Top 20 Influencers Of CMOs: 1st Half 2017

Since 2015, Leadtail has been analyzing CMOs – who and what they read, reference, and tweet about. For the first half of 2017, Leadtail analyzed 372,180 tweets from 1267 CMOs that were published on Twitter. The results in this article provide a glimpse into what’s on the minds of CMOs.

De-Dollarization Accelerates: China Readies Yuan-Priced Crude Oil Benchmark Backed By Gold

Authored by Tsvetana Paraskova via OilPrice.com,

The world’s top oil importer, China, is preparing to launch a crude oil futures contract denominated in Chinese yuan and convertible into gold, potentially creating the most important Asian oil benchmark and allowing oil exporters to bypass U.S.-dollar denominated benchmarks by trading in yuan, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

The crude oil futures will be the first commodity contract in China open to foreign investment funds, trading houses, and oil firms. The circumvention of U.S. dollar trade could allow oil exporters such as Russia and Iran, for example, to bypass U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

To make the yuan-denominated contract more attractive, China plans the yuan to be fully convertible in gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

Last month, the Shanghai Futures Exchange and its subsidiary Shanghai International Energy Exchange, INE, successfully completed four tests in production environment for the crude oil futures, and the exchange continues with preparatory works for the listing of crude oil futures, aiming for the launch by the end of this year.

“The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously,” Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT, told Nikkei Asia Review.

The yuan-denominated futures contract has been in the works for years, and after several delays, it looks like it may be launched this year.

Some potential foreign traders have been worried that the contract would be priced in yuan.

But according to analysts who spoke to Nikkei Asian Review, backing the yuan-priced futures with gold would be appealing to oil exporters, especially to those that would rather avoid U.S. dollars in trade.  

“It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either,” Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, told Nikkei.

“Don’t Mess With Yellowstone Supervolcano” Geologists Warn NASA

Two weeks ago, we reported that Brian Wilcox, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense, had shared a report on what the Space Agency considered one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization: the Yellowstone “supervolcano.”

Following an article published by BBC about super volcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch with the media to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat Yellowstone poses, and what they hypothesize could possibly be done about it. 

“I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” explains Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology. 

“I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”

Yellowstone currently leaks about 60 to 70% of its heat into the atmosphere through stream water which seeps into the magma chamber through cracks, while the rest of the heat builds up as magma and dissolves into volatile gasses. The heat and pressure will reach the threshold, meaning an explosion is inevitable. When NASA scientists considered the fact that a super volcano’s eruption would plunge the earth into a volcanic winter, destroying most sources of food, starvation would then become a real possibility.  Food reserves would only last about 74 days, according to the UN, after an eruption of a super volcano, like that under Yellowstone.  And they have devised a risky plan that could end up blowing up in their faces.  Literally.

Wilcox hypothesized that if enough heat was removed, and the temperature of the super volcano dropped, it would never erupt. But he wants to see a 35% decrease in temperature, and how to achieve that, is incredibly risky. One possibility is to simply increase the amount of water in the supervolcano. As it turns to steam. the water would release the heat into the atmosphere, making global warming alarmists tremble.

“Building a big aqueduct uphill into a mountainous region would be both costly and difficult, and people don’t want their water spent that way,” Wilcox says. “People are desperate for water all over the world and so a major infrastructure project, where the only way the water is used is to cool down a supervolcano, would be very controversial.”

So, NASA came up with an alternative plan: the smartest people on earth believe the most viable solution could be to drill up to 10km down into the super volcano and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F), thus slowly day by day extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46 billion, it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians (taxpayers) to make the investment.

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox says. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”

To be sure, NASA itself admitted that drilling into a super volcano comes with its own risks, like the eruption that scientists are desperate to prevent. Triggering an eruption by drilling would be disastrous.

“The most important thing with this is to do no harm,” Wilcox says. “If you drill into the top of the magma chamber and try and cool it from there, this would be very risky. This could make the cap over the magma chamber more brittle and prone to fracture. And you might trigger the release of harmful volatile gases in the magma at the top of the chamber which would otherwise not be released.”

Now, it is others’ turn to slam the NASA plan: according to a geologist at Yellowstone national park, the proposal could have dire consequences, including killing countless animals.

According to the Star, Dr Jefferson Hungerford, who works at Yellowstone, has warned NASA scientists to stay away from the volcano. He said that: “messing with a mass that sits underneath our dynamic Yellowstone would potentially be harmful to life around us.

“It would potentially be a dangerous thing to play around with.” And he questioned whether the drilling could even work, saying “we’re not there scientifically”.

More importantly, Dr Hungerford said there is no need for anything to be done proactively at Yellowstone, adding: “We won’t see [an eruption]. Very likely we will never see it.

Perhaps he is correct: the Earth has 20 known supervolcanoes, which if they erupt, would trigger planet-changing effects. Major eruptions are incredibly rare, with the last one approximately 26,500 years ago in New Zealand. But if a similar event occurred today, it would cause a nuclear winter with humans wiped out in just a few months from starvation.

For now, what some of the smartest people in the world disagreeing on what to do next, the increasingly more precarious status quo is the most likely outcome.

Three Dangerous Delusions About Korea

Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

They say that most of the world’s real dangers arise not because of what people don’t know but because of what they do 'know' that just ain’t so.

As a case in point, consider three things about Korea that the bipartisan Washington establishment seems quite sure of but are far removed from reality:

Delusion 1: All options, including U.S. military force, are «on the table.»

– Everyone knows there are no military «options» the U.S. could use against North Korea that don’t result in disaster. The prospect that a «surgical strike» could «take out» (a muscular-sounding term much loved by laptop bombardiers) Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile capabilities is a fiction. Already impractical when considered against a country like Iran, no one believes a limited attack could eliminate North Korea’s ability to strike back, hard. At risk would be not only almost 30,000 U.S. troops in Korea but 25 million people in the Seoul metropolitan area, not to mention many more lives at risk in the rest of South Korea and perhaps Japan.

 

– Hence, any contemplated U.S. preemptive strike would have to be massive from the start, imposing a ghastly cost on North Koreans (do their lives count?) but still running the risk that anything less than total success would mean a devastating retaliation. That’s not even taking into account possible actions of other countries, notably China’s response to an American attack on their detestable buffer state.

Delusion 2: North Korea must be denuclearized.

– Whether anyone likes it or not, North Korea is a nuclear weapons state outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will remain so. Kim Jong-un learned the lessons of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Because Kim has weapons of mass destruction, especially nukes, he gets to stay alive and in power. If he gives them up, he can look forward to dancing the Tyburn jig or getting sodomized with a bayonet, then shot. That’s not a difficult choice.

Delusion 3: If the U.S. presses China hard enough, Beijing will solve the problem for us.

– There is no combination of U.S. sanctions, threats, or pressures that will make Beijing take steps that are fundamentally contrary to China’s vital national security interests. (Here, the «vital national security» of China means just that, not the way U.S. policymakers routinely abuse the term to mean anything they don’t like even if it has nothing to do with American security, much less with America’s survival.) Aside from speculation (which is all it is) that China could seek to engineer an internal coup to overthrow Kim in favor of a puppet administration, maintaining the current odious regime is Beijing’s only option if they don’t want to face the prospect of having on their border a reunited Korean peninsula under a government allied with Washington.

 

– After Moscow’s experience with the expansion of NATO following the 1990 reunification of Germany, why would Beijing take credibly any assurances from Washington (of which there is no indication anyway) not to expand into a vacuum created by a collapse of North Korea? Quite to the contrary, it has been suggested that if China refuses to deal with the North Korea problem on Washington’s behalf, then the U.S. would do it on its terms, presenting Beijing (in the description of former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton) with «regime collapse, huge refugee flows and U.S. flags flying along the Yalu River.» Adds Bolton, «China can do it the easier way or the harder way: It’s their choice. Time is growing short.» If under such a scenario U.S. forces end up on China’s border, suggests Bolton, they wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon. Don’t be so sure. In 1950, the last time American forces were on the Yalu River, they weren’t there very long when hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers crossed into Korea. Keep in mind that happened when China didn’t have nuclear weapons but the U.S. did.

The seemingly weekly rise and fall of the decibel level of bellicose rhetoric coming out of Washington and Pyongyang obscures the realities behind these three delusions. Little change can be expected from Pyongyang, whose policy at least has the virtue of simplicity: «if you do anything bad to us, we’ll do something really, really bad to you.»

So then, what are the prospects Washington could jump off the hamster wheel and come up with something besides threats and sanctions? The omens are not auspicious. Just before he left the White House, Steve Bannon violated the taboo surrounding Delusion 1: «Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us.» Then he was gone.

But let’s be optimistic. There have been reports of direct «back channel» contacts between North Korea and the U.S. at the United Nations in New York. Even Bolton suggests that some kind of accommodation could be made to China in the form of a pullback of U.S. forces down to the south, near Pusan, so as to be still «available for rapid deployment across Asia.» (Certainly, that’s one idea. Here’s a better one: how about getting us out of Korea entirely and not having Americans available for deployment across Asia?)

The definitive clarification should have been the Beijing-based Global Times editorial of August 10, 2017 («Reckless game over the Korean Peninsula runs risk of real war»), universally seen as reflecting the position of the Chinese government:

«China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so».

That means that if Kim attacks the U.S., he’s on his own. If we attack Kim, we’re at war with China. In the latter case, while Russia would not likely directly join the fray we can be sure Moscow would provide China total support short of belligerency. Put mildly, this would not be in the American interest.

There is one, and only one overriding priority that should now guide U.S. policy on Korea. It’s not regime change in North Korea – despite that regime’s loathsomeness – or even the wellbeing of South Korea or Japan. It’s avoiding Kim’s developing a missile system capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States. How close North Korea might be to such a capability is the subject of wildly conflicting estimations. (Regarding the American lives hung out on the DMZ, there’s a simple solution to ensuring their safety – get them the hell out of there.)

But what about South Korea and Japan? Our «alliances» with them are a fiction. The U.S. guarantees their security but other than cooperating on the defense of their own territory they do nothing to safeguard ours, nor can they. The U.S. derives no benefit in continuing to make ourselves a target on account of a place that’s more than five thousand miles from the American mainland.

It’s time that «America First!» meant something. As a start, Washington could take seriously Beijing’s proposal for a double-freeze. On the one hand, Pyongyang would suspend its nuclear and missile programs, in particular halting tests of weapons with potential intercontinental range. Washington and Seoul would suspend joint military exercises, including practicing so-called «decapitation strikes« aimed at North Korea’s leadership.

If protecting our own territory and people is American officials’ top priority, and not, as they implausibly claim, «regime change» in North Korea, it’s hard to see why a double-freeze would not be a sensible first step. It would be largely up to China to see that the North Koreans complied with their part of the deal. If they did, perhaps it could lead towards a long-overdue settlement of this Cold War-era standoff and, in time, a reunited, neutral Korea. If not, all bets are off – but we’d be hardly worse off than we are now.

The Stranded ISIS Bus Convoy That No One Knows What To Do With

In a bizarre twist to an already unusual story, a convoy of 17 buses carrying Islamic State terrorists and their families has remained stranded since Thursday in the Syrian desert as the US, Russians, and Syrians discuss their fate: attack the convoy or allow it to pass? Regardless of what happens, emerging photos and video depicting ISIS' retreat from Lebanon as well as their current helpless plight stuck in the middle of Syria constitutes perhaps the most significant blow to ISIS propaganda to date.

Earlier this week we reported on the unusual deal which allowed a large convoy of Islamic State fighters and their families to exit their contested stronghold along the Syrian-Lebanese border under the watch of the Lebanese and Syrian armies and Hezbollah after being defeated. As first announced by Hezbollah's Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in a speech Monday night, the deal involved the transportation of 26 wounded and 308 ISIS fighters, along with 331 civilian family members via buses and ambulances to Syria's eastern province. The controversial deal was struck in return for the bodies of 9 Lebanese soldiers, kidnapped by ISIS in 2014.


Stranded ISIS convoy: there are over 600 in the group, which includes civilian family members. Photo source: Stripes, via Arabic media.


ISIS convoy in Syria. Photo source: Louai Beshara/Agence France-Presse

That convoy was allowed to enter Syria but was attacked by the US-led anti-ISIL Coalition on Wednesday as it crossed open desert on its way to the Islamic State stronghold of Deir Ezzor. Per coalition statement, the convoy wasn't attacked directly – just outlying ISIS vehicles which were attempting to join and bolster the transport. Part of the highway in front of the convoy, including a key bridge, was further targeted in order to stop its movement.

According to the latest update (released Friday afternoon) from the US coalition (@CJTFOIR), the buses remain stranded. Apparently, deliveries of food and water have been made:

After turning around and heading back west from the Abul Kamal area, the convoy of 17 buses containing hundreds of armed ISIS fighters and their families remains in the Syrian Desert between Humayma and As Sukhnah.

 

…In accordance with the law of armed conflict, the Coalition has struck ISIS fighters and vehicles, including a tank, armed technical vehicles, and transport vehicles seeking to facilitate the movement of ISIS fighters to the border area of our Iraqi partners. Food and water have been provided to the convoy.

The ISIS convoy had reportedly been on an indirect and lengthy route through Syria, likely in order to avoid air strike, before being halted. On Friday the Syrian and Lebanese governments extracted another concession as part of negotiations over the fate of the convoy: ISIS handed over the body of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer to Hezbollah.

Meanwhile Hezbollah's Nasrallah revealed that he personally negotiated the deal with Syrian President Assad, who displayed initial reluctance. As Fox News reports:

"I went to President Assad…I went to Damascus," he said, adding that he sought to convince Assad to let the convoy pass through government territory.

 

"He [Assad] told me, this is embarrassing for us, but no problem," Nasrallah told supporters gathered in eastern Lebanon for a "victory rally" to celebrate the expulsion of ISIS from the border area.

 

"The Syrian government has put up with the embarrassment for the sake of Lebanon," he said.

The ceasefire agreement immediately sparked controversy in the region, especially in Iraq, whose leaders see the deal as intentionally allowing more terrorists to settle at its own border. The US coalition was also quick to accuse the deal's brokers as being soft on terrorism and said, "relocating terrorists from one place to another is not a lasting solution.”

But as we pointed out, the US and its allies have routinely allowed for ISIS retreats and transfers much larger in scale which appear purposefully designed to put pressure on the Syrian government. One of the more shocking admissions of such a strategy came in 2016, when then Secretary of State John Kerry was caught on audio telling a Syrian opposition gathering, which met on the sidelines of a U.N. General Assembly meeting, that Obama hoped to use ISIS as leverage against Assad. According to Kerry on the leaked audio (25:50):

"And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened"… "(We) thought, however, we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate. But instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him."

One knowledgeable reporter on the ground has observed that the ordeal has been a huge blow to ISIS propaganda. Robert Fisk reports, "some ISIS leaders in Syria did not want members of the group who had surrendered territory to be welcomed back into the so-called caliphate, and the militants should have fought to the death instead." Other observers of Islamic State social media accounts have noted that ISIS members have reacted in disbelief, claiming the entire brokered deal and ISIS retreat to be a fiction of Hezbollah media.

At the moment, terrorists and their families remain sitting on chartered buses in Syrian no-man's land awaiting the decision of regional and foreign militaries controlling land and air over Syria. Will the convoy be destroyed or allowed to pass? Will the US coalition strike and kill over 300 civilian ISIS family members in the process? Simple imprisonment could prove difficult as the ISIS militants were allowed to carry small arms as part of the deal and will surely go down fighting at this point. Or there's the remote chance that the Syrians and Hezbollah actually desire for the US to attack the convoy: the Syrian and Lebanese governments could maintain they upheld their end of the bargain (this becomes important for potential future battlefield deals brokered with other groups), while the US would claim the moral high ground of fighting terror. 

Whatever scenario unfolds, this currently developing story is arguably one of the strangest to come out of recent events in the war.