country. Yes, it does have one with ASEAN, but it's actually on top of a series of bilateral "economic partnership agreements" with each Southeast Asian member country (except for later accession countries Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar). TPP was to be Japan's first real foray into a plutilateral FTA, but Trump put paid to that.

Yet, emboldened by its adventure negotiating TPP and wanting more than the status quo, Japan is contemplating a deal with the EU. In fact, it may be inked as soon as tomorrow at a Japan-EU summit prior to the Hamburg G-20 gathering on Friday. The largest bugaboo with Japan and multilateral deals has always been agriculture. Why does Japan have so many bilateral deals with ASEAN member countries? It was largely to devise agricultural protections specific to each trading partner.

What's interesting about the mooted Japan-EU FTA are twofold: Once more, it would be Japan's first honest-to-goodness plutilateral FTA. Second, this deal would involve another entity known for agricultural protectionism in the EU. Is the latter an insurmountable obstacle? We will soon find out...
The European Union and Japan expect to commit to signing a free trade deal on Thursday, the EU said, in what both see as a push back against a feared U.S. turn toward protectionism under President Donald Trump.
Confirming on Tuesday that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would meet heads of EU institutions in Brussels on the eve of a G20 summit with Trump and other world leaders in Germany, the European Council said: "Leaders are expected to announce a political agreement on the EU-Japan free trade agreement."
That would be short of a final accord ironing out all the commercial intricacies between two of the world's biggest economies and EU officials said on Tuesday that some key issues still needed to be settled before Thursday's EU-Japan summit.

However, confirming Abe's attendance is a sign of confidence that a deal will be ready for his signature and also puts pressure on trade negotiators to secure at least outline agreements on opening up each other's markets, including in the trickiest areas such as Japanese cars and European farm produce.
This Eurasian activity contrasts with the proclivities of a certain American stinker:
Both sides, having seen Trump pull back from free trade relationships, are keen to show they remain committed to removing barriers they say hamper growth.

"It is important for us to wave the flag of free trade in response to global moves toward protectionism by quickly concluding the free trade agreement with Europe," Abe told ministers at a meeting on Tuesday about the EU negotiations.

"This agreement is also important for our growth strategy. We will negotiate with all our energy until the very end to achieve the best deal for Japan."

Abe will meet European Council President Donald Tusk, who speaks for the 28 EU national leaders, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the bloc's executive head.

Juncker's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was in Japan at the weekend and said after her talks that she was "quite confident" that a broad agreement could be announced on Thursday. EU officials had said that Abe would only visit Brussels if both sides were certain that the political agreement would be signed.

Malmstrom said: "You can do good, fair, transparent and sustainable trade agreements where you win and I win, and not the American view, which seems to be, 'You lose and I win'."
Abe, Tusk and Juncker will go on to Hamburg on Friday for the G20 summit
Take that, Trumpie! Europeans and Japanese do not take the trade realm as a winner-takes-all arena. As I mentioned, agriculture has been a sticking point for the Japanese negotiators:
European officials have been pushing for a reduction in Japanese tariffs on cheese and agriculture imports that are as high as 30 percent in return for phasing out tariffs on Japanese autos and auto parts.

This tradeoff initially met strong resistance, because some politicians want to protect Japan's dwindling dairy industry. However, Malmstrom expressed confidence that both sides have overcome this problem and can reach a deal.

"We've made meaningful progress, but there are still important points remaining," Kishida told reporters.
Some perspective is useful here. Actually, the Japan-EU deal has been under negotiation for nearly half a decade. My guess is that Trumpism was a spur to it. While the US has begun looking inward, many other countries still see free trade as beneficial. Although there are of course longstanding sticking points like the ever-bothersome agriculture, those committed will find a way to work around such obstacles. In order not to foster a wider climate of protectionism, some gesture was necessary.

So, here we are. By contrast, the Trump administration may announce steel tariffs hitting several G-20 countries in time for the Hamburg meeting. Same gathering; entirely different messages.

Can Ivanka Trump Stop Pop From Cutting US Aid?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 6/28/2017 04:47:00 PM
Would Ivanka Trump be complicit if tens of thousands died due to starvation arising from US foreign aid cuts?
To say Donald Trump hates poor foreigners is an understatement. He's definitely bigoted, but apparently it matters less if you're a Muslim [a] from a wealthy nation with [b] Trump-linked business interests. After all, the 9/11 attackers were mostly from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but they go off scot-free in a world where, well, money talks. Although the world is fixated on the fate of his travel ban on folks from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen (countries which account for a grand total of zero terrorist fatalities in the US) less is said about the ongoing famines in many of these countries and their near-neighbors.

You see, the Trump administration has been mulling drastic cuts to US foreign aid going to all these poor, ungrateful, Trump-hating coloreds (or is their hatred partly due to the US planning to cut so much aid?) to spend on things like a multi-billion military expansion and a Great Wall of Trump on the US-Mexico border. However, note that Congress ultimately decides what to spend on the US federal budget and not the president.

Meanwhile, some hope that his moderate[-ish] daughter/adviser Ivanka Trump will persuade The Donald to not make such drastic aid cuts--at least that's what some aid agency officials think in the face of massive ongoing famines elsewhere:
The head of the UN World Food Programme has said he is hopeful Ivanka Trump will lobby her father into a U-turn on cuts to humanitarian aid in the face of an urgent cash crisis that is imperilling hundreds of thousands of lives.

David Beasley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina who supported Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency, said Congress and the Senate had already defied the new president to ringfence $980m (£764m) for famine relief this year.

Beasley said he believed Trump would now rethink his policy of stripping down funding of peacekeeping and humanitarian aid for 2018, due in part to the president’s “savvy” daughter, with whom he posed for photographs following a meeting earlier this month.
Even now, the US is the biggest UN contributor, even if its aid contribution is among the least in GDP percentage terms for OECD nations:
The US is the biggest contributor to the UN, paying 22% of its $5.4bn core budget and 28.5% of the $7.9bn dedicated to peacekeeping. Trump has said that such contributions are unfair, and has been seeking to cut spending on US diplomatic and humanitarian efforts by a third...

In relative terms the US is one of the least generous countries when it comes to foreign aid: spending for 2015 stood at just 0.17% of gross national income, compared with Britain’s 0.7%.
The projected aid requirements this year are certainly staggering:
Speaking on a visit to Brussels, where he met leaders of the EU and the Belgian government, Beasley said he needed an injection of $1bn in the coming months to save the lives of 600,000 children. “While the European Union and Belgium have been tremendous supporters, the needs at this time are just extraordinary,” he said. “We are facing the worst humanitarian crisis since the second world war.

“Some 30 million people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from in just four of the countries facing famine, and 1.4 million are literally on the brink of starvation as we speak. “If we do not receive the resources, the food that we need in the next few months we are talking about the possibility of 600,000 dying. If we receive the funds, we can avert famine and minimise the chance of death.”
What does Trump care? More to the point, why would Trump care about colored people unable to afford Trump-branded gold courses or hotels who hate his guts? My guess is that aid proponents are wasting their time lobbying Trump. Besides, Trump can propose the most vicious cuts to US foreign aid, but it's ultimately the congress that decides how much to allocate in the federal budget. Given that fact, I'd be lobbying congresspersons instead of this guy. It's a waste of time IMHO.

And yes, Ivanka Trump does not escape responsibility, try as she might to portray herself as a "non-political" actor.

UPDATE: Don't forget her futile attempt to get The Donald to stay in the Paris Agreement. Progressive causes are lost on him...even if his daughter tries to persuade him.

Hong Kong Expat Banker, Endangered Species

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 6/25/2017 05:51:00 PM
I remember when most Lan Kwai Fong bar hoppers were Westerners. No more.
A brace of articles came out recently reflecting the changes wrought on employment in Hong Kong's financial services industry. Once upon a time, it was fairly common to come across Westerners plying their trade in the Far East. In particular, the self-deprecating acronym FILTH was used by British expatriates meaning Failed in London, Try Hongkong. The underlying assumption here, of course, was that it was easier to find a job in the less competitive environs of Hong Kong than in the City of London.

With the world's economic center of gravity shifting towards Asia, the inferiority complex of bankers working in Asia is increasingly becoming less warranted. There is more business to be drummed up in Asia today than in, say, post-Brexit UK. So while Hong Kong remains a financial gateway to still-burgeoning mainland China and beyond, London is primed to become a gateway to...nowhere in particular:
For years, the territory’s Chinese, and even its China-savvy expatriates, derisively called indulged Brits FILTH, which stands for Failed In London, Try Hong Kong. Expats who might have never worked in the City, Europe’s financial hub, could walk into good jobs and cut deals in the soft-carpeted confines of the Hong Kong Club or over a pint at the Captain’s Bar in the Mandarin Oriental.

Now FILTH is in terminal decline, its fate seemingly sealed by cost-cutting throughout the financial industry. John Mullally, an executive recruiter, said that as recently as 2010, expatriates from Britain and the rest of Europe, plus those from the U.S. and Australia, landed 40 percent of his finance job placements. Today, that figure is 15 percent. “On a weekly basis I get quite a few senior bankers that 15 years ago would have picked up a job straightaway, but today they’re really struggling,” said Mullally, who runs Robert Walters Plc’s banking practice in Hong Kong.
Moreover, why should banks and insurers pay extra to hire Westerners--relocation costs, housing costs, living costs, and the rest of it--when they are increasingly unsuited to the China-influenced business climate? Having neither the ability to speak Mandarin nor the connections (guanxi) to Asian business networks, what justifies the added expense? You might as well hire the folks from around Asia and groom them for the future:
At Citigroup Inc., Chinese students will account for the majority of university graduates the firm intends to hire full time in Hong Kong next year, according to James Mendes, the U.S. bank’s Asia-Pacific head of recruitment. For the past two years, JPMorgan Chase has hired more than 40 percent of its full-time graduates and interns for Hong Kong from local universities, a number the bank expects to increase as it ramps up business in the region.

Private banks are also looking for China-skilled staff to help them capture a slice of the country’s burgeoning wealth. Bank of Singapore Ltd., a unit of Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp., for example, hired 20 Mandarin-speaking relationship managers in Hong Kong this year.

Scarce, too, for expats are perks like generous housing allowances and memberships to such elite clubs as the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, which, unlike most Hong Kong institutions, has retained its “royal” association -- or, for Americans, the American Club. The value of a typical expatriate middle-manager package in Hong Kong fell to a five-year low in 2016, according to a recent survey by consultancy firm ECA International. Still, that’s $265,500.
The new breed is the Western-educated Asian banker with his or her feet in both worlds:
“Young junior bankers without language skills are so rare these days,” said Quinlan, 33, who now runs his own financial consulting firm.

Most global banks have tried to bring in Chinese power brokers. Many of these bankers are not only bilingual but also bicultural -- products of elite Western universities who can move seamlessly between China and the global Wall Street. Many also bring deep connections to China’s leadership and state-owned enterprises. Now mostly in their 40s and 50s, they include Morgan Stanley’s Wei Sun Christianson and Credit Suisse Group AG’s Janice Hu.
Reuters chimes in that the ongoing changes reflect that more and more of the share of business--initial public offerings and the like--coming from the mainland. So, hiring more bankers from the mainland is also a predictable trend:
A flood of Chinese bankers is changing the social fabric of Hong Kong, as they rapidly expand their footprint in one of the world's premier financial centers, even as Beijing struggles to tame the former British colony politically. Twenty years after Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule, scores of mainland professionals are filling the elite financial ranks of Hong Kong, while a series of lay-offs at Western banks has led to an exodus of expatriates.
The largest increase in mainland staff over the past decade has come in investment banks, with 80 percent seeing an increase of at least 20 percent, according to a 2015 Financial Services Development Council survey. It has a much better environment than Beijing where I used to work," said Hong Hao, a managing director at BOCOM International, who has lived in Hong Kong for five years. "The food is good, and the tax rate is also good." Tax rates in Hong Kong are around 15-17 percent, while they can be as much as 45 percent in mainland China.

Chinese initial public offerings (IPO) dominate the Hong Kong market, the world's largest IPO market in 2016 when mainland offerings represented 80 percent of all new listings, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Hong Kong's financial services industry accounts for 18 percent of the territory's economy, compared with just 10.4 percent in 1997 when the city returned to Chinese rule.
If Asia butters Hong Kong's bread more and more these days, then the days of FILTH becoming ever more numbered is to be expected.