Turkey’s electoral board has rejected appeals from the country’s main opposition parties to annul the referendum granting President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. Opposition parties had called on the electoral board to annul Sunday’s vote, which was narrowly won by the “Yes” camp, because unstamped ballot papers were included. Some groups are now planning to appeal to Turkey’s constitutional court and, if it is unsuccessful there, then the European Court of Human Rights. Election monitors say they are aware of up to 2.5 million tampered referendum votes and also criticized the government for holding the vote during a state of emergency that was imposed after the failed coup in July against Mr. Erdogan. There have been public protests every night since the election results were announced. Though dozens of people were rounded up Wednesday morning for participating in the demonstrations, organizers say they plan to continue showing up. Tens of thousands of people have been detained for political reasons in Turkey in recent months, but these were the first political arrests reported since the referendum. Mr. Erdogan and his allies say their victory will help bring stability and prosperity to the country, while their critics argue that it will give the president too much power, insulate the post from judicial scrutiny and, as a result, contribute to greater instability. It’s expected that protests will continue, which will likely be accompanied by further arrests, escalating violence and more worrisome headlines. We should continue to pay close attention to the developments in Turkey. (Sources: Reuters, CNBC)
I thought “The Atlantic” and several other sources have presented some interesting thoughts and commentary regarding president elect Donald Trump and how things could play out in the event of a major virus outbreak. It seems like there’s some worry about how he and his team will respond. Many refer back to his tweets during the ebola crisis and wanting to ground all planes in or out of the U.S. that may have come in contact with infected areas. Also keep in mind he is a self-proclaimed “clean hands freak” and some suggest a bit of a germaphobe (Politico). Now all of sudden we have millions of birds being killed across Asia as a lethal strain of H7N9 is trying to be contained in China, India, Japan and South Korea. I should note that a few cases of the deadly virus are now being reported out of Russia. I have no idea if this particular virus makes its way to the U.S., but I suspect some type of deadly virus will be one of Donald Trumps first major hurdle. Some fear the team he has assembled will be extremely quick to make decisions, which could be both good and bad. There’s some in Washington that believe Trumps team could quickly seal all U.S. borders, ground all flights to and from any infected areas, roll out quarantine guidelines and potential declares martial law if need be to enforce rules. Obviously this would place a huge drag on the U.S. economy and create massive social unrest. These are all a lot of big “what ifs”, but I can assure you no one wants to have their loved ones who have traveled abroad locked out of their homeland. There’s a ton of moving parts to consider, but I am going to be keeping an extremely close eye on the viruses and pandemic possibilities during the next few years. I’m really starting to become more concerned about the frequency, severity and how exactly they will be managed. Keep in mind just three months after Barack Obama’s inauguration, a new strain of H1N1 swine flu was detected and it eventually reached global pandemic status. Then in September 2012, in the dusk of Obama’s first term, a new flu-like disease called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was described in Saudi Arabia. In December 2013, a year into Obama’s second term, the biggest Ebola outbreak in history began in Guinea before spreading to 10 countriesThen in late 2015 and early 2016, the Zika virus has already started sweeping the Americas. My point is it’s not a matter of if but when Donald Trump will have to deal with a deadly major virus outbreak.
There’s some concern brewing around the fact newly elected President Trump seems to be assembling a hard-lining team that could soon rock the boat with China and Mexico. The latest move inside Washington was Trump naming Robert Lighthizer, an official in the Reagan administration and harsh critic of China’s trade practices, to be his chief trade negotiator, responsible for better deals aimed at reducing U.S. trade deficits. For years Lighthizer has argued that China has failed to live up to commitments made in 2001 when it joined the World Trade Organization and that tougher tactics are needed to change the system, even if it means deviating from World Trade Organization rules. Keep in mind Lighthizer is one of the main players credited with stemming the tide of imports from Japan in the 1980s with threats of quotas and punitive tariffs. “Bob Lighthizer is very smart, very strategic and totally fearless,” said a Washington attorney who has worked with him for three decades but asked not to be named. “You can expect him to use every tool available to create leverage to get China and anyone else to stop the cheating. He is no fan of the WTO.” There’s early talk that Ligthizer will be instrumental in immediately renegotiating the NAFTA deal, meaning Mexico could also be in the hot-seat. Bottom-line, Trump is definitely going to try and negotiate better deals for the U.S. and the team he is assembling seem to be extremely serious about the task at hand. We have no way of knowing how foreign leaders will respond, but I have to imagine the initial knee-jerk could be to kick, scream and try to buck the proposals. Unfortunately the U.S. may have to take a couple steps backwards in the process before ultimately moving forward. This potential backpedaling has given the bears a slight nearby edge when talking U.S. agriculture. I think longer-term it’s bullish and will be healthy for the U.S. farmer, it’s just the initial taste might make it tough to swallow. We need to continue closely monitoring negations and relations with our biggest ag buyers i.e. China, Mexico, Japan, etc.. All the people Trump is assembling are clearly agents of “change” and seem to be people who get things done, so I fell like we have to expect some shakeups. (Read more at Reuters)
The USDA bureau in Buenos Aires, in a report published this week, reiterated the strong potential for the Argentine wheat crop to reach a five-year high of 14.4 million metric tons. However, persistent rains have raised some concerns that yields may fall below estimates, with precipitation late in the growing cycle causing sprouting in kernels and quality problems. A setback in Argentine wheat could also provoke a reassessment of its expected exports to neighboring Brazil, an important wheat importer, which has seen its own crop quality threatened by rain. The USDA bureau forecasts Argentine shipments to Brazil rising higher in 2016/17. As for any impacts to U.S. exports, hard red winter wheat could benefit should Argentine supply fall short. Continue keeping an eye on the rains!
As you may recall, a cease fire was supposed to be implemented in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo this week in order to allow the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters, as well as allow much needed humanitarian aid to reach those who are trapped. The eight hour “humanitarian pause” officially went into effect Thursday, though Russian and Syrian forces actually stopped their relentless bombing campaign on Tuesday and extended the cease fire by 24 hours. Russia opened eight corridors for people to evacuate, but designated two to be used by rebels that are trying to ouster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rebels are leery of accepting the evacuation offer, saying they fear they will be assassinated on the roads out of town. In all fairness, some of the militants fighting in Aleppo are part of the al-Nusra Front, which is a breakaway group from al-Qaeda and that the international community regards as a terrorist group. Reports so far indicate continued clashes between Syrian forces and the rebels, and few residents heeding calls to leave. Soon after the truce took effect on Thursday, some of the corridors reportedly came under fire, with opposition and government forces blaming each other. Reporters on the ground said Syrian government forces were targeting the corridors with sniper and rocket fire. Keep in mind, Russia has claimed all along that they are only involved in Syria because they want to help wipe out the Islamic State terrorist group. Their actions speak to an entirely different agenda though, which would be helping President al-Assad regain power, something the U.S. and its allies oppose. And it now appears Russia is gearing up for an even more devastating attack on the city. According to a NATO diplomat, Russian warships are carrying fighter bombers that are likely to reinforce a final assault on Aleppo in two weeks. He tells Reuters that they are deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War. “This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there,” the diplomat said. There are estimated to be about a quarter million civilians still trapped in the city. Russia has already been accused of brutal war crimes in the conflict and an even more aggressive air campaign is sure to exacerbate tensions with the West even further.