North Korea Conducts Tests of New Solid-Fuel Engines for Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles Published 1 hour ago
North Korea has developed and successfully conducted ground tests of a “new type” of solid-fuel engine for its banned intermediate-range ballistic missiles, state media said Wednesday.
The announcement came as Pyongyang also disclosed a Russian delegation led by Moscow's natural resources minister Alexander Kozlov was visiting Pyongyang to hold talks on cooperation in trade, economy, science and technology.
The two countries' growing military cooperation has been a source of concern for Ukraine and its allies, especially following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.
The North “has developed new-type high-thrust solid-fuel engines for intermediate ballistic missiles again, which are of important strategic significance,” Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported.
The country also “successfully conducted the first ground jet tests of the first-stage engine and the second-stage engine on November 11 and 14 respectively,” it added.
Experts say solid-fuel missiles typically have a higher level of operational ease and safety, compared to liquid-fuel weapons.
Solid-fuel missiles don't need to be fuelled before launch, making them harder to find and destroy, as well as quicker to use.
Testing a more technologically advanced solid-fuel missile was one of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's major goals in the military modernisation campaign announced in his New Year report.
In April, Pyongyang said it had successfully tested its first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile — the largest, longest-range category of ballistic missile — hailing it as a key breakthrough for the country's nuclear counterattack capabilities.
The latest engine tests “provided a sure guarantee for reliably accelerating the development of the new-type IRBM system,” KCNA said Wednesday.
The advancement is crucial “in the light of the grave and unstable security environment facing the country”, it added, in which the “enemies will get more vicious in their military collusion”.
Historic allies Russia and North Korea are both under international sanctions — the former for its invasion of Ukraine and the latter for its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
South Korea has said Pyongyang is providing Moscow with arms in exchange for Russian space technology so that it can put a military spy satellite in orbit.
On Monday, the US and South Korean defence chiefs updated for the first time in a decade a key military agreement to counter Pyongyang and its growing nuclear threats.
What to watch in the fourth Republican presidential debate
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—The Republican presidential primary debate stage will shrink to four participants Wednesday evening, with the event expected to focus on two remaining competitors vying to be the main 2024 alternative to former President Donald Trump.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose campaigns have become increasingly combative in recent days, are trying to sell themselves as the most able to challenge to Trump as the Jan. 15 Iowa caucuses and the start of GOP nomination balloting approach.
Trump, who has sought to project inevitability about what would be a third consecutive GOP nomination for him, won't be on the stage and instead will attend a private fundraiser. He has skipped all of the debates and lobbied for their cancellation, citing his polling dominance.Also participating will be former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. The last debate featured five participants. This one, the fourth, comes after Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina dropped out.
The two-hour event at the University of Alabama is scheduled to will start at 8 p.m. ET and will be moderated by Elizabeth Vargas of NewsNation, former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Eliana Johnson of the Washington Free Beacon. The debate will be broadcast on NewsNation's cable network and livestreamed at NewsNationNow.com and on Rumble. It will be simulcast in the Eastern and Central time zones on Nexstar's broadcast TV network, the CW.
Here is a look at how each candidates is likely to tackle the debate:
Haley, who has moved up in polls in recent weeks and is gaining support from donors on Wall Street and elsewhere, is likely to be a top target as DeSantis tries to slow her momentum. Haley has sparred with the Florida governor in recent weeks but is more prone on the campaign trail to mention Trump in a negative way than DeSantis.
In the first three debates, Haley won strong reviews for her poise and ability to deliver her message in a mostly positive tone. Her exchanges with Ramaswamy have been sharper and more personal.Last week, Haley won the backing of billionaire Charles Koch's political network. Americans for Prosperity Action is expected to spend heavily on advertising to promote Haley and leverage its grassroot volunteers and data capabilities to help turn out the vote for her.
Haley also attracted the support of a major Democratic donor, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, who gave $250,000 to a super PAC supporting her candidacy. The donation, earlier reported by the New York Times, was confirmed by a political adviser to Hoffman, Dmitri Mehlhorn. He said Hoffman still prefers President Biden in the general election, but views Haley as the best-positioned Republican to stop Trump.Her campaign has also started to spend its money on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, where the nominating balloting moves after Iowa. As of Monday, Haley's campaign had more advertising booked between now and the Jan. 23 New Hampshire primary than any other candidate, according to ad-tracker AdImpact.
Despite arguing only he can take on Trump, DeSantis finds himself stuck in a battle with Haley. He is expected to take a tougher approach to her during the debate, criticizing her record as governor and suggesting she can't assemble a coalition to win the nomination—one that would have to include some current Trump backers.
During an interview Monday with conservative host Mark Levin, DeSantis described Haley as “a last gasp of a failed Republican establishment from yesteryear." He has played up conservative fights over cultural issues and has noted that as governor, Haley rejected calls for legislation restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use. Haley has said those decisions can be addressed at the local level.
DeSantis will also look to use the debate to criticize Trump, casting the former president as having failed to follow through on some of his biggest campaign promises, such as completing a Southern border wall or eliminating the Affordable Care Act. Some of DeSantis's allies think he waited too long to engage with Trump, failing to give voters much of a reason to choose him.
The Florida governor scored points with conservatives for his televised debate last week with Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and he has landed big endorsements in Iowa, including from Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Yet his campaign is mired in internal drama, with a number of officials having left a super PAC that has handled the bulk of his organizing and advertising effort.
Christie, a strong debater with a long history of throwing sharp political punches, has become more vocal in criticizing Haley and DeSantis. Until recently, he kept his focus almost entirely on Trump, and his attacks on the former president have often drawn boos from GOP audiences.
Polls show him in third place in New Hampshire, where he has almost entirely focused his campaign, behind Trump and Haley. Christie came close to not meeting the Republican National Committee fundraising and polling requirements for participation in this debate, but was given the green light Monday evening. A failure to make the stage would have likely put additional pressure on Christie to get out of the race, as anti-Trump Republicans remain concerned that there are still too many candidates splintering the opposition.
Ramaswamy, a biotech company founder who has spent heavily from his own fortune to finance his campaign, has proven to be a vocal debate participant. His performance in the first debate drew significant attention from voters and the media. His aggressive approach in the next two debates didn't wear as well, however, and his poll numbers have plateaued.
While he has tried to sell himself as a next-generation version of Trump, Ramaswamy hasn't been a serious factor in the race. The moderators will have to decide how much they want the debate to focus on Haley and DeSantis as they weigh how much speaking time to grant to Ramaswamy.
Trump's strategy of skipping debates might not serve voters but it has allowed him to avoid being pressed on policy positions such as abortion, and to avoid a contrast with younger opponents who hope to make the 77-year-old former president's age an issue.
Trump has sought to hold competing events during the debates. He sat down with Tucker Carlson as the first debate kicked off in August in Milwaukee. This time Trump will be attending a fundraiser for the super PAC that is backing him. On Tuesday, Trump appeared in Iowa at a town hall hosted by Sean Hannity of Fox News. Trump is hoping for a sizable win in Iowa's caucuses to propel him into New Hampshire, where polls show him holding a significant lead.
Write to John McCormick at email@example.com and Alex Leary at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Live Mint
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Former President Donald Trump declined to rule out abusing power if he wins the presidency again after Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity asked him Tuesday to respond to growing Democratic criticism of his rhetoric.
The GOP presidential front-runner has talked about targeting his rivals — referring to them as “vermin” — and seeking retribution if he returns to the Oval Office for what he argues are politically motivated prosecutions against him. As Trump has dominated the Republican presidential primary, President Joe Biden has stepped up his own warnings, contending Trump is ” determined to destroy American democracy.”
“Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Hannity asked.
“Except for day one,” Trump responded. “I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill.”
Trump then repeated his assertion. “I love this guy,” he said of the Fox News host. “He says, ‘You're not going to be a dictator, are you?' I said, no, no, no, other than day one. We're closing the border and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator.”
Earlier in the interview, Hannity had asked Trump if he “in any way” had “any plans whatsoever, if reelected president, to abuse power, to break the law to use the government to go after people.”
“You mean like they're using it right now?” Trump responded.
The interview before a live audience was taped in Davenport, Iowa, Tuesday and aired later in the night.
Trump had tried to turn the tables on Biden during a Saturday speech in Iowa, arguing that the man whose election victory Trump tried to overturn is “the destroyer of American democracy.”
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Communist Party of China Under President Xi to Intensify Crackdown on Corruption Published 14 minutes ago
China's ruling Communist Party headed by President Xi Jinping has warned of intensifying the crackdown against corruption, saying that despite the decade-long fight against the menace, the problem is prevalent among thousands of cadres and officials.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has been busy overseeing a massive anti-graft campaign since Xi assumed power in 2012 under which over a million officials including top military personnel were punished.
The intensity of the campaign also attracted criticism that Xi, 70, has made effective use of it to silence his critics and rivals within the party.
The CCDI said corruption was becoming harder to detect and its plan to extend the crackdown on extravagant government spending would be stepped up as the festive season, especially the Spring festival and Chinese New Year approaches.
During the festival season, Chinese officials in the past used to accept extravagant gifts to clear projects. In a post on its website and social media accounts on Monday, the CCDI said that in the first 10 months of the year, it investigated nearly 80,000 violations of the anti-extravagance regulations and some 114,238 people were placed under investigation and received a warning.
Of those, as many as 80,096 have faced party or administrative disciplinary action. The CCDI also said corruption was taking new forms and becoming harder to detect.
At present, the soil where unhealthy tendencies can thrive still exists, as does the risk of a rebound in corruption cases, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted CCDI as saying.
The anti-graft watchdog said the four forms of decadence had become better hidden or transformed and called for more investigation into the specific corruption activities taking place across regions and industries so that precise supervision could be carried out.
China uses four forms of decadence to describe formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance — the problems it considers to be the most prevalent among the tens of millions of party cadres and government officials in China.
In his work report submitted to the party's Central Committee in February, Li Xi, who heads the anti-corruption watchdog, vowed to crack down on wasteful expenditure by naming and shaming those responsible.
He said graft-busters would dig deeper to tackle new forms of corruption such as bribes delivered via AirDrop on smartphones, those given in the form of inflated fees for lectures or consultancy work, and extravagant gifts such as luxury wine, mooncakes and cigarettes.
Also, Xi, who is currently touring Shanghai, called for strong confidence in the country's political system and firm commitment to the leadership of the party to the state system of people's democratic dictatorship, and to the political system of people's congresses, all of which are mandated by the Constitution.
Xi, also the General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party, emphasised the need to implement the thought on socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics for the new era.
He stressed efforts to accelerate the improvement of the socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics with the Constitution at its core, and continuously enhance constitutional implementation and oversight.
Xi urged the vigorous promotion of the spirit of the Constitution and the spirit of socialist rule of law, ensuring the implementation of the Constitution as a conscious action of the Chinese people.
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DeSantis v Newsom
PICTURE IT: two of America’s most powerful governors take the debate stage. One is sporting copious amounts of hair gel. The other may, or may not, be wearing lifted boots to appear taller. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, and Ron DeSantis, his Republican counterpart in Florida, spend 90 minutes trying to convince viewers that their own state represents the very best of America, and that their relative youth and respective flavour of crusading politics are just what the country needs. Donald Trump is heckling both men in ALL CAPS on Truth Social, from his armchair at Mar-a-Lago, having decided not to seek a second term. Joe Biden is looking forward to retirement, secure in the belief that his presidency was a bridge to the next generation. Sean Hannity, of Fox News, does a passable impression of a neutral moderator.
In another universe this could have been a prime-time debate during the 2024 presidential campaign. Instead, Messrs DeSantis and Newsom will face off on Fox News on November 30th for reasons unclear even to the governors themselves. During an interview last month in Los Angeles, your correspondent asked Mr Newsom why Americans should watch a debate between one (floundering) presidential candidate, and a governor who is not (currently) running for anything. “I don't know they should," he replied merrily.
Yet governors are not the provincial personalities they used to be. “The governor has long been an underappreciated centre of power in US politics," says Kristoffer Shields of the Eagleton Centre on the American Governor at Rutgers University. “But that changed a little bit during covid." In the early days of the pandemic Americans watched their governors deliver regular, often daily, press conferences about the advance of the virus. They became household names. The most outspoken inspired admiration and ire from Americans outside their own states.
There are two ways to look at this event, says Mr Shields: the cynical and the uncynical. Journalists are bound by oath to start with the former. Mr DeSantis is running for president, and in contrast to the earlier imagined scenario, Mr Trump is leading him in the polls by nearly 50 points. Florida's governor is trying to sell the debate with his Californian counterpart as the next big event in the race for the Republican nomination. Except this time, unlike during the primary debates, he's the only member of the Republican Party on stage. He won't have to interrupt whatever spat Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley are having to get a word in.
Mr Newsom is also knee-deep in national politics. He is leading a hopeless campaign to enshrine stricter gun control in the constitution, and has launched his own political action committee to campaign for Democrats in Republican states. He is one of Mr Biden's loudest defenders. But should the need for a different Democratic nominee arise, it is not hard to imagine the Californian calling his own number.
The two governors have traded barbs from their respective coasts over gender identity, abortion and immigration. (Mr Newsom once went so far as to threaten Mr DeSantis with kidnapping charges for allegedly sending migrants to the Golden State.) The Fox News debate offers them a chance to burnish their national reputations on live TV. All debates are political theatre, but this one threatens to be more like a cage match, the clash of the culture warriors.
Yet it would be wrong to dismiss the debate as frivolous. California is the most populous state in the country, and Florida ranks third. Taken together, the two are home to some 61m people. The policies of Mr Newsom and Mr DeSantis affect nearly a fifth of all Americans.
The influence of these two mega-states can be felt beyond their borders. California and Florida have become avatars for very different visions of America. They are the standard-bearers for progressivism and anti-woke populism, respectively. And other states are following their leads. Seventeen adhere to California's vehicle-emissions standards because they are stricter than the federal government's. Meanwhile PEN America, a free-speech organisation, reckons that a Florida law to limit instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for young pupils has inspired more than two dozen copycat bills in other states.
There are risks for both governors. Should Mr DeSantis prove unable to keep up with Mr Newsom, who seems to relish his new role as Mr Biden's attack dog, his presidential hopes may sink further. Mr Newsom is walking into the debate knowing that California-bashing is a favourite pastime of both Fox News and Mr DeSantis. When the governor of Florida spoke at the California Republican Party's convention in September, he told the crowd: “The California model represents more American decline." He wants to “own the lib", predicts Mr Newsom, “and talk about homelessness in California and everyone getting U-Hauls to drive to Florida".
Still, Americans accustomed to hearing about dysfunction in Congress may be surprised to hear just how much states are getting done. If either governor manages to impress, it may not be for nothing. Perhaps the debate is not so much a glimpse of what could have been as a preview of what is to come.
© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited.
All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com
Source: Live Mint
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Kim Jong Un Inspects Photos of US Army Bases in Hawaii
North Korean state media said Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un has reviewed images taken by his country's new spy satellite of “major target regions” including the US military base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and sites across South Korea.
Pyongyang successfully put a military spy satellite into orbit earlier this week, but South Korea said it was too early to determine if the satellite was functioning as the North claims.
Experts have said putting a working reconnaissance satellite into orbit would improve North Korea's intelligence-gathering capabilities, particularly over South Korea, and provide crucial data in any military conflict.
Pyongyang previously claimed, within hours of the Tuesday launch, that Kim was shown photos of US military bases in Guam taken by the satellite, named “Malligyong-1”.
On Saturday, the North claimed Kim inspected images taken as the satellite passed over Hawaii at around 5 am, including those of “a naval base in the Pearl Harbor, the Hickam air-force base in Honolulu,” according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
Kim also reviewed the satellite's images of the South Korean port city of Busan, which Pyongyang said were taken at around 10 am on Saturday.
The photos included ones of the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, Pyongyang claimed.
Carl Vinson had arrived at the Busan Naval Base on Tuesday, according to Seoul's military.
In an earlier report on Saturday, KCNA said Kim had the day before reviewed the satellite's images of “major target regions” in the South, including its capital and cities hosting US military bases.
The Friday images also included some areas of North Korea, it added.
Among the South Korean cities mentioned, Pyeongtaek — around 60 kilometres from Seoul — hosts Camp Humphreys, the largest overseas US military installation in the world.
Pyeongtaek is also home to the Osan Air Base, which houses Seoul's Air Force Operations Command as well as a US Air Force base.
The North's satellite launch has since prompted the two Koreas to suspend — the South only partially — a five-year-old military accord established to de-escalate tensions on the peninsula.
Separately, the top diplomats of South Korea, Japan and the United States on Friday “strongly condemned the launch for its destabilizing effect on the region” after a joint phone call, the US State Department said in a statement.
The launch “used ballistic missile technology in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions,” it said.
Seoul's spy agency has said that Pyongyang, after two failed attempts to put a satellite in orbit earlier this year, received help from Moscow for this week's successful launch.
North Korea's National Aerospace Technology Administration would continue “additional fine-tuning” of the spy satellite's functions on Saturday, KCNA said.
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Renewable energy has hidden costs
It matters when electricity is produced. A barrel of oil may be a barrel of oil whether it is pumped at midday or midnight, but a megawatt hour (mwh) of electricity is worth a great deal less when you are sleeping than during the middle of the day or, indeed, during moments when everyone decides to boil the kettle. The difficulty of bottling electricity makes its economics unusual: it is a question not just of “how much" but also “when".
At the same time, if there is one thing that everyone knows about renewable energy, it is that it is getting cheaper. Each year, or so the story goes, the costs of wind and solar power fall as the world improves its ability to harness natural resources. In 2014 the levelised cost of offshore wind, a measure for comparing different methods of generating electricity, was around $200 per mwh, according to America's Energy Information Administration (eia), an official agency; by 2023 it had fallen to $127, excluding subsidies. Yet the industry is struggling. Six state governors recently begged Joe Biden to intervene to keep producers alive, according to Bloomberg, a news service. In Britain the latest annual offshore wind auction attracted no bids whatsoever.
To understand what is going on, consider the levelised cost of energy in more detail. Do away with sun and wind, too, and return to a world where the choice is gas, coal or nuclear energy. These differ in terms of both their fixed and variable costs. The costs of a nuclear plant are mostly fixed: once built it is inexpensive to produce another unit of electricity. Natural-gas plants are the opposite: most of the costs are the fuel, and are thus variable.
A levelised cost means taking these fixed and variable costs over the lifetime of the plant and weighting them by the expected number of watt-hours the plant will produce. This gives a comparable measure. According to the eia, the levelised cost of nuclear power is $91 per mwh. Natural gas comes to $43. Compare that with expectations for the price of electricity and you should have a good idea of whether or not a new plant is worthwhile.
Yet these costs vary depending on how often a source is producing energy. A nuclear plant will be cheapest if it is running constantly, as the high upfront costs will have produced greater output. Gas, with low fixed costs and high variable costs, has lower economies of scale. Coal sits somewhere between the two. Considered purely on the financial merits, the optimal power mix is to have nuclear cover the “baseload", or minimal level of demand, coal for the “mid-load" and, finally, natural gas for the “peak load", when demand is highest. Add a carbon price and the coal will be displaced by natural gas, which is less dirty, as has happened in Europe over the past few decades.
Unfortunately, this dynamic is upset by renewables, which provide power according to the weather and often require the rest of the energy system to accommodate them. Gas, with its low fixed but high variable costs, can do so easily. Nuclear, with high fixed and low variable costs, becomes much more expensive. It is costly to build a nuclear power plant to cover only the windless hours.
As such, solar panels and wind turbines are themselves less beneficial than they might seem. If they cannot reliably produce electricity when it is needed, then their generating capacity is not as valuable as that of a regular power plant. To truly compare the two requires a measure of not just how much each megawatt hour costs to produce, but the value of that particular hour.
In an idealised market, with prices updating moment-to-moment and geographically from node-to-node on the grid, the relative benefit of any energy source would be easy to calculate: it would depend on the “capture rate". This is the difference between the market price that a source receives and the average price for electricity over a period. Prices should be higher when people most want electricity, boosting the capture rate of sources that produce at that time. Fortunately for renewables, this is usually during daylight hours, making solar useful, or during the cold windy months. But as more renewables join the grid the capture rate will fall, since an abundance of solar panels means that when it is sunny electricity prices are very low, or even negative.
Consider these costs, as measured by the eia in America, and most renewables look less competitive: solar's cost of $23 per mwh falls below an average capture rate of $20 for the electricity generated. That is still sufficiently good to beat everything other than onshore wind, geothermal energy and adding more battery storage to the grid. Offshore wind, by contrast, looks downright uncompetitive: the capture rate of its electricity is around $30 compared with a cost of $100 per mwh—only nuclear and coal have lower ratios. Add in rising costs, due to higher interest rates and disrupted supply chains, and it is no wonder many offshore-wind providers are struggling.
Most electricity markets are not ideal. Prices do not reflect the true value of time and place, meaning they are not a perfect guide to how much society wants each mwh of electricity. Look at Britain. Wholesale electricity prices are settled for half-hour blocks, which should mean pricing will give a decent idea if renewables are producing at the wrong times of day. But there is only one price for the whole country. Most onshore wind is in Scotland, since England until recently had a de facto ban on building such wind farms, though more of the demand for electricity is in the south of England. A lack of capacity on the grid to move the electricity south means that the grid manager pays to turn off Scotland's wind turbines while gas power plants in England are turned on.
Eventually, increasing the grid's capacity to shift and store electricity will solve such problems. But for the moment, comparing costs with the capture rate would not give an accurate idea of the relative benefits of building more Scottish wind power. The true costs of renewable energy are greater than they appear.
Read more from Free exchange, our column on economics:
Does China face a lost decade? (Sep 10th)
Argentina needs to default, not dollarise (Sep 7th)
How will politicians escape enormous public debts? (Aug 31st)
For more expert analysis of the biggest stories in economics, finance and markets, sign up to Money Talks, our weekly subscriber-only newsletter.
© 2023, The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved. From The Economist, published under licence. The original content can be found on www.economist.com
Source: Live Mint
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Biden, 81, Mixes Up Taylor Swift and
US President Joe Biden on Monday mistakenly referred to American pop star Taylor Swift as ‘Britney' (Spears) during remarks at a Thanksgiving event at the White House. While speaking about the annual tradition, Biden said turkeys named Liberty and Bell had to beat stiff competition for the honor and demonstrate ‘patience.'
“You could say it was even harder than getting a ticket to the Renaissance tour for Britney's tour. She's down in, it's kinda warm in Brazil right now,” Biden said. This yet another faux pas comes as Biden celebrated his 81st birthday by joking repeatedly about his advanced age, even as the White House strongly defended his stamina and batted away polling.'
On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden's age should not be a primary focus. “Our perspective is, it's not about age, it's about the president's experience,” Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing, where she highlighted that Biden had successfully championed through Congress several major pieces of legislation.
“What we say is we have to judge him by what he's done, not by his numbers,” Jean-Pierre said. “I would put the president's stamina, the president's wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people, against anyone. Anyone, any day of the week.” The US President, for his part, went for humor at the White House event. “By the way, it's my birthday today,” Biden told a crowd on the South Lawn as he pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys Liberty and Bell. “I just want you to know, it's difficult turning 60,” the president added with a chuckle. “Difficult.”
Noting that the pre-Thanksgiving pardoning ceremony dated back 76 years, Biden also said, “I want you to know I wasn't there — for the first one.” The oldest president in US history, Biden for months has used humor to try to defuse the issue — even as polls suggest it's no laughing matter.
An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77 percent of U.S. adults, including 69 percent of Democrats, viewed Biden as too old to be effective for four more years. As he seeks a second term, Biden could be headed for a rematch with former President Donald Trump.
(With agency inputs)
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Wall Street eyes Nikki Haley as Trump spoiler
Big hitters on Wall Street are lining up to support Nikki Haley’s long-shot bid to snatch the 2024 Republican presidential nomination from Donald Trump.
“There's a desperate, desperate hunt for anybody but Trump," said one of the roughly 30 senior executives The Wall Street Journal spoke with to gauge the mood of the finance set roughly a year ahead of the election.
While Wall Street's die-hard Democrats are sticking with President Biden, many other financiers have been casting about for an alternative to Trump, the former president they see as too unpredictable among other concerns. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's clash with Walt Disney and stilted public appearances hurt his standing, while Virginia Democrats' statewide victories this month quashed the idea of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (and former Carlyle Group co-CEO) jumping into the race.
Attention on Haley, a former South Carolina governor and Trump's former U.N. ambassador, intensified after Sen. Tim Scott's (R., S.C.) unexpected exit Sunday.
Former Trump adviser Gary Cohn and UBS banker Mike Santini co-hosted a Haley fundraiser Tuesday at Cohn's Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan. Roughly 30 guests including Aryeh Bourkoff, the founder of investment bank LionTree, paid $10,000 apiece to attend.
Haley fielded questions on topics including trade relations, economic policy and abortion. She won plaudits at last week's Republican debate for finessing her stance on the abortion issue and calling for consensus.
Other Haley events in New York are set for Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, with the latter being organized by Santini, litigator Eric Levine and others, some of whom have ties to Elliott Management, the $60 billion hedge fund founded by Republican donor Paul Singer. They include Campbell Brown, the Meta Platforms executive and wife of Elliott public affairs chief Dan Senor, and Terry Kassel, a longtime Haley supporter who is Elliott's human-resources head and Singer's girlfriend. (Singer himself is still entertaining supporting candidates including Haley, DeSantis and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.)
Haley, 51 years old, who already has high-profile admirers including outgoing Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, has been busy this week charming others including JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and BlackRock's Larry Fink. The conversation between Haley and Dimon was earlier reported by Axios.
Dimon, who leans Democratic, has told people Haley seems to understand the business world and could get things done. That tacit endorsement is rare for Wall Street's elder statesman, as he doesn't typically signal support for candidates. Fink saw Haley on Tuesday at a meet-and-greet with other executives.
Ken Griffin, the founder of investing giant Citadel and one of the biggest Republican donors, meanwhile, is flirting with throwing his support behind Haley, telling Bloomberg this week he was “actively contemplating" it. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman is also still considering his options.
While Haley trails Trump by a wide margin and still sits behind DeSantis in the latest national polls, her supporters expect her numbers to rise by the Iowa presidential caucuses in January. An Iowa Poll released in late October showed Haley catching DeSantis for second place among Republicans in that state, and a new CNN survey of New Hampshire has her alone in second place there behind Trump.
“If she passes DeSantis, she's the backup," said one financier who supports her. Given Trump's legal troubles, “it's not completely crazy that she could ultimately win."
A DeSantis spokesman said his campaign raised more than $1 million in 24 hours after the latest debate and has the resources it needs to grind out the battle for the nomination.
Trump's team didn't respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, many Democratic donors privately grumble that Biden won't step aside even though his age is seen by many as a handicap. Still, reliable supporters such as George Soros and Blackstone's Jonathan Gray are standing by the president—who turns 81 Monday—and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Lazard President Ray McGuire's wife, Crystal McCrary McGuire, recently hosted Harris and supporters at their Upper West Side apartment. Biden is expected back in New York early next year.
Many are panicking behind closed doors about the incumbent's worsening poll numbers and bristling at what they see as a tough-on-business regulatory agenda. They also worry that the balance he must strike on the war between Israel and Hamas will only hurt him as the conflict drags on. Some are floating alternatives such as Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (No one the Journal spoke to mentioned Rep. Dean Phillips, the Minnesota congressman who is actually challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination.)
Biden's camp has pushed back on wealthy donors suggesting he step aside. “Joe is saying ‘I'm the only one who has established that I can beat Trump,' " one of his nervous supporters said.
Complicating matters further on the Democratic side is New York City's migrant crisis. The Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit representing the city's business community, has been quietly urging deep-pocketed donors not to meaningfully support Biden until his team agrees to provide funding to deal with the influx or let them enter the legal workforce.
Meanwhile, No Labels, a political group supporting centrist candidates, threatens to throw both Republicans and Democrats off-balance by adding another candidate to the mix. Founder Nancy Jacobson has been in New York drumming up support.
Founded in 2009 and funded over the years by donors including Trian Fund Management's Nelson Peltz, enthusiasm for No Labels jumped on Wall Street during the pandemic as it recruited using Zoom events. But several onetime supporters say the organization is losing steam and people worry it could help elect Trump. Peltz quit affiliating with the group years ago and is leaning toward supporting Haley.
No Labels said it was becoming clearer every day that Americans want another choice in 2024 and that is why it is working to offer a “Unity ticket" to voters if they want it.
“I'm dragging my feet on supporting No Labels," said a private-equity executive who was once an enthusiastic supporter, adding that he needed answers on how they were going to decide whether to offer up an alternative, and who. “Until I'm sure of that and I like the answer, I'll keep waiting," he said.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) was once considered a possible No Labels candidate, and his decision not to run for re-election fed the speculation. He gets little love from the Wall Street crowd, however, and No Labels has recently made clear it was more likely to select a Republican—if it runs anyone.
The private-equity executive said his hope is that No Labels gets on every state's ballot to pressure both parties to be more moderate, then drops out at the last minute.
Lauren Thomas contributed to this article.
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Source: Live Mint
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Israel, Ukraine, China
SAN FRANCISCO—During a much-anticipated summit this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping aimed at resetting relations between the two powers, President Biden took a briefing from Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, on a completely different topic: the swelling conflict in the Middle East.
Israel's fight against Hamas, a war in Ukraine that is slipping toward a stalemate and a tenuous detente with China are all competing for the president's time with less than a year until the 2024 election. As Biden campaigns for a second term, the overlapping crises are complicating his bid to persuade U.S. voters he is focused on the domestic issues they care about most.
The demands were clear in California during meetings that ostensibly were focused on showcasing America's commitment to nations in the Asia-Pacific region. The two wars featured prominently in Biden's bilateral discussions with Xi, and world leaders who gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit privately and publicly raised concerns about the conflicts.
Biden, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who has made defending democracy a core tenet of his presidency, has sought to define himself as a capable commander-in-chief who is bringing his decades of foreign-policy experience to bear to help steady a tumultuous planet. People who know him say he relishes playing the role of statesman on the world stage.
But voters overwhelmingly say they are most focused on domestic affairs, particularly the economy. Biden's decision to involve U.S. money, weaponry and prestige in the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine could cost him at the ballot box. And a CNN poll released this month found that only 36% of voters said Biden was “an effective world leader."
Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin said foreign policy “tends not to be a driving issue" for voters but that the administration has an opportunity to use Biden's efforts to contrast with former President Donald Trump, his chief rival for 2024. “That's a good split screen, of Trump standing trial in one of four criminal trials versus Biden being on the world stage," Tulchin said.
Biden is increasingly trying to make clear to voters that the events unfolding thousands of miles from America's shores are relevant to them. Any sign of weakened support for Ukraine could prompt Russia to move aggressively toward other countries in Europe, which could trigger U.S. military involvement. A wider conflict in the Middle East, particularly with Iran, also could draw the U.S. into a regional war. Heightened tensions with China could prompt a deeper trade war that hits American pocketbooks. The consequences for the U.S. and its allies would be even greater if there was a direct military conflict with Beijing over Taiwan, or other disputes.
“We have to keep reminding people about what's at stake here," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview. “It's a matter of constantly making sure that people are aware of how these events overseas really do come back home."
But those arguments might not resonate with some voters, who polls show are fixated on prices at home. And Republicans are trying to take advantage. Trump and some GOP lawmakers argue that Biden is going too easy on China, while others in the party say the U.S. shouldn't continue sending billions of dollars to Ukraine.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called the APEC meeting fruitless and criticized Biden for agreeing to Beijing's demand to remove a Chinese police institute from an export blacklist to secure China's law-enforcement cooperation on combating fentanyl production. Trump said “the Biden presidency has been one long sellout to Beijing."
China, which the Biden administration has labeled a competitor with the potential power to reshape the global order, has taken up large chunks of bandwidth. Washington and Beijing are perched on opposite sides of Russia's war on Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict even as they spar for dominance in advanced technologies. After relations plummeted early this year over a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon was detected over North America, the administration sent senior officials to Beijing to rescue ties.
For the administration, Wednesday's summit with Xi was aimed at managing those tensions. One outcome, Biden said, was an agreement with Xi to call each other when problems arise. The prospect of more stable relations won applause from business executives at a conference held alongside APEC and drew support from leaders of key partners, who raised the other crises around the world.
“It should give a clear message that we are here to be able to work together and trust each other to resolve serious problems—climate issues, Ukraine or Gaza," Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told a business conference. “Countries like Malaysia cannot be forced to see the world and the big powers in the Cold War mindset."
Aside from allies wanting an easing of tensions, keeping rivalry with China in check would give the Biden administration time to address more urgent crises and pursue domestic policies such as rebuilding American manufacturing that are aimed at countering Beijing but could take longer to see through, U.S. officials said. It also would clear time for campaigning when Biden is certain to be pilloried by a Republican opponent for his China policy.
“They want to go into the campaign saying they're managing the Chinese," said Dennis Wilder, a former U.S. intelligence officer now a senior fellow at Georgetown University.
The president faces a more complex set of political challenges over his steadfast support for Israel. While many voters support Israel, a recent Wall Street Journal survey found many Americans are reluctant for the U.S. to become engaged in the region. Growing numbers of young voters—an important Democratic constituency that already was unenthusiastic about Biden—have faulted Biden for supporting Israel's response to Hamas' attack.
Congress will need to decide in the coming weeks how it will proceed on Biden's roughly $106 billion national security funding request for Israel, Ukraine and other issues. Senate Republicans have demanded changes to U.S. border policy in exchange for supporting the package, and bipartisan talks have yet to yield a compromise.
Past presidents have had to campaign while confronting global crises. George W. Bush launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and won re-election in a close 2004 contest; those two conflicts drove Biden during his 2020 campaign to pledge to end America's “forever wars." Growing anger over the war in Vietnam influenced Lyndon B. Johnson's decision not to seek re-election in 1968.
In speeches over the past week, Biden sought to show the tangible benefits of his diplomacy, imploring global corporations to invest in the U.S.
“When you do business with the United States and our companies, you know what you're getting: high standards, fair practices, protections for workers, world class ideas and innovation and a commitment to deal with the environment—finally," he told a meeting of CEOs. “It's a quality guarantee."
Biden's advisers say the president is capable of balancing his foreign and domestic obligations, and they are connecting his many trips abroad to the administration's economic record. “Strengthening our alliances abroad has helped to secure America's economic recovery and growth," White House communications director Ben LaBolt said.
The Biden administration is pursuing what it calls a “foreign policy for the middle class." A brainchild of Sullivan, the national security adviser, the idea came out of soul-searching after Trump's 2016 defeat of Hillary Clinton.
Under the approach, according to administration officials, foreign policy is fused with domestic goals to direct investment and create jobs at home. Legislation to promote clean energy and semiconductor manufacturing, credited as Biden successes, are cited as examples.
At the same time, the approach limits U.S. flexibility to use traditional tools of commercial diplomacy, like lowering tariffs and granting better access to the large American market, to win over countries.
Concerns that overseas trade harms American workers have hampered Biden's efforts to compete with China for influence in the Asia-Pacific. Officials had been hoping to roll out the trade pillar of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a pact involving more than a dozen nations that was set to include soft commitments on trade this week.
But Democratic opposition helped derail the trade measures, themselves already a far cry from attempts to expand market access under the Obama administration. The setback also disappointed officials from Asia-Pacific countries who have been hoping to see the U.S. follow through more substantively on its interest in the region. Biden administration officials said they would keep working on the trade efforts.
Nearly every interaction Biden has with other world leaders features discussions of the range of issues on the president's plate—whether he likes it or not.
At a meeting Monday at the White House, Biden met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the leader of a burgeoning, Muslim-majority economic power that is at the center of the competition between the U.S. and China for influence in the region. In the Oval Office, Widodo publicly called for a cease-fire in Gaza, a move that Biden has so far rejected.
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Source: Live Mint
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As More Pandas Head to US
In a whirlwind US trip this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping held long talks with President Joe Biden, got a standing ovation from top business leaders, and even hinted there could be more pandas on the way to the United States.
The high-profile welcome for Xi in San Francisco, coupled with the summit where he and Biden agreed to restore suspended US-Chinese military communications, add up to a successful visit, analysts say.
But in the face of heightened business risks and enduring national security concerns, experts say the rhetoric needs now to be backed up by action if it is to produce meaningful long-term results for the Chinese leader, whose slowing economy needs to reverse the flight of foreign capital.
“For China, Xi's ability to gain a prominent platform in San Francisco (and) to speak with US business leaders was a success in and of itself,” said Nathaniel Sher, senior research analyst at Carnegie China.
At a dinner Wednesday attended by executives like Apple CEO Tim Cook and BlackRock's Larry Fink, Xi said China was ready to be a “partner and friend” of the United States. He hinted Beijing could send more panda bears — always a huge hit at US zoos — as “envoys of friendship.”
The world's richest person, Tesla and SpaceX tycoon Elon Musk, also met Xi before the dinner with other representatives, said Tesla in a Chinese social media post.
Xi's appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco marked a rare chance for him to interact with foreign business leaders, noted Trivium China in a newsletter, offering the opportunity to challenge the idea that China is inhospitable to foreign firms.
He did not show up in person to the APEC CEO summit — and China did not offer an explanation for the no-show — offering instead a written speech inviting firms to invest and deepen their footprint, promising “heart-warming” measures “to make it easier for foreign companies to invest and operate in China.”
But beyond the warm words, US investors will be watching Xi's actions, as the world's number two economy slows and business confidence weakens.
China's anti-espionage law, cybersecurity investigations, raids on multinationals, wrongful detentions and non-market practices “all have chilling effects on foreign investment,” Sher told AFP.
“Above all, multinationals want more legal and regulatory predictability in China, not more hollow statements about China's commitment to win-win development,” he added.
On the political front, the sit-down with Biden could be said to have been a qualified success, observers said.
The United States and China have a common goal of stabilization of their relations after a rough few years, said Australian ambassador to the United States Kevin Rudd.
“It means reopening former lines — political, diplomatic and now military communication,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the APEC summit.
“This is not just a term, it actually has machinery of government around it,” said the former Australian prime minister.
“The bottom line with all the above is the proof of the pudding will lie in the eating. The framework is there, they're measurable. What will now happen in practice?”
For now, the restoration of military-to-military communications is “just the first step,” he said.
It remains unclear if China has changed its own strategic timetable surrounding Taiwan — the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own — or if the latest talks will change its military's behavior.
To Seton Hall University professor Zheng Wang, Xi's first US visit in six years and the Biden-Xi summit symbolize “a potential turning point” in bilateral ties after the hostility of recent years.
“We've witnessed a trade war, technology conflicts, and the far-reaching impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
And now Biden will be managing his reelection campaign while monitoring war in Ukraine and tensions in the Middle East, while Xi navigates China's economic challenges and the perpetual intrigue of politics at the top of the Communist Party. A former foreign minister has gone missing and the whereabouts of the defense minister remain unclear.
“Stable and constructive US-China relations are therefore needed for both sides,” Wang said.
Yet, Xi could have gone “much further” to reassure the United States and the global community of China's benign intentions, Sher said.
“If the ‘rejuvenation' of China entails a rejection of the existing international order, nothing that Chinese leaders say in international fora will prevent the US and its partners from seeking to impede Beijing's rise,” he said.
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