Australia data – CBA / Markit PMI 54.4 (prior 56.2)

This is a new data point, Commonwealth Bank Manufacturing PMI 
For July, comes in at 54.4
– June was 56.2
Key points:
– Australia’s manufacturing sector expanded markedly in July, albeit at a slower pace compared to recent months

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Meanwhile, Somewhere In The Pentagon…

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

The decision to launch nuclear weapons is political, not military.

As North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un declares that "The Entire US Territory Is Now Within Our ICBM Range", somewhere in the Pentagon, operational plans to neutralize North Korean nuclear and long-range missile capabilities are being refined.

There are undoubtedly two sets of operational plans: one deploying conventional weapons, and the second for deployment of nuclear weapons.

Nothing personal, Mr. Kim Jong Un, it's just business. A core duty of planners in the Pentagon is to ask "What if" and draw up a range of scenarios and operational plans to carry out the civilian leadership's policies and decisions.

One such scenario is "what if North Korea launches a ballistic missile that is tracking to strike U.S. territory?"

One response option in this scenario would be to wait and see if the North Korean missile hits the U.S. and if it is armed with a nuclear weapon, and if so, if the warhead detonates.

Another option is to respond immediately with a nuclear strike that neutralizes North Korea's ability to launch any more nuclear-armed missiles.

The U.S. Armed Forces does not declare war or make the decision to launch a nuclear strike–that is the perogative and responsibility of the nation's civilian elected leadership. The duty of the U.S. Armed Forces is to be prepared to execute the decisions and policies of the elected civilian leadership.

The ethical considerations of such a decision are not the Pentagon's purview–those considerations rest with the elected civilian leadership. If North Korea is poised to kill 2 million Americans, South Koreans, Japanese, etc., then isn't erasing North Korea's capability to kill millions at the cost of 50,000 North Korean lives in a limited nuclear strike the more ethical choice?

Those considerations are not part of operational plans. The purpose of operational plans is to get the assigned job done. Limiting civilian casualties might well be part of the assigned mission. But it's not the Pentagon planners' job to make those mission decisions.

There are no small nuclear explosions, but there are smaller explosions and variations that have profoundly different consequences. Ground-burst detonations carve out craters and send shock waves through the earth that crumple tunnels, bunkers, elevator shafts, etc. Ground-burst detonations generate vast quantities of radioactive particles. Since it's well known that North Korea has buried its most precious nuclear resources deep underground, ground-burst detonations would be the only way to disrupt the access routes to bunkers deep underground.

Air-burst nuclear detonations generate field effects, i.e. electromagnetic pulses across the spectrum. These can be "tuned" to some degree. Thus a neutron-type weapon is designed to sicken and kill enemy soldiers while leaving buildings and equipment intact. This might be the weapon of choice to neutralize any attempt by the North Korean Army to launch a devastating artillery attack on South Korea in retaliation for the destruction of North Korea's missile and nuclear capabilities.

Air-burst field effects often include massive disruption of electronic equipment. This might limit the operational plans for air-burst nuclear detonations near ther DMZ, as technologically advanced South Korea might well suffer significant economic losses from an air burst near the border with North Korea.

By the same token, an air-burst nuclear detonation over North Korean military communications headquarters might be considered essential to distrupt the North Koreans' command and control capabilities.

My point here is that operational plans to decapitate North Korean nuclear and ICBM capabilities exist and are constantly being revised and refined in light of new intelligence. It's not the planners' job to make the geopolitical or ethical calculations that inform such a drastic decision. It's the planners' job to make sure a strike ordered by the elected civilian leadership of the nation achieves its goal, i.e. eliminates North Korea's nuclear and missile delivery capabilities completely.

It's easy to say nuclear weapons should never be used, but what if conventional weapons can't do the job, or create greater risks? Would you consider it a good ethical trade-off to wait for millions to die before killing thousands? That's a political choice, and one that will always be second-guessed or disputed. But making such decisions is the purpose of elected civilian government.

The planners job is much more direct. If the elected civilian government orders the neutralization of North Korea's ability to kill millions of civilians in South Korea, Japan or the U.S., then the job boils down to aligning existing resources and reckoning how many resources will be needed to get the job done in the most effective way available.

A conventional-weapons strike would likely require hundreds (and possibly thousands) of aircraft sorties, and all that such a monumental effort entails. It would also requires a significant amount of time to execute. A nuclear strike requires far fewer resources but has consequences far beyond those of conventional weapons.

There have been no nuclear weapons detonated with the express intention of destroying civilians since 1945. The stakes are high, and nobody wants to launch a nuclear attack unless it is in retaliation for a nuclear attack. But by then it's too late to save the millions killed by the initial attack.

We all hope deterrence works. But deterrence very nearly failed a number of times in the Cold War between the USSR and the US. Given the possibility that deterrence might fail–over-ridden by a commander with launch authority, or a dozen other possibilities of miscalculation or impulse– plans must be made for a first-strike designed to neutralize a nuclear missile capability.

The decision to launch nuclear weapons is political, not military – but achieving the goal is the duty of the military.

It's nothing personal, folks–it's just a peculiar business.

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Somalia: Key al-Shabaab commander killed

A key al-Shabaab leader was killed in an operation in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region on Saturday, Somalia’s information minister said in a statement on Monday.

Government troops with international partners killed Ali Mohamed Hussein (Ali Jabal), commander of the Banadir region – including the capital Mogadishu – in a security operation.

“Ali Jabal was part of an al-Shabaab network responsible for planning and executing several bombings and assassinations that resulted in the deplorable death of numerous innocent civilians in Mogadishu,” a statement from Somalia’s information minister said.

“The successful operation signals the Federal Government’s continued commitment to protect Somali citizens and reduce al-Shabaab’s ability to conduct senseless acts of violence against the people of Somalia, its East African neighbors, and the international community,” he added.

A statement from the US Africa Command said Monday it carried out a drone strike near Tortoroow in southern Somalia that killed an al-Shabab member, but gave no further details.

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Scaramucci Listed As Dead In Latest Harvard Alumni Directory

It was a bad day for Anthony Scaramucci: first the Mooch was fired just ten days after he was first hired, in the brief process getting served with divorce papers and missing the birth of his baby while unleashing a bizarre rant for the ages, and then shortly after, his now former boss, the president of the US, the same one who earlier said there was no chaos at the White House, tweeted that it was “A great day at the White House”

In this case, one of the responses to the Trump tweet was substantially more informative than the original:

And then, adding insult to pink slip, CBS reported that Harvard Law School apologized for erroneously listing Anthony Scaramucci as dead in its new alumni directory.

No, really: a directory mailed to alumni this week included an asterisk by the name of Scaramucci, a 1989 graduate of the Cambridge, Massachusetts, university, indicating he had died.

A statement from the law school apologizes for the error and says it will be corrected in future editions. It doesn’t provide an explanation for the error. The directory is published every five years and is available only to alumni of the Ivy League law school.

If there was any consolation for Scaramucci, it came from People Magazine, which reported that the lawyer representing the estranged wife of ousted White House communications director denied the NY Post report that the couple ended their marriage because of President Trump.

“I don’t know where that came from, but it is not accurate. It is a false fact,” divorce lawyer Jill Stone, who represents Deidre Ball, told People magazine on Monday.

So at least that wasn’t Trump’s fault. And now that he is once again out of the public eye, Scaramucci may finally get what he requested just 48 hours ago: a plea to leave his family out of it.

To top off an emotional day for all, here is some humor from The Onion:

Following his abrupt dismissal just 10 days after being named White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci reportedly received an outpouring of sympathetic texts Monday from friends and family expressing that they were “so fuckin’ sorry to hear about this shit.”

 

“My deepest motherfuckin’ condolences, Tony, it’s terrible to hear you got shit-canned by these ass-munching cocks in D.C.,” read a text message in part, just one of dozens sent by old buddies at Goldman Sachs, current business partners at SkyBridge Capital, and extended family in New Jersey in response to his “goddamn bullshit” dismissal.

 

“Sorry to hear those bitches gave you the fucking ax, Mooch. That jackass [John] Kelly got no fucking clue what a good fuckin’ dude you are. Just know your mother and I always got your fucking back.” At press time, Scaramucci’s New York office was reportedly filled with flower arrangements and handwritten cards lamenting that this was “absolute fucking trash.”

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Democrats’ Biggest Donor Urges Shift To Bernie’s Platform: “Being Never-Trump Is Not Nearly Enough”

Tom Steyer, a California hedge fund billionaire, had the dubious honor of being the largest donor to the Democratic party – spending a whopping $87 million on Democratic candidates and causes in 2016 and endorsed Clinton after the primaries. With Schumer and the Democrats pushing their 'new better deal' and admitting the Russians didn't do it (and being anti-Trump is not enough), Steyer is supporting his party's perspective and dumping Hillary's 'but but but it was the Russians… and Comey' narrative'.

Steyer recently spoke to Mic.com's Jake Horowitz to discuss the state of play for Democrats in the Trump era – the good, bad and yes, the ugly…

“Democrats have to move from resistance to offense,” Steyer said.

 

"Being not-Trump is not nearly enough. We have to put forward our positive vision for the future. If we can’t do that, then I don’t understand the point.

Today however, Steyer is now an unabashed supporter of Sanders’ progressive vision…

“When people say Bernie is crazy, no. Bernie is talking about inequality. That is the burning issue in the United States.”

 

“There is an absolute, unspoken war between corporate interests and the American people,” he said. “That’s the underlying subtext for all of the public discussions within the Democratic party.”

 

“We’re seeing a deliberate attempt to take away [working families’] future by really rich people. Until we address that, I don’t think we’re dealing with the reality Americans are facing today,” he continued.

But Democrats, Steyer said, have yet to develop a compelling and positive message to channel the energy Sanders generated on the campaign and help the party win back working class voters in the Rust Belt who flipped for Trump – let alone turn their own base out at the polls on Election Day. For Steyer, that message must start with inequality, not jobs.

“Before you freak out on the jobs question, which everyone loves to do, understand that we [only] have 4.3% unemployment,” Steyer said.

 

“But what we do have is a whole bunch of people who have jobs they can’t live on,” he added, a reference to the thinking behind the Fight for $15 and other progressive campaigns to raise working class wages.

Steyer, who said he considers himself a Democrat but “not part of the party apparatus in any shape or form,” was the largest individual funder of the 2016 election. The results were obviously quite disappointing. Of the seven candidates for national office that Steyer supported through NextGen’s Action Committee, four lost — including, of course, Clinton.

Coming off those bruising defeats, Steyer has only redoubled his efforts.

He recently announced on Mic the launch of NextGen Rising, a new voter registration campaign to mobilize young voters in eight key states ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

“One of the absolute necessities for Democrats in 2018 is going to be to recruit credible and good candidates that line up well with their districts,” Steyer said.

Still, aside from Sanders, it’s not immediately obvious who would be the best candidate to advance the economic message Steyer is championing, between the dozen or so names that are frequently mentioned as 2020 contenders — from Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, to outsiders like Howard Schultz. But one thing is clear: Steyer has his eyes on 2018 and 2020, and he’s in favor of the party adopting a solidly progressive agenda, rather than just running on an anti-Trump platform or trying to fight for the center.

Well it can't get much worse?

We suspect,. however, that no matter what Steyer and Schumer say, Maxine Waters and her ilk will be unable to change their narrative… like this little beauty over the weekend…

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5 Companies To Watch As Oil Rebounds

U.S. shale drilling may have rendered OPEC production cuts irrelevant and caused oil to drop again, but this is a fabulous opportunity for investors to get in on great companies trading at fantastically low prices. This won’t last for long though, because shale growth—even where it’s at right now—can’t fill in the gaps of declining investment and production around the world. In the longer term, oil prices will rebound, and those companies who have managed to strengthen themselves with innovations, cost-cutting, greater…

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Rand Paul: Trump Considering Executive Action On Healthcare

After the Senate failed to repeal Obamacare on Thursday, when a critical “Nay” vote by John McCain crushed Trump’s biggest campaign promise shortly after midnight, on Saturday the President threatened to end key payments to Obamacare insurance companies if a repeal and replace bill is not passed. “After seven years of ‘talking’ Repeal & Replace, the people of our great country are still being forced to live with imploding ObamaCare!” Trump tweeted, followed by: “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!.”

Now, in previewing what may be Trump’s next potential step to keep the fight against Obamacare alive, Reuters reports that Senator Rand Paul told reporters that Trump is “considering taking some form of executive action” to address problems with the healthcare system.

Paul said he spoke to President Donald Trump by phone about healthcare reform on Monday and told the president he thought Trump had the authority to create associations that would allow organizations to offer group health insurance plans.

Allowing groups like AARP, which represents retirees, to form health associations could enable individuals and small businesses to form larger groups to negotiate with health insurance companies for lower rates.

Such a move would also allow Trump to implement his threat of “ending bailouts for insurance companies.”

Saturday was not the first time Trump had made a similar threat: the president previously threatened to withhold Cost Sharing Reduction payments, or CSR, which lower the amount individuals have to pay for deductibles, co-payments and insurance. While the White House announced earlier this month that key ObamaCare subsidies to insurers would be paid this month, the administration did not make a commitment beyond July.

As Bloomberg explained over the weekend, there are two key ways the President of the U.S. could undermine the law: asking his agencies not to enforce the individual mandate created under Obamacare; and stopping funds for subsidies that help insurers offset health-care costs for low-income Americans. Both moves could further disrupt the Affordable Care Act’s individual markets and eventually lead to higher premiums, or rather even higher premiums that Obamacare itself has led to.

Which means that even without an executive order, one of the first steps the president could take should he wish to pursue his crusade against Obamacare, would be to stop the monthly CSRs. The administration last made a payment about a week ago for the previous 30 days, but hasn’t made a long-term commitment. Trump has called the subsidies a “bailout” for insurance companies in the past, and he just did it again on Saturday.

“We are still considering our options,” Ninio Fetalvo, a spokesman for Trump, said in an e-mail. Meanwhile, America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobby group for the industry, said premiums would rise by about 20 percent if the payments aren’t made. Many insurers have already dropped out of Obamacare markets in the face of mounting losses and blamed the uncertainty over the future of the cost-sharing subsidies and the individual mandate as one of the reasons behind this year’s hikes in premium.

Another way Trump could hamper the ACA is to instruct Price’s department to direct little or no support to open enrollment when people sign up for Obamacare plans near the end of the year. It could include ignoring website upkeep, not advertising the enrollment period and offering little help for people who have difficulty signing up.

Finally, the Trump administration could simply choose not to enforce the penalties surrounding the individual mandate of Obamacare for uninsured people or broaden exemptions to the law. The Internal Revenue Service, which enforces the penalty, said in January it would no longer reject filings if taxpayers didn’t indicate whether they had insurance. Unless the IRS follows up with each silent filing, this could let some uninsured people dodge the penalty.

All the moves would only have a gradual impact over time. For now, only one thing is certain: nothing is certain. As Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, put in a series of tweets:“The big question in health care now is what will happen with the individual insurance market,” Levitt said. “Insurers will be reading all the tea leaves for what the administration will do with cost-sharing payments and the individual mandate.”

Finally there is the question of how state Attorneys General would respond: an Executive Order by Trump would likely by immediately challenged in court, delaying the process indefinitely, and potentially pushing it all the way to the Supreme Court. In other words, without Congress, any real repeal of Obamacare will take many months, if not years.

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More on : Trump studying executive action on healthcare – senator Rand Paul

headlines from earlier here:
Republican Senator Rand Paul – Trump considering executive action on healthcare
Reuters have a little more here:

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New Zealand politics – Opposition leader resigns

New Zealand Labour Party leader Andrew Little has announced he will step down
NZ media report here
Resignation apparently due to poor polling results.

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