Kim To Trump: You and Me, Mano a Mano, Anytime Anyplace Anywhere
North Korea responded yesterday to US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of his planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with a surprisingly conciliatory tone, putting the ball squarely back in Trump’s court. Trump had earlier cancelled the summit, previously scheduled for June 12th in Singapore, citing North Korea’s “tremendous” hostility.
North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, Kim Kye Gwan, responded, employing a little butter in an attempt to soothe Trump’s ego after being chastised by a man less than half his age. He said that he hoped that a “Trump-style solution” would relieve worries on both sides, citing the cancellation was a “deep shame” and that the North was open to resolving differences “at any time in any way”.
The war of words that led to the cancellation began after US Vice President Mike Pence suggested that North Korea could share Libya’s fate if it did not surrender its entire nuclear arsenal. North Korea took exception to Pence’s threat and called Pence a “dummy”, a word that reflects tremendous hostility in Trump’s opinion. Of note, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi actually did rid Libya of its nuclear program, and he was subsequently murdered by US-backed warlords.
Russia, Putin Blamed For Downing Malaysian Flight in 2014, Killing 298 People
Russia did it. Not hackers this time, and not election rigging through Facebook ads, but the Russian military and the shooting down of a civilian airplane. Investigators looking into the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 have concluded that the missile that blew up the plane was shot by a Russian military brigade. The Kremlin quickly denied the accusation, blaming the Dutch investigative team for trying to discredit Russia.
The Joint Investigation Team, as the team is called, got more specific than just Russia. It concluded that the BUK-TELAR missile that shot down the plane came from the 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk, incidentally the same name as the Russian submarine that sank to the ocean floor in 2000, killing all 118 Russian naval personnel on board.
What to do: Watch Russian stocks today and next week. If drama plays out between Europe and Russia over the weekend on the issue, Russia ETFs which have been steadily climbing since the oil bottom, could take a dive. (NYSEARCA:RSX)
Mountain View, Cupertino California Really Like Seattle’s Job Tax Idea
When it rains taxes, it pours taxes. Mountain View’s city council, home to Google parent Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is considering taking Seattle’s example and pocketing some money from its home-grown tech giants. Not only is the city council considering a head tax of $250 to $300 per employee (Google employs 20,000), but they also want a flat tax on all businesses under a certain size, so no company escapes the new job tax, in addition to all the other employment taxes they already pay.
Cupertino, home to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), didn’t feel like being tax party poopers, so it is now also considering a tax on employees in the city. Unlike Seattle though, these two cities did not say anything explicit about using the money to house homeless people. Perhaps these largest and most successful companies in the history of the world can propose simply building an enormous homeless shelter for all the homeless people all along the west coast so city council politicians can sleep better at night without having to tax employment.
What to Do: Nothing much to do in this case, as a few hundred million dollars in new taxes won’t make a dent in Google or Apple. However, if these new tax proposals pass and the trend starts to spread to other cities across the country, then things could get a bit dicey.
I, Alexa, Am Recording You, And Good Thing It Wasn’t Pillow Talk
Skynet just got a step closer to taking over the world. Either that or, though a bizarre confluence of events, Alexa decided to inform a random person about a suspected hardwood floor conversation that took place in someone named Danielle’s house. On Thursday, Alexa, Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) voice-activated stationary home robot who most concede is not actually intelligent and would have no motive for sending out random conversations about hardwood floors to random people, did just that.
“I felt invaded,” Danielle said. “A total privacy invasion. Immediately I said, ‘I’m never plugging that device in again, because I can’t trust it.’” Amazon believes that the strange incident was caused by an unlikely string of events that had Alexa misinterpreting certain keywords in a conversation as a command to record and send the conversation to her husband’s employee. The problem was, the employee wasn’t the hardwood floor guy.
In a statement, Amazon said that Alexa had asked out loud “To whom?” after it thought it was asked to send a message, though Danielle denies ever hearing Alexa audibly say anything throughout the ordeal.
What to do: Cue the Twilight Zone theme music and consider not putting Alexa in your bedroom.
Exxon Mobil Promises to Cut Flaring by 25% In Attempt To Save Planet
Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) has pledged to cut the amount of greenhouse gasses it emits into the atmosphere by 15% by cutting back on flaring, the practice of burning excess natural gas at oil wells. This will be done mainly by detecting and repairing leaks, which have already cut methane emissions by 2% since last year.
Methane (CH4) is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). Fossil fuel production is responsible for 33% of the world’s methane emissions, followed by livestock at 27%, which are very heavy flatulators. Dairy and beef farmers have not pledged to reduce their cows’ emissions however.
What to do: Prepare for warmer weather.