September 24, 2018

Michelle Obama’s Big Book Rollout: ‘It’s Like You’re Looking at a Madonna Tour’

The tour is to begin in Chicago, Mrs. Obama’s hometown, at the United Center. The arena, the home of the Chicago Bulls, has a usual seating capacity of 23,500. After wending its way through venues of similar size in Inglewood, Calif., Washington, D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver, San Jose, Calif., and Dallas, the monthlong run will end in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center (seating capacity: 19,000).

On its website, Live Nation said that Mrs. Obama’s show would “feature intimate and honest conversations between Mrs. Obama and a selection of to-be-announced moderators, reflective of the extraordinary stories shared in the wide-ranging chapters of her deeply personal book.” Because of high demand during the pre-sale period, which ended on Thursday, the promoter recently added second shows in Washington and Brooklyn.

Other authors have had book tours that resembled concert tours. Anthony Bourdain promoted his 2016 book, “Appetites,” with a 15-city jaunt that had him doing stand-up-like sets at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods (seating capacity: roughly 2,000) in Mashantucket, Conn., and the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco (roughly 3,000). But there has been nothing like this.

Mrs. Obama’s rollout is also bigger than the promotional effort undertaken by Hillary Clinton for her 2017 book, “What Happened,” during which the former presidential candidate appeared at the Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University in Chicago (seating capacity: 3,875) and the Warner Theater in Washington (1,875). Ticket prices ran upward of $2,000 for a V.I.P. package that included choice seats and selfie opportunities.

Emily Bender, Live Nation’s public relations director, said 10 percent of the tickets for each of Mrs. Obama’s shows would be donated to charities, schools and community groups in each city.

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Your Money Adviser: An Alternative to Payday Loans, but It’s Still High Cost

Reaction to the new loans has been mixed. Nick Bourke, director of consumer finance at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which supports making affordable small loans available to consumers with appropriate safeguards, said the new loan appeared promising. When the loan program was announced, he tweeted that it was a “game changer.” Pew opposes payday loans, but has called for mainstream banks to offer less risky small loans to help consumers when they hit financial potholes. The U.S. Bank loans include some features that Pew recommends, Mr. Bourke said, such as limiting loan payments to 5 percent of the borrower’s monthly income and avoiding overdraft fees.

While the loans are relatively expensive, they are far less costly than alternatives like payday loans or auto title loans.

“It’s a great first step,” Mr. Bourke said.

According to Pew’s research, 12 million people a year take payday loans. If borrowers can’t make the payment, they often pay more fees to renew the loan. Payday borrowers, Pew found, spend an average of $520 in fees to repeatedly borrow $375.

U.S. Bank’s new loans cost $12 for each $100 borrowed, when payments are automatically debited from a customer’s account. The fee is $15 per $100 if a customer opts out of automatic payments.

“This is a high-cost loan,” Ms. Heitman acknowledged, adding that the bank was being “transparent” about the fees. The bank has received strong positive feedback from customers, she said, who say they find the loan terms easy to understand.

The Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group, was skeptical of the value of U.S. Bank’s offering, saying the loans are still too expensive for most low-income people, many of whom are already burdened by debt and have little wiggle room to take on more.

“It’s a step in the wrong direction,” said Rebecca Borné, the center’s senior policy counsel.

And while the bank won’t let the customer’s checking account be overdrawn by a loan payment, she said, the payment itself could cause the account’s balance to shrink so low that subsequent bills cause overdrafts.

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Russia could gain from trade wars by cornering new markets – economy minister

These trade wars, these difficult relations between the United States and its trading partners is, first of all, an opportunity that opens on those markets. The US is exporting many goods and services to China and India. The bilateral raise of duties makes such production less competitive,

Oreshkin told RT.

“All this opens niches Russia could fill in. Russia could compete in this sectors by offering its own production,” he added.

China and the US have recently exchanged with a fresh round of tariffs. China added $60 billion of US products to its import tariff list on Tuesday as retaliation to US duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods, which go into effect on September 24. The measure comes into effect next week.

US sanctions are sign of dollar crisis decline of confidence – Lavrov

Earlier, US President Donald Trump threatened China with further tariffs on around $267 billion of imports if Beijing retaliates against the latest measure, which it did.

India is also one of several countries that President Trump has repeatedly criticized for its high trade surplus with the US. The US trade deficit with India stands at $30 billion, according to statistics from Washington.

The US has imposed aluminum and steel tariffs on India that cost the Indian economy almost $250 million a year. India has pledged retaliation but has postponed the decision twice, this time to November.

Speaking about Russia-India trade ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s October visit to New Delhi, Oreshkin said the countries need to diversify their business ties from oil and gas.

“To be honest, despite that we are signing new contract with India and trade is growing, there is large room for diversification of trade from energy supplies,” he said. This could be agriculture, machinery and other sectors of economy, Oreshkin added.

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Fitch slashes global economic growth forecast over US-China trade war

According to Fitch, protectionist US trade policies have now reached the point where they are materially affecting what remains a strong global growth outlook.

“The trade war is now a reality. The recently announced imposition of US tariffs on a further $200 billion of imports from China will have a material impact on global growth and, even though we have now included the 25 percent tariff shock in our GEO [Global Economic Outlook – Ed.] baseline, the downside risks to our global growth forecasts have also increased,” said Fitch Chief Economist Brian Coulton.

Global economic growth may have reached peak due to trade tensions – OECD report

The report cited the significant escalation in US-China trade restrictions as a reason for the 2019 China growth forecast reduction to 6.1 percent – as well as the global growth forecast cut to 3.1 percent.

“Near-term global growth prospects remain strong with growth forecast to reach 3.3 percent this year, up from 3.2 percent in 2017.”

Fitch noted that growth is becoming less balanced and less synchronized. Slowing global growth in 2019 will be accompanied by an important transition in global monetary policy, it said.

The ‘Big Three’ global credit ratings agency now expects combined QE (quantitative easing) asset holdings of the four QE central banks (Fed, ECB, BOJ and BOE) to decline in 2019.

“With the four QE central banks having purchased over $1trillion of assets per annum on average since 2009, the prospect of an outright decline in central bank liquidity is likely to have significant ramifications. These could include upward pressures on global bond yields – as the compression of term premiums that followed QE is unwound – and a ratchet up in financial market volatility,” said Coulton.

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Trump is obsessed with auto trade, French ambassador to the US says

US President Donald Trump may renew his threats to introduce duties on the vehicles produced in Europe in the near future, according to the ambassador. Moreover, Trump might impose import tariffs just because he gets fed up with the prolonged negotiations.

“The cars will be certainly a sort of test case in the coming weeks and months on this European-American relationship — if the Americans go back to this idea of tariffs on cars or not,” Araud said during a briefing at his official residence in Washington.

Brussels readies $20 billion in tariffs on US goods ahead of meeting with Trump

According to the French president’s right-hand man, any substantive decision “will take months to negotiate, and we are not sure that the president — your president — has the patience to wait for it.”

“So the coming months will be critical to whether we have a virtuous negotiation starting between the US and Europe and we forget the threats the tariffs and the trade war, or whether we go back to a trade war with the Europeans,” Araud said.

The partners have been at loggerheads over mutual exports and imports after Washington imposed 25 and 10 percent tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the US in an attempt to eliminate a significant trade imbalance. Brussels retaliated with taxing the US goods of worth $3.3 billion.

Mutual sales of vehicles have become a hot issue for the US president, who has repeatedly slammed the EU car producers for unfair behavior, urging them to build plants on US territory.

“There is an obsession by the president on trade about cars,” the French ambassador stressed. “Every time he’s talking about trade with the Europeans, he’s talking about BMW or Mercedes.”

Under the current trade deal, the US levies a 25 percent tariff on light trucks and pickups and 2.5 percent on smaller vehicles from Europe, while Brussels applies a 10 percent tariff to all passenger cars imported from the US.

In August, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed bringing the car tariffs to zero. Trump rejected the offer, saying the proposal is a one-sided deal favoring Europe.

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Economic cold war may be coming, JPMorgan warns

Tariffs will hit China’s gross domestic product growth by 0.6 percentage points, according to a JPMorgan report cited by CNBC. It explains that such a slowdown would add to existing negative pressure on the economy due to Beijing’s efforts to reduce reliance on debt, and transition towards consumption-driven growth.

“It won’t be easy,” said Jing Ulrich, managing director and vice chairman of Asia Pacific at JP Morgan Chase. “The road will be bumpy.”

Ulrich who was talking during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum conference in Tianjin said that “Now we need to think about whether this current trade war will turn into an economic cold war.”

“We hope it doesn’t,” she said, raising hopes that there is still a chance that some sort of reconciliation may be reached. “We all know if the trade war goes on, it is going to be a lose-lose situation. No one in the world will be benefiting.”

The expert stressed that Beijing will not change its domestic policy because of external pressure.

“The problem is in the technological sphere [where both] China and the US want to lead. China, of course, is already a trailblazer in many areas,” said Ulrich.

The latest round of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports to the US will initially take effect from September 24 at a 10 percent rate, before rising to 25 percent on January 1. The tariffs will be applied to more than 1,000 Chinese products, including consumer goods like electronics, bicycles, tires, and furniture.

Beijing is planning counter-tariffs on $60 billion worth of US imports at 10 percent and 5 percent.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Chinese trade practices, calling them unfair. He has also accused Chinese corporations of stealing US technology and intellectual property. So far, Washington has imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese products.

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Jeff Bezos Cites a Big Number, but Few Details, in Plan for Low-Income Montessori Preschools

With little else to parse, Montessori leaders pored over Mr. Bezos’ brief statement, which described the planned schools as “Montessori-inspired.” The term “Montessori” is not copyrighted, and any school can choose to describe itself as such.

Some research, however, shows that Montessori classrooms that hew closest to the original principles of the movement’s founder, Dr. Maria Montessori, are more effective at raising student achievement than programs with a looser approach.

Mr. Bezos attended a Montessori preschool in Albuquerque in the 1960s and is one of several tech industry leaders with personal ties to the method. The Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have attributed some of their success to their Montessori educations. Dr. Montessori’s reframing of child’s play as “work,” driven by the child’s choices and interests, is, in many ways, a natural fit for Silicon Valley’s culture of founder-driven entrepreneurship and innovation.

But the movement has always faced challenges in appealing to parents who desire a more traditional education for their children. In a classic Montessori school, teachers generally do not lecture in front of the classroom and instead impart lessons on phonics or counting by engaging students individually or in small groups. They may invite children to participate in an activity, but do not require them to do so.

That is counterintuitive for many traditionally trained educators. “Instead of having one lesson plan, you have 24 different lesson plans, one for each child in the classroom,” said Katie Kitchens, a Montessori specialist at a public school in Austin, Tex., and the vice president of Montessori for Social Justice, which seeks to expand the movement’s reach. “It’s a really humbling process. You’re no longer the center of that conversation anymore, the keeper of all the information. It’s this constant process of stepping back.”

Montessori has the image as “this cultish thing” for middle-class and wealthy families, Dr. Whitescarver acknowledged. But the movement has long tried to serve a more diverse group of children. In 1907, Dr. Montessori opened her school Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, in a poor neighborhood in Rome.

The first Americans to embrace Montessori were in fact affluent, white suburbanites. But by the 1960s, black and Latino parents were opening Montessori schools in many cities, attracted by the idea that a child-centered education could combat racism. Those programs often had trouble winning the philanthropic support they needed to survive, according to Mira Debs, executive director of the education studies program at Yale.

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Sony Extends Colorful Movie Chairman’s Reign, Citing Turnaround

But the slate of films that Mr. Rothman served up during the company’s last fiscal year, which ended in March, generated the highest profit of any Sony slate in over a decade, the company has said. One film, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which cost $90 million to make, collected nearly $1 billion worldwide.

Mr. Rothman’s track record at Sony has not been perfect, and whether Sony can compete with the likes of the Walt Disney Company and Warner Bros. over the long term remains to be seen. Many analysts think that Sony must merge with another studio in the years ahead. And Mr. Rothman remains a divisive figure in Hollywood, where devotees chuckle at his showman ways — he rides around the Sony lot on a bicycle with a little personalized license plate: “ROTHMAN” — and detractors complain that he wields too strong of a hand.

Even so, Sony appears poised for further success. A “Jumanji” sequel has been scheduled for next year, when Sony will also deliver the follow-up to “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and try to reboot the studio’s “Men in Black” and “Charlie’s Angels” franchises. Next summer, Sony will also release Quentin Tarantino’s much-anticipated “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which is set in 1969 and stars Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

In the coming weeks, Sony will roll out “Venom,” a dark superhero movie, and the animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Both are stirring substantial advance interest from ticket buyers, according to box office analysts.

“We feel pretty great about how far we have come, but know that there is still more to do,” Mr. Rothman said in a statement. He thanked Mr. Vinciquerra and “Yoshida-san,” referring to Kenichiro Yoshida, chief executive of Sony Corporation, and added, “This job is a privilege.”

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Trump demands OPEC lower oil prices, claims US ‘protects’ Middle East countries

Oil prices showed a mixed reaction to Trump’s words. The Brent benchmark fell 43 cents to $78.97 per barrel, while the US Texas Intermediate grew 9 cents to $71.21.

This is not the first time Trump has attacked OPEC and blamed it for high oil prices. Asked by Fox on July 1 if someone was manipulating oil markets, Trump said: “OPEC is and they better stop it because we’re protecting those countries, many of those countries.” In a follow-up Tweet on July 4, the president said that “the United States defends many of those countries for very little $’s.”

Why does Trump so badly want low oil prices?

De-facto OPEC leaders Saudi Arabia and Russia have an agreement to curb oil production. The kingdom, its Gulf allies and Russia have recently agreed to lift production by about 1 million barrels per day (bpd) to offset losses from Venezuela and Iran, but not more. This keeps oil no lower than $75 per barrel.

A gas station in the Bronx, June 1, 2018 ©Don EmmertTrump’s order for OPEC to reduce prices is insulting – Iranian oil minister

As oil prices remain high, prices for gasoline in the US are growing. The average cost of gasoline has risen 60 percent from $1.87 per gallon in February 2016 to over $3 in September.

Higher oil prices have boosted economies of producing states North Dakota, Texas and others.

“But most of those states are solidly Republican and likely to vote for Trump’s party at the mid-term congressional elections in 2018,” said John Kemp, a Reuters market analyst. “The president, therefore, is paying much closer attention to the harmful impact of higher oil and gasoline prices on consumers in swing states.”

One of the largest factors for the oil price surge is Trump’s sanctions war against Iran, OPEC’s third-largest producer, analysts have said. As Iran oil sales decline, the supply goes down, and prices grow.

Does the US really protect the Middle East?

Iran is not the only country in the Middle East which could find Trump’s so-called protection claim questionable.

Trump has said several times that without the US, OPEC countries would not be safe. OPEC members such as Libya, Iraq, Venezuela would surely doubt that.

A 2011 NATO military intervention in Libya to oust the country’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, fueled a major conflict which took the lives of thousands of civilians. In the war, Libya lost more than half of its 1.6 million barrels per day in oil production, something which still hasn’t returned to 1 million.

OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, Iraq, suffered a US military invasion in 2003. Iran and Venezuela are under tough US sanctions which have slashed their oil exports and triggered a currency crisis.

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Russia can thrive without foreign loans in case of tougher sanctions – Finance Ministry

“We are quite able to reject foreign loans, and replace them with domestic sources of financing to eliminate the deficit,” the minister told journalists.

Siluanov stressed that the impact from the current trade war between the US and China would affect global economic growth. The consequences may influence Russia, but the country’s economy is protected against factors of this kind, according to the official.

Russian stock market hits another all-time high amid further ruble growth

“We are to a lesser extent dependent on external factors, as we managed to create the necessary buffers,” the minister said, adding that Russia “will work under any conditions.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s economy ministry expects a deterioration of external conditions for the country’s economy over the medium term. However, it won’t have a significant effect on the economy, according to the head of the ministry, Maksim Oreshkin.

“Increasing rates at the US markets, as well as financial and economic crises, have already captured some developing economies, including Argentina and Turkey, and are currently affecting the other ones,” Oreshkin said. “These are the conditions, which led to an increased volatility in the Russian financial market along with anticipated pressure of further sanctions.”

Russia and the US are involved in the worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War. In recent years, Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russia following a number of accusations. They include involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, reunification with Crimea, alleged US election meddling, a purported violation of sanctions against North Korea and alleged nefarious activity in cyberspace.

Earlier this month, media reports emerged that US lawmakers are mulling new punitive measures targeting the country’s sovereign debt.

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