China / USA: IMF fears global economic storm

Less than three weeks before the deadline set by US President Donald Trump, before a new round of trade sanctions against China, his Deputy Trade Representative, Jeffrey Gerrish, began preliminary talks in Beijing. Jeffrey Gerrish, who had already started negotiations in early January in the Chinese capital, left his hotel in Beijing earlier today, without any statement to the press.

The talks should precede discussions on Thursday and Friday in Beijing with senior negotiators: Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin on the US side and the Chinese side the Deputy Prime Minister. Liu He, and the governor of the central bank, Yi Gang.

As early as January, Washington took advantage of the talks to transit two destroyers in the South China Sea, a strategic zone considered by Beijing as its territorial waters and which sees close to a third of world trade. Beijing reacted Monday, accusing the United States of seeking “to cause unrest.” The trade talks follow those held last month in Washington, which resulted in an interview between Liu He and Donald Trump.

After renewed optimism following the talks, Washington blew the cold last week as the Trump administration assured that there was “still a lot of work” before the world's first two economic powers managed to overcome their multiple disputes. Donald Trump, who had announced a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, “in the near future,” even said he had not planned to meet him before the deadline of early March.

During an interview in early December in Argentina, the two presidents set the deadline for reaching a negotiated settlement. After this date, customs duties on the equivalent of $ 200 billion in annual Chinese imports into the United States will be increased from 10% to 25%.

Practices deemed unfair

In addition to China's huge trade surplus from its bilateral trade, Washington demands that it stop its unfair practices such as the forced transfer of US technology, the “theft” of US intellectual property, hacking and massive subsidies to public companies to make them national champions. Because in this conflict is played the dominant position of the two countries in the high technologies of tomorrow. “Technology is the most important advantage Americans have, we are innovative, we are technologically excellent,” early December Robert Lighthizer said in a rare television interview.

The prospect of a worsening of the trade war is weighing on global financial markets, which fear its consequences for the global economy. She also worries Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which warned Sunday in Dubai against a possible “storm” economic world. Christine Lagarde mentioned what she called the “four clouds” that threaten the planet: trade tensions, tightening of borrowing rates, Brexit and slowdown of the Chinese economy. According to her, trade tensions between China and the United States began to affect the global economy.

“When there are too many clouds, it only takes a flash to trigger the storm,” warned Christine Lagarde, who called on governments to prepare and avoid protectionism. This week's discussions “could lead to progress in the run-up to the deadline of March 1”, say in a note the economists of Societe Generale, who do not expect “a breakthrough”.

(With AFP)

US: President Donald Trump wants to force wall construction with emergency

In the dispute over his desired wall on the border with Mexico, US President Donald Trump will declare a National Emergency, according to the White House. Trump's spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Thursday that the president would also sign a budget law, which the congress has developed on a cross-party basis. It provides significantly less funds for the construction of the wall as required by Trump. Although this will avert a renewed “shutdown” by the US government – the dispute over the wall should escalate further with the declaration of emergency.

A nationwide state of emergency in which laws or even fundamental rights are repealed does not mean such a state of emergency in the USA. Trump wants to finance the construction of the wall without having to get the appropriate funds approved by Congress. Whether that would be right is controversial.

Nancy Pelosi threatens to sue

The House deputy leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, announced she would stay in court. “It is not a state of emergency, what happens at the border.” Pelosi and Senate Democratic faction leader Chuck Schumer said an emergency declaration would be “an unlawful act” and “a serious abuse of power” by the president. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, said he supports the declaration of emergency.

With a second shutdown in sight, Donald Trump remains uncompromising

Sanders said they were prepared for legal action, but that should not happen. “The president does his job, the congress should do his thing.” With the declaration of emergency Trump wants to ensure “that we stop the national security crisis and humanitarian crisis at the border”. The president is keeping his promise to build the wall and protect the border.

Budget law passes Senate

The Senate approved the budget law on Thursday by a large majority. The House of Representatives wanted to vote that evening. After that, Trump has to sign the law, which Democrats and Republicans in Congress have agreed on in tough negotiations.

The bill provides $ 1.375 billion for the construction of a border wall – much less than Trump's $ 5.7 billion originally demanded. If Trump had vetoed the law, it would have come to a new “shutdown” during the night of Saturday, ie a halt in parts of the US government.

Congress could prevent a state of emergency

The Congress would theoretically have the opportunity to challenge the declaration of emergency with a resolution (Joint Resolution). This would have to be passed by both chambers and signed by the president. If Trump – as would be expected – would veto it, Congress could override it. However, this would require a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives, where the Democrats have a majority, and the Republican-dominated Senate.

There are a whole series of emergency declarations that have been extended over and over again. Many of them are directed against other countries. So a statement from 1979 froze all fortunes of the Iranian government in the US. It is still valid today.

No shutdown until the end of September

Under the new budget law, the US government will be fully funded by the end of the financial year at the end of September. Only three weeks ago, the longest “shutdown” in US history had come to an end: for 35 days, parts of the government had stood still, and about 800,000 government employees were not paid. They were on forced leave or had to work unpaid.

This was particularly tough for those affected who have few reserves, which is true of many Americans: The US Federal Reserve reported last year that 40 percent of Americans could not handle an unexpected $ 400 (over $ 350), without having to borrow money or sell property. Some government employees had to buy food from boards during the “shutdown” to make ends meet.

Poll numbers for Donald Trump rise again

Trump had boasted before the “shutdown”, if necessary, parts of the government in the fight over the wall to stand still to force the Democrats to give in. “I am proud to close the border security government,” he said. In polls, a majority made him responsible for the government deadlock. After the start of the “shutdown”, Trump's rating declined anyway. In the meantime, they have risen again.

Republicans and Democrats have been feverishly working on a compromise proposal over the past few days to avoid a new government stalemate. After the compromise was in place, Trump initially left open whether he would sign it. Before the two chambers of Congress voted on the draft on Thursday, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said: “Let us all pray that the President will have the wisdom to sign the law so the government does not shut down.”

The Dutch economy is growing again, how special is that?

“But we are also doing better than France and Belgium, because we have a better, more sensible economic policy, with a better working economy.” In France, a dip developed when, for example, the yellow vests were enforced by President Macron. demonstrations in the big cities on Saturdays the economy is not good: people did not go shopping on those days. “

“With the British, the Brexit is shedding its shadow, and it went well just before the referendum in 2016. After that, the will to invest has declined Strikingly: there has been a lot of hammering to prepare for stock shortages, but that does not weigh up against the bad expectations. “

What does the rest of 2019 look like?

“You saw all exports fail at the end of 2018. The growth was mainly due to domestic demand from consumers and investors, but the Netherlands has an open economy: if demand in Europe declines, the Dutch economy can not sustain itself.”

“The developments for the rest of the year are closely related to how the brexit will go, but if it is still a soft brexit, Statistics Netherlands expects that the growth will be above two percent.” In the worst scenario, a no- deal, there is actually no prediction to do, which could be a kind of Lehman Brothers moment as in 2008: an event that economists can not predict the consequences of. “

“But no matter how the Brexit expires, it is unlikely that we will continue to grow as fast as in recent years, because the tight labor market hinders companies and even prevents the government from implementing many of its spending plans.”

Two artists argue about the blackest black, how about that?

The search for an extremely black form of black all started in space travel. The British Surrey Nanosystems made Vantablack in 2014, the darkest material in the world. That absorbs 99 percent of the light. Handy for satellites and telescopes. The darker they are, the darker the room remains, the more light the telescopes receive. This way, science can better discover new stars.

'Vantablack-black' looks like a hole. You see no relief, no perspective, only a large, deceptively black surface. Ideal for artists to experiment with. But artist Anish Kapoor got from Surrey Nanosystems the exclusive right to use Vantablack.

Worldwide artists were furious, they wanted that color too. One of them, Stuart Semple, developed the pinkest paint in the world as a statement. Everyone was allowed to buy that color. Except Kapoor. An argument was born. Kapoor came to paint and shared the pink middle finger below on social media:

Chester Zoo Releases Rare Images of Giant Pangolins

The Chester Zoo (North West of England) published on Wednesday rare images showing giant pangolins, the species most affected by the illegal trade of animals in the world.

These images show animals evolving in their natural habitat on the Ziwa Reserve in Uganda, where the Chester Zoo is conducting a study mission. One of the recordings shows a pangolin gripping a tree with its claws, sitting on its mighty tail.

“The giant pangolin is a beautiful, mysterious and quite fascinating species, but its study is extremely difficult, being nocturnal, rare and very shy, only with new technologies such as high-sensitivity surveillance cameras. that we can learn more about how they live and interact with each other and their environment, “said Stuart Nixon, a zoo research program manager, on the school's website.

“In the absence of giant pangolins in zoos or safari parks around the world, all our conservation efforts must focus on saving them in the wild – the race is launched against criminal networks that only value dead pangolins.” he added.

In Malaysia, police and environmental activists announced Tuesday the seizure of nearly 30 tons of pangolin, a booty of some two million dollars, during a raid in a factory and warehouse.

At the end of January, the Ugandan authorities had announced the seizure of hundreds of pangolin scales hidden in tree trunks.

The pangolin, a long-tailed anteater, is a protected species and the only mammal covered with scales. These are very popular in China and Vietnam where they are considered a cure for multiple ailments while the meat of pangolins is sought after by gourmets.

USA: Agreement in principle to avoid a new “shutdown”

US parliamentarians have reached an agreement in principle to avoid a further partial paralysis of US administrations at the end of the week, confirmed Monday a senior parliamentary officer to AFP.

The agreement, which will still be passed by the US Congress and approved by the White House, includes a series of measures to strengthen border security, according to this source.

Regarding the financing of a wall on the Mexican border, which has been the subject of a bitter battle between the US president and the elected Democrats for weeks, the agreement in principle provides $ 1.375 billion for the construction of a new portion of 55 miles (about 88 kilometers), according to this same parliamentary official.

Donald Trump, whose construction of a wall to fight against illegal immigration from South America is a campaign promise, claimed $ 5.7 billion.

“We have reached an agreement,” one of the main Republican negotiators, Senator Richard Shelby, told CNN after a negotiating meeting Monday night.

The longest shutdown in US history

On January 25, after more than a month of partial paralysis affecting some 800,000 civil servants, an agreement was found to end the longest “shutdown” in US history – more than a month – but it only provided funding for the federal services concerned until Friday, February 15.

The group of elected officials of the two parties in charge of the negotiations was optimistic Friday on the chances of reaching a compromise before this deadline.

Shortly after the announcement of US senators, Donald Trump began a campaign rally in El Paso, Texas, near the Mexican border, where an anti-wall demonstration was also planned.

(with AFP)

Pence reaffirms solidarity: United States arm Poland with heavy weapons of war

The US continues to equip Poland with heavy weapons of war. On the sidelines of US Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Warsaw, it agreed to supply 20 US HIMARS rocket launchers to Poland, to be delivered by 2023 for $ 414 million.

Pence assured the NATO partner the full solidarity of the United States. “The United States will always be the people of Poland,” he said to soldiers of the Polish and American Air Forces. “America first does not mean America alone.”

Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, Poland and the Baltic states are increasingly threatened by the powerful neighbor Russia. As a deterrent, since 2014 the US has been moving units there in rotation and selling weapons to Poland on a large scale. NATO has also strengthened its presence on the eastern flank of the military alliance by sending troops to the four countries.

Pence described NATO as the most successful defense alliance in world history. He reminded the allies once again to honor their commitments. He expressly praised that Poland, as one in four NATO members, fulfilled its goal of spending two percent of the gross domestic product on defense. Germany is well below 1.3 percent in 2019 and is heavily criticized by the US.

Pence, together with Polish President Andrzej Duda, wanted to open a conference for peace and stability in the Middle East, attended by 60 countries. Critics speak of an anti-Iran meeting, so several Western European states are not involved with their foreign ministers. Germany is represented by Minister of State Niels Annen. For Iran's archenemy Israel, on the other hand, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Warsaw.

On Saturday, Pence will perform at the Munich Security Conference and meet there after dpa information and Chancellor Angela Merkel. German-American relations have been badly damaged since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump two years ago.

As co-organizer of the Middle East Conference is also US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Warsaw. While visiting a NATO battalion in Bemowo Piskie he warned against a renewed Russian aggression. Russia has big plans to increase its dominance in Europe and on the world stage, he said, according to the agency PAP. The US and Western democracies must do everything in their power to stop attacks such as the invasion of Ukraine.

The cabinet comes with emergency measures to help people with debts

State Secretary Van Ark (Social Affairs and Employment) wants “to do everything possible to prevent people with debts from getting even deeper”. That is what she says on the eve of a meeting in the House of Representatives about the Broad Debt Approach of Rutte-III.

Van Ark is coming today with several emergency measures. For example, the Tax Office will stop applying public debtors for people with problematic debts before 2020. The automatic seizure of supplements is also stopped. In addition, the Tax and Customs Administration is looking into easing its debt collection policy retroactively.

In anticipation of the new Act on simplification of seizure-free foot, the seizure-free foot for young people is being raised. And municipalities are now being asked to use an attachment-free rate of 95 per cent of the social assistance benefit when settling debts with a social assistance benefit.

Now municipalities sometimes use a lower percentage. The aim of these measures is that people with problematic debts have more money left to live on.

Nobody knew how many people worked on Red Dead Redemption 2, we counted them

What makes the game so unique? The developer really brings the game world to life. “I have done three months and five days to finish the game,” says Alessandra. “I spent hours fishing and looking at birds, and there was always something to see or experience in the world – that's bizarre and impressive – that you can entertain someone for hours without all those extras taking you out of the story. In terms of experience Red Dead Redemption 2 unique.”

Revolution?

The game is now so successful that you could expect other developers to copy that success and come up with a similar game. But that is not easy, and that has everything to do with how game companies make money in the present time.

“Most major game publishers publish twenty games a year: each time a new one FIFA, Battlefield or call of Duty. That kind of games, “explains game journalist Paul Hulsebosch of Tweakers.For such a new game you pay quickly 60 to 70 euros, but half a year later you can get such a top title for a soft price at a sale pick up.

At the same time, large games are becoming more and more expensive to make. “Developers therefore have to earn more money to get out of the costs,” explains Alessandra. “It has become economic necessity to earn more from a game than the purchase price of 60 euros.”

So earn business models at large studios, we explained earlier. Rockstar was also early with their previous game, GTA V. In the online world of it, GTA Online, you pay extra to be able to buy the latest cars, weapons, houses and outfits faster. And that earnings model works: GTA V is the most profitable entertainment production of all time.

NOS op 3 earlier this year made this report about the business model of Fortnite: