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November 19th – The BESA Times

Fifty-Eighth Edition - Monday, 19th Every week, a complete snapshot of what happened around the world in the past seven days


Thursday was a day of political drama in Germany – it was the first time the three candidates to replace Ms. Merkel as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, Friedrich Merz, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Jens Spahn, had appeared together on stage. Ms. Merkel set the process in motion with her surprise decision last month to step down as CDU leader following months of strife in her grand coalition and a dismal performance by the Christian Democrats in elections in the western region of Hesse. This was the first of eight encounters in the lead-up to the election for party boss in Hamburg on December 7 — an unprecedented exercise in democracy for a party that traditionally chooses its leaders behind closed doors. Mr. Merz appeared to be CDU members’ clear favorite. He would, he promised, give the CDU a fresh start and inject a new spirit of democracy into the one of Germany’s most venerable political movements. He would re-establish the CDU’s brand as the party of law and order, of security and the constitution. And he would win back disaffected conservatives who had switched to the far-right alternative for Germany.

The CIA has concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. The CIA’s conclusion was based on Prince Mohammed’s leadership role in the country and the belief that no operation against the veteran journalist could have been authorized without the heir’s apparent consent. This furthermore deepens Riyadh’s political and diplomatic crisis since Mohammed bin Salman’s authority is under threat as he faces domestic attempts to curb his wide-ranging powers and he is becoming a high risk for western allies, who regard the kingdom as a bedrock of regional stability and a bulwark against Iran.

Earlier this year, the US president expressed fury about the size of America’s bilateral trade deficit with China and imposed escalating tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese imports. The assumption inside the White House was that this would cause the deficit to shrink, since American companies would produce more goods at home and/or find ways to avoid costlier imports. But the data released last week from the US government shows that America’s deficit in traded goods with China jumped 4.3 per cent in September to a seasonally adjusted level of $37.4bn, a record high. This was due to a thumping 8 per cent rise in American imports from China. Exports, however, remained broadly flat. Part of the explanation is the US’s current economic strength: fast growth usually sucks in more imports. A second contributing factor might be a time lag issue: American companies have scrambled to stockpile imports to protect themselves from the trade disruptions. Another critical issue is that Mr. Trump cannot simply tell American companies that they can’t import from China, but Beijing, by contrast, can simply order its state-controlled companies to switch their trading patterns away from the US, so the prediction is that American companies will continue to import from China and will work on solutions, just swallowing the hit to margins.


What to remember from last week’s news?

Theresa May on Friday moved to shore up her fragile position on Brexit, as Conservative Eurosceptics turned on each other after a prospective coup against the prime minister stalled. After a torrid week in which Tory Brexiters turned on Mrs. May in protest at the exit plan, she enjoyed a break in the political weather after a threatened second wave of Eurosceptic cabinet resignations and a call for a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister failed to materialize. Michael Gove, environment secretary, and other ministers decided to remain in their posts to lead the campaign for a “better Brexit” from inside the cabinet, rather than joining Dominic Raab, Brexit secretary, and Esther McVey, work and pensions secretary, in quitting.


Did you know:

A peer-reviewed study of almost 1m Android apps has revealed how data from smartphones are harvested and shared, with nearly 90 per cent of apps set up to transfer information back to Google. Researchers at Oxford University analyzed approximately a third of the apps available in Google’s Play Store in 2017 and found that the median app could transfer data to 10 third parties, with one in five apps able to share data with more than 20. This year has seen unprecedented scrutiny over how websites use the data they collect from their users, but little attention has so far been paid to the sprawling and fast-growing world of smartphone apps. Reuben Binns, the computer scientist who led the project, said that because most apps have now moved to a “freemium” model, where they make revenues from advertising rather than sales, data sharing has spiraled out of control. Users, regulators and sometimes even the app developers and advertisers are unaware of the extent to which data flow from smartphones to digital advertising groups, data brokers and intermediaries that buy, sell and blend information, he said.


What to expect from the coming week:

US trade and Brexit developments will continue to steal attention in the following days. Investors will seek out clues on the health of retailers as they await quarterly earnings updates and spending figures over the Black Friday shopping weekend. The messy process of the UK’s exit from the EU will continue to take centerstage this week with Theresa May, who faces a leadership challenge, taking to the airwaves to appeal to the British public to support the draft Brexit deal.




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