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Blackwater USA – Daily Brief

Coming Up This Week

  • Saudi Aramco releases results for 1H 2019 today, and is expected to try to impress potential investors ahead of on-again, off-again plans for an IPO that would be the largest in history.
  • Corporate earnings announcements and new German GDP data will offer insight into how much U.S.-China trade tensions are affecting the global economy.
  • Pakistan and India celebrate independence days on the 14th and 15th, respectively.
  • Eid al Adha ends on the 15th.

China

  • Hong Kong police fired tear gas canisters into the enclosed Kwai Fong metro station to try to disperse protesters gathered there.
  • The WSJ says police tactics are getting increasingly aggressive against the protesters who are running away from them. The city brought a senior officer who had handled 2014 and 2016 street protests out of retirement to oversee police operations, and he could be driving the strategy shift. The WSJ article pasted below has more info.

Venezuela

  • Pres. Guaido says that Pres. Maduro’s Constituent Assembly is preparing to dissolve the opposition-run National Assembly that Guaido heads, and call new legislative elections. That’s sure to trigger anger from—but probably no serious action by—the U.S. and Guaido’s other supporters.

Mexico

  • Newsweek reports that “nearly all” of Mexico’s gun violence is committed with illegal weapons trafficked in from the U.S., via California, and Pres. AMLO called on the U.S. to make it harder to buy guns.

Afghanistan

  • Pres. Ghani said that “respected figures from this country” asked him—in front of SecState Pompeo, former Pres. Karzai, and Chief Executive Abdullah—to remain in power for “either five or 10 years,” without an election; “but I told [them] that I don’t want to remain even for a minute.” None of the men he claimed was present have backed him up on that claim.
  • It’s fair to say Chief Executive Abdullah—who’s running against Ghani—and First VP Dostum—who supports Abdullah over Ghani—aren’t among those “respected figures” who want Ghani to stay in power: Dostum just accused Ghani of misallocating government resources for his campaign, and blamed him for everything going wrong in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban released 76 prisoners to celebrate Eid al Adha—but it also assassinated a district police chief in Charchino, Uruzgan.

Yemen

  • The UAE-backed separatists who took over Aden over the weekend said they’re committed to a ceasefire, and willing to continue working with the Saudi-led coalition that’s fighting the Houthis, but analysts warn that the groups’ misaligned agendas will make their truce a fragile one (the separatists’ top goal is re-establishing a southern Yemeni state).
  • The brother of Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi was killed in Sanaa. The Houthis said he was assassinated by “the treacherous hands affiliated with the U.S.-Israeli aggression and its tools,” but the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis says he was killed by his fellow fighters because of an internal skirmish.

Iraq

  • The U.S. soldier killed in Iraq Saturday was identified as Gunnery Sgt. Scott Koppenhafer, who the Marine Corps Association named its 2018 “Marine Special Operator of the Year” for his work training elite Iraqi Special Operations Forces in northern Iraq.

Strategic Minerals

  • It looks like Australia’s Northern Minerals did find a better deal from a non-Chinese buyer—just days after terminating its supply agreement with China’s Lianyugang Zeyu New Materials Sales Co. I’m not positive, but—based on what the Northern Minerals CEO has said about the deals—it sounds like the issue with the Chinese one was that its price caps limited upside for Northern Minerals. The new agreement with German steel conglomerate Thyssenkrupp AG has no price caps.
  • Peru suspended a construction permit for Southern Copper’s $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine, which has faced violent protests lately. The government will take 2-3 months to review the project and objections against it, which include concerns about pollution and water supply issues.

Hong Kong Protesters Battle Police, Despite Beijing’s Warnings (WSJ)

Tear gas filled streets during a 10th consecutive weekend of unrest as protests broke out across the city

Police made dozens of arrests late Sunday amid bloody clashes with protesters across the city, cracking down hard on antigovernment demonstrators who defied warnings from Beijing and took to the streets for a 10th consecutive weekend.

In a shift of tactics, police in riot gear charged groups in several districts. In one subway station, they fired tear gas and used batons to beat fleeing protesters who were running away, and pinned several to the ground; in another station, squads grabbed protesters from the streets; elsewhere, barrages of tear gas and rubber bullets were fired in another clash outside a police station.

Thousands of angry citizens, many dressed in shorts and flip flops, poured onto the streets of two districts where police made arrests, chanting “mafia” at police officers. Some were inflamed after video footage circulating on social media showed police officers had ambushed some demonstrators after posing undercover as protesters. Other videos showed police shooting protesters with projectiles from a few feet away.

The few hours of violence came after Beijing officials last week said they strongly supported the actions of Hong Kong police, and asked patriotic citizens in the city to stand up against protesters as well. The city’s government also warned that the unrest threatened to tip the trading hub into a first recession for the first time since the global financial crisis.

On Friday, the city’s police force brought back a retired senior officer who had handled earlier street protests in 2014 and 2016 to oversee operations. A day later, hundreds of pro-Beijing figures—including several business tycoons—signed an open letter on the front page of the pro-Beijing Ta Kung Pao newspaper supporting the Hong Kong government and police efforts to halt the unrest.

The latest escalating crackdown is unlikely to calm tensions that have rocked the city, with each previous round of tough tactics bringing widespread public condemnation. While there are growing calls for calm, many in the city of seven million still sympathize with protesters. Late Sunday, several hundred residents helped two protesters escape from a supermarket where they hid during one police raid inside a shopping mall.

The huge crowds of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators at the start of the summer have given way to smaller groups of mobile protests using more aggressive tactics, such as lighting fires on roads and hurling objects toward police.

The fluid nature of the protests has presented a challenge for authorities, with demonstrators stretching police resources by using the subway to hop between districts. Late Sunday afternoon, thousands descended on tourist destinations and residential neighborhoods alike, building metal barricades and some throwing bricks and what police identified as smoke bombs.

Police said an officer was hospitalized with burns to his legs after being hit by a Molotov cocktail hurled by a protester.

The scenes contrasted with several other protests over the weekend, including a three-day peaceful sit-in at the airport, and marches on Saturday attended by elderly people and families who chanted against the government.

The protests reflect an outpouring of public anger at Hong Kong’s government, sparked by an extradition bill that would allow those in the city to be tried under mainland China’s opaque legal system. The Hong Kong government eventually shelved the bill, declaring it dead, but hasn’t formally withdrawn it.

Beijing has signaled its growing intolerance for the dissent and local authorities have said the protracted tensions could plunge the city into a recession.

On Sunday, officers in some cases shot tear gas from police stations at demonstrators gathered nearby, then charged out to make arrests.

“Before, the police would try to disperse us, now they are rounding us up,” said one protester, a teacher who would only give his name as Desmond. He said the police now wait for a while before suddenly firing multiple tear-gas rounds, with elite officers known as raptors immediately charging toward protesters.

In the Wan Chai area of Hong Kong island, lined with open-front bars and near the main police headquarters, there was little out of the ordinary at 5 p.m. Sunday, with patrons enjoying drinks. An hour later, protesters arrived and began building barricades and waving laser pointers at police. Soon, riot police fired multiple volleys of tear gas. Bars closed and hotels lowered their shutters, keeping guests inside. By 8:30 p.m., things were back to normal.

Across the harbor, a group of protesters threw bricks at a police station in the tourist hub of Tsim Sha Tsui. Live footage showed at least one fiery projectile that appeared to be a Molotov cocktail. Police later drove demonstrators back and made at least 10 arrests of mostly young protesters dressed in black. One woman sustained a head wound and was taken to a hospital.

Clashes had been expected in North Point, an area populated with immigrants from Fujian province in southeast China and the site of a clash between protesters and stick-waving men a week before. On Saturday, representatives of the Fujian group held a rally and vowed to protect their adopted home, chanting slogans in both Mandarin and Cantonese supporting the chief executive and the police.

Hong Kong police said they have made nearly 600 arrests and fired more than 1,800 rounds of tear gas and at least 160 rubber bullets since the protests began two months before.

Kitty Chan, who has run a flower business in the Wan Chai market for the past four decades, prepared to close for the day slightly earlier than usual. She said the usually busy street was almost empty because of the confrontation between protesters and the police, which was one block from her stall.

“It has affected my business to some extent, without a doubt,” said Ms. Chan, adding that while she had empathy for both sides, she has had enough of the expanding demonstrations. “I just hope everybody could use less violence.”