Friday Morning Briefing: Birther unbound

September 16, 2016

Donald Trump revived the Obama “birther” issue in an interview with the Washington Post when he refused to concede that President Obama was born in the United States. The campaign tried mightily to walk the comments back, but not without spreading more “falsehoods,” to use the parlance of the Post – namely that Hillary Clinton raised the issue in 2008 (untrue). Then the Trump campaign credited their candidate for “bringing closure to the issue.”

Metaphor of the day:

“Saying he’s resolved it is a bit like a person intentionally running someone over, dumping them outside a hospital and then asking for a letter of commendation for wrapping things up so neatly.” – Philip Bump, Washington Post


Digits of the day: $19 billion

“Together, we’ll go far,” goes the Wells Fargo slogan. But the $190 million settlement the bank agreed to pay isn’t going very far to satisfy investors. The bank admitted last week that employees created 2 million accounts without their knowledge so they could hit their internal sales targets. Since then the market has lopped $19 billion off its market value. The bank is a target of criminal investigations. And now activist shareholders are coming around for their pound of flesh – to say nothing of senators who will probably beat the stuffing out of CEO John Stumpf at a hearing next week.


“We cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America,” said Philippines Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay at a speech at a Washington think tank. “You do not go to the Philippines and say ‘I am going to give you something, I am going to help you grow, but this is the check list you must comply with – we will lecture you on human rights’.” Yasay rejected criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, in which thousands have been killed, saying that Philippines would never condone illegal killings, and said relations with Washington should be based on mutual respect.

Follow the money

Model plane builder Otto Dieffenbach III makes his remote control plane resembling U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump release fake money as it flies over the beach next to a similar plane resembling Hillary Clinton in Carlsbad, California, U.S. September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTSNY12

Model plane builder Otto Dieffenbach III launches his flying candidates  in Carlsbad, California. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Around Wall Street

  • The Department of Justice wants Deutsche Bank to pay $14 billion to settle an investigation into its selling of mortgage-backed securities. The bank will try to talk that number down in the coming months. If the settlement were to be as high as $14 billion, this would be a severe strain for Deutsche’s fragile finances and would likely further rock investor confidence in the bank.
  • A U.S.-bound Hanjin Shipping vessel is being held “hostage” by disputes over payments, adding to the struggles in getting $14 billion of cargo off its ships stranded at sea, a Hanjin lawyer said in bankruptcy court. Hanjin filed for bankruptcy last month, leaving more than 100 ships and their cargo at sea and threatening to snarl U.S. freight traffic as the year-end shopping season approaches. Last week, Hanjin said a Korean judge authorized $10 million to pay tug operators, ports and cargo handlers to unload four of its U.S.-bound vessels. Since then, three ships began to unload. But the fourth ship, the Hanjin Jungil, remains at sea off the coast of California.
  • The dog-and-pony show that accompanies most Apple product launches was more subdued when the new iPhone 7’s went on sale in Asia and Australia overnight. Sure, there were proud tech geeks brandishing their new phones, flanked by applauding sales staff. But in markets like China, interest in the new phone has also been muted, as cheaper local brands amp up their features, design and marketing.


Around the country

  • A man wielding a meat cleaver slashed an off-duty New York City cop in the head, before the assailant was shot by police. The assailant, Akram Joudeh, was critically injured, the New York Times reported. The off-duty detective, identified by the police as Brian O’Donnell, was in serious condition. Two other officers were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the Times reported.
  • Local governments in nearly a dozen, mostly Republican-dominated counties in Georgia have adopted plans to reduce the number of voting stations, citing cost savings and efficiency. In seven of those counties, African-Americans comprised at least a quarter of the population, and in several counties the changes will disproportionately affect black voters.
  • Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey can make an unusual claim. He is the sole Republican nationwide running with the endorsement of top gun control advocates Gabby Giffords and Michael Bloomberg. That pair of endorsements could give the first-term senator an edge over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty.


Around the world

  • The Kremlin said it’s ready to use its influence to get the Syrian army to fully implement a shaky ceasefire agreement and that it hopes the United States would use its own influence with rebel groups too.
  • Japan will step up its activity in the contested South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and bilateral and multilateral exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said. The territory is disputed by China, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and others.
  • A Swedish appeals court upheld the arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, prolonging the six-year-long legal standoff with prosecutors and clearing the way for the Wikileaks founder to be questioned in London next month.

Today’s reason to live:


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