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Abe reaches engineering, economic agreements with Turkmenistan

From Japan Times…

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov agreed Friday to cooperate on infrastructure development and natural gas plant projects totaling ¥2.2 trillion in the resource-rich Central Asian country.

Abe and Berdimuhamedov also agreed to urge North Korea to follow United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the development of nuclear weapons, and affirmed tie-ups in human resources development in Turkmenistan for advanced industries using Japanese-style engineering education, according to a joint statement issued after their meeting in Ashgabat, the capital.

Given that Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, the leaders welcomed participation by Japanese companies in building gas processing and chemicals plants, the statement said.

With Turkmenistan the source of more than half of China’s natural gas imports, the country aims to diversify exports through the advanced processing of gas, especially at a time when prices have slumped.

Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Turkmenistan. He is on the second leg of a six-nation, weeklong tour that will also take him to four other Central Asian states.

Observers say the trip is intended to counter China’s growing influence in the resource-rich region with its economic might.

On Thursday evening, Abe visited Mongolia and agreed with Mongolian Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg to advance economic cooperation between the two countries on the back of a free trade agreement signed earlier this year.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Ulan Bator, Saikhanbileg said Mongolia completed legal procedures the same day, paving the way for the FTA, signed in February, to take effect possibly this coming spring.

Abe welcomed the move, saying Japan “would like to cooperate for Mongolia’s development.” The Japanese government won Diet approval for the FTA during the regular Diet session that ended last month.

Saikhanbileg said he and Abe also agreed to cooperate on infrastructure development in Mongolia, including developing the Tavan Tolgoi coal mine, a major project in the country’s south.

Referring to bilateral security cooperation, Abe said he won Mongolia’s backing for greater overseas roles for the Self-Defense Forces under new security laws.

Abe called for continued strategic dialogue involving the two countries and the United States.

“Sharing basic values, Japan and Mongolia are important strategic partners,” he said.

Given that Mongolia has diplomatic relations with North Korea, Abe asked for Ulan Bator’s cooperation in addressing Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s.

The abduction issue has prevented Japan and North Korea from normalizing diplomatic relations.



‘Come here often?’ – Sex with Robot conference cancelled

From Quartz…

Love, it’s been said, is a battlefield. And the possibility of future relationships between humans and robots is stirring up hostile emotions in some people. Last month, an internet campaign was launched to prevent any robo-human relationships in the making, and a Japanese robot company told users that having sex with its robots would void their warranties. Now, officials in Malaysia have canceled a conference that they feared would involve humans attendees having sex with robots.

The BBC reports that the second annual Congress on Love and Sex With Robots conference, slated to take place in Iskandar, Malaysia, on Nov. 16, has been canceled by local police for fear that humans might want to have sex with robots then and there. There is, police chief Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar told the BBC, “nothing scientific about having sex with machines.”

The conference’s website has been taken down, replaced with a terse message saying the conference has been postponed until 2016, and “will definitely not be held anywhere in Malaysia.”

Last year’s conference was held in Portugal, and drew about 40 participants. Its expressed purpose was to dive into the academic and scientific likelihood of human-robot relationships in the future, and what that might look like. Cofounder David Levy, who wrote a book on the subject, has suggested that real relationships between humans and robots might be commonplace by 2050.

It’s a brave new world out there.


The vice president of the Maldives allegedly tried to kill the president last month

From Quartz…

Police in the Maldives have arrested Ahmed Adeeb, the country’s vice president, on charges of treason, alleging that he was involved in plotting an explosion that could have killed president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom in September. (The president is commonly known as “Abdulla Yameen.”)

Though the president was not hurt in the blast, which occurred on a speedboat carrying him and his family to Malé, the Maldivian capital, on September 28, his wife and bodyguard suffered minor injuries. Police at the time said they didn’t know if it had been an accident or an assassination attempt, but rumors soon swirled about the vice president’s possible involvement, according to the Associated Press.

Adeeb, who had been appointed VP only three months earlier—after president Yameen impeached his original VP on charges of treason—denied the accusations. But the president remained suspicious and ordered investigations into Adeeb’s network. Since then, Yameen has fired a handful of officials; The Guardian notes this was “seen by some as a purge of individuals whose loyalties may be in doubt.”

The Maldives, a small Muslim nation of islands best known for luxury beach resorts, have been sullied by political infighting since 2012, when the country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Nasheed, was overthrown. Nasheed’s vice president assumed leadership for a year, and then lost to Yameen in the controversial 2013 presidential election. When Yameen became president, he sent Nasheed to jail.

Vice president Adeeb was arrested today (Oct. 24), and so were three soldiers suspected of plotting against Yameen with him, plus two others who had access to the boat before the explosion. The government announced that the bomb on the boat had been planted under a seat usually occupied the president.

Mexico quake

Mexico Quake Hits

From Quartz…

The strongest hurricane ever seen in the western hemisphere hit Mexico last night (Oct. 23), with residents and aid groups bracing for massive destruction from high winds that are expected to cause flooding, landslides, and damage from flying debris. The eye of Hurricane Patricia made landfall 55 miles (85 kilometers) west-northwest of the port city of Manzanillo.

As it crossed over land, the record-setting hurricane weakened from its peak strength, with maximum sustained winds near 160 mph (260 kmh), according to the US National Hurricane Center said. That still makes Patricia a category 5 hurricane— among the most powerful to ever make landfall in recent years—which is capable of “life-threatening flash floods and mud slides” and “an extremely dangerous storm surge,” the NHC said.

Mexican authorities declared a state of emergency (link in Spanish) in three states and dozens of municipalities in the path of the storm. The Red Cross told Quartz it has deployed 150 rescue workers and supplies like blankets and food to the areas expected to be hit the hardest. Another 350 are on stand-by.

The group is working with the Mexican military, the Mexican Marine, and public safety agencies at federal and local levels to prepare for the massive storm.

“I hope that we don’t have a single dead person,” Commander Isaac Oxenhaut, national first aid coordinator for Red Cross, told Quartz.

That will depend in large part on whether people in the hit areas heed the warnings to take cover, added Oxenhaut, who is running the Red Cross’s efforts from Puerto Vallarta.

It appeared many did, with the streets around the Red Cross’s building nearly deserted by early afternoon and at least 17 families lodged at the Red Cross shelter in Puerto Vallarta, he said.

Meanwhile, government workers in big cities like Guadalajara were cleaning street drains and canals to minimize flooding, officials said during a press conference. Classes were cancelled in the entire coastal state of Colima. In Jalisco state, mayors urged citizens to cancel parties, weddings, and other events Friday night and stay home.

In the municipality of Puerto Vallarta, which includes the resort town of the same name, 50,000 residents (Spanish) had been evacuated by Friday afternoon, Mexican magazine Proceso reported. Some tourists in Puerto Vallarta were apparently stranded after their hotels send them to the convention center instead of out of town.


US oil settles down 2.4%; 3rd-straight daily loss

From Reuters…

Oil prices slid for a third-straight session on Wednesday on worries over rising U.S. crude stockpiles, although a larger-than-expected drawdown in gasoline and distillates tempered the market’s bearish sentiment.

U.S. crude oil inventories rose 8 million barrels last week, the government-run Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

The build was more than double the 3.9 million barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and above the 7.1 million build reported by industry group American Petroleum Institute.

Oil prices extended losses briefly on the EIA report, before coming off their lows on what traders said was a 1.5 million-barrel drop in gasoline stocks that was also reported by the EIA.

Distillate stockpiles, which include diesel, fell by 2.6 million barrels.

U.S. crude oil inventories rose 8 million barrels last week, the government-run Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported.

The build was more than double the 3.9 million barrels forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and above the 7.1 million build reported by industry group American Petroleum Institute.

The Reuters poll had forecast a decline of just 900,000 barrels for gasoline and 1.3 million for distillates.

“The products draws is providing a bullish tilt to the market,” said Matt Smith, commodity research director for the New York-headquartered energy consultancy and database Clipperdata.

Oil prices extended losses briefly on the EIA report, before coming off their lows on what traders said was a 1.5 million-barrel drop in gasoline stocks that was also reported by the EIA.


In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hand with Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. President Bashar Assad was in Moscow, in his first known trip abroad since the war broke out in Syria in 2011, to meet his strongest ally Russian leader Putin. The two leaders stressed that the military operations in Syria - in which Moscow is the latest and most powerful addition - must lead to a political process. (Alexei Druzhinin, RIA-Novosti, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)


  • Global stocks slip as earnings, China weakness weigh. Read story
  • Oil touches 3 week low, as over supply worries deepen. Read story
  • China capital outflows top $500 billion. Read story
  • US dollar gains versus emerging market currencies. Read story 
  • US debt wrangling could cause ‘accident’: Treasury’s Lew. Read story
  • Puerto Rico breaks off talks with creditor group. Read story
  • Canada’s Trudeau will withdraw fighter jets from Syria strikes. Read story
  • Japan growth slows sharply, raises fears of recession. Read story
  • Valeant shares tumble on dru dales report. Read story
  • Syria’s Assad makes surprise visit to Moscow. Read story
  • Forget raises, employers focus on health benefits to retain workers. Read story
  • Consumer Reports no longer recommends Tesla’s model S. Read story 
  • Starbucks & Fiat tax deals ‘illegal.’ Read story
  • On the lighter side. Check it out

At least 30 involved in VW diesel cheat

According to  German news service Seigel, at least 30 managers were involved in Volkswagen’s  emissions test cheating, German magazine Spiegel reported on Wednesday, citing internal and external investigations.

VW’s U.S. Chief Executive Michael Horn last week blamed “a couple of software engineers” for installing the software that defeated emissions tests and said it was not a corporate decision.

Volkswagen declined to comment on the Spiegel report.

Spiegel, citing preliminary results of probes by law firm Jones Day and Volkswagen itself, said the dozens of managers would be suspended.

It cited a person familiar with the matter as saying the circle of those found to have been involved and who knew about the cheating could widen further.

New VW CEO Matthias Mueller is expected to speak to top management on Thursday about the current state of the investigations and the strategic way forward.




Putin says US & Allies have “oatmeal in their heads”

Some of Russia’s international partners have “oatmeal in their heads” because they don’t understand clearly that its military campaign in Syria seeks to help the fight against terrorism, President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia notified the U.S. and the European Union in advance “out of respect” that it intended to begin airstrikes against Islamic State and other militants in Syria, Putin said at an annual conference organized by VTB Capital in Moscow on Tuesday. This showed Russia’s ready to cooperate on Syria, while nobody ever warned the authorities in Moscow about their operations, he said.

Russia’s military intervention “has changed the whole dynamic of the situation,” though it must not distract from efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy on Syria, said at talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

Putin’s colorful phrase, normally used to describe someone as confused, to characterize relations with the U.S. and its allies on Syria comes amid deep tensions over the Russian bombing campaign and cruise-missile strikes that began Sept. 30. The EU demanded on Monday that Russia stop targeting moderate groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that Russia’s actions “will have consequences” and the bombing “will only inflame” Syria’s four-year civil war.

Putin said Russia’s military and the U.S.-led coalition that’s also conducting missions over Syria are cooperating on air force communications and using friend-or-foe systems to avoid incidents. Russia proposed high-level talks in Moscow and is ready to send a large delegation to Washington to discuss a resolution of the Syrian crisis, he said.

‘No Answer’

Russia “received no answer” when it asked its international partners to provide information on terrorist targets in Syria, or to say at least where its planes shouldn’t bomb, Putin said. “It’s not a joke, I’m not making any of this up,” he said.

U.S. air drops of weapons and ammunition intended for the Syrian Free Army, which is fighting Assad’s regime, could end up in the hands of Islamic State instead, Putin said.
Russia’s very concerned at efforts by some states to delay the formation of a wider coalition against terrorists in Syria, Lavrov said. “We’re at a critical phase,” for a political resolution of the crisis, though more and more preconditions are being placed in the way, he said.

“While there is an acceleration of military activity, there should also be an acceleration on the political side,” and Russia should use its influence on the ground to promote a settlement, de Mistura said.

“I fully agree with you that there is no military solution to the conflict,” Lavrov said. “But fighting terrorists is something else and this doesn’t have any national boundaries.”
Russian planes flew 88 sorties, hitting 86 Islamic State targets, in the past 24 hours in Raqqa, Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Aleppo provinces in Syria, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Twitter.


Goldman Sachs calls for Oil capitulation

Goldman analyst Currie (see video link below), says that in the aftermath of over-production booms where easy credit has spurred wild-eyed speculation, durable price bottoms are not reached until ‘believers’ capitulate, throw in the towel on rebound bets, and finally move whatever capital they have left to the sidelines or other sectors. So far we have not seen this yet in the energy secotr, as every rally to date has brought another burst of hope–and production.

“The risk of $20 is driven by what we call a breach in storage capacity, meaning that you have supply above demand, you fill every storage tank on planet earth and then you have nowhere to put it,” Jeff Currie, head of commodity research at Goldman told CNBC from the annual Oil & Money conference in London.”(Then) supply has to come down in line with demand. The only way you get that correction is prices crash down to cash costs, which for a U.S. producer, is somewhere around $20 a barrel.” Jeff Currie, global head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, says the risk of crude oil reaching $20 a barrel is driven by “breaching storage capacity.”
Click Here to see interview