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Week in Review

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06/23/2018

For the week 9/18-9/22

[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]

Note: StocksandNews has significant ongoing costs and your support is greatly appreciated.  Please click on the gofundme link or send a check to PO Box 990, New Providence, NJ  07974.

Edition 1,002

By the time I was 15 years of age, I had been to Europe three times for a total of 14 weeks, thanks to my parents.  It was an incredible education, especially the last three weeks in 1973 in Eastern Europe, when I met my distant uncles in Prague and Budapest, the former taking us to his humble abode with a bathtub in the middle of the kitchen, a family of five living in a space the size of most of your living rooms.  It was an eye opener, having grown up in a beautiful, upper-middle-class neighborhood in Summit, New Jersey, one of the nicer communities in the state.

At our hotel in Budapest, my uncle Geza began to cry as we stood on the balcony overlooking the Danube, Geza noting he fought the Russians from the other side of the river bank during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

That same trip I left the hotel one foggy night in Warsaw and walked to the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the changing of the guard, mesmerized by the goose-stepping soldiers.

I went to Lenin’s Tomb, and thought we would all get our heads blown off when Mom unleashed one of her historic sneezes deep in the bowels; the soldiers stationed every few steps grabbing their submachine guns.

In Leningrad, we were first given an awful room in what was otherwise a nice hotel, so Mom complained and we were upgraded to a suite with a baby grand piano. As we were settling in, the maid came in and proceeded to play the piano as well as any concert pianist we had ever heard.

That was ’73...the height of the Cold War...and the way it was behind the Iron Curtain.  The highly-educated masses forced to live in near poverty, working in menial jobs that if they just had the opportunity to come to America, or be liberated at home, they’d thrive.

My Mom’s roots are in primarily what is now Slovakia; places like Bratislava and Kosice.  Whenever Mom sent money there, it never made it to its intended destination...the mail read by Communist agents, the money taken. The same was the case with Eugene in Prague and Geza in Budapest.

So that’s how my early attitudes were shaped.  I’ve always been greatly appreciative of what my parents gave me, and my upbringing, and living in America, and I have zero tolerance for those who don’t get it. I don’t suffer fools gladly.

I also always think of those less fortunate, and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.

I have three possessions that I cherish more than any others in my living room.  Only family members (and a few old girlfriends) know what they are.

One is a metal chariot, a total trinket, that Tomas, an Indian cab driver gave me when I spent a month in India, on business, most of that in Cochin, the spice capital of the world.

I had one day off a week, Sunday, and my final Sunday I wanted to try to see some tigers at a game preserve I had read about.  I hired out Tomas, he spoke zero English, and I didn’t even know if he understood fully where I wanted to go...nor how long it would take.

Try three hours down the hill, essentially, and five back up in a driving rainstorm, and one hour in between for touring.

We went out with 12 locals on a boat, riding through the rivers, looking for tigers and seeing only elephants. The locals hated my presence, it was 1985, and I was intimidated.  But Tomas clearly told them they would have to go through him if they intended to do something to me.

I remember stopping at a roadside shack for a little meal, Tomas doing the ordering, and we just kind of smiled at each other, me trying to appear relaxed.

At the end, having given him a $40 tip on a $45 ride (for over eight hours!), through the interpreter at the hotel, I learned Tomas wanted to take me to the airport at the end of my trip, a week later, and I told him the company I was working for would do that.

The next week as I was preparing to leave (I had gotten near-deadly food poisoning in between), I hear a knock at the door and it was Tomas, holding this chariot...it was an amazing gesture.  That’s my first big possession.

My second is from my first trip to Micronesia in the late 1990s, Yap island, which is really four main islands, three connected by a causeway, and a fourth tribal island, Rumung, reachable only by boat when the tides cooperated, where I ended up building a church through the Jesuits.  It’s the one thing I leave when I depart this Earth, by the way.

My native guide, Helen, who I could tell had an immediate fascination with me (I have to admit, I just reread one of her postcards, which is on my refrigerator), took me to see her mother.  Mom lived in a corrugated shack, up about two feet on cinderblocks to protect it from flooding, and let’s just say it was about 6 X 8 feet...that was it, and you couldn’t come close to standing up in it.

The mother had a gift for me.  An airline liquor bottle filled with palm oil. Retail value not even a penny.  If I ever lost that I’d be heartbroken for the rest of my life.

My third possession is a bottle filled with sand from Omaha and Utah Beach, which I collected during a pilgrimage to Normandy in 1995, purposely waiting a year until after the 50th anniversary and the throngs of ‘94. 

That’s what I’m about.  Since the start of StocksandNews, I’ve been to over 30 countries, virtually all of it 1999-2012, before the Chinese f’ed me, and I explored the world as only a single guy with an immense curiosity could.  I didn’t go on big tours, I went to all the great museums for my culture, and then sat in bars and talked to people. Lots of beer, lots of chat, making some friends who are readers to this day, and soaking up everything I heard.

It’s the only way to learn about what makes people tick, and, most importantly for me in terms of my writing, what they think about our country, and what are their own daily concerns.

But if I had to list one major takeaway it was that Europeans and Asians know far more about America, its history, and our democracy than we ourselves know.

I experienced a ton on the road.  Like the day when the Abu Ghraib story hit, with the infamous photos, I was taking a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia, ostensibly to get an up close view of the tanker traffic in the Strait of Malacca, the breadth of which I couldn’t see from the bar on Sentosa Island I told you about before.

But imagine everyone reading their newspapers (2004), with the guy wearing the hood on the front page, and I’m cowering in the back row, hoping no one says anything to me, seeing as I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I was Brian from Canada that day, that’s for sure.  American?  You kidding?

I’ve been to the Bekaa Valley, and Hezbollah territory, twice; got stared at touring Jordan for a week (they don’t like Americans); went to the DMZ and walked in one of the tunnels under the mountain that the South Koreans discovered in the 1970s or 80s...a tunnel where the North Koreans would come flooding in during an invasion; got stood up in Paraguay by golfer Carlos Franco; walked the slums of Istanbul; gave the finger to the camera outside the Iranian Embassy in Ankara; sat behind Jack Welch at the Vatican (we talked Irish golf); did a lot of stuff.

And then Donald Trump comes along.  Part II...and I promise, my real opinions...next time.

For now, let’s just say Americans are an incredibly ignorant people when it comes to understanding the world and why some people like me have a right to be worried.

Stephen Brill, founder of both “Court TV” and the “American Lawyer Magazine,” was on Michael Smerconish’s Saturday morning show on CNN the other week (June 2) and I’ve been waiting for the appropriate moment to relate something Brill said, in discussing his new book “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year-Fall – and Those Fighting to Reverse It.”

Brill talked about an epiphany he had.

“Well it was about 2 ½ years ago. My wife and I landed at Kennedy; we were coming in from Europe and we trudged through one of the terminals and there was water leaking, it was crowded, the bathrooms were filthy and we got into a cab and took what’s called the Van Wyck Expressway, which is the expressway that goes from Kennedy into the city.

“And it was ugly and filed with potholes, jammed with traffic and in the middle of the Expressway there’s a tram that I know cost $3 or $4 billion dollars and the tram goes all the way from Kennedy Airport about eight miles into Queens, not in the center of the city.

“And I made a joke about that to my wife. And said what would someone from France, or Germany, or anyplace else arriving in America for the first time think of the greatest country in the world, arriving in the gateway city and going through that airport and being on this highway, and looking at the poor excuse for mass transit that we have.

“And then I rattled off a couple of other things about our health care system and everything else, and I said, you know, would they really think that we’re the greatest country in the world?”

---

Trump World

Immigration: Stephen Miller, the highly-unlikeable 32-year-old White House adviser, was the architect of the administration’s immigration policy of separating migrant children from their parents and detentions in shelters that sometimes were no more than cages.

Miller, at least until the president reversed himself, was said to be happy with the way things were going, which led one fellow staffer to equate his behavior to that of the Nazi SS, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

“Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

Both Melania Trump and Laura Bush made the rare political move of speaking out, while even Bill O’Reilly tweeted: “The Trump administration will not win on this one and it should reverse course today.”

“The government should know how bad this looks and how innocent children are actually suffering. That kind of scenario is unacceptable to most Americans as exemplified by former First Lady Laura Bush’s withering criticism.”

Miller told the New York Times over the weekend that the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families was a “simple decision.”

“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told the Times.  “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Miller is supposedly an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer; the two meeting while they were students at Duke University.  Spencer told Mother Jones magazine in December that Miller “is not alt-right or a white nationalist.... (but) could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.”

Miller worked as communications director for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Steve Bannon on “This Week” Sunday: “It’s zero tolerance. I don’t think you have to justify it. We have a crisis on the southern order. But the elites in this city, and this ties into Korea, ties into everything that took place this week, the elites, the permanent political class in this city want to manage situations to run – you know, to bad outcomes.

“And Donald Trump is not going to do that. He’s just not going to kick the can down the road, whether that is China, whether it’s tariffs, whether it’s Korea, whether it’s the southern border....

“It’s a crime to come across illegally, and children get separated.

“I mean, I hate to say it, that’s the law and he’s enforcing the law....

“Give me border wall security.  We won’t have this problem. He has a zero tolerance situation. He has drawn a line in the sand. I don’t think he’s going to back off from it.”

But then President Trump did, ordering a halt to separating children from illegal immigrant parents at the southwest border, only to then generate widespread confusion.

The lack of clarity mostly centered on the plight of the more than 2,000 children, including toddlers and infants, who were removed from their parents and guardians in the past month while the adults were referred for prosecution on federal misdemeanor charges of illegal entry into the U.S.

The president’s order, Wednesday, was only meant to apply to new families swept up in illegal entry cases, leaving the children already in custody in limbo and languishing in an uncertain status.  In an effort to find space for them, many of them have been moved to Virginia and New York.

Plus there were legal restrictions that allowed children to remain in detention with their parents for only 20 days. So it wasn’t clear how the administration planned to deal with the time limitations.

But federal authorities were attempting to line up accommodations for entire families, under terms of the president’s order. The Pentagon, for one, was asked to prepare to house up to 20,000 immigrants at posts scattered throughout Texas and Arkansas.

House Republican leaders abruptly postponed a high-stakes vote Thursday on GOP immigration legislation that appeared headed to defeat.  Republican leaders had set up two votes on their GOP bills – one on a hard-line measure, the other on a compromise negotiated by conservatives and moderates.

The hard-line measure, which imposed limits on legal immigration and provided temporary relief to young undocumented immigrants, was rejected, 231-193. That’s when leadership opted to pull the second bill...for now.

Neither bill was negotiated with Democrats, amid the separation crisis.

So it was no surprise we had the following series of tweets from President Trump Thursday and Friday morning.

“We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.”

“The Border has been a big mess and problem for many years.  At some point Schumer and Pelosi, who are weak on Crime and Border security, will be forced to do a real deal, so easy, that solves this long time problem  Schumer used to want Border security – now he’ll take Crime!”

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms). Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule – it is killing you!”

“Even if we get 100% Republican votes in the Senate, we need 10 Democrat votes to get a much needed Immigration Bill - & the Dems are Obstructionists who won’t give votes for political reasons & because they don’t care about Crime coming from Border! So we need to elect more R’s!”

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world.  Right now we have the dumbest and the worst. Dems are doing nothing but Obstructing. Remember their motto, RESIST! Ours is PRODUCE!”

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

“80% of Mexico’s Exports come to the United States. They totally rely on us, which is fine with me. They do have, though, very strong Immigration Laws. The U.S. has pathetically weak and ineffective Immigration Laws that the Democrats refuse to help us fix. Will speak to Mexico!”

“We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”

A Quinnipiac University national poll released this week showed that American voters oppose 66-27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families cross illegally into America.

Republicans support the separation policy 55-35 percent.

All voters support by a 79-15 percent allowing the so-called “Dreamers” to remain and ultimately apply for citizenship.

Opinion....

Hugh Hewitt / Washington Post

“Call it the ‘electric fence presidency.’

“President Trump – always confident, always exuberant, always selling – crashes forward with the policies and people he embraces until he hits a shocking obstacle and falls back, at first stunned and disbelieving, but resolving quickly not to get scorched that way again. He adjusts his trajectory and takes off again, pursuing the same goals on an altered path.

“In an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions this month, I was incredulous at Sessions’ insistence that there was no choice he could make that wouldn’t lead to family separation at the border. It was obviously a morally objectionable practice and just as obviously political suicide. The gathering storm of a public-opinion backlash broke quickly thereafter and increased in severity as journalists descended on the border and parents and grandparents across the country shuddered at the images of children separated from parents charged with misdemeanors. Border security is a winning issue for Trump, as is the barrier he and the public demand be built as a visible expression of an invisible resolve to control entry into the country.

“We know technology is coming that will make ingress into the United States more secure, but even breakthrough technologies will never be as reliable as a patrolled fence.

“The president knows that 50,000 unlawful entries across the southern border every month is unacceptable to a majority of Americans.  But he did not realize that it is even more unacceptable to separate parents from children as they are assessed for refugee status or deportation.  The solution – better, secure facilities for families to remain in pending adjudication of their applications to stay – appeals to large majorities, and perhaps Congress will deliver just such a legislative authorization.

“Trump keeps doing this kind of thing. He pushes and pushes on policies he intuits are in high demand – rebuilding the military, cutting taxes, ending ObamaCare, appointing originalist judges, fighting against the perception of getting fleeced in trade deals – and sticks with them until he sees evidence that his intuition is wrong or that the advice he received on the implementation of that intuition is wrong. He wants the wall. But he doesn’t want the 24-7 crush of awful publicity. So he recalibrated.

“That hasn’t happened on trade policy – yet. On immigration, someone led the president into a box canyon of bad policy and worse press, and the shock was severe. It looks to many conservatives that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is offering advice just as toxic as the advice Trump was given on immigration, but the evidence of blowback isn’t obvious yet. As with the family-separation policy, many Trump allies in Congress are telling him the tariffs are a disaster. There aren’t any visible manifestations of that disaster though, so the president persists.

“But losing ground in North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race, Iowa congressional districts and other farm-state contests is a real political cost. The president needs a House majority to protect him from spurious articles of impeachment and to keep a focus on the Justice Department inspector general’s report on corruption of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s homebrew email server.  He also needs a Senate majority to confirm his judicial nominees. Both majorities are threatened by the tariffs, just as they are by the family-separation policy.

“It would be wise for the president to keep a list of those who give him awful advice and find them new jobs or basement offices, and to listen more closely to House and Senate Republicans (both leadership and rank and file). They want to win as badly as he does, and they don’t let deeply distorted readings of public opinion throw off their political compass.”

Editorial / Washington Post

“Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, is no bomb-thrower or name-caller. But when President Trump this week said immigrants would ‘infest’ the United States, she called the comment ‘repugnant, reprehensible and repulsive.’

“We also try not to toss insults around. We believe in civil discourse and in trying to understand the other side’s point of view. But when it comes to tearing children away from their parents at the southern border, there is only one legitimate side. Mr. Trump’s policy for the past weeks has been repugnant, reprehensible and repulsive. It could be justified only by those who view Salvadorans and Hondurans not as humans who deserve to live but as animals – as pests – who ‘infest.’

“We don’t casually use the word ‘lie,’ either. But Mr. Trump and his secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, have been lying about the crisis at the border. It began April 6, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared an immediate ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for everyone crossing illegally from Mexico.  At any moment, Mr. Trump had it within his power to reverse that policy. Yet the administration maintained that it was powerless, that Democrats were at fault and that only an act of Congress could keep families together.

“Now, faced with so much public opposition that Republicans were fearing for their midterm election prospects, Mr. Trump has taken all that back. On Wednesday he signed an executive order that he says will ensure families remain unified. If this does not just become another way of stockpiling migrants, and if the administration implements the order competently and humanely  - which certainly cannot be assumed – it will be an improvement.

“But all the damage can’t be undone, and certainly all the lessons shouldn’t be unlearned. The zero-tolerance policy was implemented so chaotically, with so little forethought – with about as much care as you would expend on infesting animals – that one former U.S. immigration chief warned that some parents may never find their children again. Even for those who are reunited – and children were being torn away at a rate of some 400 per week – the trauma will cause lasting harm to some. Nor will the injury to America’s reputation abroad be easily repaired.”

Daniel Henninger / Wall Street Journal

“W.C. Fields, the great and wise film comedian, once said that doing a scene with children was perilous because they will steal it. Someone should have warned the Trump White House.

“No doubt buried somewhere inside the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy on illegal border crossings is an important issue related to the rule of law or national sovereignty. Just don’t expect anything resembling serious thought to compete with images of kids in Border Patrol processing cages.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“President Trump on Wednesday walked back his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border that had united most of America in opposition.  This may mitigate some self-inflicted political damage, but Congress ought to go further and pass a bill that fixes this and other immigration woes.

“In classic Trumpian fashion, the President took credit for reversing a policy he had previously said he couldn’t reverse. ‘We’ve dealt with a lot of different problems. This is one that has been going on for many decades,’ Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office.  ‘So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the same time we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.’

“But this was a problem of his own creation, and ‘zero tolerance’ is part of it. In May the Justice Department directed that all immigrants apprehended at the border be prosecuted as criminals. But a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement prohibits the detention of children. So the Department of Health and Human Services took custody of the kids as their parents were charged and processed for deportation.

“Homeland Security had previously kept families together in detention centers for a few weeks and then released them with ankle monitors.  Restrictionists claimed letting immigrants go encouraged illegal immigration, though border apprehensions had been falling for years until a modest surge in recent months.

“About 2,300 kids have been separated from their parents since May, and pictures of caged toddlers and recordings of crying babies have resulted in the biggest public backlash of the Trump Presidency.”

Laura Bush / Washington Post

“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso.  These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history....

“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents – and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.

“People of all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.  I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this....

“Twenty-nine years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, visited Grandma’s House, a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington. Back then, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was a death sentence, and most babies born with it were considered ‘untouchables.’ During her visit, Barbara – who was the first lady at the time – picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous. She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind and even cruel. She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love.

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”

Unrelated to the above, specifically, but in line with my thinking overall....

Thomas L. Friedman / New York Times

“Watching President Trump recently accuse Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stabbing him in the back prompted me to Google a simple question: How many Canadians were killed or wounded since April 2002 fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan? The answer: 158 were killed and 635 wounded.

“Think about that: America, not Canada, was attacked on 9/11. Nevertheless, our ally to the north sent thousands of its own young men and women to Afghanistan to help us destroy the forces of Al Qaeda that attacked our cities – and 158 Canadians gave their lives in that endeavor.

“And yet, when their prime minister mildly pushed back against demands to lower Canada’s tariffs on milk, cheese and yogurt from the U.S., Trump and his team – in a flash – accused Trudeau of ‘betrayal,’ back-stabbing and deserving of a ‘special place in hell.’

A special place in hell? Over milk tariffs? For a country that stood with us in our darkest hour?  That is truly sick.

“But it tells you all you need to know about how differently Trump looks at the world from any of his predecessors – Republican or Democrat. Everything is a transaction: What have you done for ME today? The notion of America as the upholder of last resort of global rules and human rights – which occasionally forgoes small economic advantages to strengthen democratic societies so we can enjoy the much larger benefits of a world of healthy, free-market democracies – is over.

“ ‘Trump’s America does not care,’ historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post.  ‘It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world.  It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.’”

Trumpets....

--It turns out that Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who promised he’d make sure Donald Trump lost the election, was escorted out of the agency’s headquarters about ten days ago, though his attorney said he was still employed by the bureau.

Testifying before the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, IG Michael Horowitz said “it’s clear” Strzok and gal pal Lisa Page, also an FBI employee, voiced anti-Trump views that were “extremely serious [and] completely antithetical to the core values” of the agency and they wouldn’t have been allowed to work on his staff.

But Horowitz insisted their biases didn’t affect the outcomes of their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server.

Republicans, though, insist the views of a few FBI agents rigged the outcome in favor of Clinton and demanded further investigation.

--According to a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, by more than 3-1, 64 percent to 18 percent say the president doesn’t have the power to pardon himself. Even Republicans are inclined to split with Trump on this.  Just 29% say he has the power to pardon himself; 45% say he doesn’t.

58% of Americans, including 31% of Republicans, say the House of Representatives should impeach the president if he pardons himself.

--In a new CNN poll released today, it seems the constant criticism by President Trump of special counsel Robert Mueller is taking its toll.

The number of Americans who approve of how Mueller is handling the investigation has dropped from 48% in March to 44% in May to just 41% now, the lowest it has been in CNN’s polling.

So we know what this means, boys and girls...at least three tweets a day mentioning “WITCH HUNT!” from here on.

--In a tweet last Saturday, President Trump wrote: “My supporters are the smartest, strongest, most hard working and most loyal that we have seen in our countries [sic] history.  It is a beautiful thing to watch as we win elections and gather support from all over the country. As we get stronger, so does our country. Best numbers ever!”

The same day, website FiveThirtyEight reported that Trump’s approval rating has declined in all 50  states since taking office.

--I’m sick of the constant presidential refrain, “It’s all fake news!  Look at them back there...fake news!”

The other day, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson told viewers: “If you’re looking to understand what’s actually happening in this country, always assume the opposite of whatever they’re telling you on the big news stations.”

I couldn’t agree more than with how Seth MacFarlane, of “Family Guy” fame, replied on Twitter: “In other words, don’t think critically, don’t consult multiple news sources, and in general, don’t use your brain.”  [MacFarlane then gave $2.5 million to NPR.]

That’s what we do here at StocksandNews.  Read and listen to all sources, think critically, and use the brain...whatever is left of it.

Wall Street...Trade...

Monday, President Trump further escalated his trade fight with China, saying his administration was prepared to impose tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and potentially even more if Beijing continues to fight back.

“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong,” he added, calling China’s response “unacceptable.”

The tit-for-tat began last Friday, when Trump said Washington was moving ahead with tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, including agricultural and industrial machinery. China then slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods, including beef, poultry, tobacco and cars.

When the administration upped the ante Monday, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would “have to adopt comprehensive measures combining quantity and quality to make a strong countermeasure.”

But last year, the U.S. exported only $130.4 billion of goods to China, though China could target individual companies, i.e., Apple, for example, by disrupting the supply chain, Boeing, or take other measures.

The Global Times said on Thursday: “If Trump continues to escalate trade tensions with China, we cannot rule out the possibility that China will strike back by adopting a hard-line approach targeting Dow Jones index giants, which would include not only Apple and Boeing, but Nike.

Throughout all this, you must never forget one thing.  One man rules China, and it’s all about “Xi Jinping Thought.”  Whatever Xi says, the rest must follow.  Not that he’s going to do this, but if Xi said, “Our smartphones are now as good as Apple’s,” he wouldn’t have to say any more; the people would get the message.  [At the same time, Apple employs a ton of Chinese on the mainland, so it’s a complicated game the two sides are playing.]

Today, Chinese state media weighed in, stepping up the war of words, with the official China Daily saying in an editorial the United States had failed to understand that the business it does with China supported millions of American jobs and that the U.S. approach was self-defeating, citing research by the Rhodium Group that said that Chinese investment in the U.S. declined 93 percent to $1.8 billion in the first five months of the year, its lowest level in seven years.

“The woes the administration is inflicting on Chinese companies do not simply translate into boons for U.S. enterprises and the U.S. economy,” the paper said in an editorial headlined “Protectionism symptom of paranoid delusions.”

“The fast-shrinking Chinese investment in the U.S. reflects the damage being done to China-U.S.-trade relations...by the trade crusade of Trump and his trade hawks,” the China Daily said.

The Global Times, which is published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial China needed to be realistic about how it could handle the United States and look at other strategies.

“The U.S. has the upper hand over China in technology, defense and international influence, and therefore the country will continue to have a strategic initiative over Beijing for the foreseeable future.  As long as China remains clear-minded in strategy, level-headed in its U.S. policy, and avoids a full-fledged geopolitical competition or a strategic clash against the U.S. China will be able to withstand U.S. pressure. In other words, China should focus on its domestic affairs.”

In other words, China should keep promoting its own economic development, like with its “Made in China 2025” strategy.

“As long as China can effectively utilize its successful policies and experiences accumulated since the reform and opening up, and avoid subversive mistakes, the country wil see robust momentum for development,” the GT said.

Meanwhile, the European Union introduced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods on Friday, over $3 billion worth of goods on products including bourbon, motorcycles and orange juice.

And India said it was raising taxes on 29 products imported from the U.S. – including some agricultural products, steel and iron products – in retaliation for the wide-ranging U.S. tariffs.

It’s hard to keep track these days, but the original tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imported into the U.S. went into effect on June 1 and affect the EU, Canada, Mexico and other close U.S. allies, including India.

The EU is levying a tariff of 25% on Harley Davidson bikes, for one, which hits Speaker Paul Ryan’s district.

Trump tweet today: “Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it (sic) great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!”

The EU’s 10 percent tariff on passenger vehicles has long been a focus of Mr. Trump’s trade ire. The U.S. charges just a 2.5 percent duty on cars imported from Europe.  But the U.S. also has a 25 percent tariff on light trucks that has been in place since the 1960s and is the result of another trade dispute with the EU.

The U.S. imported $191bn in passenger vehicles and light trucks last year, with more than $42bn in auto imports coming from the EU, $20bn of that from Germany.

Europe and Asia

IHS Markit released its flash readings on the eurozone economy for June. The flash composite for the euro area was 54.8 vs. 54.1 in May (50 being the dividing line between growth and contraction), so that’s good, with the manufacturing PMI at 55.0 vs. 55.5 last month, an 18-mo. low, not good, and services at 55.0 vs. 53.8, a 4-mo. high.

As you know, the flash readings also look at Germany and France, individually. The former had a manufacturing PMI of 55.9, an 18-mo. low, with services at 53.9.  The latter was at 53.1 on manufacturing, a 16-mo. low, with services a robust 56.4.

Chris Williamson / IHS Markit

“An improved service sector performance helped offset an increasing drag from the manufacturing sector in June, lifting Eurozone growth off the 18-month low seen in May. With growth kicking higher in June, the surveys are commensurate with GDP rising 0.5% in the second quarter.

“Price pressures are also on the rise again, running close to seven-year highs. Increased oil and raw material prices are driving up costs, but wages are also lifting higher, in part reflecting tighter labor markets in some parts of the region. Service sector jobs are being created at the fastest rate seen over the past decade, underscoring the extent to which the job market is tightening....

“However...manufacturing is looking especially prone to a further slowdown in coming months, with companies citing trade worries and political uncertainty as their biggest concerns. Sentiment about the year ahead in the factory sector has sunk to its lowest since 2015.”

Eurobits....

--President Trump warned on Monday that the United States must avoid the immigration problems facing Europe and he attacked the policies of Germany, one of our closest allies.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that crime in Germany is on the rise, and railed against immigration policies in Europe, even as his own policies at home, such as family separation, faced bipartisan criticism.

As disputes rose in Germany about the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her open-door refugee policy for those seeking asylum, Trump wrote:

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

Crime numbers in Germany are the lowest since 1992, according to the most recent data available*, but a high-profile murder of a 14-year-old girl in the country has been fueling anti-immigrant flames in the country.

*Some government studies show violent crime spiked  in 2015 and 2016, with the flood of immigrants, but, overall, crime was down.

By week’s end, Merkel played down expectations of a major breakthrough being reached at hastily-arranged talks between some EU leaders this Sunday on the migration dispute dividing Europe.  Plans for an emergency meeting of 10 EU leaders ahead of a full June 28-29 summit were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy’s new prime minister said a draft paper on migration had been pulled due to a clash with Merkel.  The chancellor’s back is against a wall. She needs to get EU leaders at the summit to agree to share asylum seekers more evenly to placate her conservative allies, Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) but countries like Italy are reluctant to do so.

If no satisfactory deal is reached at the June 28-29 confab, German Interior Minister and CSU chief Horst Seehofer have threatened to defy Merkel and turn people away at the German border who have applied for asylum in other EU states.  National border controls would undermine the EU’s open border system and could cause a German government crisis.

The Social Democrats, who also share power with Merkel’s conservative bloc – comprising the CSU and her own Christian Democrats (CDU) – said they were ready for a new election.

Josef Joffe / Washington Post

“She used to be the queen, nay, empress of Europe, but now Angela Merkel, 63, is ‘a chancellor on the way out,’ as the German magazine Der Spiegel just put it.

“The twilight of her reign is clearly under way, but why this Merkeldammerung?  Her problem is neither the German economy, which is booming, nor a weak and divided opposition. It is the enemy in her own bed: the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian wing of the Christian Democratic Union she leads.

“Beset by the surge of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, the Christian Social Union is staring at polls giving it only 36 percent of the vote in the state elections on Oct. 14 – after almost four decades of holding absolute majorities in mighty Bavaria. Trying to claw back votes from the AfD, the CSU is echoing the nationalist upstart, which has vaulted from nowhere to become the Bundestag’s third-largest party.

“But the CSU’s heaviest guns are trained on Mutti (mom) Merkel. To put it in the simplest terms: Desperately straining to keep the European Union from fragmenting, the chancellor is seeking a ‘European solution’ to the migrant influx – the distribution of refugees across the E.U. and open borders from Portugal to Poland. Merkel’s nemesis, Horst Seehofer, the CSU chairman and federal interior minister, insists on ‘Deutschland first.’ He wants to turn refugees away at retightened German borders.

“Merkel announced a deal with Seehofer on June 18 giving her two weeks to try to reach an agreement with other E.U. leaders that would placate German hard-liners on immigration. The two sister parties likely will make up – for a while.  But even if Merkel makes it though this precarious summer and endures to the end of her fourth term, in 2021, she is damaged goods. Her existential problem goes far beyond the intramural political warfare.  The European stage she has dominated for so long is collapsing beneath her.”

Meanwhile, Hungary’s parliament passed a package of laws that would criminalize offering some forms of help to immigrants, in what critics call a violation of human rights.

The package would impose potential prison terms of up to a year on those, including lawyers and civil society organizations, who try to help illegal immigrants claim asylum or apply for residence.  Since any asylum seeker arriving in Hungary via a safe third country would be ‘illegal’ under the new measures, non-governmental groups said the law would make it impossible to try to help most refugees.

The laws could spark a new conflict with Brussels, which has repeatedly clashed with the government of Viktor Orban over allegations it is undermining democratic checks and balances.

Orban believes the debate on migration is shifting in his favor...and it is.

--Next week’s EU summit is also critical for British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit strategy...as in will the EU accept  at worst the broad outline they are presented.  Full details next time.

This week, Mrs. May did promise she would pump $26.6 billion a year by 2023 into the state-run National Health Service, funded by money no longer being spent on the U.K.’s European Union membership.

--Meanwhile, France and Germany face a growing backlash to their plans for a common eurozone budget, dealing a blow to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel and their ambitions for a big overhaul of the single currency area.

The Netherlands, Austria and Finland are among those questioning the need for any joint eurozone “fiscal capacity,” with as many as 12 governments concerned that the blueprint would leave their taxpayers too exposed to problems in crisis-hit member states.

--Eurozone countries agreed to a long-awaited debt relief deal for Greece today. The agreement gives Athens more time to repay about $110bn worth of loans and extends a grace period during which Greece will pay little or no interest.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said it sent a signal that Greece was turning a new page.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the agreement meant “the Greek crisis ends here.”

Under the deal, eurozone governments are also giving Greece a final cash loan of 15bn euro to help it keep paying its bills, with the current bailout program due to end in August.

Greece has operated under three bailout programs since 2010, and in return for the funding, the country had to enact a series of wrenching economic reforms, as the economy shrank and unemployment surged.

But the situation has stabilized, and Greece is growing again, though it still faces the problem of making payments on its accumulated debt load, which stands at about 180% of  GDP (vs. Italy’s 135%...second-highest in the EU).

Turning to Asia...China’s Shanghai Composite Index is now down 19 percent from its January high, on the cusp of the 20 percent mark that most view as a bear market.  Should it hit that level, it would be the first such decline since 2015.  China’s stocks this past week alone lost $514bn in market value.

In Japan, a flash reading on manufacturing for this month came in at 53.1 vs. 52.8 in May.

Separately, Japan’s exports rose in May at the fastest rate in four months thanks to increased shipments of cars, car parts, and semiconductor equipment, a sign that global demand isn’t weakening as many thought. Exports rose 8.1 percent from the same period a year ago, better than forecast.

Japan’s exports to the U.S. rose 5.8%, year-on-year, but imports rose 19.9 percent, owing to imports of U.S. aircraft and coal.  Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. thus fell 17.3 percent yoy.  We have to watch such things closely these days, thanks to the man in the White House.

Street Bytes

--The Dow Jones suffered through its worst week since March, as the industrials saw their shares hit on trade fears, the Dow falling 2% to 24580. The broader S&P 500 was down only 0.9%, and Nasdaq hit another new closing high, Wednesday, 7781, before finishing down 0.7% on the week to close at 7692.

General Electric, one of America’s most storied companies and an original member of the Dow Jones industrial average, has been removed from the index after struggling for years.

GE is being replaced by drug store chain Walgreens Boots Alliance, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, which announced the change after the close of trading Tuesday. The move will go into effect before the start of trading on June 26.

In explaining the change, David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, didn’t cite GE’s issues, but rather: “Consumer, finance, health care and technology companies are more prominent today and the relative importance of industrial companies is less.”

Walgreens, Blitzer added, will make the 30-stock Dow more representative of the consumer and health care areas of the economy.

The change in the Dow is the first since March 2015, when Apple was added and longtime component AT&T removed.

--U.S. Treasury Yields

6-mo. 2.08%  2-yr. 2.54%  10-yr.  2.89%  30-yr. 3.04%

Rising trade tensions helped the Treasury market some, with a mini-flight to the safety of sovereign debt; the yield on the 10-year finishing the week below 2.90% for the first time since April 13.

--Trump tweet Friday morning: “Hope OPEC will increase output substantially. Need to keep prices down!”

OPEC held its crucial meeting in Vienna and the cartel, plus non-member Russia and others, agreed to an output hike, but most analysts say there’s likely to be a significant gap between the headline number and the amount of oil that can actually be added to the market; ergo, any agreement to increase supply is likely to be considerably smaller in actuality.

The problem is higher quotas are being given to the likes of Venezuela, Mexico and Angola, which will struggle mightily to produce more.

Prior to the agreement, Russia was calling for a production increase of 1.5m barrels a day, as its energy minister said prices were “balanced” enough to absorb such a steep production hike

“The market is growing, demand is growing, and we already see the balance in the market,” said Alexander Novak.

But late Thursday, Iran said it was still opposed to a deal to lift output, which pitted it against rival, and de facto cartel leader, Saudi Arabia.

So OPEC ministers then agreed to boost output by about 600,000 barrels a day, moving more modestly than many producers had hoped to curb higher prices.  Ministers had gone into the meeting with an official, nominal target for boosting production by one million barrels a day, split between OPEC and non-OPEC allies, led by Russia.  But as noted above, some countries can’t raise production at the moment, so it nets out to something closer to 600,000 real barrels hitting the market.

Thus at least for one day, the cartel and Russia et al didn’t do what President Trump wanted and the price of crude spiked today to $69.28, the highest level in five weeks.

Separately, while gasoline prices have stabilized recently, and fallen slightly in some markets after the recent big price spike, the national gas price average, $2.90 (according to AAA) is still 60 cents more expensive than a year ago.

And gasoline inventories have been falling rather rapidly, just before an anticipated record amount of travel over the Fourth of July weekend, so the little break at the pump is probably short-lived.

Hawaii ($3.73) and California ($3.71) have the highest prices at the pump.

--The days of internet sales being tax free are coming to an end. The Supreme Court on Thursday moved to close the loophole, ruling that internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes even in states where they have no physical presence.

The decision, in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., is a big victory for brick-and-mortar businesses that have long complained they are at a competitive disadvantage in having to charge sales taxes while most online competitors do not.   And the states are now drooling over the prospect of collecting $billions in annual revenue.

But the Supremes effectively overturned a system they helped create back in 1992, when the “court ruled in Quill Corporation v. North Dakota that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales tax unless they have a substantial connection to the state.” [New York Times]

Writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Quill decision caused states to lose annual tax revenues of up to $33 billion.

Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito and Gorsuch joined the majority.

Shares in Amazon fell just 1 percent, but Overstock.com saw its shares fall 7 percent the day of the decision.

--In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves of location data about the customers of cellphone companies.

The decision has implications for all kinds of personal information held by third parties, including email and text messages, internet searches, and bank and credit card records.

But in writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the decision was limited.

“We hold only that a warrant is required in the rare case where the suspect has a legitimate privacy interest in records held by a third party.

--The Federal Reserve determined in its latest “stress test” scenario for the 35 largest bank holding companies, which hold 80% of the assets at banks operating in the U.S., that they were healthy enough to withstand a severe economic downturn and would continue lending during a crisis, as the industry posts record profits with regulatory relief on the way.  [Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley did come close to failing on one metric, but this was under extreme circumstances, including unemployment rocketing back up to 10%.]

The annual stress-test exercise was instituted after the 2008 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the biggest banks are continuing to scoop up market share at the expense of struggling overseas banks and smaller U.S. lenders.

--Walt Disney Co. raised its offer to purchase most of 21st Century Fox to more than $70 billion in cash and stock, topping an unsolicited offer from rival Comcast Corp., as the bidding war escalates.

Disney’s new $70bn offer is much higher than its original deal, $52.5 billion in stock, while surpassing Comcast’s $65 billion all-cash offer.  Disney will pay Fox shareholders roughly 50% in cash and 50% in stock.

The assets in play include the Twentieth Century Fox film and TV studio; U.S. cable networks including FX and regional sports channels (seen by many as the crown jewel); international assets including Sky PLC and Star India; plus Fox’s one-third stake in streaming service Hulu.

And just a reminder that both proposed deals exclude Fox News, Fox Sports 1, the Fox broadcast network or its television stations, which are being spun off into a new company, dubbed “New Fox.”

Meanwhile, there has been a bit of a revolt by some of the ‘talent’ in the Fox Family against the conservative viewpoints of news commentators such as Sean Hannity.  “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan said he would leave Fox’s TV studio, citing his personal disgust with Fox News as the reason.  Levitan said, however, he would then make his decision after 21st Century Fox completes the pending sale of its movie and TV studio assets.  Nonetheless, it was like tossing a grenade at his longtime employer.

Levitan said on Twitter that Fox News’ “23-hour a day support for the NRA, conspiracy theories and Trump’s lies gets harder to swallow every day as I drive onto that lot to make a show about inclusion.”  [I assume he’s excluding Shepard Smith.]

The aforementioned Seth MacFarlane was another Fox talent voicing his disgust for Fox News.

--FedEx Corp. profit jumped in the latest quarter as the company benefited from tax cuts and a turnaround in its express business.

CEO Fred Smith said he is optimistic about the company’s future, but warned about the potential for trade tensions to impact business.

“Trade is a two-way street, and FedEx supports lowering trade barriers for our customers, not raising them,” he said.

The Memphis-based company got a $1.6 billion windfall from the Trump tax cuts, which FedEx said also led to pay increases for certain U.S. hourly workers that began in April.

Rival UPS has been ramping up spending to automate more of its facilities and handle the surge of e-commerce packages, but I have to say this week, Monday specifically, UPS could not have screwed up an important letter of mine that caused me all kinds of problems.  I wasted over six hours on it, and the document finally showed up a day later than it was supposed to.

--Oracle reported better-than-expected earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter after customers spent more money on cloud services.  But the shares fell sharply on lackluster guidance.

Earnings and revenues of $11.25bn were above expectations, the latter up 3%, and 6% for the full year, marking the fastest growth since 2011.  The company coupled cloud services and license support revenue to produce $6.8bn, up 8% over a year ago.  But as one analyst put it, Oracle’s move to the cloud has taken longer than expected. 

As for the guidance, on the earnings front it was below what the Street was expecting, with revenue growth of only 1% to 3%.

--I wrote a few weeks ago, following the Philadelphia / bathroom incident, that I would not buy Starbucks stock. The shares were $57.90 then.  They are $51.50 today.

The company announced this week it was accelerating the rate at which its underperforming company-owned shops in areas that are already packed with them were being closed, while at the same time, Starbucks said it was ramping up its growth and revenues.

“Our recent performance does not reflect the potential of our exceptional brand and is not acceptable,” said CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement. “We must move faster to address the more rapidly changing preferences and needs of our customers.”

Personally, being a Dunkin’ Donuts guy, I’d charge less, Mr. Johnson, and would prohibit loitering.  If you want to hang out for free somewhere, go to the freakin’ library. They also have free bathrooms there.

Anyway, that’s me.  I’ve been into like one Starbucks in the past decade.

Meanwhile, the chain is closing an estimated 150 stores this year, while opening new cafes “in markets that demand it.”  Somehow I’m not picturing city councils going, “We demand a Starbucks!”

Same-store sales for the over-priced chain continue to slump, while at the same time it maintains it will stick to its plans to expand rapidly in China.  Good luck with that, lads.

Starbucks still has 14,200 U.S. locations.

--A disgruntled Tesla engineer coded an elaborate hack to leak trade secrets about posh electrical cars – and blame unsuspecting colleagues to cover his tracks, according to a lawsuit lodged by Elon Musk’s company.

Technician Martin Tripp admitted to crafting software code that slipped “several gigabytes” of Tesla data – including photos and video – outside the network.

The third parties were not identified in a federal lawsuit filed in Nevada on Wednesday.

Tripp was assigned to the Sparks, Nev., Gigafactory, where he had access to “highly sensitive information” for Tesla batteries.

The hack was believed to be an act of retaliation prompted by a job change.

Elon Musk said he’s still determined to meet a previously stated goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of June.

But in his memo to employees on the actions of Mr. Tripp, Musk wrote in part:

“As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world – they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice....”

Some of us just think your company’s shares are grossly overvalued, Mr. Musk.

--Shares in Chinese telecom ZTE plummeted anew this week after the U.S. Senate passed a defense bill with an amendment that would continue to prevent the firm from resuming business with its U.S. suppliers.

The bill passed 85-10, in a rare rebuff of President Trump, and it came on the same day that he was threatening to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods, escalating tensions.

But the president will lobby hard against the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, and before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one passed by the House of Representatives that does not include the amendment.

Any compromise must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump – a series of hurdles that has Asia-based analysts pessimistic that ZTE can recover, as the ban will go on until the legislative process is seen through.

ZTE stock is down about 40 percent, after resuming trading following a suspension dating back to mid-April when the sanctions on the company were levied, barring U.S. suppliers from selling to it for seven years after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions with Iran and North Korea.

--Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who took over the chip giant in 2013 and saw its stock price rise more than 120 percent during his tenure, offered his resignation after the company discovered the 58-year-old exec had a “consensual relationship with an Intel employee,” the company said in a statement.

“An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers,” the statement said.

Intel policy forbids managers from having romantic or sexual relationships with anyone who reports to them either directly or indirectly.

CFO Robert Swan was named interim CEO, while a search for a permanent replacement has begun.

--The CEO of Volkswagen’s Audi division, Rupert Stadler, was arrested as part of the three-year scandal over diesel emissions cheating.  He is the highest-level executive at Volkswagen to have been forced to walk the plank.  While Stadler hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing, prosecutors have been afraid he’d destroy documents that could be evidence in the emissions manipulation case, so they want him held until the investigation is complete.

--General Motors Co. is going ahead with its plan to manufacture the new Chevy Blazer SUV in Mexico, despite criticism by President Trump over making vehicles abroad under efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

A GM spokesman said, “We remain committed to working with the administration on a modernized NAFTA.”

--The Southern California median home price surged 8.2% in May from a year earlier, hitting a new all-time high of $530,000, according to a report from CoreLogic.

The number of sales across the six-county region fell 3.4% from a year earlier, due largely to a lack of supply which has sent prices up for more than six straight years.

Orange County’s median climbed 6.3% to a record $738,500.

--Speaking of OC, resident and bond king, Bill Gross, and his ex-wife, Sue, have been going through a bitter divorce battle that saw Gross lose his 13,819-foot Laguna Beach home to Sue.  But in filing a temporary restraining order against him, we’ve learned that Bill left the home “in a state of utter chaos and disrepair,” according to court papers filed in a Los Angeles state court.

Bill is alleged to have launched a reign of terror, including leaving behind foul-smelling sprays and dead fish in the air vents, Sue notifying the court that a “substantial amount of time and money” was needed to rehabilitate the property.

Bill hired a security company to constantly monitor Sue, her two sisters and her assistant.  But Bill first got a TRO against Sue in November – weeks after their divorce was finalized – after telling a judge he was worried about Sue’s “erratic behavior” and “threat of violence,” a source told the New York Post.

Sue, it seems, stole a $36.9 million Picasso Bill had in his bedroom.

Sounds like they are both “Jerk of the Year” candidates.

--Another bitcoin exchange suffered a serious cyberattack, this one Bithumb out of Seoul, which said it had lost over $30 million, the second cyberattack in two weeks to hit a major South Korean cryptocurrency exchange .

Bitcoin is trading around $6,000, having lost well over half its value this year, while trading even more substantially below its all-time high of nearly $20,000 hit in December.

--Talk about a nightmare, early this week, Visa’s European network suffered a “very rare” broken switch that led to the failure of more than 5 million attempted debit and credit card purchases during an outage.  Imagine the frustration.

In the UK alone, the failure affected 2.4m transactions in a 10-hour period, forcing stores to stop accepting card payments and prompting consumers in some areas to empty local ATMs.

At its worst point, 35 percent of transactions across the continent didn’t go through.  Yes, this shines a light on the reliability of our IT systems in this increasingly cashless global system of ours.

--Less than a month after canceling the hit revival of “Roseanne” because of racist tweets by Roseanne Barr, ABC has decided to go forward with a spinoff series, tentatively titled “The Conners.”

The spinoff, which is scheduled to return in the fall, will include the principal cast members John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert.  The writing staff and top producers will also return.  Darlene, played by Ms. Gilbert, is expected to be the central anchor.

Roseanne wished “the best for everyone involved.”

--The Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest is fast approaching, Joey Chestnut once again preparing to defend his title; last year downing 72 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes, his 10th victory in the past 11 years.  One of the great athletes of our time...in the same category as LeBron, Mike Trout and Ronaldo.

But as Aaron Elstein notes in Crain’s New York Business, Nathan’s stock hit an all-time high this week, up 28% on the year and 62% over the past 12 months.

Nathan’s has a tie to President Trump, as Elstein points out, as Nathan’s sold the family business (founded by the legendary Nathan Handwerker), 30 years ago to a group including developer Howard Lorber, who served as an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Personally, I’ve never been a Nathan’s fan, though if I was in Coney Island of course I’d have five or six.

No, I’m strictly a Black Bear hot-dog fan these days, Black Bear products only sold at Shop Rite.  I also find them to be terrific simply boiled.

I discovered Black Bear at a Trenton Thunder baseball game a few years ago when I inquired of the counter staff, and so when I got a dog at my recent annual outing there, before I bit in, I said, “Are you still using Black Bear?”  “No,” said the girl.  “Horrors,” thought I.  And, alas, it wasn’t nearly as good.

[I’m looking for a coupon, at least, from the Black Bear folks for this plug.]

Back to Nathan’s, they’ve been expanding overseas; opening five locations in Russia and four in Kyrgyzstan, for example.

Lastly, I still haven’t seen definitively if former champion Takeru Kobayashi is being allowed to compete in this year’s Fourth of July contest.  Joey Chestnut said he would welcome the former rival.  If Kobayashi does return, this will be must-see television.  Cough cough....

Foreign Affairs

China: Officials in Beijing are optimistic following Kim Jong Un’s latest talks with President Xi Jinping.  Hopes are high Kim will shift priority to economic development, which would bring prosperity to the region, specifically parts of China’s rust-belt region, such as the province of Liaoning, which shares a long border with North Korea.

Kim paid his third visit of the year to China to brief Xi on his recent summit with President Trump and to seek economic aid from Beijing.

Xi said on Wednesday that the Korean peninsula will definitely be peaceful and stable, according to the official news agency, Xinhua.  Xi added that China was willing to keep playing a positive role to promote the peace process.  And the Chinese leader said he was pleased to see North Korea’s decision to promote economic reforms.

And Xi was of course pleased to see the suspension of U.S.-South Korean military exercises.  South Korea’s defense ministry made the formal announcement on cessation, which the Pentagon then confirmed.

Last year, 17,500 American and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the U.S. and Japan.

David Ignatius / Washington Post

“President Trump boasted last weekend that his ‘denuclearization deal’ with Kim Jong Un could ‘save potentially millions & millions of lives!’ [Ed. At his Duluth, Minn., rally, he said “25 to 30 million lives!” Seoul itself has a population of 10 million.]   He even proclaimed in the exhilaration of his return from Singapore: ‘There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.’

“But as the Great Dealmaker should know, it’s important to read the fine print. And after a week’s reflection, the Singapore joint communique, for all the dramatic television coverage that surrounded it, looks like what real estate mavens sometimes call a ‘conditional offer.’

“The condition, in this case, is that North Korea deliver on its somewhat fuzzy pledge to ‘work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.’ The discussion of how and when this will happen has barely begun. In the meantime, to build confidence, Trump has agreed to halt joint military exercises with South Korea, and Kim has agreed to stop testing missiles and nuclear bombs.

“Trump clarified the conditional nature of the military-exercise pause in a tweet Sunday: ‘Can start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!’  (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled this same caveat last week during a visit to South Korea, noting that if the denuclearization talks fail, the freeze on exercises ‘will no longer be in effect.’)

“The halt in exercises will have a limited effect on U.S. readiness in the event of an actual conflict with North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed during an interview last week. He explained that about 90 percent of the U.S. forces that would be involved in any such conflict are not based in South Korea and, thus, would be able to train and prepare normally, even without joint exercises.

“Being honest about what was achieved in Singapore is important, not to diminish Trump’s accomplishment, which is real and substantial, but to make clear what must come next. Usually, a summit is the conclusion of meticulous detail work; in this case, the order is reversed: Trump and Kim have had their handshake; now their aides start the grunt work....

“China and Russia are also scrambling to dip their spoons in the post-Singapore pudding, with Kim in Beijing this week and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in heading for Moscow. That is fine; it’s a sign they don’t want to be left out of U.S.-led diplomacy....

“The North Koreans want what we might call a ‘complete, verifiable, irreversible guarantee’ that Kim’s regime will survive and prosper.  As an Asian diplomat told me this week, this guarantee will become real only when thousands of Americans are living and working in Pyongyang. This, too, would mean a very different North Korea....

“What matters most now is rapid follow-up. If Trump thinks he has done the heavy lifting, he may lose patience and move on. One Asia diplomat explains his worry this way: ‘There’s a danger Trump will lose interest, and the situation will become worse than before if North Korea doesn’t show some real steps.’  (Veteran CIA and State Department analyst of North Korea, Robert) Carlin agreed that progress in the next three to four months ‘will be crucial.’

“Real estate experts say that is the inherent problem with a conditional offer. If the deal doesn’t close quickly, it can blow up – leaving both parties frustrated and angry.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“Canceling the two giant exercises will...reduce readiness, since they are timed to coincide with North Korea’s exercises and involve allied troops and U.S. forces from other theaters. Mr. Trump made the offer as a unilateral concession, but it’s notable that Kim Jong Un has offered no comparable military gesture. Returning three Americans his government took as hostages and promising to return veterans’ remains aren’t threat-reducing.

“If Mr. Trump wants to remove provocations from the peninsula, how about asking Kim to pull North Korean forces back from the Demilitarized Zone and take Seoul out of artillery range? That would justify the exercise cancellation as a goodwill offer.

“Beyond the exercises is Mr. Trump’s interest in using U.S. troops in South Korea as a negotiating tool in nuclear talks.  U.S. forces working alongside a democratic ally aren’t the same as the illegal development of nuclear weapons by a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Mr. Trump seems to think the South Koreans are getting a free ride on the U.S. taxpayer, but that’s false. Nearly all of the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula have begun moving to Camp Humphreys, a giant new U.S. Army base south of Seoul. The base cost some $11 billion to build and South Korea paid more than $10 billion. Seoul also pays for roughly half of the operating costs of U.S. forces in the country.

“Then there’s the larger strategic picture in East Asia. U.S. forces don’t merely deter a North Korean invasion of South Korea. They also prevent China, which has considerable economic sway over Seoul, from exerting more political control over Seoul’s foreign policy. The troops are also a forward deployment to protect regional democracies like Japan and Taiwan, and the U.S. alliance with Japan is crucial to containing China’s ambition to dominate the Western Pacific.

“The good news is that Congress is waking up to Mr. Trump’s troops-for-nukes predilections.  Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska added a sense of the Senate amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that says ‘the significant removal of United States military forces from the Korean Peninsula is a non-negotiable item as it relates to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization’ of North Korea.

“Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called his counterparts in South Korea and Japan Thursday to reaffirm America’s ‘ironclad defense commitments’ and ‘determination to maintain the readiness of its forces in the region.’ But with Mr. Trump you never know.

“U.S. deployments overseas are part of a global strategy of alliances to deter war, prevent the emergence of a dominant regional power like China, and keep threats as far as possible from the U.S. homeland. The size and nature of U.S. forces in Korea can be rethought if North Korea completely and credibly gives up its nuclear program and ceases to threaten the South. But in the meantime U.S. forces should not be a chit in a trade with Kim Jong Un.”

Syria: Syrian government forces and their Iran-backed allies will face “volcanoes of fire” if they launch a threatened offensive in the opposition-held southwest, a rebel commander told Reuters on Tuesday.

But after President Bashar al-Assad and his allies crushed the last remaining rebel strongholds near Damascus and Homs, Assad vowed to retake the opposition-held areas near the frontiers with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  Fighting broke out then in several parts of the southwest on Tuesday, with government warplanes launching air strikes, and then rebel areas were hit with artillery on Thursday in a steady escalation of the fighting. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12,500 civilians had fled the town of Busra al-Hariri and nearby areas of Deraa province in the last two days. 

The United States has warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to Syrian government violations of a “de-escalation” agreement that it underwrote with Russia last year to contain the conflict in the southwest.

Israel: 45 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel early Wednesday, and in response, the Israeli military struck 25 targets it said were associated with Hamas, in the latest larger-scale tit-for-tat  Casualties on both sides were light, but no one in Israel was sleeping well that night.  One home in the border area suffered a direct hit, but “the vast majority” of the 200,000 Israelis living in bordering communities spent the night in bomb shelters.

Separately, Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment on Thursday against the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust in the “Prepared Food Affair,” an explosive development which shook the country.

The indictment damages Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the Jerusalem Post recently reporting that he is likely to face an indictment announcement in the coming months or early 2019.

The investigation into Sara has been ongoing for years. It had been rumored a deal was in the works, such as the return of funds Sara was said to obtain fraudulently in return for taking responsibility, but then this dramatic development.

A trial is expected to start in the fall, though Sara is not expected to face jail time if convicted.

Afghanistan: Talban militants killed 30 Afghan soldiers and captured a military base in the western province of Badghis on Wednesday, the provincial governor said, their first major attack since a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Government officials said the Taliban did their reconnaissance of the area during the ceasefire.  In fact, the Taliban were seen roaming all over Afghanistan’s major cities during the ceasefire, and everyone knew what was going on...it was preparation for fresh attacks.  President Ashraf Ghani had called for an extension of the ceasefire and the Taliban rebuffed him.

Opposition politicians said Ghani made a “grave mistake” by allowing the Taliban into government-controlled areas.  That is, indeed, nuts.

Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed 36 people on Saturday in Nangarhar.  The Taliban were the main victims of this one, as it was a gathering celebrating the holiday ceasefire.

Separately, a U.S. drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and four other senior commanders, in the Afghan province of Kunar, near the Pakistani border.  Mullah Fazlullah’s death was confirmed by the Pakistani Ministry of Defense.  He had been the most-wanted militant in Pakistan for years; responsible for attacks such as the assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 that killed at least 145, including 132 children.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin is reveling in Russia’s success at the World Cup, having won its first two games by a combined score of 8-1, and thus qualifying for the Round of 16 knockout stage for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The success has helped Putin send a defiant message to his opponents that Russia is succeeding despite Western efforts to hold it back.  Russia’s 11 host cities have been flooded with international fans partying and dancing in the streets.

Russia entered the World Cup ranked as the weakest team in the field by FIFA.

Colombia: Ivan Duque, a populist conservative, won Colombia’s presidential vote on Sunday. Duque, a former senator from the right-wing Democratic Center party, won about 54 percent of the vote in the second and last round of elections, defeating Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla member and onetime mayor of Bogota.

Duque, just 41, was buoyed by his charm and a conservative upwelling in the country. A year ago, many didn’t even know his name.  His mentor, Alvaro Uribe, led Colombia from 2002 to 2010, and he was known for delivering pummeling blows against the country’s main rebel group, FARC, and drug traffickers.

Uribe then founded his own party and emerged as the chief antagonist to his successor, the departing president, Juan Manuel Santos; led the charge against a peace deal with the rebels; and handpicked Duque as the preferred candidate.

Duque is rebuffing the suggestion that Uribe will now govern through him.

Mexico: Ahead of the July 1 elections, two mayoral candidates were gunned down in 24 hours this week, bringing the number of candidates slain so far in the campaign to a staggering 18. Drug gangs are suspected in all of the cases, from what I’ve read.

Random Musings

Presidential tracking polls...

Gallup: 45% approval of Trump’s job performance (highest since Jan. 2017), 50% disapproval [June 17]
Rasmussen: 46% approval, 52% disapproval...interesting how this one has been ticking down while Gallup is ticking up.

--In a new Pew Research Center poll, some 60% view their midterm vote as a referendum on President Trump, with Pew saying interest has reached historic highs.

Of that 60%, 34% are against the president, 26% for, which makes Trump a bigger factor than any president since Pew first asked the question during President Reagan’s first term.

Nearly three-quarters of voters on both sides of the partisan divide said they cared which party will end up controlling Congress – a significantly larger share than in previous elections.

One key group for Democratic prospects: younger women.  Nearly 7 in 10 women younger than 35 said they favored a Democrat for Congress, and 4 in 10 said they saw their vote as one against Trump.  Only 1 in 10 said they thought of their vote as a ballot for him.

But in the key generic vote, when asked which party’s candidate for Congress they supported or leaned toward, voters sided with Democrats by five points, 48-43.

Republicans now have the edge on which party is better at managing the economy, while Democrats are the preferred party for the other two issues voters most want their candidates to talk about – healthcare and immigration.

CNN released a new poll on the generic House ballot and it showed Democrats ahead 50-42, compared with 47-44 in May, the poll conducted for CNN by SSRS.

The “enthusiasm gap” has 50% of Democratic voters saying they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting compared to only 43% of Republicans who feel that way.

And a Monmouth University national poll had Democrats holding a 7-point lead in the generic House poll, 48-41, basically the same as an 8-point margin in the same survey last April.

So these are all very consistent in showing Democrats with a lead, but it could evaporate quickly.

Interestingly, the Monmouth poll also finds that 34% of the public approve of the tax reform plan passed by Congress last December and 41% disapprove.  Approval is down from 40% in April.

Just 19% approve of the job Congress is doing, 67% disapprove.

But on the question, is America heading in the right direction, 40% say it is, an increase from 33% in April.

--Former billionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has decided to spend at least $80 million in the 2018 election, with the bulk of it going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Bloomberg said.

Up to this point, the financial dynamics have favored Republicans.

--Ousted Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said his fellow Republicans are “running for the hills” because they can’t deal with President Trump’s “lies.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Sanford admitted that he knows all about lying – referencing a sensational 2009 sex scandal that ended his governorship.

“We all know the story of 2009 and my implosion...I own it,” said Sanford, after being defeated in a GOP primary the week before by a Trump-backed Republican.

“And so maybe the reason I’m so outspoken on this now is there is no seeming consequence to the president and lies. And if we accept that as a society, it is going to have incredibly harmful consequences in the way that we operate going forward based on the construct of the founding fathers.”

Referring to retiring Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker as being among the few who aren’t afraid to criticize Trump, Sanford said, “People are heading for the hills.”

There’s too high a price to pay for standing up to Trump.

--In a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, Democrat Gavin Newsom has a commanding lead over Republican John Cox in California’s race for governor, 45-28 percent among registered voters who said they planned to vote in November.  In my very amateur opinion on this race, it would be a tremendous help to Republican House candidates in the state if Cox could narrow the lead to about 55-45 come election day. That would show a significant level of enthusiasm that you’d think would, at worst, allow incumbent Republicans to retain their seats in the conservative districts.

--The number of smokers in America continues to fall, down to 14% of U.S. adults last year, down from 16% the year before, government figures show.

In the 1960s, before the Surgeon General warnings went into effect, roughly 42% of U.S. adults smoked.  “Come to where the flavor is...come to Marlboro country,” as the great theme music from “The Magnificent Seven” played in the background of their commercials in those days before we all began to wise up  [This title tune and that for “The Big Country” are the two best of all time, I also can’t help but add, especially if you’ve traveled out west much.]

--Reinhard Hardegen died the other day. He was 105.  I wonder how many schoolkids today, let alone younger adults, remember that during World War II, German U-boats actually patrolled our East Coast, and sank a ton of merchant vessels...as in I’m sure zero know this.

I’ll write more about Hardegen in another column I do this weekend, but on Jan. 15, 1942, Hardegen, a U-boat commander, stood on his submarine’s bridge in the dark of night, and stared out at the Ferris wheel above Coney Island. He could see the headlights of cars and the distant glow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

“I cannot describe the feeling with words,” he wrote in a memoir, “but it was unbelievably beautiful and great.... We were the first to be here, and for the first time in this war a German soldier looked out upon the coast of the USA.”

That same night, the crew sank a British tanker carrying oil off Long Island, killing 36 crew members.

--My brother used to work as an editor/agent on some of author George Michelson Foy’s books and Harry says his latest, “Run the Storm,” the heartbreaking account of the El Faro disaster, is a must-read.  On a routine run between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico in October 2015, it seems incomprehensible that a huge American cargo ship could disappear in Hurricane Joaquin, but it ended up being the greatest U.S. merchant marine shipping disaster since World War II.

It’s the story of how little by little, company regulations, an aging vessel, and inaccurate or delayed weather forecasting slowly combined to doom the ship and its crew.

Mr. Foy holds a coastal captain license from the U.S. Coast Guard, has worked on British tramp steamers, or coasters, and knows the sea.

--In my living room is a photo of myself and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after he was elevated to cardinal in Rome, back in 2002.  That same day I also got to honor Cardinal Avery Dulles, whom I was a guest of, officially.

But Cardinal McCarrick and I, as I’ve noted once or twice in these pages, were letter-writing buddies, in a small way, as I exchanged notes with him in the 1990s on the Balkan Wars, which both of us had a profound interest in.  He had also presided over Mass at my parish in Summit on a few occasions, when he was Archbishop of Newark.

I really liked the man.  So I was shocked to hear on Wednesday that McCarrick, now 87, had been “removed from public ministry” and faces further punishment over “credible allegations that he sexually abused a teenager while a priest in New York more than 40 years ago.”

Pope Francis ordered the cardinal’s removal pending further action that could end in his expulsion from the priesthood.  A church panel determined that a former altar boy’s allegations that McCarrick fondled him – during preparations for Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972 were “credible and substantiated.”

McCarrick said he was shocked by the allegation and denied it in a statement distributed through the church, but said he cooperated in the investigation and accepted the pope’s decision out of obedience to the church.

The Newark Archdiocese also said it was aware of three decades-old allegations against McCarrick, adults, not minors, that resulted in legal settlements.

I can’t imagine the shock among so many who have known the man over the years.

When the scandals in my church first began to erupt, I stopped going to Mass.  For over a decade, the only day I went was actually New Year’s Day.  Earlier, I only went Holy Thursday.

I am kind of tempted to go this coming week just to see if the priest says anything.

For now, I don’t know what to do with the photo.

--I wrote a lot on Charles Krauthammer the last two weeks in this column, and on Thursday he passed away at the age of 68.  He will be deeply missed. He was simply the best political commentator and writer of our era.  RIP.

George Will / Washington Post

“When he was asked how to become a columnist, Charles Krauthammer would say, with characteristic drollery, ‘First, you go to medical school.’  He did, with psychiatry as his specialty because, he said with characteristic felicity, it combined the practicality of medicine and the elegance of philosophy. But he also came to the columnist craft by accident....

“In 1972, when he was a 22-year-old student at Harvard Medical School, he was swimming in a pool. Someone pushed the diving board out, extending over a shallower part of the pool. Charles, not realizing this, dove and broke his neck.  At the bottom of the pool, ‘I knew exactly what happened. I knew why I wasn’t able to move, and I knew what that meant.’ It meant that life was going to be different than he and Robyn had anticipated when they met at Oxford....

“Paralyzed from the neck down, he completed medical school, did an internship and, one thing leading to another, as life has a way of doing, became not a jewel in the crown of the medical profession, which he would have been, but one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Nothing against doctors, but the nation needed Charles more as a diagnostician of our public discontents....

“Medicine made Charles intimate with finitude – the skull beneath the skin of life; the fact that expiration is written into the lease we have on our bodies. And his accident gave him a capacity for sympathy, as Rick Ankiel knows.

“Ankiel was a can’t-miss, Cooperstown-bound pitching phenomenon for the St. Louis Cardinals – until, suddenly and inexplicably, he could not find the plate. Starting the opening game of a playoff series at age 21, the prodigy threw five wild pitches and his career rapidly spiraled far down to... resurrection as a 28-year-old major league outfielder, for a short but satisfying stint in defiance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum that there are no second acts in a life. As Charles wrote, Ankiel’s saga illustrated ‘the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether – and how – we ever come back.’

“The health problems that would end Charles’ life removed him from the national conversation nine months ago, so his legion of admirers already know that he validated this axiom: Some people are such a large presence while living that they still occupy space even when they are gone.”

Lastly, Charles Krauthammer once said: “Longevity for a columnist is a simple proposition: Once you start, you don’t stop. You do it until you die or can no longer put a sentence together.”

In my case, No. 1,003 next week. 

---

Pray for the men and women of our armed forces...and all the fallen.

God bless America.

---

Gold $1271...lowest close of the year
Oil $69.28

Returns for the week 6/18-6/22

Dow Jones  -2.0%  [24580]
S&P 500  -0.9%  [2754]
S&P MidCap  -0.1%
Russell 2000  +0.1%
Nasdaq  -0.7%  [7692]

Returns for the period 1/1/18-6/22/18

Dow Jones  -0.6%
S&P 500  +3.0%
S&P MidCap  +4.7%
Russell 2000  +9.8%
Nasdaq  +11.4%

Bulls 52.0
Bears 17.6  

Have a good week.

Brian Trumbore



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Week in Review

06/23/2018

For the week 9/18-9/22

[Posted 11:30 PM ET, Friday]

Note: StocksandNews has significant ongoing costs and your support is greatly appreciated.  Please click on the gofundme link or send a check to PO Box 990, New Providence, NJ  07974.

Edition 1,002

By the time I was 15 years of age, I had been to Europe three times for a total of 14 weeks, thanks to my parents.  It was an incredible education, especially the last three weeks in 1973 in Eastern Europe, when I met my distant uncles in Prague and Budapest, the former taking us to his humble abode with a bathtub in the middle of the kitchen, a family of five living in a space the size of most of your living rooms.  It was an eye opener, having grown up in a beautiful, upper-middle-class neighborhood in Summit, New Jersey, one of the nicer communities in the state.

At our hotel in Budapest, my uncle Geza began to cry as we stood on the balcony overlooking the Danube, Geza noting he fought the Russians from the other side of the river bank during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956.

That same trip I left the hotel one foggy night in Warsaw and walked to the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to see the changing of the guard, mesmerized by the goose-stepping soldiers.

I went to Lenin’s Tomb, and thought we would all get our heads blown off when Mom unleashed one of her historic sneezes deep in the bowels; the soldiers stationed every few steps grabbing their submachine guns.

In Leningrad, we were first given an awful room in what was otherwise a nice hotel, so Mom complained and we were upgraded to a suite with a baby grand piano. As we were settling in, the maid came in and proceeded to play the piano as well as any concert pianist we had ever heard.

That was ’73...the height of the Cold War...and the way it was behind the Iron Curtain.  The highly-educated masses forced to live in near poverty, working in menial jobs that if they just had the opportunity to come to America, or be liberated at home, they’d thrive.

My Mom’s roots are in primarily what is now Slovakia; places like Bratislava and Kosice.  Whenever Mom sent money there, it never made it to its intended destination...the mail read by Communist agents, the money taken. The same was the case with Eugene in Prague and Geza in Budapest.

So that’s how my early attitudes were shaped.  I’ve always been greatly appreciative of what my parents gave me, and my upbringing, and living in America, and I have zero tolerance for those who don’t get it. I don’t suffer fools gladly.

I also always think of those less fortunate, and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms.

I have three possessions that I cherish more than any others in my living room.  Only family members (and a few old girlfriends) know what they are.

One is a metal chariot, a total trinket, that Tomas, an Indian cab driver gave me when I spent a month in India, on business, most of that in Cochin, the spice capital of the world.

I had one day off a week, Sunday, and my final Sunday I wanted to try to see some tigers at a game preserve I had read about.  I hired out Tomas, he spoke zero English, and I didn’t even know if he understood fully where I wanted to go...nor how long it would take.

Try three hours down the hill, essentially, and five back up in a driving rainstorm, and one hour in between for touring.

We went out with 12 locals on a boat, riding through the rivers, looking for tigers and seeing only elephants. The locals hated my presence, it was 1985, and I was intimidated.  But Tomas clearly told them they would have to go through him if they intended to do something to me.

I remember stopping at a roadside shack for a little meal, Tomas doing the ordering, and we just kind of smiled at each other, me trying to appear relaxed.

At the end, having given him a $40 tip on a $45 ride (for over eight hours!), through the interpreter at the hotel, I learned Tomas wanted to take me to the airport at the end of my trip, a week later, and I told him the company I was working for would do that.

The next week as I was preparing to leave (I had gotten near-deadly food poisoning in between), I hear a knock at the door and it was Tomas, holding this chariot...it was an amazing gesture.  That’s my first big possession.

My second is from my first trip to Micronesia in the late 1990s, Yap island, which is really four main islands, three connected by a causeway, and a fourth tribal island, Rumung, reachable only by boat when the tides cooperated, where I ended up building a church through the Jesuits.  It’s the one thing I leave when I depart this Earth, by the way.

My native guide, Helen, who I could tell had an immediate fascination with me (I have to admit, I just reread one of her postcards, which is on my refrigerator), took me to see her mother.  Mom lived in a corrugated shack, up about two feet on cinderblocks to protect it from flooding, and let’s just say it was about 6 X 8 feet...that was it, and you couldn’t come close to standing up in it.

The mother had a gift for me.  An airline liquor bottle filled with palm oil. Retail value not even a penny.  If I ever lost that I’d be heartbroken for the rest of my life.

My third possession is a bottle filled with sand from Omaha and Utah Beach, which I collected during a pilgrimage to Normandy in 1995, purposely waiting a year until after the 50th anniversary and the throngs of ‘94. 

That’s what I’m about.  Since the start of StocksandNews, I’ve been to over 30 countries, virtually all of it 1999-2012, before the Chinese f’ed me, and I explored the world as only a single guy with an immense curiosity could.  I didn’t go on big tours, I went to all the great museums for my culture, and then sat in bars and talked to people. Lots of beer, lots of chat, making some friends who are readers to this day, and soaking up everything I heard.

It’s the only way to learn about what makes people tick, and, most importantly for me in terms of my writing, what they think about our country, and what are their own daily concerns.

But if I had to list one major takeaway it was that Europeans and Asians know far more about America, its history, and our democracy than we ourselves know.

I experienced a ton on the road.  Like the day when the Abu Ghraib story hit, with the infamous photos, I was taking a ferry from Singapore to Indonesia, ostensibly to get an up close view of the tanker traffic in the Strait of Malacca, the breadth of which I couldn’t see from the bar on Sentosa Island I told you about before.

But imagine everyone reading their newspapers (2004), with the guy wearing the hood on the front page, and I’m cowering in the back row, hoping no one says anything to me, seeing as I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I was Brian from Canada that day, that’s for sure.  American?  You kidding?

I’ve been to the Bekaa Valley, and Hezbollah territory, twice; got stared at touring Jordan for a week (they don’t like Americans); went to the DMZ and walked in one of the tunnels under the mountain that the South Koreans discovered in the 1970s or 80s...a tunnel where the North Koreans would come flooding in during an invasion; got stood up in Paraguay by golfer Carlos Franco; walked the slums of Istanbul; gave the finger to the camera outside the Iranian Embassy in Ankara; sat behind Jack Welch at the Vatican (we talked Irish golf); did a lot of stuff.

And then Donald Trump comes along.  Part II...and I promise, my real opinions...next time.

For now, let’s just say Americans are an incredibly ignorant people when it comes to understanding the world and why some people like me have a right to be worried.

Stephen Brill, founder of both “Court TV” and the “American Lawyer Magazine,” was on Michael Smerconish’s Saturday morning show on CNN the other week (June 2) and I’ve been waiting for the appropriate moment to relate something Brill said, in discussing his new book “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year-Fall – and Those Fighting to Reverse It.”

Brill talked about an epiphany he had.

“Well it was about 2 ½ years ago. My wife and I landed at Kennedy; we were coming in from Europe and we trudged through one of the terminals and there was water leaking, it was crowded, the bathrooms were filthy and we got into a cab and took what’s called the Van Wyck Expressway, which is the expressway that goes from Kennedy into the city.

“And it was ugly and filed with potholes, jammed with traffic and in the middle of the Expressway there’s a tram that I know cost $3 or $4 billion dollars and the tram goes all the way from Kennedy Airport about eight miles into Queens, not in the center of the city.

“And I made a joke about that to my wife. And said what would someone from France, or Germany, or anyplace else arriving in America for the first time think of the greatest country in the world, arriving in the gateway city and going through that airport and being on this highway, and looking at the poor excuse for mass transit that we have.

“And then I rattled off a couple of other things about our health care system and everything else, and I said, you know, would they really think that we’re the greatest country in the world?”

---

Trump World

Immigration: Stephen Miller, the highly-unlikeable 32-year-old White House adviser, was the architect of the administration’s immigration policy of separating migrant children from their parents and detentions in shelters that sometimes were no more than cages.

Miller, at least until the president reversed himself, was said to be happy with the way things were going, which led one fellow staffer to equate his behavior to that of the Nazi SS, Vanity Fair reported Wednesday.

“Stephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,” an outside White House adviser said. “He’s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. There’s always been a way he’s gone about this. He’s Waffen-SS.”

Both Melania Trump and Laura Bush made the rare political move of speaking out, while even Bill O’Reilly tweeted: “The Trump administration will not win on this one and it should reverse course today.”

“The government should know how bad this looks and how innocent children are actually suffering. That kind of scenario is unacceptable to most Americans as exemplified by former First Lady Laura Bush’s withering criticism.”

Miller told the New York Times over the weekend that the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families was a “simple decision.”

“No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” Miller told the Times.  “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”

Miller is supposedly an old friend of the controversial white nationalist leader Richard Spencer; the two meeting while they were students at Duke University.  Spencer told Mother Jones magazine in December that Miller “is not alt-right or a white nationalist.... (but) could Miller and Trump do good things for white Americans? The answer is yes.”

Miller worked as communications director for then-Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Steve Bannon on “This Week” Sunday: “It’s zero tolerance. I don’t think you have to justify it. We have a crisis on the southern order. But the elites in this city, and this ties into Korea, ties into everything that took place this week, the elites, the permanent political class in this city want to manage situations to run – you know, to bad outcomes.

“And Donald Trump is not going to do that. He’s just not going to kick the can down the road, whether that is China, whether it’s tariffs, whether it’s Korea, whether it’s the southern border....

“It’s a crime to come across illegally, and children get separated.

“I mean, I hate to say it, that’s the law and he’s enforcing the law....

“Give me border wall security.  We won’t have this problem. He has a zero tolerance situation. He has drawn a line in the sand. I don’t think he’s going to back off from it.”

But then President Trump did, ordering a halt to separating children from illegal immigrant parents at the southwest border, only to then generate widespread confusion.

The lack of clarity mostly centered on the plight of the more than 2,000 children, including toddlers and infants, who were removed from their parents and guardians in the past month while the adults were referred for prosecution on federal misdemeanor charges of illegal entry into the U.S.

The president’s order, Wednesday, was only meant to apply to new families swept up in illegal entry cases, leaving the children already in custody in limbo and languishing in an uncertain status.  In an effort to find space for them, many of them have been moved to Virginia and New York.

Plus there were legal restrictions that allowed children to remain in detention with their parents for only 20 days. So it wasn’t clear how the administration planned to deal with the time limitations.

But federal authorities were attempting to line up accommodations for entire families, under terms of the president’s order. The Pentagon, for one, was asked to prepare to house up to 20,000 immigrants at posts scattered throughout Texas and Arkansas.

House Republican leaders abruptly postponed a high-stakes vote Thursday on GOP immigration legislation that appeared headed to defeat.  Republican leaders had set up two votes on their GOP bills – one on a hard-line measure, the other on a compromise negotiated by conservatives and moderates.

The hard-line measure, which imposed limits on legal immigration and provided temporary relief to young undocumented immigrants, was rejected, 231-193. That’s when leadership opted to pull the second bill...for now.

Neither bill was negotiated with Democrats, amid the separation crisis.

So it was no surprise we had the following series of tweets from President Trump Thursday and Friday morning.

“We shouldn’t be hiring judges by the thousands, as our ridiculous immigration laws demand, we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country based on the legal phrase they are told to say as their password.”

“The Border has been a big mess and problem for many years.  At some point Schumer and Pelosi, who are weak on Crime and Border security, will be forced to do a real deal, so easy, that solves this long time problem  Schumer used to want Border security – now he’ll take Crime!”

“What is the purpose of the House doing good immigration bills when you need 9 votes by Democrats in the Senate, and the Dems are only looking to Obstruct (which they feel is good for them in the Mid-Terms). Republicans must get rid of the stupid Filibuster Rule – it is killing you!”

“Even if we get 100% Republican votes in the Senate, we need 10 Democrat votes to get a much needed Immigration Bill - & the Dems are Obstructionists who won’t give votes for political reasons & because they don’t care about Crime coming from Border! So we need to elect more R’s!”

“Elect more Republicans in November and we will pass the finest, fairest and most comprehensive Immigration Bills anywhere in the world.  Right now we have the dumbest and the worst. Dems are doing nothing but Obstructing. Remember their motto, RESIST! Ours is PRODUCE!”

“Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to solve this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the Red Wave!”

“80% of Mexico’s Exports come to the United States. They totally rely on us, which is fine with me. They do have, though, very strong Immigration Laws. The U.S. has pathetically weak and ineffective Immigration Laws that the Democrats refuse to help us fix. Will speak to Mexico!”

“We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections. Obama and others had the same pictures, and did nothing about it!”

A Quinnipiac University national poll released this week showed that American voters oppose 66-27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families cross illegally into America.

Republicans support the separation policy 55-35 percent.

All voters support by a 79-15 percent allowing the so-called “Dreamers” to remain and ultimately apply for citizenship.

Opinion....

Hugh Hewitt / Washington Post

“Call it the ‘electric fence presidency.’

“President Trump – always confident, always exuberant, always selling – crashes forward with the policies and people he embraces until he hits a shocking obstacle and falls back, at first stunned and disbelieving, but resolving quickly not to get scorched that way again. He adjusts his trajectory and takes off again, pursuing the same goals on an altered path.

“In an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions this month, I was incredulous at Sessions’ insistence that there was no choice he could make that wouldn’t lead to family separation at the border. It was obviously a morally objectionable practice and just as obviously political suicide. The gathering storm of a public-opinion backlash broke quickly thereafter and increased in severity as journalists descended on the border and parents and grandparents across the country shuddered at the images of children separated from parents charged with misdemeanors. Border security is a winning issue for Trump, as is the barrier he and the public demand be built as a visible expression of an invisible resolve to control entry into the country.

“We know technology is coming that will make ingress into the United States more secure, but even breakthrough technologies will never be as reliable as a patrolled fence.

“The president knows that 50,000 unlawful entries across the southern border every month is unacceptable to a majority of Americans.  But he did not realize that it is even more unacceptable to separate parents from children as they are assessed for refugee status or deportation.  The solution – better, secure facilities for families to remain in pending adjudication of their applications to stay – appeals to large majorities, and perhaps Congress will deliver just such a legislative authorization.

“Trump keeps doing this kind of thing. He pushes and pushes on policies he intuits are in high demand – rebuilding the military, cutting taxes, ending ObamaCare, appointing originalist judges, fighting against the perception of getting fleeced in trade deals – and sticks with them until he sees evidence that his intuition is wrong or that the advice he received on the implementation of that intuition is wrong. He wants the wall. But he doesn’t want the 24-7 crush of awful publicity. So he recalibrated.

“That hasn’t happened on trade policy – yet. On immigration, someone led the president into a box canyon of bad policy and worse press, and the shock was severe. It looks to many conservatives that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is offering advice just as toxic as the advice Trump was given on immigration, but the evidence of blowback isn’t obvious yet. As with the family-separation policy, many Trump allies in Congress are telling him the tariffs are a disaster. There aren’t any visible manifestations of that disaster though, so the president persists.

“But losing ground in North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race, Iowa congressional districts and other farm-state contests is a real political cost. The president needs a House majority to protect him from spurious articles of impeachment and to keep a focus on the Justice Department inspector general’s report on corruption of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s homebrew email server.  He also needs a Senate majority to confirm his judicial nominees. Both majorities are threatened by the tariffs, just as they are by the family-separation policy.

“It would be wise for the president to keep a list of those who give him awful advice and find them new jobs or basement offices, and to listen more closely to House and Senate Republicans (both leadership and rank and file). They want to win as badly as he does, and they don’t let deeply distorted readings of public opinion throw off their political compass.”

Editorial / Washington Post

“Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, is no bomb-thrower or name-caller. But when President Trump this week said immigrants would ‘infest’ the United States, she called the comment ‘repugnant, reprehensible and repulsive.’

“We also try not to toss insults around. We believe in civil discourse and in trying to understand the other side’s point of view. But when it comes to tearing children away from their parents at the southern border, there is only one legitimate side. Mr. Trump’s policy for the past weeks has been repugnant, reprehensible and repulsive. It could be justified only by those who view Salvadorans and Hondurans not as humans who deserve to live but as animals – as pests – who ‘infest.’

“We don’t casually use the word ‘lie,’ either. But Mr. Trump and his secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, have been lying about the crisis at the border. It began April 6, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared an immediate ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for everyone crossing illegally from Mexico.  At any moment, Mr. Trump had it within his power to reverse that policy. Yet the administration maintained that it was powerless, that Democrats were at fault and that only an act of Congress could keep families together.

“Now, faced with so much public opposition that Republicans were fearing for their midterm election prospects, Mr. Trump has taken all that back. On Wednesday he signed an executive order that he says will ensure families remain unified. If this does not just become another way of stockpiling migrants, and if the administration implements the order competently and humanely  - which certainly cannot be assumed – it will be an improvement.

“But all the damage can’t be undone, and certainly all the lessons shouldn’t be unlearned. The zero-tolerance policy was implemented so chaotically, with so little forethought – with about as much care as you would expend on infesting animals – that one former U.S. immigration chief warned that some parents may never find their children again. Even for those who are reunited – and children were being torn away at a rate of some 400 per week – the trauma will cause lasting harm to some. Nor will the injury to America’s reputation abroad be easily repaired.”

Daniel Henninger / Wall Street Journal

“W.C. Fields, the great and wise film comedian, once said that doing a scene with children was perilous because they will steal it. Someone should have warned the Trump White House.

“No doubt buried somewhere inside the administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy on illegal border crossings is an important issue related to the rule of law or national sovereignty. Just don’t expect anything resembling serious thought to compete with images of kids in Border Patrol processing cages.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“President Trump on Wednesday walked back his policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border that had united most of America in opposition.  This may mitigate some self-inflicted political damage, but Congress ought to go further and pass a bill that fixes this and other immigration woes.

“In classic Trumpian fashion, the President took credit for reversing a policy he had previously said he couldn’t reverse. ‘We’ve dealt with a lot of different problems. This is one that has been going on for many decades,’ Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office.  ‘So we’re keeping families together and this will solve that problem. At the same time we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.’

“But this was a problem of his own creation, and ‘zero tolerance’ is part of it. In May the Justice Department directed that all immigrants apprehended at the border be prosecuted as criminals. But a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement prohibits the detention of children. So the Department of Health and Human Services took custody of the kids as their parents were charged and processed for deportation.

“Homeland Security had previously kept families together in detention centers for a few weeks and then released them with ankle monitors.  Restrictionists claimed letting immigrants go encouraged illegal immigration, though border apprehensions had been falling for years until a modest surge in recent months.

“About 2,300 kids have been separated from their parents since May, and pictures of caged toddlers and recordings of crying babies have resulted in the biggest public backlash of the Trump Presidency.”

Laura Bush / Washington Post

“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso.  These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history....

“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation, on being the nation that sends humanitarian relief to places devastated by natural disasters or famine or war. We pride ourselves on believing that people should be seen for the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We pride ourselves on acceptance. If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents – and to stop separating parents and children in the first place.

“People of all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer.  I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this....

“Twenty-nine years ago, my mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, visited Grandma’s House, a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Washington. Back then, at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, the disease was a death sentence, and most babies born with it were considered ‘untouchables.’ During her visit, Barbara – who was the first lady at the time – picked up a fussy, dying baby named Donovan and snuggled him against her shoulder to soothe him. My mother-in-law never viewed her embrace of that fragile child as courageous. She simply saw it as the right thing to do in a world that can be arbitrary, unkind and even cruel. She, who after the death of her 3-year-old daughter knew what it was to lose a child, believed that every child is deserving of human kindness, compassion and love.

“In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”

Unrelated to the above, specifically, but in line with my thinking overall....

Thomas L. Friedman / New York Times

“Watching President Trump recently accuse Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stabbing him in the back prompted me to Google a simple question: How many Canadians were killed or wounded since April 2002 fighting alongside Americans in Afghanistan? The answer: 158 were killed and 635 wounded.

“Think about that: America, not Canada, was attacked on 9/11. Nevertheless, our ally to the north sent thousands of its own young men and women to Afghanistan to help us destroy the forces of Al Qaeda that attacked our cities – and 158 Canadians gave their lives in that endeavor.

“And yet, when their prime minister mildly pushed back against demands to lower Canada’s tariffs on milk, cheese and yogurt from the U.S., Trump and his team – in a flash – accused Trudeau of ‘betrayal,’ back-stabbing and deserving of a ‘special place in hell.’

A special place in hell? Over milk tariffs? For a country that stood with us in our darkest hour?  That is truly sick.

“But it tells you all you need to know about how differently Trump looks at the world from any of his predecessors – Republican or Democrat. Everything is a transaction: What have you done for ME today? The notion of America as the upholder of last resort of global rules and human rights – which occasionally forgoes small economic advantages to strengthen democratic societies so we can enjoy the much larger benefits of a world of healthy, free-market democracies – is over.

“ ‘Trump’s America does not care,’ historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post.  ‘It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world.  It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.’”

Trumpets....

--It turns out that Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who promised he’d make sure Donald Trump lost the election, was escorted out of the agency’s headquarters about ten days ago, though his attorney said he was still employed by the bureau.

Testifying before the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, IG Michael Horowitz said “it’s clear” Strzok and gal pal Lisa Page, also an FBI employee, voiced anti-Trump views that were “extremely serious [and] completely antithetical to the core values” of the agency and they wouldn’t have been allowed to work on his staff.

But Horowitz insisted their biases didn’t affect the outcomes of their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server.

Republicans, though, insist the views of a few FBI agents rigged the outcome in favor of Clinton and demanded further investigation.

--According to a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, by more than 3-1, 64 percent to 18 percent say the president doesn’t have the power to pardon himself. Even Republicans are inclined to split with Trump on this.  Just 29% say he has the power to pardon himself; 45% say he doesn’t.

58% of Americans, including 31% of Republicans, say the House of Representatives should impeach the president if he pardons himself.

--In a new CNN poll released today, it seems the constant criticism by President Trump of special counsel Robert Mueller is taking its toll.

The number of Americans who approve of how Mueller is handling the investigation has dropped from 48% in March to 44% in May to just 41% now, the lowest it has been in CNN’s polling.

So we know what this means, boys and girls...at least three tweets a day mentioning “WITCH HUNT!” from here on.

--In a tweet last Saturday, President Trump wrote: “My supporters are the smartest, strongest, most hard working and most loyal that we have seen in our countries [sic] history.  It is a beautiful thing to watch as we win elections and gather support from all over the country. As we get stronger, so does our country. Best numbers ever!”

The same day, website FiveThirtyEight reported that Trump’s approval rating has declined in all 50  states since taking office.

--I’m sick of the constant presidential refrain, “It’s all fake news!  Look at them back there...fake news!”

The other day, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson told viewers: “If you’re looking to understand what’s actually happening in this country, always assume the opposite of whatever they’re telling you on the big news stations.”

I couldn’t agree more than with how Seth MacFarlane, of “Family Guy” fame, replied on Twitter: “In other words, don’t think critically, don’t consult multiple news sources, and in general, don’t use your brain.”  [MacFarlane then gave $2.5 million to NPR.]

That’s what we do here at StocksandNews.  Read and listen to all sources, think critically, and use the brain...whatever is left of it.

Wall Street...Trade...

Monday, President Trump further escalated his trade fight with China, saying his administration was prepared to impose tariffs on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and potentially even more if Beijing continues to fight back.

“China apparently has no intention of changing its unfair practices related to the acquisition of American intellectual property and technology,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than altering those practices, it is now threatening United States companies, workers, and farmers who have done nothing wrong,” he added, calling China’s response “unacceptable.”

The tit-for-tat began last Friday, when Trump said Washington was moving ahead with tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods, including agricultural and industrial machinery. China then slapped tariffs on $50 billion worth of American goods, including beef, poultry, tobacco and cars.

When the administration upped the ante Monday, China’s Commerce Ministry said it would “have to adopt comprehensive measures combining quantity and quality to make a strong countermeasure.”

But last year, the U.S. exported only $130.4 billion of goods to China, though China could target individual companies, i.e., Apple, for example, by disrupting the supply chain, Boeing, or take other measures.

The Global Times said on Thursday: “If Trump continues to escalate trade tensions with China, we cannot rule out the possibility that China will strike back by adopting a hard-line approach targeting Dow Jones index giants, which would include not only Apple and Boeing, but Nike.

Throughout all this, you must never forget one thing.  One man rules China, and it’s all about “Xi Jinping Thought.”  Whatever Xi says, the rest must follow.  Not that he’s going to do this, but if Xi said, “Our smartphones are now as good as Apple’s,” he wouldn’t have to say any more; the people would get the message.  [At the same time, Apple employs a ton of Chinese on the mainland, so it’s a complicated game the two sides are playing.]

Today, Chinese state media weighed in, stepping up the war of words, with the official China Daily saying in an editorial the United States had failed to understand that the business it does with China supported millions of American jobs and that the U.S. approach was self-defeating, citing research by the Rhodium Group that said that Chinese investment in the U.S. declined 93 percent to $1.8 billion in the first five months of the year, its lowest level in seven years.

“The woes the administration is inflicting on Chinese companies do not simply translate into boons for U.S. enterprises and the U.S. economy,” the paper said in an editorial headlined “Protectionism symptom of paranoid delusions.”

“The fast-shrinking Chinese investment in the U.S. reflects the damage being done to China-U.S.-trade relations...by the trade crusade of Trump and his trade hawks,” the China Daily said.

The Global Times, which is published by the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial China needed to be realistic about how it could handle the United States and look at other strategies.

“The U.S. has the upper hand over China in technology, defense and international influence, and therefore the country will continue to have a strategic initiative over Beijing for the foreseeable future.  As long as China remains clear-minded in strategy, level-headed in its U.S. policy, and avoids a full-fledged geopolitical competition or a strategic clash against the U.S. China will be able to withstand U.S. pressure. In other words, China should focus on its domestic affairs.”

In other words, China should keep promoting its own economic development, like with its “Made in China 2025” strategy.

“As long as China can effectively utilize its successful policies and experiences accumulated since the reform and opening up, and avoid subversive mistakes, the country wil see robust momentum for development,” the GT said.

Meanwhile, the European Union introduced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods on Friday, over $3 billion worth of goods on products including bourbon, motorcycles and orange juice.

And India said it was raising taxes on 29 products imported from the U.S. – including some agricultural products, steel and iron products – in retaliation for the wide-ranging U.S. tariffs.

It’s hard to keep track these days, but the original tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imported into the U.S. went into effect on June 1 and affect the EU, Canada, Mexico and other close U.S. allies, including India.

The EU is levying a tariff of 25% on Harley Davidson bikes, for one, which hits Speaker Paul Ryan’s district.

Trump tweet today: “Based on the Tariffs and Trade Barriers long placed on the U.S. and it (sic) great companies and workers by the European Union, if these Tariffs and Barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing a 20% Tariff on all of their cars coming into the U.S. Build them here!”

The EU’s 10 percent tariff on passenger vehicles has long been a focus of Mr. Trump’s trade ire. The U.S. charges just a 2.5 percent duty on cars imported from Europe.  But the U.S. also has a 25 percent tariff on light trucks that has been in place since the 1960s and is the result of another trade dispute with the EU.

The U.S. imported $191bn in passenger vehicles and light trucks last year, with more than $42bn in auto imports coming from the EU, $20bn of that from Germany.

Europe and Asia

IHS Markit released its flash readings on the eurozone economy for June. The flash composite for the euro area was 54.8 vs. 54.1 in May (50 being the dividing line between growth and contraction), so that’s good, with the manufacturing PMI at 55.0 vs. 55.5 last month, an 18-mo. low, not good, and services at 55.0 vs. 53.8, a 4-mo. high.

As you know, the flash readings also look at Germany and France, individually. The former had a manufacturing PMI of 55.9, an 18-mo. low, with services at 53.9.  The latter was at 53.1 on manufacturing, a 16-mo. low, with services a robust 56.4.

Chris Williamson / IHS Markit

“An improved service sector performance helped offset an increasing drag from the manufacturing sector in June, lifting Eurozone growth off the 18-month low seen in May. With growth kicking higher in June, the surveys are commensurate with GDP rising 0.5% in the second quarter.

“Price pressures are also on the rise again, running close to seven-year highs. Increased oil and raw material prices are driving up costs, but wages are also lifting higher, in part reflecting tighter labor markets in some parts of the region. Service sector jobs are being created at the fastest rate seen over the past decade, underscoring the extent to which the job market is tightening....

“However...manufacturing is looking especially prone to a further slowdown in coming months, with companies citing trade worries and political uncertainty as their biggest concerns. Sentiment about the year ahead in the factory sector has sunk to its lowest since 2015.”

Eurobits....

--President Trump warned on Monday that the United States must avoid the immigration problems facing Europe and he attacked the policies of Germany, one of our closest allies.

In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that crime in Germany is on the rise, and railed against immigration policies in Europe, even as his own policies at home, such as family separation, faced bipartisan criticism.

As disputes rose in Germany about the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her open-door refugee policy for those seeking asylum, Trump wrote:

“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”

Crime numbers in Germany are the lowest since 1992, according to the most recent data available*, but a high-profile murder of a 14-year-old girl in the country has been fueling anti-immigrant flames in the country.

*Some government studies show violent crime spiked  in 2015 and 2016, with the flood of immigrants, but, overall, crime was down.

By week’s end, Merkel played down expectations of a major breakthrough being reached at hastily-arranged talks between some EU leaders this Sunday on the migration dispute dividing Europe.  Plans for an emergency meeting of 10 EU leaders ahead of a full June 28-29 summit were thrown into chaos on Thursday when Italy’s new prime minister said a draft paper on migration had been pulled due to a clash with Merkel.  The chancellor’s back is against a wall. She needs to get EU leaders at the summit to agree to share asylum seekers more evenly to placate her conservative allies, Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) but countries like Italy are reluctant to do so.

If no satisfactory deal is reached at the June 28-29 confab, German Interior Minister and CSU chief Horst Seehofer have threatened to defy Merkel and turn people away at the German border who have applied for asylum in other EU states.  National border controls would undermine the EU’s open border system and could cause a German government crisis.

The Social Democrats, who also share power with Merkel’s conservative bloc – comprising the CSU and her own Christian Democrats (CDU) – said they were ready for a new election.

Josef Joffe / Washington Post

“She used to be the queen, nay, empress of Europe, but now Angela Merkel, 63, is ‘a chancellor on the way out,’ as the German magazine Der Spiegel just put it.

“The twilight of her reign is clearly under way, but why this Merkeldammerung?  Her problem is neither the German economy, which is booming, nor a weak and divided opposition. It is the enemy in her own bed: the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian wing of the Christian Democratic Union she leads.

“Beset by the surge of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, the Christian Social Union is staring at polls giving it only 36 percent of the vote in the state elections on Oct. 14 – after almost four decades of holding absolute majorities in mighty Bavaria. Trying to claw back votes from the AfD, the CSU is echoing the nationalist upstart, which has vaulted from nowhere to become the Bundestag’s third-largest party.

“But the CSU’s heaviest guns are trained on Mutti (mom) Merkel. To put it in the simplest terms: Desperately straining to keep the European Union from fragmenting, the chancellor is seeking a ‘European solution’ to the migrant influx – the distribution of refugees across the E.U. and open borders from Portugal to Poland. Merkel’s nemesis, Horst Seehofer, the CSU chairman and federal interior minister, insists on ‘Deutschland first.’ He wants to turn refugees away at retightened German borders.

“Merkel announced a deal with Seehofer on June 18 giving her two weeks to try to reach an agreement with other E.U. leaders that would placate German hard-liners on immigration. The two sister parties likely will make up – for a while.  But even if Merkel makes it though this precarious summer and endures to the end of her fourth term, in 2021, she is damaged goods. Her existential problem goes far beyond the intramural political warfare.  The European stage she has dominated for so long is collapsing beneath her.”

Meanwhile, Hungary’s parliament passed a package of laws that would criminalize offering some forms of help to immigrants, in what critics call a violation of human rights.

The package would impose potential prison terms of up to a year on those, including lawyers and civil society organizations, who try to help illegal immigrants claim asylum or apply for residence.  Since any asylum seeker arriving in Hungary via a safe third country would be ‘illegal’ under the new measures, non-governmental groups said the law would make it impossible to try to help most refugees.

The laws could spark a new conflict with Brussels, which has repeatedly clashed with the government of Viktor Orban over allegations it is undermining democratic checks and balances.

Orban believes the debate on migration is shifting in his favor...and it is.

--Next week’s EU summit is also critical for British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit strategy...as in will the EU accept  at worst the broad outline they are presented.  Full details next time.

This week, Mrs. May did promise she would pump $26.6 billion a year by 2023 into the state-run National Health Service, funded by money no longer being spent on the U.K.’s European Union membership.

--Meanwhile, France and Germany face a growing backlash to their plans for a common eurozone budget, dealing a blow to Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel and their ambitions for a big overhaul of the single currency area.

The Netherlands, Austria and Finland are among those questioning the need for any joint eurozone “fiscal capacity,” with as many as 12 governments concerned that the blueprint would leave their taxpayers too exposed to problems in crisis-hit member states.

--Eurozone countries agreed to a long-awaited debt relief deal for Greece today. The agreement gives Athens more time to repay about $110bn worth of loans and extends a grace period during which Greece will pay little or no interest.

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said it sent a signal that Greece was turning a new page.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said the agreement meant “the Greek crisis ends here.”

Under the deal, eurozone governments are also giving Greece a final cash loan of 15bn euro to help it keep paying its bills, with the current bailout program due to end in August.

Greece has operated under three bailout programs since 2010, and in return for the funding, the country had to enact a series of wrenching economic reforms, as the economy shrank and unemployment surged.

But the situation has stabilized, and Greece is growing again, though it still faces the problem of making payments on its accumulated debt load, which stands at about 180% of  GDP (vs. Italy’s 135%...second-highest in the EU).

Turning to Asia...China’s Shanghai Composite Index is now down 19 percent from its January high, on the cusp of the 20 percent mark that most view as a bear market.  Should it hit that level, it would be the first such decline since 2015.  China’s stocks this past week alone lost $514bn in market value.

In Japan, a flash reading on manufacturing for this month came in at 53.1 vs. 52.8 in May.

Separately, Japan’s exports rose in May at the fastest rate in four months thanks to increased shipments of cars, car parts, and semiconductor equipment, a sign that global demand isn’t weakening as many thought. Exports rose 8.1 percent from the same period a year ago, better than forecast.

Japan’s exports to the U.S. rose 5.8%, year-on-year, but imports rose 19.9 percent, owing to imports of U.S. aircraft and coal.  Japan’s trade surplus with the U.S. thus fell 17.3 percent yoy.  We have to watch such things closely these days, thanks to the man in the White House.

Street Bytes

--The Dow Jones suffered through its worst week since March, as the industrials saw their shares hit on trade fears, the Dow falling 2% to 24580. The broader S&P 500 was down only 0.9%, and Nasdaq hit another new closing high, Wednesday, 7781, before finishing down 0.7% on the week to close at 7692.

General Electric, one of America’s most storied companies and an original member of the Dow Jones industrial average, has been removed from the index after struggling for years.

GE is being replaced by drug store chain Walgreens Boots Alliance, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, which announced the change after the close of trading Tuesday. The move will go into effect before the start of trading on June 26.

In explaining the change, David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, didn’t cite GE’s issues, but rather: “Consumer, finance, health care and technology companies are more prominent today and the relative importance of industrial companies is less.”

Walgreens, Blitzer added, will make the 30-stock Dow more representative of the consumer and health care areas of the economy.

The change in the Dow is the first since March 2015, when Apple was added and longtime component AT&T removed.

--U.S. Treasury Yields

6-mo. 2.08%  2-yr. 2.54%  10-yr.  2.89%  30-yr. 3.04%

Rising trade tensions helped the Treasury market some, with a mini-flight to the safety of sovereign debt; the yield on the 10-year finishing the week below 2.90% for the first time since April 13.

--Trump tweet Friday morning: “Hope OPEC will increase output substantially. Need to keep prices down!”

OPEC held its crucial meeting in Vienna and the cartel, plus non-member Russia and others, agreed to an output hike, but most analysts say there’s likely to be a significant gap between the headline number and the amount of oil that can actually be added to the market; ergo, any agreement to increase supply is likely to be considerably smaller in actuality.

The problem is higher quotas are being given to the likes of Venezuela, Mexico and Angola, which will struggle mightily to produce more.

Prior to the agreement, Russia was calling for a production increase of 1.5m barrels a day, as its energy minister said prices were “balanced” enough to absorb such a steep production hike

“The market is growing, demand is growing, and we already see the balance in the market,” said Alexander Novak.

But late Thursday, Iran said it was still opposed to a deal to lift output, which pitted it against rival, and de facto cartel leader, Saudi Arabia.

So OPEC ministers then agreed to boost output by about 600,000 barrels a day, moving more modestly than many producers had hoped to curb higher prices.  Ministers had gone into the meeting with an official, nominal target for boosting production by one million barrels a day, split between OPEC and non-OPEC allies, led by Russia.  But as noted above, some countries can’t raise production at the moment, so it nets out to something closer to 600,000 real barrels hitting the market.

Thus at least for one day, the cartel and Russia et al didn’t do what President Trump wanted and the price of crude spiked today to $69.28, the highest level in five weeks.

Separately, while gasoline prices have stabilized recently, and fallen slightly in some markets after the recent big price spike, the national gas price average, $2.90 (according to AAA) is still 60 cents more expensive than a year ago.

And gasoline inventories have been falling rather rapidly, just before an anticipated record amount of travel over the Fourth of July weekend, so the little break at the pump is probably short-lived.

Hawaii ($3.73) and California ($3.71) have the highest prices at the pump.

--The days of internet sales being tax free are coming to an end. The Supreme Court on Thursday moved to close the loophole, ruling that internet retailers can be required to collect sales taxes even in states where they have no physical presence.

The decision, in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc., is a big victory for brick-and-mortar businesses that have long complained they are at a competitive disadvantage in having to charge sales taxes while most online competitors do not.   And the states are now drooling over the prospect of collecting $billions in annual revenue.

But the Supremes effectively overturned a system they helped create back in 1992, when the “court ruled in Quill Corporation v. North Dakota that the Constitution bars states from requiring businesses to collect sales tax unless they have a substantial connection to the state.” [New York Times]

Writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the Quill decision caused states to lose annual tax revenues of up to $33 billion.

Justices Thomas, Ginsburg, Alito and Gorsuch joined the majority.

Shares in Amazon fell just 1 percent, but Overstock.com saw its shares fall 7 percent the day of the decision.

--In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled today that the government generally needs a warrant to collect troves of location data about the customers of cellphone companies.

The decision has implications for all kinds of personal information held by third parties, including email and text messages, internet searches, and bank and credit card records.

But in writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the decision was limited.

“We hold only that a warrant is required in the rare case where the suspect has a legitimate privacy interest in records held by a third party.

--The Federal Reserve determined in its latest “stress test” scenario for the 35 largest bank holding companies, which hold 80% of the assets at banks operating in the U.S., that they were healthy enough to withstand a severe economic downturn and would continue lending during a crisis, as the industry posts record profits with regulatory relief on the way.  [Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley did come close to failing on one metric, but this was under extreme circumstances, including unemployment rocketing back up to 10%.]

The annual stress-test exercise was instituted after the 2008 financial crisis.

Meanwhile, the biggest banks are continuing to scoop up market share at the expense of struggling overseas banks and smaller U.S. lenders.

--Walt Disney Co. raised its offer to purchase most of 21st Century Fox to more than $70 billion in cash and stock, topping an unsolicited offer from rival Comcast Corp., as the bidding war escalates.

Disney’s new $70bn offer is much higher than its original deal, $52.5 billion in stock, while surpassing Comcast’s $65 billion all-cash offer.  Disney will pay Fox shareholders roughly 50% in cash and 50% in stock.

The assets in play include the Twentieth Century Fox film and TV studio; U.S. cable networks including FX and regional sports channels (seen by many as the crown jewel); international assets including Sky PLC and Star India; plus Fox’s one-third stake in streaming service Hulu.

And just a reminder that both proposed deals exclude Fox News, Fox Sports 1, the Fox broadcast network or its television stations, which are being spun off into a new company, dubbed “New Fox.”

Meanwhile, there has been a bit of a revolt by some of the ‘talent’ in the Fox Family against the conservative viewpoints of news commentators such as Sean Hannity.  “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan said he would leave Fox’s TV studio, citing his personal disgust with Fox News as the reason.  Levitan said, however, he would then make his decision after 21st Century Fox completes the pending sale of its movie and TV studio assets.  Nonetheless, it was like tossing a grenade at his longtime employer.

Levitan said on Twitter that Fox News’ “23-hour a day support for the NRA, conspiracy theories and Trump’s lies gets harder to swallow every day as I drive onto that lot to make a show about inclusion.”  [I assume he’s excluding Shepard Smith.]

The aforementioned Seth MacFarlane was another Fox talent voicing his disgust for Fox News.

--FedEx Corp. profit jumped in the latest quarter as the company benefited from tax cuts and a turnaround in its express business.

CEO Fred Smith said he is optimistic about the company’s future, but warned about the potential for trade tensions to impact business.

“Trade is a two-way street, and FedEx supports lowering trade barriers for our customers, not raising them,” he said.

The Memphis-based company got a $1.6 billion windfall from the Trump tax cuts, which FedEx said also led to pay increases for certain U.S. hourly workers that began in April.

Rival UPS has been ramping up spending to automate more of its facilities and handle the surge of e-commerce packages, but I have to say this week, Monday specifically, UPS could not have screwed up an important letter of mine that caused me all kinds of problems.  I wasted over six hours on it, and the document finally showed up a day later than it was supposed to.

--Oracle reported better-than-expected earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter after customers spent more money on cloud services.  But the shares fell sharply on lackluster guidance.

Earnings and revenues of $11.25bn were above expectations, the latter up 3%, and 6% for the full year, marking the fastest growth since 2011.  The company coupled cloud services and license support revenue to produce $6.8bn, up 8% over a year ago.  But as one analyst put it, Oracle’s move to the cloud has taken longer than expected. 

As for the guidance, on the earnings front it was below what the Street was expecting, with revenue growth of only 1% to 3%.

--I wrote a few weeks ago, following the Philadelphia / bathroom incident, that I would not buy Starbucks stock. The shares were $57.90 then.  They are $51.50 today.

The company announced this week it was accelerating the rate at which its underperforming company-owned shops in areas that are already packed with them were being closed, while at the same time, Starbucks said it was ramping up its growth and revenues.

“Our recent performance does not reflect the potential of our exceptional brand and is not acceptable,” said CEO Kevin Johnson in a statement. “We must move faster to address the more rapidly changing preferences and needs of our customers.”

Personally, being a Dunkin’ Donuts guy, I’d charge less, Mr. Johnson, and would prohibit loitering.  If you want to hang out for free somewhere, go to the freakin’ library. They also have free bathrooms there.

Anyway, that’s me.  I’ve been into like one Starbucks in the past decade.

Meanwhile, the chain is closing an estimated 150 stores this year, while opening new cafes “in markets that demand it.”  Somehow I’m not picturing city councils going, “We demand a Starbucks!”

Same-store sales for the over-priced chain continue to slump, while at the same time it maintains it will stick to its plans to expand rapidly in China.  Good luck with that, lads.

Starbucks still has 14,200 U.S. locations.

--A disgruntled Tesla engineer coded an elaborate hack to leak trade secrets about posh electrical cars – and blame unsuspecting colleagues to cover his tracks, according to a lawsuit lodged by Elon Musk’s company.

Technician Martin Tripp admitted to crafting software code that slipped “several gigabytes” of Tesla data – including photos and video – outside the network.

The third parties were not identified in a federal lawsuit filed in Nevada on Wednesday.

Tripp was assigned to the Sparks, Nev., Gigafactory, where he had access to “highly sensitive information” for Tesla batteries.

The hack was believed to be an act of retaliation prompted by a job change.

Elon Musk said he’s still determined to meet a previously stated goal of producing 5,000 Model 3s per week by the end of June.

But in his memo to employees on the actions of Mr. Tripp, Musk wrote in part:

“As you know, there are a long list of organizations that want Tesla to die. These include Wall Street short-sellers, who have already lost billions of dollars and stand to lose a lot more. Then there are the oil & gas companies, the wealthiest industry in the world – they don’t love the idea of Tesla advancing the progress of solar power & electric cars. Don’t want to blow your mind, but rumor has it that those companies are sometimes not super nice....”

Some of us just think your company’s shares are grossly overvalued, Mr. Musk.

--Shares in Chinese telecom ZTE plummeted anew this week after the U.S. Senate passed a defense bill with an amendment that would continue to prevent the firm from resuming business with its U.S. suppliers.

The bill passed 85-10, in a rare rebuff of President Trump, and it came on the same day that he was threatening to impose a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods, escalating tensions.

But the president will lobby hard against the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, and before it can become law, the bill must be reconciled with one passed by the House of Representatives that does not include the amendment.

Any compromise must then be passed by both chambers and signed into law by Trump – a series of hurdles that has Asia-based analysts pessimistic that ZTE can recover, as the ban will go on until the legislative process is seen through.

ZTE stock is down about 40 percent, after resuming trading following a suspension dating back to mid-April when the sanctions on the company were levied, barring U.S. suppliers from selling to it for seven years after it broke an agreement to discipline executives who conspired to evade U.S. sanctions with Iran and North Korea.

--Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who took over the chip giant in 2013 and saw its stock price rise more than 120 percent during his tenure, offered his resignation after the company discovered the 58-year-old exec had a “consensual relationship with an Intel employee,” the company said in a statement.

“An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers,” the statement said.

Intel policy forbids managers from having romantic or sexual relationships with anyone who reports to them either directly or indirectly.

CFO Robert Swan was named interim CEO, while a search for a permanent replacement has begun.

--The CEO of Volkswagen’s Audi division, Rupert Stadler, was arrested as part of the three-year scandal over diesel emissions cheating.  He is the highest-level executive at Volkswagen to have been forced to walk the plank.  While Stadler hasn’t been charged with wrongdoing, prosecutors have been afraid he’d destroy documents that could be evidence in the emissions manipulation case, so they want him held until the investigation is complete.

--General Motors Co. is going ahead with its plan to manufacture the new Chevy Blazer SUV in Mexico, despite criticism by President Trump over making vehicles abroad under efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

A GM spokesman said, “We remain committed to working with the administration on a modernized NAFTA.”

--The Southern California median home price surged 8.2% in May from a year earlier, hitting a new all-time high of $530,000, according to a report from CoreLogic.

The number of sales across the six-county region fell 3.4% from a year earlier, due largely to a lack of supply which has sent prices up for more than six straight years.

Orange County’s median climbed 6.3% to a record $738,500.

--Speaking of OC, resident and bond king, Bill Gross, and his ex-wife, Sue, have been going through a bitter divorce battle that saw Gross lose his 13,819-foot Laguna Beach home to Sue.  But in filing a temporary restraining order against him, we’ve learned that Bill left the home “in a state of utter chaos and disrepair,” according to court papers filed in a Los Angeles state court.

Bill is alleged to have launched a reign of terror, including leaving behind foul-smelling sprays and dead fish in the air vents, Sue notifying the court that a “substantial amount of time and money” was needed to rehabilitate the property.

Bill hired a security company to constantly monitor Sue, her two sisters and her assistant.  But Bill first got a TRO against Sue in November – weeks after their divorce was finalized – after telling a judge he was worried about Sue’s “erratic behavior” and “threat of violence,” a source told the New York Post.

Sue, it seems, stole a $36.9 million Picasso Bill had in his bedroom.

Sounds like they are both “Jerk of the Year” candidates.

--Another bitcoin exchange suffered a serious cyberattack, this one Bithumb out of Seoul, which said it had lost over $30 million, the second cyberattack in two weeks to hit a major South Korean cryptocurrency exchange .

Bitcoin is trading around $6,000, having lost well over half its value this year, while trading even more substantially below its all-time high of nearly $20,000 hit in December.

--Talk about a nightmare, early this week, Visa’s European network suffered a “very rare” broken switch that led to the failure of more than 5 million attempted debit and credit card purchases during an outage.  Imagine the frustration.

In the UK alone, the failure affected 2.4m transactions in a 10-hour period, forcing stores to stop accepting card payments and prompting consumers in some areas to empty local ATMs.

At its worst point, 35 percent of transactions across the continent didn’t go through.  Yes, this shines a light on the reliability of our IT systems in this increasingly cashless global system of ours.

--Less than a month after canceling the hit revival of “Roseanne” because of racist tweets by Roseanne Barr, ABC has decided to go forward with a spinoff series, tentatively titled “The Conners.”

The spinoff, which is scheduled to return in the fall, will include the principal cast members John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert.  The writing staff and top producers will also return.  Darlene, played by Ms. Gilbert, is expected to be the central anchor.

Roseanne wished “the best for everyone involved.”

--The Nathan’s hot-dog eating contest is fast approaching, Joey Chestnut once again preparing to defend his title; last year downing 72 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes, his 10th victory in the past 11 years.  One of the great athletes of our time...in the same category as LeBron, Mike Trout and Ronaldo.

But as Aaron Elstein notes in Crain’s New York Business, Nathan’s stock hit an all-time high this week, up 28% on the year and 62% over the past 12 months.

Nathan’s has a tie to President Trump, as Elstein points out, as Nathan’s sold the family business (founded by the legendary Nathan Handwerker), 30 years ago to a group including developer Howard Lorber, who served as an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Personally, I’ve never been a Nathan’s fan, though if I was in Coney Island of course I’d have five or six.

No, I’m strictly a Black Bear hot-dog fan these days, Black Bear products only sold at Shop Rite.  I also find them to be terrific simply boiled.

I discovered Black Bear at a Trenton Thunder baseball game a few years ago when I inquired of the counter staff, and so when I got a dog at my recent annual outing there, before I bit in, I said, “Are you still using Black Bear?”  “No,” said the girl.  “Horrors,” thought I.  And, alas, it wasn’t nearly as good.

[I’m looking for a coupon, at least, from the Black Bear folks for this plug.]

Back to Nathan’s, they’ve been expanding overseas; opening five locations in Russia and four in Kyrgyzstan, for example.

Lastly, I still haven’t seen definitively if former champion Takeru Kobayashi is being allowed to compete in this year’s Fourth of July contest.  Joey Chestnut said he would welcome the former rival.  If Kobayashi does return, this will be must-see television.  Cough cough....

Foreign Affairs

China: Officials in Beijing are optimistic following Kim Jong Un’s latest talks with President Xi Jinping.  Hopes are high Kim will shift priority to economic development, which would bring prosperity to the region, specifically parts of China’s rust-belt region, such as the province of Liaoning, which shares a long border with North Korea.

Kim paid his third visit of the year to China to brief Xi on his recent summit with President Trump and to seek economic aid from Beijing.

Xi said on Wednesday that the Korean peninsula will definitely be peaceful and stable, according to the official news agency, Xinhua.  Xi added that China was willing to keep playing a positive role to promote the peace process.  And the Chinese leader said he was pleased to see North Korea’s decision to promote economic reforms.

And Xi was of course pleased to see the suspension of U.S.-South Korean military exercises.  South Korea’s defense ministry made the formal announcement on cessation, which the Pentagon then confirmed.

Last year, 17,500 American and more than 50,000 South Korean troops joined the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than field exercises.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there would be no changes to joint drill plans between the U.S. and Japan.

David Ignatius / Washington Post

“President Trump boasted last weekend that his ‘denuclearization deal’ with Kim Jong Un could ‘save potentially millions & millions of lives!’ [Ed. At his Duluth, Minn., rally, he said “25 to 30 million lives!” Seoul itself has a population of 10 million.]   He even proclaimed in the exhilaration of his return from Singapore: ‘There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.’

“But as the Great Dealmaker should know, it’s important to read the fine print. And after a week’s reflection, the Singapore joint communique, for all the dramatic television coverage that surrounded it, looks like what real estate mavens sometimes call a ‘conditional offer.’

“The condition, in this case, is that North Korea deliver on its somewhat fuzzy pledge to ‘work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.’ The discussion of how and when this will happen has barely begun. In the meantime, to build confidence, Trump has agreed to halt joint military exercises with South Korea, and Kim has agreed to stop testing missiles and nuclear bombs.

“Trump clarified the conditional nature of the military-exercise pause in a tweet Sunday: ‘Can start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!’  (Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled this same caveat last week during a visit to South Korea, noting that if the denuclearization talks fail, the freeze on exercises ‘will no longer be in effect.’)

“The halt in exercises will have a limited effect on U.S. readiness in the event of an actual conflict with North Korea, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed during an interview last week. He explained that about 90 percent of the U.S. forces that would be involved in any such conflict are not based in South Korea and, thus, would be able to train and prepare normally, even without joint exercises.

“Being honest about what was achieved in Singapore is important, not to diminish Trump’s accomplishment, which is real and substantial, but to make clear what must come next. Usually, a summit is the conclusion of meticulous detail work; in this case, the order is reversed: Trump and Kim have had their handshake; now their aides start the grunt work....

“China and Russia are also scrambling to dip their spoons in the post-Singapore pudding, with Kim in Beijing this week and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in heading for Moscow. That is fine; it’s a sign they don’t want to be left out of U.S.-led diplomacy....

“The North Koreans want what we might call a ‘complete, verifiable, irreversible guarantee’ that Kim’s regime will survive and prosper.  As an Asian diplomat told me this week, this guarantee will become real only when thousands of Americans are living and working in Pyongyang. This, too, would mean a very different North Korea....

“What matters most now is rapid follow-up. If Trump thinks he has done the heavy lifting, he may lose patience and move on. One Asia diplomat explains his worry this way: ‘There’s a danger Trump will lose interest, and the situation will become worse than before if North Korea doesn’t show some real steps.’  (Veteran CIA and State Department analyst of North Korea, Robert) Carlin agreed that progress in the next three to four months ‘will be crucial.’

“Real estate experts say that is the inherent problem with a conditional offer. If the deal doesn’t close quickly, it can blow up – leaving both parties frustrated and angry.”

Editorial / Wall Street Journal

“Canceling the two giant exercises will...reduce readiness, since they are timed to coincide with North Korea’s exercises and involve allied troops and U.S. forces from other theaters. Mr. Trump made the offer as a unilateral concession, but it’s notable that Kim Jong Un has offered no comparable military gesture. Returning three Americans his government took as hostages and promising to return veterans’ remains aren’t threat-reducing.

“If Mr. Trump wants to remove provocations from the peninsula, how about asking Kim to pull North Korean forces back from the Demilitarized Zone and take Seoul out of artillery range? That would justify the exercise cancellation as a goodwill offer.

“Beyond the exercises is Mr. Trump’s interest in using U.S. troops in South Korea as a negotiating tool in nuclear talks.  U.S. forces working alongside a democratic ally aren’t the same as the illegal development of nuclear weapons by a state sponsor of terrorism.

“Mr. Trump seems to think the South Koreans are getting a free ride on the U.S. taxpayer, but that’s false. Nearly all of the 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula have begun moving to Camp Humphreys, a giant new U.S. Army base south of Seoul. The base cost some $11 billion to build and South Korea paid more than $10 billion. Seoul also pays for roughly half of the operating costs of U.S. forces in the country.

“Then there’s the larger strategic picture in East Asia. U.S. forces don’t merely deter a North Korean invasion of South Korea. They also prevent China, which has considerable economic sway over Seoul, from exerting more political control over Seoul’s foreign policy. The troops are also a forward deployment to protect regional democracies like Japan and Taiwan, and the U.S. alliance with Japan is crucial to containing China’s ambition to dominate the Western Pacific.

“The good news is that Congress is waking up to Mr. Trump’s troops-for-nukes predilections.  Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska added a sense of the Senate amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that says ‘the significant removal of United States military forces from the Korean Peninsula is a non-negotiable item as it relates to the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization’ of North Korea.

“Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis called his counterparts in South Korea and Japan Thursday to reaffirm America’s ‘ironclad defense commitments’ and ‘determination to maintain the readiness of its forces in the region.’ But with Mr. Trump you never know.

“U.S. deployments overseas are part of a global strategy of alliances to deter war, prevent the emergence of a dominant regional power like China, and keep threats as far as possible from the U.S. homeland. The size and nature of U.S. forces in Korea can be rethought if North Korea completely and credibly gives up its nuclear program and ceases to threaten the South. But in the meantime U.S. forces should not be a chit in a trade with Kim Jong Un.”

Syria: Syrian government forces and their Iran-backed allies will face “volcanoes of fire” if they launch a threatened offensive in the opposition-held southwest, a rebel commander told Reuters on Tuesday.

But after President Bashar al-Assad and his allies crushed the last remaining rebel strongholds near Damascus and Homs, Assad vowed to retake the opposition-held areas near the frontiers with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.  Fighting broke out then in several parts of the southwest on Tuesday, with government warplanes launching air strikes, and then rebel areas were hit with artillery on Thursday in a steady escalation of the fighting. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12,500 civilians had fled the town of Busra al-Hariri and nearby areas of Deraa province in the last two days. 

The United States has warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to Syrian government violations of a “de-escalation” agreement that it underwrote with Russia last year to contain the conflict in the southwest.

Israel: 45 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel early Wednesday, and in response, the Israeli military struck 25 targets it said were associated with Hamas, in the latest larger-scale tit-for-tat  Casualties on both sides were light, but no one in Israel was sleeping well that night.  One home in the border area suffered a direct hit, but “the vast majority” of the 200,000 Israelis living in bordering communities spent the night in bomb shelters.

Separately, Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit filed an indictment on Thursday against the prime minister’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, for fraud with aggravated circumstances and breach of public trust in the “Prepared Food Affair,” an explosive development which shook the country.

The indictment damages Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with the Jerusalem Post recently reporting that he is likely to face an indictment announcement in the coming months or early 2019.

The investigation into Sara has been ongoing for years. It had been rumored a deal was in the works, such as the return of funds Sara was said to obtain fraudulently in return for taking responsibility, but then this dramatic development.

A trial is expected to start in the fall, though Sara is not expected to face jail time if convicted.

Afghanistan: Talban militants killed 30 Afghan soldiers and captured a military base in the western province of Badghis on Wednesday, the provincial governor said, their first major attack since a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Government officials said the Taliban did their reconnaissance of the area during the ceasefire.  In fact, the Taliban were seen roaming all over Afghanistan’s major cities during the ceasefire, and everyone knew what was going on...it was preparation for fresh attacks.  President Ashraf Ghani had called for an extension of the ceasefire and the Taliban rebuffed him.

Opposition politicians said Ghani made a “grave mistake” by allowing the Taliban into government-controlled areas.  That is, indeed, nuts.

Meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for a car bomb that killed 36 people on Saturday in Nangarhar.  The Taliban were the main victims of this one, as it was a gathering celebrating the holiday ceasefire.

Separately, a U.S. drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and four other senior commanders, in the Afghan province of Kunar, near the Pakistani border.  Mullah Fazlullah’s death was confirmed by the Pakistani Ministry of Defense.  He had been the most-wanted militant in Pakistan for years; responsible for attacks such as the assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 that killed at least 145, including 132 children.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin is reveling in Russia’s success at the World Cup, having won its first two games by a combined score of 8-1, and thus qualifying for the Round of 16 knockout stage for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The success has helped Putin send a defiant message to his opponents that Russia is succeeding despite Western efforts to hold it back.  Russia’s 11 host cities have been flooded with international fans partying and dancing in the streets.

Russia entered the World Cup ranked as the weakest team in the field by FIFA.

Colombia: Ivan Duque, a populist conservative, won Colombia’s presidential vote on Sunday. Duque, a former senator from the right-wing Democratic Center party, won about 54 percent of the vote in the second and last round of elections, defeating Gustavo Petro, a former guerrilla member and onetime mayor of Bogota.

Duque, just 41, was buoyed by his charm and a conservative upwelling in the country. A year ago, many didn’t even know his name.  His mentor, Alvaro Uribe, led Colombia from 2002 to 2010, and he was known for delivering pummeling blows against the country’s main rebel group, FARC, and drug traffickers.

Uribe then founded his own party and emerged as the chief antagonist to his successor, the departing president, Juan Manuel Santos; led the charge against a peace deal with the rebels; and handpicked Duque as the preferred candidate.

Duque is rebuffing the suggestion that Uribe will now govern through him.

Mexico: Ahead of the July 1 elections, two mayoral candidates were gunned down in 24 hours this week, bringing the number of candidates slain so far in the campaign to a staggering 18. Drug gangs are suspected in all of the cases, from what I’ve read.

Random Musings

Presidential tracking polls...

Gallup: 45% approval of Trump’s job performance (highest since Jan. 2017), 50% disapproval [June 17]
Rasmussen: 46% approval, 52% disapproval...interesting how this one has been ticking down while Gallup is ticking up.

--In a new Pew Research Center poll, some 60% view their midterm vote as a referendum on President Trump, with Pew saying interest has reached historic highs.

Of that 60%, 34% are against the president, 26% for, which makes Trump a bigger factor than any president since Pew first asked the question during President Reagan’s first term.

Nearly three-quarters of voters on both sides of the partisan divide said they cared which party will end up controlling Congress – a significantly larger share than in previous elections.

One key group for Democratic prospects: younger women.  Nearly 7 in 10 women younger than 35 said they favored a Democrat for Congress, and 4 in 10 said they saw their vote as one against Trump.  Only 1 in 10 said they thought of their vote as a ballot for him.

But in the key generic vote, when asked which party’s candidate for Congress they supported or leaned toward, voters sided with Democrats by five points, 48-43.

Republicans now have the edge on which party is better at managing the economy, while Democrats are the preferred party for the other two issues voters most want their candidates to talk about – healthcare and immigration.

CNN released a new poll on the generic House ballot and it showed Democrats ahead 50-42, compared with 47-44 in May, the poll conducted for CNN by SSRS.

The “enthusiasm gap” has 50% of Democratic voters saying they are extremely or very enthusiastic about voting compared to only 43% of Republicans who feel that way.

And a Monmouth University national poll had Democrats holding a 7-point lead in the generic House poll, 48-41, basically the same as an 8-point margin in the same survey last April.

So these are all very consistent in showing Democrats with a lead, but it could evaporate quickly.

Interestingly, the Monmouth poll also finds that 34% of the public approve of the tax reform plan passed by Congress last December and 41% disapprove.  Approval is down from 40% in April.

Just 19% approve of the job Congress is doing, 67% disapprove.

But on the question, is America heading in the right direction, 40% say it is, an increase from 33% in April.

--Former billionaire mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, has decided to spend at least $80 million in the 2018 election, with the bulk of it going to support Democratic congressional candidates, advisers to Bloomberg said.

Up to this point, the financial dynamics have favored Republicans.

--Ousted Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said his fellow Republicans are “running for the hills” because they can’t deal with President Trump’s “lies.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Sanford admitted that he knows all about lying – referencing a sensational 2009 sex scandal that ended his governorship.

“We all know the story of 2009 and my implosion...I own it,” said Sanford, after being defeated in a GOP primary the week before by a Trump-backed Republican.

“And so maybe the reason I’m so outspoken on this now is there is no seeming consequence to the president and lies. And if we accept that as a society, it is going to have incredibly harmful consequences in the way that we operate going forward based on the construct of the founding fathers.”

Referring to retiring Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker as being among the few who aren’t afraid to criticize Trump, Sanford said, “People are heading for the hills.”

There’s too high a price to pay for standing up to Trump.

--In a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, Democrat Gavin Newsom has a commanding lead over Republican John Cox in California’s race for governor, 45-28 percent among registered voters who said they planned to vote in November.  In my very amateur opinion on this race, it would be a tremendous help to Republican House candidates in the state if Cox could narrow the lead to about 55-45 come election day. That would show a significant level of enthusiasm that you’d think would, at worst, allow incumbent Republicans to retain their seats in the conservative districts.

--The number of smokers in America continues to fall, down to 14% of U.S. adults last year, down from 16% the year before, government figures show.

In the 1960s, before the Surgeon General warnings went into effect, roughly 42% of U.S. adults smoked.  “Come to where the flavor is...come to Marlboro country,” as the great theme music from “The Magnificent Seven” played in the background of their commercials in those days before we all began to wise up  [This title tune and that for “The Big Country” are the two best of all time, I also can’t help but add, especially if you’ve traveled out west much.]

--Reinhard Hardegen died the other day. He was 105.  I wonder how many schoolkids today, let alone younger adults, remember that during World War II, German U-boats actually patrolled our East Coast, and sank a ton of merchant vessels...as in I’m sure zero know this.

I’ll write more about Hardegen in another column I do this weekend, but on Jan. 15, 1942, Hardegen, a U-boat commander, stood on his submarine’s bridge in the dark of night, and stared out at the Ferris wheel above Coney Island. He could see the headlights of cars and the distant glow of Manhattan’s skyscrapers.

“I cannot describe the feeling with words,” he wrote in a memoir, “but it was unbelievably beautiful and great.... We were the first to be here, and for the first time in this war a German soldier looked out upon the coast of the USA.”

That same night, the crew sank a British tanker carrying oil off Long Island, killing 36 crew members.

--My brother used to work as an editor/agent on some of author George Michelson Foy’s books and Harry says his latest, “Run the Storm,” the heartbreaking account of the El Faro disaster, is a must-read.  On a routine run between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico in October 2015, it seems incomprehensible that a huge American cargo ship could disappear in Hurricane Joaquin, but it ended up being the greatest U.S. merchant marine shipping disaster since World War II.

It’s the story of how little by little, company regulations, an aging vessel, and inaccurate or delayed weather forecasting slowly combined to doom the ship and its crew.

Mr. Foy holds a coastal captain license from the U.S. Coast Guard, has worked on British tramp steamers, or coasters, and knows the sea.

--In my living room is a photo of myself and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after he was elevated to cardinal in Rome, back in 2002.  That same day I also got to honor Cardinal Avery Dulles, whom I was a guest of, officially.

But Cardinal McCarrick and I, as I’ve noted once or twice in these pages, were letter-writing buddies, in a small way, as I exchanged notes with him in the 1990s on the Balkan Wars, which both of us had a profound interest in.  He had also presided over Mass at my parish in Summit on a few occasions, when he was Archbishop of Newark.

I really liked the man.  So I was shocked to hear on Wednesday that McCarrick, now 87, had been “removed from public ministry” and faces further punishment over “credible allegations that he sexually abused a teenager while a priest in New York more than 40 years ago.”

Pope Francis ordered the cardinal’s removal pending further action that could end in his expulsion from the priesthood.  A church panel determined that a former altar boy’s allegations that McCarrick fondled him – during preparations for Christmas Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1971 and 1972 were “credible and substantiated.”

McCarrick said he was shocked by the allegation and denied it in a statement distributed through the church, but said he cooperated in the investigation and accepted the pope’s decision out of obedience to the church.

The Newark Archdiocese also said it was aware of three decades-old allegations against McCarrick, adults, not minors, that resulted in legal settlements.

I can’t imagine the shock among so many who have known the man over the years.

When the scandals in my church first began to erupt, I stopped going to Mass.  For over a decade, the only day I went was actually New Year’s Day.  Earlier, I only went Holy Thursday.

I am kind of tempted to go this coming week just to see if the priest says anything.

For now, I don’t know what to do with the photo.

--I wrote a lot on Charles Krauthammer the last two weeks in this column, and on Thursday he passed away at the age of 68.  He will be deeply missed. He was simply the best political commentator and writer of our era.  RIP.

George Will / Washington Post

“When he was asked how to become a columnist, Charles Krauthammer would say, with characteristic drollery, ‘First, you go to medical school.’  He did, with psychiatry as his specialty because, he said with characteristic felicity, it combined the practicality of medicine and the elegance of philosophy. But he also came to the columnist craft by accident....

“In 1972, when he was a 22-year-old student at Harvard Medical School, he was swimming in a pool. Someone pushed the diving board out, extending over a shallower part of the pool. Charles, not realizing this, dove and broke his neck.  At the bottom of the pool, ‘I knew exactly what happened. I knew why I wasn’t able to move, and I knew what that meant.’ It meant that life was going to be different than he and Robyn had anticipated when they met at Oxford....

“Paralyzed from the neck down, he completed medical school, did an internship and, one thing leading to another, as life has a way of doing, became not a jewel in the crown of the medical profession, which he would have been, but one of America’s foremost public intellectuals. Nothing against doctors, but the nation needed Charles more as a diagnostician of our public discontents....

“Medicine made Charles intimate with finitude – the skull beneath the skin of life; the fact that expiration is written into the lease we have on our bodies. And his accident gave him a capacity for sympathy, as Rick Ankiel knows.

“Ankiel was a can’t-miss, Cooperstown-bound pitching phenomenon for the St. Louis Cardinals – until, suddenly and inexplicably, he could not find the plate. Starting the opening game of a playoff series at age 21, the prodigy threw five wild pitches and his career rapidly spiraled far down to... resurrection as a 28-year-old major league outfielder, for a short but satisfying stint in defiance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum that there are no second acts in a life. As Charles wrote, Ankiel’s saga illustrated ‘the catastrophe that awaits everyone from a single false move, wrong turn, fatal encounter. Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether – and how – we ever come back.’

“The health problems that would end Charles’ life removed him from the national conversation nine months ago, so his legion of admirers already know that he validated this axiom: Some people are such a large presence while living that they still occupy space even when they are gone.”

Lastly, Charles Krauthammer once said: “Longevity for a columnist is a simple proposition: Once you start, you don’t stop. You do it until you die or can no longer put a sentence together.”

In my case, No. 1,003 next week. 

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Pray for the men and women of our armed forces...and all the fallen.

God bless America.

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Gold $1271...lowest close of the year
Oil $69.28

Returns for the week 6/18-6/22

Dow Jones  -2.0%  [24580]
S&P 500  -0.9%  [2754]
S&P MidCap  -0.1%
Russell 2000  +0.1%
Nasdaq  -0.7%  [7692]

Returns for the period 1/1/18-6/22/18

Dow Jones  -0.6%
S&P 500  +3.0%
S&P MidCap  +4.7%
Russell 2000  +9.8%
Nasdaq  +11.4%

Bulls 52.0
Bears 17.6  

Have a good week.

Brian Trumbore