Good morning, Q-MHI readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY AND OVER THE WEEKEND
US metal tariffs take effect. Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, and the EU, however, are exempt from the 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum. Japan, one of America’s closest allies, is notably absent from the list of exemptions.
Dropbox starts trading. The data-storage company priced its IPO at the top of an anticipated range (paywall), suggesting strong demand for new tech shares as many startups have shunned going public. Dropbox could be valued at over $9 billion.
British investigators get a warrant to search Cambridge Analytica. A judge had delayed the process for 24 hours for unknown reasons, prompting some to worry about the integrity of evidence.The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) declined to comment on the reason for the delay.“A High Court judge has adjourned the ICO’s application for a warrant relating to Cambridge Analytica until Friday,” a spokeswoman said.
ICO head Elizabeth Denham said three days ago she was seeking a warrant to access the offices of Cambridge Analytica after Britain’s Channel 4 news secretly recorded its executives boasting of their ability to sway elections.Denham said then it would not take long for her organization to obtain the warrant.
Americans march for gun control. A nationwide demonstration called “March for Our Lives,” organized by survivors of last month’s school shooting in Florida, will take place on Sunday.
The first commercial non-stop flight from Australia to Britain takes off. Qantas’ new kangaroo route will fly from Perth to London in 17 hours. The airline’s first flights to London in the 1940s took four days with seven stops.
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India’s growth formula. With its impressive economic growth, India is pulling ahead of other emerging markets. How are government programmes and other factors driving growth and attracting investment?
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
The US-China trade war kicked off… After Donald Trump announced tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, Beijing said it may it may impose reciprocal tariffs on a potential list of $3 billion worth of 128 US products, including pork and steel pipes. China’s US ambassador said that his country isn’t afraid of a trade war.
… and markets shuddered. Markets across Europe and Asia plunged, and other exposed assets took a hit, like the Turkish lira, which dropped to a record low. China-listed pork producers saw shares jump; the opposite happened at internationally focused WH Group (paywall), the world’s largest pork producer.
Trump got a new national security adviser. After H.R. McMaster quit, Trump replaced him with John Bolton, a national security hawk who has been advocating for a military strike against North Korea.Bolton is best known for his controversial role as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, an appointment made by president George W. Bush over the objections of dozens of former diplomats and Democrats in Congress. “If it lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference,” Bolton memorably said a decade before taking that job. The UN headquarters building is 38 stories.
He has worked since then as a consultant for the National Rifle Association, the American Enterprise Institute, and Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. In 2013, Bolton appeared in a video by Russian gun-rights group The Right To Bear Arms, NPR reported this week. The FBI is reportedly examining links between the NRA and Russian donors.More recently, Bolton may have played a role in influencing Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He is on the board of directors of the Jewish Institute of National Security of America, an anti-Iran, pro-Israel think tank.
McMaster is the 25th senior official (paywall) to leave Trump’s White House since the president’s inauguration.“After 34 years of serving our nation, I am requesting retirement from the US Army effective this summer, after which I will leave public service,” McMaster said in a statement on Thursday.McMaster himself was tapped to replace Michael Flynn in February last year. Flynn left his post after it was revealed that he had lied to vice president Mike Pence and the FBI about his contact with Russia.McMaster’s clash with Trump came down mostly to a personality conflict, a senior White House official said last week. McMaster had a reputation for direct and unvarnished style of speaking, and didn’t hesitate to tell the president or anyone else in his cabinet when he thought Trump was wrong.
The US Senate okayed a $1.3 trillion government spending bill.The upper chamber approved the bill early Friday, heading off a government shutdown and keeping agencies running until the end of September. The bill, which includes big increases in both military and non-defense spending, now goes to Trump for sign-off.
Tencent took a big hit. The company’s shares fell almost 8% in Hong Kong after South African telecoms company and major shareholder Naspers said it would sell 2% of its stake in the Chinese internet giant. Naspers invested $32 million in the Shenzhen-based company in 2001, a stake that is now worth $175 billion.
Q-MHI OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Olivia Goldhill on the surge in sexual identities. “The newly created identities, many of which originated in the past decade, reduce the focus on gender—for either the subject or object of desire—in establishing sexual attraction. ‘Demisexual,’ for example, is entirely unrelated to gender, while other terms emphasize the gender of the object of attraction, but not the gender of the subject.”
MATTERS OF DEBATE
NRA boycotts force companies to walk a precarious tightrope. The speed of social media scares firms into attempts to boost prestige without thinking things through.These boycotts appeared to gain more traction than normal after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Several retailers announced restrictions on gun sales at their stores, and other companies announced that they would no longer offer discounts to NRA members.
Two professors at the Kellogg School of Management, Brayden King and Tim Calkins, recently sat down to explore this strategy. King, a professor of management and organizations, has researched what makes boycotts effective. Calkins, a clinical professor of marketing, focuses on how companies build strong, profitable brands.
Chairs are the new paintings. Wealthy collectors are increasingly putting their money into designer furniture rather than wall hangings.
Cambridge Analytica isn’t the first practitioner of electoral dark arts. As long as there have been elections, there have been shadowy actors looking to fix the results (paywall).Adam Taylor explained, the company has arguably had a bigger impact in other parts of the world, often through front organizations that obscure its fingerprints.
Cambridge Analytica claims to have worked in a wide range of countries, including Australia, Brazil, Malaysia and Mexico. Reports suggest that’s nowhere near a complete list; an affiliated company named SCL Group, which founded Cambridge Analytica in 2013, had offices in Asia and Latin America and is known to have been involved in Indian local elections in 2010.
A Mexican cryptocurrency is backed by habanero peppers. A grower of the ultra-spicy pepper created Agrocoin (paywall) to attract smaller investors.This isn’t the first vegetable-related blockchain enterprise.
In August last year, startup company Ripe began tracking tomato quality using the technology. Louis Dreyfus Co., one of the world’s biggest foodstuffs traders, used a blockchain platform to sell a cargo of U.S. soybeans to China’s Shandong Bohi Industry Co. in January.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is much bigger than we thought. About 16 times bigger, in fact.To put that in perspective, the researchers note that 80,000 tons of plastic has the heft of 500 jumbo jets.About 46% of the total mass of the patch is made up of discarded fishing gear.
The rest is trillions of pieces consumer plastic, swept off land and into the sea.Much of the plastic that ends up in the water breaks down into “microplastics” after a few years at sea. Microplastics are extremely small fragments of plastic, classified as anything between 0.05 centimeters (.02 inches) to 0.5 cm in diameter. In total, the new study estimates there are 1.8 trillion plastic pieces, or 250 for every person on earth. Of them, 94% are microplastics, according to the researchers.
American sperm is in high demand in Brazil. Wealthy single women and lesbian couples want sperm that will give them children with light skin and blue eyes (paywall).
With “jewel-tone eyes,” blond hair and a “smattering of light freckles,” Othello looks nothing like most Brazilians, the majority of whom are black or mixed-race. Yet the “Caucasian” American cashier, described in those terms by the Seattle Sperm Bank and known as Donor 9601, is one of the sperm providers most often requested by wealthy Brazilian women importing the DNA of young U.S. men at unprecedented rates.
South Korea will shut down computers to stop overwork. State employees will have to wrap up by 8pm on Fridays.The programme was begin on 30 March, with all computers switched off by 20:00.The second phase starts in April, with employees having their computers turned off by 19:30 on the second and fourth Friday that month.From May on, the programme will be in full-swing, with computers shut off by 19:00 every Friday.According to a SMG statement, all employees will be subjected to the shutdown, though exemptions may be provided in special circumstances.