Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon Is Shaking Things Up at Wall Street’s Most Storied Bank | Fortune


Now Goldman is the one underperforming. Though it’s still No. 1 in mergers and acquisitions and IPO dealmaking, its revenue has declined 6% since 2010, to $36.6 billion in 2018, and is on track to decline further this year.

Its stock has lagged both the financial sector and the S&P 500 over the past five years—yielding the worst returns of any major U.S. bank. It is also facing its biggest reputational crisis since the backlash against its too-big-to-fail bailout famously led to its caricature as a “vampire squid.”

Two former Goldman Sachs executives have been indicted for conspiring in a multibillion-dollar theft from the Malaysian investment fund known as 1MDB, a scandal that could cost Goldman as much as $5 billion to settle.

Source: Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon Is Shaking Things Up at Wall Street’s Most Storied Bank | Fortune

Trump exposed: A brutal day for the president | POLITICO


An impeachment inquiry is a constitutional exercise, a vindication of checks and balances, a living expression of rule of law. Yes, yes, sure—all of that. But the start of public hearings Wednesday was a reminder of what impeachment really is in the modern presidency: A brutal exercise in psychological exposure.

There was breaking news from the hearings, but it was mostly a matter of detail.

In a more profound way, the day was a portrait—a vivid one, in an especially grave setting—of Trump being Trump: obsessive, hectoring, contemptuous of process and propriety, as bluntly transactional about military aid to a besieged ally as he would be about a midtown real estate deal.

Source: Trump exposed: A brutal day for the president – POLITICO

What the Impeachment Inquiry Means for the U.S. Relationship With Ukraine


The quickly unfolding impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has already ensnared many other people, while raising more and more questions. From the extent of Trump’s involvement in pressuring Ukraine to investigate his domestic political rivals to the culpability of prominent officials in and outside his administration in that scheme, the public hearings that started this week have set the stage for an impeachment vote that could be among the most pivotal political moments in recent American history.

One of the questions swirling around this scandal is what the revelations about Trump will mean for future U.S. policy toward Ukraine. That is, can the Ukrainian government continue to rely on Washington as a reliable partner in its efforts to dislodge Russian-backed separatists from eastern Ukraine, while steering a course toward the European Union and fulfilling the promise of the country’s successful, pro-democracy revolution five years ago?

Source: What the Impeachment Inquiry Means for the U.S. Relationship With Ukraine

Why Air Pollution Is So Bad in Asia’s Cities | Council on Foreign Relations


One of the centerpieces of the Modi government’s platform has been addressing air pollution, but his efforts to ameliorate the matter have reportedly fallen short.

According to the latest data on air pollution, seven of the ten most polluted cities globally are in India’s Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP)—home to over half of the country’s population. One of the most common metrics used for air pollution is the concentration of suspended particulate matter that have a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5).

Various factors contribute to poor air quality, but one culprit, residential energy use, has been identified as a primary contributor to emissions in the IGP.

Source: Why Air Pollution Is So Bad in Asia’s Cities | Council on Foreign Relations

Trump’s Bullying of Ukraine Set Off Alarms Throughout the US Government | Defense One


George Tenet, the former CIA director, told the 9/11 Commission that, given the stream of intelligence warnings about potential terrorist attacks against the United States before 9/11, “the system was blinking red.”

Those words reflected just how widespread the concern was across the U.S. government that something bad was unfolding—in that case, a terrorist attack.

It turns out that in the summer of 2019, the system was again blinking red.

Those who listened to the first day of public impeachment hearings, focused on Ukraine-related matters, heard a lot about Donald Trump and a lot about Rudy Giuliani.

And for good reason: Both were central players in the White House–driven push to trade American weapons and a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s help with Trump’s reelection.

Source: Trump’s Bullying of Ukraine Set Off Alarms Throughout the US Government – Defense One

In swaps we trust? Disappearing dollars drive currency trading dependence | Reuters


As dollars dry up, global finance is growing increasingly dependent on opaque currency trading to keep cash flowing.

Banks and other short-term dollar borrowers are becoming ever more reliant on the $3.2 trillion-a-day foreign exchange swap market, data shows, leaving them dangerously exposed should U.S. lenders stop feeding the system, even if only temporarily.

Swaps users had a scare in September, when the U.S. Federal Reserve had to pump cash into markets as rates in the $2.2 trillion U.S. “repo” market spiked and spilled into FX swap markets, sending the premium to borrow dollars shooting higher.

Source: In swaps we trust? Disappearing dollars drive currency trading dependence – Reuters

Can social media ‘targetcasting’ and democracy coexist?


Speaking recently at Georgetown University, Mark Zuckerberg told an audience “I’ve focused on building services to do two things: give people voice, and bring people together.”

He later said “More people being able to share their perspectives has always been necessary to build a more inclusive society.” The speech anointed Facebook as the “Fifth Estate” in which “people no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard.”

The problem is that the platform Zuckerberg created does more than “give people voice, and bring people together.” It is economically incentivized to drive people apart. In the process it shatters an underpinning of democracy.

Source: Can social media ‘targetcasting’ and democracy coexist?

The US civil service: Protectors of the republic


Regardless of what you believe about the permanent government, what is its alternative?

It is an executive branch staffed entirely via patronage. In a patronage system, the bulk of the civilian executive branch staff is hand-selected by the president—a system in which each employee of the government owes their allegiance to the president.

In its first century of its existence, the U.S. largely operated in this manner. The government was not predominantly staffed by qualified professionals, but by those to whom the president owed political favors.

Under that system—one distanced from career civil servants and that at times calls on them to fill certain policy-focused appointments—the government workforce would have far fewer Bill Taylors, George Kents, Fiona Hills, and Alexander Vindmans.

Instead, the bureaucracy would look more like the White House political staff, packed with Mick Mulvaneys, Kellyanne Conways, and Stephen Millers.

Source: The US civil service: Protectors of the republic

U.S. appeals court again backs House request for Trump tax documents | Reuters


A U.S. appeals court said on Wednesday it would not revisit an October decision backing a U.S. House of Representatives subpoena issued to President Donald Trump’s accounting firm for his financial records.

The 8-3 vote by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, declining the Republican president’s request to rehear arguments that the subpoena to Mazars LLP was illegitimate, brings Democrats closer to shedding light on his business interests and how he built his fortune.

Source: U.S. appeals court again backs House request for Trump tax documents – Reuters

Hong Kong in Deeper Crisis as Unrest Enters Fourth Day | Time


Early morning volleys of tear gas were fired near the Polytechnic University, where police came under attack from students armed with bows and arrows.

Since Monday, protesters at the university have periodically barricaded the Cross Harbour Tunnel approach roads, which skirt the campus, and last night set fire to tunnel toll booths. The tunnel is the main vehicular artery connecting the Kowloon peninsula to the vital business and banking districts of Hong Kong Island, on the opposite shore of Victoria Harbour.

Students also erected defenses at the Baptist University and at Chinese University, around 25 kilometers from the city center.

Source: Hong Kong in Deeper Crisis as Unrest Enters Fourth Day | Time