30-year Treasury yield breaks below 2% as coronavirus disrupts supply chains

U.S. Treasury yields declined on Tuesday after investors saw how the COVID-19 epidemic was preventing companies from restoring production to full-capacity after the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, as the viral outbreak keeps workers at home and unable to head into factories.

The 10-year Treasury note yieldTMUBMUSD10Y, -2.73%  slumped 4.4 basis points to 1.544%, while the 2-year note rateTMUBMUSD02Y, -1.71%  was down 2.5 basis points to 1.399%. The 30-year bond yieldTMUBMUSD30Y, -2.36%  slipped 5.1 basis points to 1.992%.

U.S. investors received one of the first indications of how the coronavirus could upend global supply chains, after Apple Inc. said it would not be able to meet second-quarter guidance due to the outbreak. In a statement, the iPhone maker said it could take longer than expected for production to return to normal conditions.

Provincial and local government officials across China have ordered factories to remain closed even though many workplaces were supposed to reopen on Feb. 10, at the end of the Lunar New Year holiday.

U.S. equity futures tumbled on Tuesday, while losses were spread across Asian and European markets.

See: Apple’s coronavirus warning wasn’t a total surprise, but magnitude rattles Wall Street

Read: Asia stocks fall as economic impact of coronavirus weighs on markets

In U.S. economic data, the Federal Reserve’s Empire State manufacturing survey for February will be published at 8:30 a.m. ET, while this month’s NAHB housing market index is later due at 10 a.m.

Later, the U.S. Treasury International Capital Report will give a glimpse of the investment activity of foreign investors, a significant buyer base of the U.S. government bond market.

“What markets may be more afraid of is that this is just the tip of the iceberg, both in other companies now set to flood out with profit warnings, and perhaps that the impact of the virus itself may be harder and longer lasting than first feared,” wrote rates analyst at NatWest Markets.

Source: Read Full Article

Walmart Stumbles With Holiday Sales and Forecast Falling Short

Walmart Inc. delivered a double whammy to investors as holiday sales couldn’t meet expectations and its outlook for the current year failed to impress investors, sending the shares lower in premarket trading.

Comparable-store sales, a key retail metric, increased 1.9% for U.S. Walmart stores in the holiday period, compared with the 2.4% average estimate, due to weak demand in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The world’s largest retailer also forecast profit this fiscal year that fell short of analysts’ expectations.

“The fourth quarter appears to have been a witches’ brew for most retailers,” Scot Ciccarelli, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note published prior to the results.

Walmart’s lackluster results, following a similarly dour performance from Target Corp., heap more gloom on a U.S. retail sector that’s already grappling with store closures, bankruptcies and increasing uncertainty from China’s coronavirus, which has disrupted sales and supply chains at global giants including Apple Inc. The outbreak’s impact hasn’t been included the retailer’s full-year guidance but could lower first-quarter earnings by a couple of cents per share, Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said.

In its home market, where Walmart generates the lion’s share of its sales and profits, Walmart’s subpar holiday was due to softness in apparel, toys and gaming, Biggs in an interview, reasons also cited by Target. In apparel, it carried too much seasonal merchandise, he said. Gross profit margins also declined in the quarter due in part to changes in employee pay incentives that were a bigger factor than anticipated as fewer workers skipped shifts during the season.

“There were a number of things that were market-related but some of it was on us,” Biggs said, adding that there was “not a lot of newness” in departments like toys and video games.

Walmart shares fell 1.1% in premarket trading. Over the past twelve months, the shares have trailed those of rivals Dollar General Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp.

Massive Investment

This is a make-or-break year for the world’s largest retailer, which has made massive investment under Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon to lower prices, expand its e-commerce operations and enhance employee wages and benefits. Now, shareholders want to see a return from all that spending, particularly at its U.S. online division, which needs to find a path to profitability as it battles Amazon.com Inc.

Biggs said domestic e-commerce losses were “higher than expected” last year, but will level off or decline in 2020, with details coming during presentations to investors in New York beginning at 8 a.m. Walmart’s web sales in the U.S. rose 35% in the fourth quarter. It sees e-commerce growth at 30% this year — a sign the area is slowing some after years of expansion.

The retailer’s curbside grocery pickup service has fueled most of those gains, providing a bulwark against encroachment from Amazon.com Inc., but Walmart now needs to find a new pillar of growth online as the click-and-collect service is now available at 3,200 stores.

New Leaders

Walmart also enters 2020 with a new leadership team under McMillon, including U.S. CEO John Furner, Sam’s Club CEO Kathryn McLay and Chief Merchandising Officer Scott McCall. The reshuffle could lead to changes in strategy or execution, Jefferies analyst Christopher Mandeville said in a note.

With shares falling in advance of its investor presentations, the new management team’s job just got tougher. On the bright side, McMillon said February sales have “started off well.”

“The American consumer is still reasonably confident,” Neil Saunders, an analyst at GlobalData Retail, said in a note. “Confidence and spending power are there, however, retailers need to work much harder if they want to tap into them.”

Source: Read Full Article

Christian Lawmakers Group Blames Satan After Twitter Poll Goes Badly Awry

Never ask a question when you might not like the answer. 

A group ostensibly representing Christian lawmakers launched a poll on Twitter over the weekend asking if America would be better off with more Christians in elected office. 

It didn’t go well:

After more than 16,000 replies, the answer was an overwhelming “no,” which received 95.8 percent of the vote. In response, the group accused “atheists and Satanists” of “religious persecution” for voting in the poll.

Congress is overwhelmingly Christian, far out of proportion with the people they represent. According to a Pew survey last year, the Senate and House are nearly 90 percent Christian versus 65 percent of America as a whole. 

One in four Americans now considers themselves atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” a position publicly held by just one member of the current Congress, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who lists her religion as “none.” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) describes himself as a humanist while a handful of others haven’t acknowledged a faith or lack thereof.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers was started last year by Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert (R), who warned about the rise of witches in a recruitment email.  It’s not clear how many members the group has, but its board of advisors includes a number of current and former elected officials, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. 

An attempt to raise $500,000 via GoFundMe stalled at less than $20,000, more than half of which came from a single anonymous donor.

Source: Read Full Article

Wuhan Airport Reminds Rescue Crew of a Zombie Apocalypse

As an Air India flight landed at the airport in Wuhan last month to rescue Indians stranded in the coronavirus-hit city, Captain Kamal Mohan couldn’t help but think that he had entered a post-apocalyptic film set.

“It was frightening,” Mohan said in an interview on Monday. “It’s a massive airport, so just imagine not seeing a soul. You’d think a zombie might pop up from somewhere.”

The Indian flag carrier sent two 423-seat Boeing Co. 747 aircraft on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 to evacuate about 600 people from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 1,800 people and infected 73,000. The flights consisted of eight pilots, 30 cabin crew and 10 commercial staff. Air India has carried out similar evacuation missions in the past, including during the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The airport, which handled 20 million passengers last year, was completely deserted and there were only three ground personnel to help with the evacuation process, said cabin crew chief Chander Prakash.

The Air India crew had to wear three pairs of gloves and “layer-over-layer” of clothes that looked like a spacesuit, according to Prakash. “There were special instructions on how to wear the clothes and how to remove them to ensure you don’t get contaminated,” he said.

The others who were part of the operation were doctors from India, said Captain Amitabh Singh, the other pilot.

“We were going to a place where we had no idea what we will find on the ground,” Singh said. “So we had our own doctors, who were checking temperatures of passengers, handing out masks and making us wash our hands a number of times.”

Source: Read Full Article

Trump Proposes 3% Pay Hike For US Troops

In his election year budget, President Donald Trump proposed a 3 percent pay rise for service members across the board, along with increases in the allowances for housing and subsistence.

The Department of Defense is also seeking $8 billion for a range of programs to support military families. They include professional development and education opportunities for service members and their spouses, child care for more than 160,000 children, youth programs for more than a million family members, and support to the schools that educate more than 77,000 students from military families.

The president released a $4.8 trillion fiscal 2021 budget request Monday, which includes $705.4 billion for the Defense Department. It focuses on preparing the U.S. military for all-domain high-end warfare, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist told reporters at the Pentagon.

Top priorities include nuclear modernization, missile defeat and defense, space and cyberspace.

For fiscal 2021, DOD is asking for $28.9 billion to fund modernization of the nuclear defense program, covering land, sea and air.

Around $7 billion is proposed for nuclear command, control and communications. Another $2.8 billion is earmarked for the B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber. The Air Force eventually expects to get some 100 of the aircraft, which will carry the B61-12 and B83 nuclear gravity bombs, as well as the long-range standoff cruise missile.

The request for nuclear modernization also funds procurement of the Columbia-class ballistic submarine at $4.4 billion, and the ground-based strategic deterrent at $1.5 billion. The GBSD is expected to replace about 400 existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles.

DOD’s request also includes $15.4 billion for the newly created U.S. Space Force, $337 million for the Space Development Agency, and $249 million for U.S. Space Command.

A Pentagon statement said the research, development, testing and evaluation budget request is the largest in history, at $106.6 billion.

The request for hyper-sonics would be an increase of 23 percent over last year, while a 7.8 percent rise is sought for artificial intelligence.

Much of the budget request goes toward modernization.

In the air, the budget request seeks $3 billion for 15 KC-46 Pegasus tankers to replace aging Eisenhower-era KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extenders. The request also provides $11.4 billion for 79 F-35 Lightning II variants.

On the sea, the budget request would fund a new Virginia-class submarine at $4.7 billion and two DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers at $3.5 billion.

On the land, the Army and Marine Corps would receive 4,247 joint light tactical vehicles at $1.4 billion, as well as $1.5 billion for modifications and upgrades to 89 M-1 Abrams tanks.

The FY 2021 budget contains the Department’s largest RDT&E budget in its history ($106.6 billion) and is focused on the development of crucial emerging technologies.

The budget requests for $69 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.

The Pentagon said that The FY 2021 President’s budget request of $705.4B shows very small growth of 0.1 percent, when compared to the FY 2020. “Given this flattened funding level, the Department made numerous hard choices to ensure that resources are directed toward the Department’s highest priorities,” it added.

Source: Read Full Article

Jeff Bezos Launches $10-bln Fund To Fight Climate Change

Jeff Bezos, who is considered as world’s richest man, has pledged $10 billion to help combat climate change. In a statement on Instagram Monday, the Amazon chief executive said he is thrilled to announce the launch of the Bezos Earth Fund for the purpose.

It will finance “scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.”

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet. I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share”, Bezos said on social media.

“We can save Earth. It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals,” according to the Internet, aerospace entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Bezos promised that he is committing the huge fund with the aim to start issuing grants this summer.

“Earth is the one thing we all have in common — let’s protect it, together,” he added.

Bezos is already contributing to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund created in 2016 to finance companies that develop technologies that can mitigate climate change and reduce the use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions in industries.

The 56-year-old billionaire, who is currently estimated to have a net worth of more than $130 billion, was named the “richest man in modern history” after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018.

In September that year, Forbes described him as “far richer than anyone else on the planet” as he added $1.8 billion to his net worth when Amazon became the second company to reach a market cap of $1 trillion.

Bezos’ spaceflight services company Blue Origin plans to begin commercial suborbital human spaceflight in the near future.

He owns The Washington Post, and manages many other investments through his venture capital firm, Bezos Expeditions.

Source: Read Full Article

Elizabeth Warren Has A Plan For Foreign Policy. You Just Probably Haven’t Heard About It.

On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. For the next week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren repeatedly appeared on television to argue that Trump was failing at his job as commander in chief.

“This is not a moment when a president should be escalating tensions and moving us to war,” the Democratic presidential candidate said on CNN, a day after saying she would not have ordered the strike. 

“Soleimani was a bad guy, but the question is: What’s the right response?… having killed Soleimani does not make America safer,” Warren said on ABC’s “The View.” On “Meet the Press,” she warned that Trump’s decision could expand costly U.S. military interventions and cause further suffering for millions of people in the Middle East.

As most other presidential aspirants responded with prewritten remarks, Warren’s team hoped live media appearances would prove she could handle both international upheaval and scrutiny of her foreign policy expertise.

But some on the left reacted by saying the Massachusetts senator was shoring up a problematic status quo. Warren “echoed Trump’s talking points,” wrote Jacobin, a socialist magazine, when she acknowledged Soleimani’s responsibility for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. 

Vice President Joe Biden, one of her rivals in the primary race, said the Soleimani strike showed the need for a Democratic presidential nominee with experience — a clear argument against candidates like Warren who haven’t worked on foreign policy as long. From the right, ABC host Meghan McCain forced Warren into a lengthy and tendentious exchange about whether Soleimani should be called a “terrorist.”

Warren’s vision of global affairs can be hard to pin down. To some extent, that’s by design. Conversations with more than a dozen Warren staffers and informal advisers reveal a strategy that doesn’t seek to make national security a point of major contention in the Democratic primary. She’s not competing with Biden in romanticizing the Barack Obama administration, nor trying to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders’s image as a prescient critic of American power and international dominance.

It’s not that Warren lacks plans. She would approach the world like she would the U.S.: using the power of government to reshape the relationship between powerful wealthy interests and significantly less powerful communities. She wants to reduce America’s foreign military presence but increase Washington’s power to tackle problems such as the way global financial corruption and authoritarianism enable each other.

With Warren nearing a make-or-break point for her campaign, the story of how she built her profile on foreign policy reflects the way she’s approached her decade-old political career. She has demonstrated both liberal instincts and comfort with existing power structures, seeking to earn people’s trust that she is the right person to enact vital change. That means she’s still not seen as left enough in some quarters, nor viewed as a trusted executor of the establishment’s priorities. But Warren is convinced she’s done the work to succeed.

Entering The Foreign Policy Debate

By the time Warren first seriously engaged with foreign policy as she ran for the Senate in 2012, she was already seen as a liberal hero willing to push boundaries. She didn’t seek that kind of reputation on global affairs.

Challenging Army National Guard Col. Scott Brown for the Massachusetts seat, Warren primarily talked about domestic policy. But she was vocal in supporting the era’s hawkish line on Iran. Then-President Barack Obama was boasting about subjecting the Islamic Republic to expansive sanctions that would, he predicted, push it into a deal limiting its nuclear program. On her campaign website, Warren endorsed “strong sanctions” and went even further by saying Tehran was already pursuing nuclear weapons. Progressives pushed back, noting that Obama officials and U.S. allies rejected that claim. 

At the time, there was no shortage of Democrats saying it was correct to get tough on Iran. But some voices warned against overly aggressive rhetoric that risked a rush to war. Warren’s fellow Senate candidate that cycle, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, produced a television ad decrying a potential conflict, and experts were already warning that the bipartisan drive for ever-broadening sanctions was taking a humanitarian toll and could backfire. Warren wasn’t saber-rattling, but she wasn’t in the liberal vanguard.

Once in Congress, Warren faced an early vote pitting skeptics of the national security establishment against the Obama administration: whether John Brennan should lead the CIA. Watchdogs like the ACLU, libertarian firebrand Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Senate progressives said Brennan’s confirmation should depend on Obama revealing more about his controversial and secretive targeted-killing program. Some worried Brennan’s past in the intelligence community meant he wouldn’t support reining in the power of its agencies. The coalition won a degree of new transparency from Obama, but members remained wary: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sanders (I-Vt.) voted against Brennan. 

Warren held the White House line.

The new senator also maintained ties to the defense industry by protecting jobs related to it in her state. She had explained during her campaign that, although she opposed greater intervention abroad and wanted less defense spending, she would be thoughtful in reshaping the military, not oppositional.

But it was increasingly clear the mismatch between Warren’s assertive push for a more just domestic policy and her caution on foreign policy risked trouble with more liberal elements of the Democratic base who hoped she would be their champion.

The summer of 2014 brought a stark example: Asked about Israel’s conduct in its campaign in Gaza and her vote to send it $225 million in additional U.S. aid even as it engaged in alleged war crimes, Warren defended the funding and Israeli military behavior, saying Palestinian civilian deaths were because of Palestinian militants’ tactics ― a controversial assertion common among Israel hawks. “That, ladies and gentlemen, is your inspiring left-wing icon of the Democratic Party,” commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote in a critique.

Three months later, Warren visited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on her first official trip abroad. 

Warren was willing to venture from tradition on sensitive Mideast issues ― when she had some degree of cover, especially from Obama. Five months after her Israel trip, Warren became one of eight Democratic senators to skip Netanyahu’s GOP-sponsored address to Congress criticizing the president’s negotiations with Iran, and when Obama unveiled his final nuclear deal, she was one of its early supporters in the Senate.

Her path reflected the larger Warren political playbook: maintaining institutional credibility and power while pressuring the establishment ― and the Democratic Party consensus ― in carefully chosen ways.

In the spring of 2014, she used her first major national security speech to describe how U.S. military actions harm foreign civilians, fueling anger abroad. Warren didn’t outright condemn Obama’s counterterrorism programs, which killed hundreds of non-militants despite the administration’s claims that they were “surgical,” but she used her platform as one of the best-known members of his party to argue that reforming the U.S. approach to global affairs was about more than just keeping Democrats in office.

“When we debate the costs and benefits of intervention ― when we discuss potential military action around the world ― the talk about collateral damage and civilian casualties too often seems quiet,” she said. “The failure to make civilian casualties a full and robust part of our national conversation over the use of force is dangerous.”

Warren was one of a minority of Democrats who rejected two military requests Obama made of Congress: She voted against funding for U.S.-aligned rebels in Syria in 2014 and against more weapons to Saudi Arabia for a bloody intervention in Yemen in 2016. And she joined a challenge to Obama’s top generals by supporting Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to change how the armed forces handle sexual assault. 

Warren picked her biggest fight with Obama and with decades-old foreign policy orthodoxy on behalf of the chief aim of her political career: keeping capitalism in check.

In 2015, she led congressional resistance to the president’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Obama sold the accord as good for the U.S. economy and vital for rallying American partners against the rise of China, rallying influential supporters from both parties accustomed to bipartisan support for trade deals. Warren argued that the agreement would overwhelmingly benefit corporations. Her credentials shifted the dynamics of the fight, turning it from a traditional dispute between ideological leftists and technocratic neoliberals into a serious battle over the Democratic agenda in which both sides could claim credibility and policy chops, and attracting progressives eager for a leader.

Obama used Republican support to win the authority he wanted to secure the deal. Warren and her allies, however, won the war. They made the TPP politically toxic. Hillary Clinton disavowed it as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, and Obama chose not to push it through before Trump took office. 

Auditioning For Commander In Chief 

Warren entered the Trump era as one of his most likely Democratic challengers. Early on, she moved to ensure national security experience wouldn’t be a weakness in any potential match-up. She secured a spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee weeks after Trump’s victory and soon hired a new top adviser: Sasha Baker, a high-ranking aide to Obama’s last secretary of defense who peers say had a reputation as a savvy institutionalist with a sense of how to get things done in Washington. 

Baker’s role was to be an operator in service of Warren’s goals — not to fill a blank slate. 

“She ran for the Senate and talked about Pentagon reform as a candidate and then chose to get on Armed Services. It’s her interest in bringing a progressive perspective to the sources of American power that makes Sasha Baker possible rather than the other way around,” said Heather Hurlburt, an analyst at the think tank New America who has tracked how Democrats talk about foreign policy for years.  

As a new fixture at national security hearings, Warren mixed skepticism ― asking why she should believe an incoming commander would “turn around” U.S. fortunes in Afghanistan and pressuring private military housing companies and Trump appointees with defense industry ties ― with cooperation, getting uniformed officers to affirm the importance of diplomacy and working with Republicans on pay raises and sexual harassment protections for troops. 

Meanwhile, the senator pushed to inform herself, Baker said, pressing her new adviser with tasks like always providing the best argument against the position she’d recommend to the senator. Traveling to hotspots ― Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, the demilitarized zone in the Koreas, China ― she sought out junior diplomats and military officials “because she wants to get the real story,” Baker told HuffPost. 

Warren advanced her past concerns with civilian casualties by getting the Republican-led Senate to approve an amendment requiring the Pentagon to provide an annual report on the civilian toll of U.S. military operations. The Defense Department published the first of those in the summer of 2018, and lawmakers built on her work to increase the requirements even further the next year. 

And Warren became one of the few lawmakers actively addressing the question of managing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, securing a spot on the subcommittee overseeing it, rallying opposition to Trump’s bid to arm submarines with low-yield warheads and pushing to extend the New START treaty, an agreement with Russia to reduce how many weapons Moscow and Washington hold. “She has been the most outspoken and supportive of what I would call the progressive arms control agenda,” said Tom Collina, the director of policy at the peace group Ploughshares Fund, noting that Warren led well-received proposals such as legislation committing the U.S. to not using nuclear weapons first in a war. 

Though she was a junior member on a GOP-led committee whose members traditionally skew conservative, Warren took the panel seriously, said a former Senate aide who observed her work. 

“I can’t say she was particularly helpful for the things we were pushing for” ― from the Republican leadership’s standpoint ― “but I at least appreciated that she was there,” the one-time staffer said. The specific aspect of cooperation they remembered was on limiting U.S. engagement with the repressive government of Myanmar: “That was a rare exception, and that’s because we were trying to cut something.” 

But while Warren was demonstrating that she could forge national security policy, she wasn’t using the issue to grab headlines or rally left-leaning supporters. 

As others opposed to the president highlighted his foreign policy ― think of former Obama administration officials flooding the airwaves to talk about Trump weakening U.S. alliances and his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and other autocrats, or Sanders leading the push against Trump’s support for the Saudi war in Yemen (with help from Warren and others) ― Warren focused most of her energy elsewhere, on domestic issues. 

Warren did make one significant public shift to assuage more liberal activists by offering a more balanced position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

She was one of the first Democrats to criticize Israel’s crackdown on protesters from Gaza in 2018 (seen as relatively controversial because of Hamas’s control of the strip) and she signed letters urging humanitarian improvement there and protection for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank. She distanced herself from the increasingly conservative pro-Israel group AIPAC and endorsed blocking aid to Israel to stop its settlements in territory key to a future Palestinian state. 

“As she’s learned more about this issue, she has applied more of that civil rights, human rights, value-based approach,” said Hady Amr, an informal adviser to Warren’s campaign who served as the U.S. deputy special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under Obama. 

Warren’s move chiefly, however, aligned her with her ideological allies ― it didn’t represent her moving the needle. And it came as Trump was changing the conversation on the issue; talking about the importance of outreach to the Palestinians and Netanyahu’s excesses was no longer a left position as much it was a centrist response to the administration’s extreme pro-Israel turn. 

Without much fanfare, Warren took her time to establish herself as ready to be commander in chief. Her delay may have cost her. 

The Warren Doctrine

Warren is not the first presidential candidate to say the U.S. must be more restrained abroad after its post-9/11 wars. Obama and Trump both articulated that idea, albeit in very different ways, but neither managed a full break from the paradigm they had slammed on the campaign trail. 

What’s different about Warren is that she ties skepticism about militaristic U.S. choices to a detailed vision of what the U.S. can achieve in the world if it uses its power in different ways. 

Aligning her foreign policy approach with her better-known themes on domestic issues, she envisions assigning diplomats to focus specifically on battling corruption in foreign countries and more frequently punishing financial institutions used to launder the world’s dirty money. She would boost labor rights and policies to fight climate change at home and then make other nations’ access to the huge U.S. market contingent on their following suit. 

“We need to end the fiction that our domestic and foreign policies are somehow separate,” Warren said in a major national security speech on Nov. 29, 2018. She wants to restrict defense spending to essentials, she noted, but she also believes the U.S. must be an international leader in the face of rivals like China and Russia by strengthening its nonmilitary influence. 

“Authoritarianism is on the move around the world,” she said. “There is no time to waste.” 

In power, Warren would likely readjust America’s international relationships in line with American values ― moving away from partners who violate U.S. ideals, like Saudi Arabia, and reducing economic links to nations where autocracy has a big role in the market, like China, according to an essay that her longtime adviser Ganesh Sitaraman published last spring. And she would reject the old Washington idea that domestic costs ― like job losses or a strain on the families of service members ― are worth incurring for perceived foreign policy wins such as strategic trade deals or military demonstrations of U.S. credibility, he wrote. (Sitaraman has no formal role in her 2020 campaign.) 

Warren is establishing a new, higher threshold for U.S. involvement abroad ― on purpose. Her advisers note that it would extend to war and peace. Should a terrorist attack or human rights crisis prompt lawmakers and the media to ask about the prospect of the U.S. getting involved, for instance, Warren would only consider military intervention if it was narrowly focused and approved by Congress, creating public buy-in and oversight. 

“A president needs to be willing to say I’ll take an [authorization for the use of military force] that’s highly limited and also call Congress’s bluff and say, ‘If you don’t give it to me, I won’t do this,’” said Ilan Goldenberg, an informal Warren adviser. 

Obama sought a specific authorization from Congress to fight the Islamic State. He failed to secure one, but he continued his war effort anyway on the basis of a 2001 authorization passed to approved fighting al Qaeda. Keeping that authorization alive meant leaving presidents with a vaguely worded approval that they have interpreted to justify a broad range of controversial military actions. 

“Obama’s instincts were right, but there’s still the instinct inside the executive branch to hold on to as much power as possible,” said Goldenberg, who worked in the Pentagon and State Department in Obama’s administration. “You need a president who’s willing to say, ‘I’m willing to accept this limitation.’ I think she’ll be willing to do that.” 

Warren’s narrative fits a moment when criticizing overly imperial U.S. policy has become a bipartisan sport. 

But just because her diagnosis appeals to people doesn’t mean her solution will. Believing in it means having faith in U.S. institutions, particularly those most implicated in the country’s national security catastrophes. 

Academics on the left are arguing a true progressive approach would reduce America’s sway, exploiting the current dominance of tools such as the U.S. financial system for goals like preventing tax evasion while shifting power to multilateral institutions in which other countries have more of a say ― ultimately creating a power structure that doesn’t have the U.S. on top and leave the world at the mercy of its shifts in policy. 

Warren’s not talking about that degree of change. The thinking she’s associated with isn’t shy about its convictions or U.S. assertiveness. “When progressives use hawkish language, they are doing so with respect to economic challenges, not with an eye toward military buildups and war,” her adviser Sitaraman wrote. 

And it’s coming from a candidate who still mostly considers foreign policy through the lens of her historic focus on what she sees as a rigged economy.

In her 2018 speech, Warren described the U.S. getting global affairs wrong starting in the 1980s because of deregulation and the increased power of corporations and the superrich. Before then, she said, “it wasn’t perfect ― we weren’t perfect ― but our foreign policy benefited a lot of people around the world.”

Though likely pleasing to some voters, that assessment oddly sidesteps the Vietnam War, which killed millions and forced a definitive reckoning for the national security establishment. It also doesn’t account for the dangerous nuclear arms race that Warren is now pledging to address. For all her domestic policy acumen and deep thinking about structural problems affecting Americans, it’s possible Warren still hasn’t thought as thoroughly about the awesome power she would wield over foreign policy as U.S. president. 

“It Takes Guts” 

Observing Warren’s formal foreign policy staff and her network of informal advisers offers clues about the kind of commander in chief she would be — one projecting responsibility, not revolution. 

Consider Baker, the respected Pentagon hand, or Jarrett Blanc, who worked in international development before serving as a top State Department official under Obama and is now, he told HuffPost, the “traffic cop” for the advice coming in from Warren’s national security brain trust. 

It’s a group of people who firmly believe the U.S. has made wrong turns but are also certain its institutions can be redeemed and its effect can be positive. Many have government experience themselves, though the team skews young, and nearly all are familiar faces in the Washington circuit ― and would have been, according to Hurlburt at New America, “highly welcome on the Biden campaign.” They chose Warren for her judgment and for explaining not just what she opposes but what she supports. Some cite her expertise on specific concerns: arms control for former State Department official Alexandra Bell, the exhaustion of the armed forces for Bishop Garrison, a veteran and advocate for the community, and reforming the State Department for Robert Ford, a retired diplomat. There’s even faith her common sense could lead her to reconsider some positions: Bonnie Glaser, a China expert, hopes Warren may change her mind on the TPP trade deal. 

But in a Democratic primary often fought on the terrain of the left, Warren’s cautious reform isn’t always welcome. In particular, activists point to Warren’s 2017 vote for Trump’s first defense budget as a worrying sign she won’t sufficiently challenge the status quo. 

“That money just ends up going to war,” said Moumita Ahmed, a political activist based in Queens, New York. Ahmed sought to draft Warren against Clinton in 2016 and hoped she’d make up for her lack of national security experience. Ahmed believes Warren has failed to do so ― not because she’s personally hawkish but because she hasn’t learned enough to challenge national security establishment logic. (Warren said she backed the budget bill because of its provisions to support troops and for Massachusetts; she noted, “I do not support everything in this defense bill.” At a recent debate, Sanders boasted of never supporting a Trump military budget, though he did back defense spending bills under President George W. Bush.)

“If you’re going to stand up to the military-industrial complex, you can’t go in there with lukewarm policies or milquetoast stances,” Ahmed said. “It takes guts, and she hasn’t exhibited guts to me the way Bernie has.” 

Warren also is vulnerable to attacks from the candidates perceived as more experienced, like Biden. He might warn that her proposed reforms and reduction of the U.S. role abroad risk security, a perennial concern for voters, or simply that it’s too ambitious at a point when the focus should just be undoing Trump’s damage to U.S. global leadership. 

And Warren’s historic potential to be the first woman in the job might create additional exposure to those arguments. “There’s no question that there’s an extra commander in chief test that women face,” Hurlburt said. “One of the areas where that really comes up is, ‘Who do you trust to keep us safe?’” 

Warren’s bet is that she can make voters comfortable with her approach to global affairs and in a general election chiefly present herself as more reasonable and less bellicose than Trump. National security doesn’t have to be a central issue when she has so many other plans to talk about.

But if Warren does win the White House, can she claim a popular mandate on how to conduct foreign policy, a role that’s mostly left to the president? She would need one to overhaul the national security establishment in the terms she suggests — or to respond to a crisis. And given the world she would inherit from Donald Trump, pandemonium could be just around the corner.  

Source: Read Full Article

Rare Neanderthal skeleton dug up from 'ancient cemetery' may prove species was actually 'sophisticated'

THEY'VE long been seen as our brutish ancient cousins, sporting furrowed brows and hands that dragged behind them as they walked.

But it appears Neanderthals, a human ancestor who died out 40,000 years ago, were a lot smarter than we thought.

Archaeologists have unearthed a 70,000-year-old Neanderthal skeleton in Iraq that they hope will prove once and for all that the archaic were sophisticated enough to perform death rituals.

The remains, consisting of a crushed but complete skull, rib cage and both hands, were found at the Shanidar Cave site 500 miles north of Baghdad.

Although its gender is yet to be determined, early analysis suggests the skeleton, named Shanidar Z, has the teeth of a "middle- to older-aged adult".

The cave has also been home to remains of 10 other Neanderthal people excavated around 60 years ago, with clumps of ancient pollen surrounding one of the skeletons.

The presence of pollen was seen by some archaeologists as evidence that these hominid species not only buried their dead but did so with flowers, challenging the widely-held belief that Neanderthals were dumb and animalistic.

The discovery of pollen captured the public imagination and the Shanidar Cave became famous as the "flower burial" site.

Chris Hunt, a professor of cultural paleoecology at Liverpool John Moores University, described Shanidar Z as "a truly spectacular find".

He said: "The upper remains are staggeringly complete, although the skull was flattened by compression under many tons of cave sediment.

 

Who were the Neanderthals? Our mysterious extinct cousins explained

Here's what you need to know…

  • The Neanderthals were a mysterious human ancestor who died out around 40,000 years ago.
  • Thousands of their tools, weapons and other artefacts have been found, as well as several nearly complete skeletons.
  • Neanderthals were the original 'cave men', thought for decades to be dumb and animalistic compared to humans.
  • However, a growing body of evidence suggests we've been selling Neanderthals short.
  • Their brains were bigger than ours and they indulged in cultural activities like cave painting and body art.
  • Our heavy-browed cousins even had funerary rituals, meaning they buried their dead with an afterlife in mind.
  • Having lived in Africa for many millennia, Neanderthals began to move across to Europe around 400,000 years ago.
  • Early humans followed suit far later, arriving just 60,000 years ago.
  • Neanderthals mysteriously died out shortly afterwards, possibly due to a disease pandemic or hunting by humans.
  • It's also thought our ancestors outcompeted their newfound rivals for food and shelter, eventually wiping them from the planet.

"The body was placed in a depression on the cave floor in a semi-reclining position, with a big stone lying behind the head."

Four of the 10 Neanderthals at the site were positioned in what the researchers described as a "unique assemblage", raising a question as to whether they were returning to the same spot to lay their dead.

Prof Hunt said: "We have four bodies within an area the size of a small dinner table and chairs.

"If we were dealing with modern people, this might merit the use of the word 'graveyard', but this is a step too far for our understanding of Neanderthal behaviour."

Professor Graeme Barker, from Cambridge University, said: "The new excavation suggests that some of these bodies were laid in a channel in the cave floor created by water, which had then been intentionally dug to make it deeper.

"There is strong early evidence that Shanidar Z was deliberately buried."

The team is also analysing sediment samples from Shanidar Z, along with traces of pollen and charcoal from the site, to find out more about the life of the Neanderthals.

Dr Emma Pomeroy, from Cambridge University and lead author on the study, said: "In recent years we have seen increasing evidence that Neanderthals were more sophisticated than previously thought, from cave markings to use of decorative shells and raptor talons.

"If Neanderthals were using Shanidar cave as a site of memory for the repeated ritual interment of their dead, it would suggest cultural complexity of a high order."

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

In other news, Neanderthals weren't killed off by early humans but instead went extinct due to inbreeding, according to a recent report.

In fact, our ancient ancestors are thought to have had frequent, rampant sex with Neanderthals.

The brains of our brutish ancestors were apparently just as big as early humans'.

What do you think of the incredible cave find? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Read Full Article

Secret Apple event for cheap £399 iPhone taking place on March 31, insiders claim

APPLE is reportedly planning a secret event for the end of March where a new iPhone could be announced.

The tech giant often debuts new gadgets in spring – and this year looks set to be no different.

Apple Spring Event 2020 – when is it?

In 2019, Apple held an event on Tuesday, March 25 where we saw Apple Arcade and the Apple Card unveiled.

And the year before that – on Tuesday, March 27 – Apple held an event to unveil a new iPad.

Now Apple is once again rumoured to be hosting a spring event in 2020.

According to German gadget blog iPhone Ticker, the event will be held on March 31.

That's a Tuesday, which fits in with Apple's launches in previous years.

Apple March 31 event news and rumours – what to expect

As always, Apple is keeping its announcements under tight wraps – but there are leaks aplenty.

The headline announcement is expected to be the iPhone 9.

According to insiders and experts, it will be a cheap phone retailing at just $399/£399.

To keep the cost down, Apple is said to be using the old iPhone 8-style design – rather than the newer iPhone 11 look.

And fancy features like Face ID facial recognition are unlikely to be included.

According to experts, the handset could go on sale as soon as April 3.

Apple is also tipped to be working on a new iPad Pro.

The last iPad Pro update took place nearly two years ago, so fans are keen for an upgrade.

Another rumoured launch is of the Apple AirTags.

These Tile-style trackers are supposed to strap onto your belongings, letting you locate them via a smartphone app.

A very recent rumour suggests Apple is also working on some cheap new wireless earbuds.

These so-called AirPods Lite may not even exist – and even if they do, they could launch much later in the year.

Still, there's hope for cash-strapped music fans.

Another audio gadget reportedly in the pipeline is a pair of premium wireless Apple over-ear headphones.

Apple already flogs fancy over-ears through its Beats brand, but a proper headphone version of the AirPods could be a winner.

Finally, we're expecting updates to Apple's MacBook line.

One of the main new MacBook upgrades is likely to be the introduction of the improved keyboard featured on Apple's new 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Will there be anything else? It's hard to say at this point, but Apple does have a habit of making surprise announcements during launch events.

We won't know the truth until the day, so take all rumours and leaks with a pinch of salt for now.

In other news, Apple may preparing to launch four new iPhone 12 models later this year.

The iPhone 12 could be the thinnest ever thanks to new screen technology.

And the new phone could also see through mist and fog thanks to rumoured 'Spectral Edge' camera integration.

What new gadgets would you like to see Apple announce next month? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Read Full Article

HSBC and Glencore drag London stocks into the red

A sharp fall in the FTSE 100’s most heavily weighted stock — HSBC — dragged the U.K. index deep into the red on Tuesday.

The index UKX, -0.85% slumped 0.8% to 7375.17, with HSBC out in front with a more than 6% drop after the U.K. banking giant said it may cut 35,000 jobs as it embarks on a plan to scale back operations in Europe and the U.S. That’s as profit fell 53% in 2019 and the bank said it would suspend buybacks over 2020 and 2021.

Also contributing to the slump, shares of heavyweight Glencore PLC GLEN, -3.57% slid over 4% after the multinational commodity trading and mining company said it swung to a loss in 2019 as it wrote down $2.8 billion in assets linked to coal and other assets. That led to losses across the mining sector, with Evraz EVR, -4.23% down over 4% and BHP Group BHP, -2.62%BHP, -0.60% falling 3.4%.

Data showed pay growth in the U.K. slowed at the end of 2019 and productivity flatlined, a fresh indication of economic weakness that has prompted calls for a cut in U.K. interest rates from some Bank of England policy makers.

Also weighing on U.K. stocks was a 0.3% rise in the pound GBPUSD, +0.2307% against the dollar to $1.3044, recovering losses from Monday when leading U.K. diplomat David Frost said the U.K. would not align with the EU over environmental and labor issues because it would defeat the point of Brexit. Many of the biggest companies in the FTSE 100 generate a chunk of their revenue outside of the U.K., so a strong pound makes them less competitive.

London stocks also tracked global equities lower as a warning from Apple AAPL, +0.02% linked to the coronavirus outbreak rattled investors.

Source: Read Full Article