China Suspends Link Between Shanghai, London Exchanges; Japan’s GPIF is right — short selling is downright irresponsible

Jan 2, 2020

First Read

Hits & Takes
By JLN Staff

Welcome to 2020, a new decade for new opportunities and personal and professional growth.~JJL

A group from my church is traveling to Germany in August of this year to see “The Great Passion Play” in Oberammergau, Germany. Every 10 years the community of Oberammergau presents the passion play as a thank you for ending the plague passing through the city back in the Middle Ages.~JJL

Cheryl and I are looking for ideas of places and things to see and visit before or after our trip there. Ideas are welcome.~JJL

JLN is looking for sponsors for our Open Outcry Traders History Project video series for 2020. The deal we had with Cboe ended at the end of the year. If you are interested in sponsoring this series, contact me at

The FIA Boca Raton conference is less than two and a half months away. JLN will again have its video team down there. Please contact me if you have an interest in setting up an interview at Boca.~JJL

Between the holidays, the National Futures Association announced that their Annual Meeting for members will be on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. Central Time, in the offices of NFA, 300 S. Riverside Plaza, 18th Floor, Chicago, IL.~JJL


Stockpickers need to prove they are worth it; Ordinary savers have been let down by the industry and regulators
The editorial board – FT
Last year was a bleak one for Britain’s active fund managers, who face the prospect of an unhappy New Year to come. 2019 will be remembered as the year when the industry’s talisman, the star stockpicker Neil Woodford, was shown to have feet of clay and had his flagship fund wound up. One of his protégés, and another of the old-school active managers, Mark Barnett of Invesco, was shown the door after his fund’s performance flagged. There have been unflattering revelations about the sales tactics and incentives at St James Capital, a traditional home for upper-middle class retirement savings. As if that were not enough, Mr Woodford’s demise shone a harsh light on the promotion of active funds at Hargreaves Lansdown, the popular money-management platform in the UK.

*****This FT editorial is sponsored by “The Great Mutual Fund Trap: An Investment Recovery Plan,” a book by Gregory Baer and Gary Gensler.~JJL


Video games are easy channel for money launderers; Publisher of ‘Counter-Strike’ admits in-game items sold are part of massive fraud
Tim Bradshaw – FT
In Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a popular video game developed and published by Seattle-based Valve, players can choose to become terrorists — planting bombs and holding hostages — or counter-terrorist fighters who take on the bad guys.

*****I wonder if video games allow you to exchange value in cryptocurrencies? Hmmm?~JJL


Tuesday’s Top Three
Our most read story on Tuesday – New Year’s Eve – was “Why this bank is ditching Libor” from American Banker, about a bank in Birmingham, Alabama that is an early adopter of Ameribor. Second was Financial News’s “Cboe target EuroCCP seeks EUR1.5bn credit line to tackle stress test weaknesses.” Third was “Ethereum Developer Virgil Griffith to Be Released on Bail to Parents.” Griffith is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by traveling to North Korea for a cryptocurrency conference organized by the government in Pyongyang.


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Lead Stories

China Suspends Link Between Shanghai, London Exchanges
Bloomberg News
No time line given for when Shanghai-London link will resume; Suspension a setback to U.K.-China relations as Brexit looms
China has temporarily halted a tie-up between the Shanghai and London stock exchanges, according to people familiar with the decision. The move to suspend the Shanghai-London Stock Connect program was prompted by political considerations and no time line has been given for when it will resume, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private. The China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Shanghai Stock Exchange did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while representatives for the London Stock Exchange and U.K. Treasury declined to comment.

Japan’s GPIF is right — short selling is downright irresponsible; Income earned on lending stock is more than offset by negative impact on share prices
Charles Plowden – FT
When the Japanese Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) announced it was going to stop stock lending, the decision was met with a mixed response from commentators.

Buying or Selling Stocks? It Isn’t Always Easy; Federal Reserve sounds warning as data suggests liquidity is becoming a growing problem
Gunjan Banerji – WSJ
Stocks are flying high. Buying and selling them can be tougher than it seems. Liquidity—how readily sellers can find buyers and buyers can find sellers—has been on the decline. That can mean higher costs and more volatile prices. The problem can touch traders big and small, from pension funds looking to hedge positions to retail traders jumping in and out of individual stocks.

Insider-Trading Prosecutions Just Got Easier With Court Ruling
Bob Van Voris – Bloomberg
Decision offers way around ‘personal benefit’ requirement; Appeals court upholds insider convictions under Sarbanes-Oxley
Prosecutors have a stronger hand going after insider trading following a court ruling that lowered the bar for bringing cases. The federal appeals court in Manhattan on Monday said the government may pursue insider-trading charges under a newer securities-fraud law not subject to a key requirement of the statute prosecutors traditionally use. The change will make it much easier to bring cases, particularly against those who trade on illegal tips passed to them indirectly and who may not know the source personally.

China halts tie-up between Shanghai and London exchanges; Cross-border listing scheme’s suspension comes as UK government criticises handling of HK protests
Sun Yu, Yuan Yang and Philip Stafford – FT
China has halted a flagship scheme for cross-border listings between the Shanghai and London stock exchanges, according to people familiar with the matter, amid UK government criticism of the crackdown on demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Private Equity Is Starting 2020 With More Cash Than Ever Before
Melissa Karsh and Benjamin Robertson – Bloomberg
Industry has $1.5 trillion in unspent capital, a record; There was about $450 billion worth of PE deals in 2019
Private equity firms are ready to pounce in 2020, armed with a record level of cash. Firms led by Blackstone Group Inc. and Carlyle Group LP have amassed almost $1.5 trillion in unspent capital, the highest year-end total on record, according to data compiled by Preqin. While last year saw roughly $450 billion worth of private equity deals, M&A activity this year could be on a scale not seen since the financial crisis.

A $100 Billion Fund Manager Lists His Fears as Sweden Hits Zero
Rafaela Lindeberg – Bloomberg
Tony Persson helps manage about $100 billion at one of Sweden’s biggest pension funds. Unlike many of his peers across Europe, he operates in a country that’s just taken the historic step of quitting negative interest rates.

China emerges as fifth biggest Euroclear shareholder; Central bank’s sovereign wealth fund for investing foreign reserves has held stake for at least 5 years
Philip Stafford – FT
China’s main sovereign wealth fund for investing its foreign reserves has emerged as the fifth-biggest shareholder in Euroclear, one of the world’s largest central securities depositories.

Lessons From Japan’s ‘Lost Decades’; A record-long U.S. bull market hasn’t stopped investors from asking: Is Japanification coming this way, too?
Akane Otani – WSJ
The S&P 500 has soared 800% over the past 30 years, overcoming bear markets and a financial crisis. It almost seems as if stocks can’t go down, at least not for long.

How To Really Help Free North Koreans Through Crypto
Yaya Fanusie – Forbes
A few weeks ago, the FBI arrested an Alabama-born computer programmer for allegedly helping the North Korean regime evade U.S. sanctions through blockchain technology. According to the indictment, Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith provided technical education at an April 2019 blockchain conference in Pyongyang run by the regime. He also reportedly conspired to send cryptocurrency between North Korea and South Korea and encouraged other Americans to attend another Pyongyang blockchain conference scheduled for 2020.

Exchanges, OTC and Clearing

Boerse Stuttgart generates 2019 turnover of around EUR 68.5 billion
Boerse Stuttgart
High growth in exchange-traded products // Boerse Stuttgart is Germany’s leading exchange for securitised derivatives and corporate bonds. Based on the order book statistics, turnover from all trading activities at Boerse Stuttgart amounted to around EUR 68.5 billion in 2019 – 3,7 percent less than in the previous year.

SGX RegCo forms working group to review retail bonds framework
Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) has set up a working group of industry professionals and investors to review the retail bonds regulatory framework.

SGX welcomes Orient Futures International as Derivatives Trading and Clearing Member
Singapore Exchange (SGX) welcomes Orient Futures International (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. as a Trading and Clearing Member of its derivatives market. Orient Futures International is a wholly owned subsidiary of Orient Futures Co., Ltd. and ultimately owned by Orient Securities Co., Ltd., a constituent of the SSE 50 Index. It is spearheading Orient Futures’ internationalisation initiatives to provide brokerage services to a suite of capital markets products.

Appointment of HKEX Risk Management Committee (Statutory) Members
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) welcomes Daisy Cheung, the new chairman of the Hong Kong Interbank Clearing Limited (HKICL), to its Risk Management Committee (Statutory) (RMC). Her appointment was in accordance with the Securities and Futures Ordinance. Ms Cheung replaced Gao Yingxin, the HKICL’s former chairman, on the RMC.

Xetra-Gold holdings rose to 203.2 tons at the end of the year; Growth of 21.7 tons compared to the previous year / Europe’s largest gold security with physical deposit
Deutsche Börse Group
The gold holdings of the exchange-traded Xetra-Gold bearer bond (ISIN: DE000A0S9GB0) rose to 203.2 tonnes at the end of 2019. This is an increase of 21.7 tons over the course of the year. At the beginning of January 2019, 181.5 tons of gold were still stored in the central safe for German securities in Frankfurt. Xetra-Gold is the leading physically deposited gold security in Europe.


Banks Look to Virtual Data Warehouses to Unify Trading Desks; As emerging technologies and greater computing power have brought about new analytical tools and capabilities, adding a virtual layer could help take the burden off the traditional data warehouse.
Wei-Shen Wong – Waters Technology
Deutsche Bank has been looking for an efficient way to pull trading data across its fixed income, credit, and foreign exchange (FX) desks, which traditionally, and like in many other organizations, sit in different databases. In the words of two DB executives, bringing that data together proved to be “much more than a technical challenge.”

JPMorgan to ban fintech apps from using customer passwords; Bank will issue tokens for third parties to access data in effort to tighten security
Laura Noonan – FT
JPMorgan Chase has vowed to ban fintech apps from using customer passwords to access their bank accounts, forcing tougher security standards some three years after chief executive Jamie Dimon first warned about the dangers of data-sharing.

Why Big Brother Doesn’t Bother Most Chinese; For now at least, citizens are embracing social-credit systems that can establish greater trust between people and businesses.
Adam Minter – Bloomberg
Who says government can’t innovate? In one Chinese city, the local court system recently launched a smartphone-based map that displays the location and identity of anyone within 500 meters who’s landed on a government creditworthiness blacklist. Worried the person seated next to you at Starbucks might not have paid a court-approved fine? The Deadbeat Map, as it’s known, provides pinpoint confirmation, the ability to share that information via social media and — if so inclined — a reporting function to notify the authorities.

Fintechs Will Have Some Big Tech Competition In 2020
Donna Fuscaldo – Forbes
Fintechs may be the apple of venture capitalists eyes but they won’t be transforming the financial services market alone in 2020. They will have some of the nation’s biggest tech companies to contend with. This year has been all about the financial technology startups that raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, some now sporting valuations of more than $1 billion. These fintechs have been busy disrupting everything from banking to investing, landing millions of customers along the way. Some have out grown the traditional players, forcing entire industries to waive fees and slash commissions. That hasn’t been lost on technology companies, which began testing the waters in 2019.

Banks and tech will finally get married in the 2020s: Wells Fargo’s Mike Mayo
Julie Hyman – Yahoo Finance
Bank stocks are capping off their best year since 2009. Veteran bank analyst Mike Mayo thinks the next decade will be ever better thanks to the coming banking fully embracing technology.

Why stock market traders should be terrified of robots in the next decade
Brian Sozzi -Yahoo Finance
The mighty algorithmic robots that have dominated global markets over the past decade — spitting out insane swings in asset prices in the process — will probably get even mightier during the next decade. One end result: Successfully trading the stock market will become even tougher for most.


Ethereum completes Muir Glacier hard fork update
Celia Wan – The Block
The Ethereum mainnet has just undergone the Muir Glacier hard fork, less than a month after its Istanbul update on Dec. 8. The Muir Glacier update was activated at Block number 9,200,000 on Jan. 2, 2020, with only one improvement proposal, EIP 2384. The proposal aims to delay the difficulty bomb, a built-in algorithm of the Ethereum blockchain that could drastically increase the difficulty in mining a new block if left unaccounted for. The update is designed to delay the difficulty bomb for another 4,000,000 blocks, or approximately 611 days.

Bitcoin is a ‘pyramid scheme,’ says an economist
Yogita Khatri – The Block
Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at Nasdaq-listed online lending marketplace Lending Tree, has said that bitcoin is a “pyramid scheme.”

Bitcoin Rebounded in 2019, but Challenges Loom
Paul Vigna – The Wall Street Journal
Bitcoin’s price rebounded sharply in 2019, but by other measures it was a less bullish year. The price of bitcoin has nearly doubled since Dec. 31, 2018, rising to $7,155 from about $3,690. However, it is down almost 50% from its 2019 high of $13,879 on June 26. That performance is better than its closest competitors. The total value of the cryptocurrency market has risen to $192 billion from $125.3 billion a year ago, and nearly all of that gain has come from bitcoin. Most of the “altcoins” are down. Ether, trading at $128.40 Tuesday, is going to finish the year down a hair, about 2.2%. XRP will finish off about 46%, currently trading at 19 cents.

South Korea Exempts Taxation on Crypto Profits
Arnab Shome – Finance Magnates
To ease the confusion of crypto taxation, the South Korean government has decided not to impose any taxation on earnings from digital asset trading. The clarification came in a recent announcement by the country’s Ministry of Finance and Strategy, per which, crypto trading profits cannot be taxed under the current laws.

Electricity Shortage Forces China to Crackdown on Crypto Mining
Arnab Shome – Finance Magnates
The local authorities of the Chinese province of Sichuan are clamping down on Bitcoin mining operations in the region amid a power shortage. Reported by the Asia Times, the authorities are not only going after the mining operators but also after the power stations for supplying electricity to these businesses.

Crypto miner Argo Blockchain installing new Bitmain machines to increase its capacity by 75%
Yogita Khatri – The Block
Cryptocurrency miner Argo Blockchain is installing new 3,616 Bitmain machines to increase its mining capacity by 75%.

A new crypto bank, by former Starling co-founder, could soon launch
Yogita Khatri – The Block
Ziglu, a new cryptocurrency-friendly bank by former Starling Bank co-founder and CTO Mark Hipperson, could soon launch. Hipperson founded Ziglu in September 2018 and has been preparing to publicly launch the bank later this month. The Ziglu app is currently available in beta form. London-based Ziglu aims to bring the best of challenger banks and cryptocurrency exchanges to create “one truly complete current account,” according to information from its website.

Former MakerDAO contributor Nikolai Mushegian donates $1.3M to Carnegie Mellon University for DeFi research
Yogita Khatri – The Block
Nikolai Mushegian, a former technical partner for the MakerDAO project, has donated 3,200 MKR tokens (currently worth about $1.38 million) to his alma mater – Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Mushegian said the purpose of his donation is to set up a research program for decentralized finance (DeFi) protocols and decentralized applications (dapps). The funds will be utilized for sponsoring research of Master’s and Ph.D. students. The research agenda and a concrete plan of action are expected to get published over the next few weeks.

Bitcoin’s Next Decade Will Be Shaped by Derivatives
Kai Sedgwick –
The last five years have been a test phase for bitcoin derivatives, which began tentatively when Bitmex eased into life in 2014. Now, as the cryptoconomy prepares to enter a new decade, derivatives products will play a pivotal role in price discovery. 2020 will be a big year for bitcoin and for the futures markets where billions of dollars will be won and lost, and the next bull market will begin.


Bernie Sanders Says He Raised $34.5 Million in the Fourth Quarter; Mr. Sanders’s total is the largest three-month haul disclosed by any Democratic candidate so far, but he trailed President Trump, whose campaign reported raising $46 million in the quarter.
Sydney Ember and Thomas Kaplan – NY Times
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised more than $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, his presidential campaign said Thursday, yet another display of his enduring financial might fueled by a huge base of grass-roots donors.

Farmers Got Billions From Taxpayers In 2019, And Hardly Anyone Objected
Dan Charles – NPR
In 2019, the federal government delivered an extraordinary financial aid package to America’s farmers. Farm subsidies jumped to their highest level in fourteen years, most of them paid out without any action by Congress.

With Trump’s farm bailout came surprising profits, but little help for the neediest
Andrew Van Dam and Laris Karklis – Washington Post
In 2019, the farm belt felt about as hospitable as the asteroid belt. Record rainfall turned fields to sludge and made it nigh-on impossible to plant corn and soybeans until long after the typical window had passed. President Trump’s long-running trade war cut off farmers’ access to China’s enormous market. Across the farm sector, commodity prices remained in the doldrums.

Buttigieg Campaign Raised $24.7 Million in Fourth Quarter; With about $76 million in total last year, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor was one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic presidential field
Julie Bykowicz – WSJ
Pete Buttigieg raised $24.7 million in the final three months of the year, his campaign said Wednesday. That brings the former South Bend, Ind., mayor’s total last year to about $76 million, making him one of the best fundraisers in the Democratic presidential field.

U.S. Taking Democracy for Granted, Chief Justice Roberts Says
Greg Stohr – Bloomberg
Roberts cites need for civic education in his year-end report; He will soon preside over Trump’s Senate impeachment trial
The U.S. has “come to take democracy for granted,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, urging his fellow judges to keep educating the public about the workings of the federal government and the Constitution.

Psst, Mike Bloomberg — this is why most workers hate open-plan offices
Nicole Lyn Pesce – MarketWatch
The Democratic presidential candidates have plenty of big plans for if/when they take over the White House, including erasing student debt, expanding health-care coverage, building more affordable housing and addressing climate change.

Trump Campaign Raised $46 Million in Fourth Quarter; Cash stands at more than $100 million headed into election year
By Catherine Lucey – WSJ
President Trump’s re-election campaign said Thursday that it raised $46 million in the final quarter of 2019, putting it ahead of the pace of potential Democratic general-election rivals.

What Democrats Can Do After the Senate Acquits Trump; They can sue to prevent the president from trying to rig the election.
By Thomas Geoghegan – Bloomberg
Here’s a message to Democrats and all patriots: Don’t give up when the Senate acquits Donald Trump. File suit right away to prevent him from going to any foreign government to fix the election.


ASIC warns Treasurer on risky funds
John Kehoe – AFR
Dozens of listed investment funds that have raised tens of billions of dollars from retail investors are rife with “poor performance” and are paying “conflicted” commissions to financial advisers for “worse” returns, the securities regulator has warned Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

Chocolate companies ask for a taste of government regulation; The announcement by Mars Wrigley, Mondelez and other companies is a departure from current reliance on voluntary measures
Peter Whoriskey – Washington Post
Some of the world’s largest chocolate companies are acknowledging widespread child labor on cocoa farms and calling for regulations to discourage the practice, particularly in West Africa, the source of most of the global supply.

Investing and Trading

The Euro Has Never Been This Calm; Despite a lackluster year for growth, the common currency had its narrowest yearly trading range against the dollar since its inception in 1999
Caitlin Ostroff – WSJ
The euro had its calmest year ever, shrugging off its reputation as a volatile reflection of Europe’s perennially weak economy and never-ending political misfortunes. Currency watchers seem to think the quiet can continue.

Grim repo: how the Fed plans to return crucial market to normal; US central bank averted a year-end cash crunch, but stepping back is now a challenge
Colby Smith and Joe Rennison – FT
When a crucial US financing market went haywire in September, the Federal Reserve resolved to do everything in its power to avoid a repeat at the end of the year.

US stocks close out decade with 190% gain; Markets scorecard: top performers of 2019 and the past 10 years
FT reporters
US stocks wrapped up one of their best years on record in 2019, rounding out a decade-long rally that began in the embers of the financial crisis, writes Richard Henderson.

Time for investors to rethink government bonds; Persistent negative interest rates are undermining their safe haven role
Katie Martin – FT
They say no one rings a bell at the top of the market. Major shifts in investment patterns are typically easy to identify in hindsight but hard to see happening in real time.

Traders twiddle thumbs as volatility fades in currency markets; Analysts blame flat yield curves and low base rates for lack of FX opportunities
Eva Szalay- FT
Currency traders will not look back on 2019 with any great fondness. While stock and bond markets ripped higher yet again, producing double-digit returns for investors, foreign exchange markets moved so little that key measures of inactivity twice broke historical records. Trading ranges for major currencies were the narrowest since the Bretton Woods system broke up, and the modern FX market began to take form, back in 1973.

How investors see 2020 shaping up in US financial markets; Modest equity gains, nerves over inflation and politics dominate the outlook
Jennifer Ablan, Colby Smith, Richard Henderson and Joe Rennison – FT
The US equity and bond rally that everyone hates will continue in 2020. That is the verdict from some of the biggest strategists and investors on Wall Street.

Energy Producers’ New Year’s Resolution: Pay the Tab for the Shale Drilling Bonanza; North American oil-and-gas companies have more than $200 billion of debt maturing over the next four years
Ryan Dezember – WSJ
The bill is coming due for the shale industry’s price war with OPEC. North American oil-and-gas companies have more than $200 billion of debt maturing over the next four years, starting with more than $40 billion in 2020, according to Moody’s Investors Service.


Steve Cohen one of few bright spots in bad year for hedge funds
Thornton McEnery – NY Post
The hedge fund industry’s bloodbath continued in 2019 with more hedge funds shutting down than launching for the fifth year in a row. Some 540 hedge funds had liquidated by the end of October, according to Hedge Fund Research. Meanwhile, the number of funds to have opened last year is projected to fall short of 500 — marking the fewest new funds since 2000, according to HFR data.

Clark’s Hedge Fund Plunges by Record 35% as Short Bets Backfire
Nishant Kumar – Bloomberg
Russell Clark’s hedge fund slumped by 35% last year — its biggest-ever annual loss — as his short bets went awry during the longest bull market in history.
he Horseman Global Fund has persistently wagered against equities since 2012, and raised its net short position to a record 111% of gross assets in October. Clark’s bold, contrarian move, which has made him one of the most watched hedge fund managers in the world, backfired as the S&P 500 index surged 31.5% last year.

Hedge funds reel in profits from salmon scraps
Laurence Fletcher – Finance Magnates
An obscure Norwegian company that converts salmon offcuts into healthcare products has netted gains for some big-name hedge funds in recent months. Shares in Norway-based Hofseth BioCare have soared by nearly 270 per cent since late June, making it one of the best-performing stocks across Europe in the second half of 2019. That has delivered a profit for investors including London-based Lansdowne Partners, one of Europe’s biggest equity hedge funds, and Mike Novogratz, the former Goldman Sachs partner and Fortress hedge fund manager who now heads cryptocurrency merchant bank Galaxy Digital. Both have bought into the stock in recent months, according to people familiar with the matter.

State Street CEO Takes the Long View on Shareholder Activism; Ronald O’Hanley discusses the investing giant’s push to target all-male boards and whether index funds can own too much of the stock market
Justin Baer – WSJ
As CEO of State Street Corp., STT -0.33% Ronald O’Hanley is on the front lines of shareholders’ push to bring change to corporate boardrooms.


China’s ‘potash king’ fails to sell assets in online fire sale; Qinghai Salt Lake faces stock market delisting after auction for billions of dollars of assets flops
Don Weinland – FT
A large, state-owned Chinese company failed to attract bidders for billions of dollars of assets it tried to sell on an ecommerce website, putting it at risk of a stock market delisting this year and underlining the grim economic outlook for local governments across the country.

Jack Ma’s Ant Financial Joins Singapore Digital Banking Race
Lulu Yilun Chen – Bloomberg
Grab, Razer have announced bids for full digital licenses; Singapore opens up banking sector to create more competition
Billionaire Jack Ma’s Ant Financial has applied for a digital banking license in Singapore, as China’s largest online financial platform steps up efforts to expand outside the mainland.

Stock Picking in Japan Is Like Rummaging Through a Thrift Shop; Thirty years ago, when Japanese stocks hit a record, the entire market seemed like a hot startup
Peter Landers – WSU
Once a place of heroic assumptions about growth, the Tokyo stock market has turned into one of the globe’s biggest bargain bins.

The World Is on Fire Heading Into a New Decade. Happy New Year; The world’s climate emissions have grown for the third straight year. Scientists say we must cut them in half by 2030.
Jack Holmes – Esquire
Someday we will realize as a species that we are living on a particularly hospitable rock in a galactic backwater and it’s the only planet we’ve got. We are not going to Mars.
Maybe like eight people will go to Mars. When exactly does Elon Musk—or any of the other rocket-fixated billionaire narcissists who should be taxed—think we’ll be able to move enough people to another planet to abandon this one? Are the 7 billion people who will be stuck here even a concern? Or are they just casualties to the rapacious consumption of the relative few, among whom an even smaller group will be chosen to keep the human race alive on another space rock where you can’t breathe the air?


Will Brexit Bring the Troubles Back to Northern Ireland? As the United Kingdom confronts the prospect of dissolution, old factions are bracing for the possibility of new violence.
James Angelos – NY Times
Belfast, like Berlin and Sarajevo, draws many visitors not despite its history of murderous conflict but because of it. Guides there take tourists to “peace walls,” the tall barricades of corrugated metal and concrete erected during the sectarian conflict, known as the Troubles, that began in 1968 and ravaged Northern Ireland for three decades. The walls were built to divide Protestant and Catholic enclaves and to prevent people from killing one another as the spiraling cycle of attacks took hold. Today tourists from around the world visit the walls and take selfies. This type of tourism is more peculiar in Belfast than in some other cities shaped by a legacy of atrocity. You can visit the intact parts of the Berlin Wall, for instance, with the knowledge that the wall no longer serves its original purpose. In Belfast, however, the walls are still there to divide, their continued presence deemed necessary to prevent a resurgence of violence.

Ireland Issues Record Number of Passports as Brexit Date Nears
Peter Flanagan – Bloomberg
Ireland issued a record number of passports in 2019 as applications from its citizens in the U.K. surged amid Brexit uncertainty.

UK companies turn a little less gloomy over Brexit impact: BoE survey
Andy Bruce – Reuters
British businesses turned less gloomy last month about Brexit’s eventual impact even though they expected the uncertainty to persist for longer, according to a survey conducted either side of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s election win.

Let’s get Brexit done and end division in 2020, Johnson tells Britons
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would bring his divided nation back together next year when Britain leaves the European Union, telling Britons they were set for a “fantastic year and a remarkable decade”.

Britain’s M&G keeps freeze on $3.3 billion property fund
Carolyn Cohn – Reuters
British insurer and asset manager M&G (MNG.L) will continue the suspension of its 2.5 billion pound ($3.30 billion) property funds, it said on Thursday, after selling 70.4 million pounds of real estate assets to raise cash. M&G said on Dec. 4 that it was freezing the M&G Property Portfolio and its feeder fund after Brexit uncertainty and weakness in the retail sector led to a surge in investor requests to cash out.


Chuck Peddle’s $25 Microprocessor Ignited Computer Market; Engineer led team whose cheap device, launched in 1975, made desktop machines affordable
James R. Hagerty – WSU
Though he never became a household name, Chuck Peddle was among the peers of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in the 1970s who transformed personal computers from curiosities for geeky hobbyists into essential tools for the masses.

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