2019 : The Year of Living Even More Dangerously

(Bloomberg) --

Think 2018 has been tough? A pessimistic but not unrealistic scenario for events in 2019 might make you nostalgic for the year that’s waning.

A combination of weather events including an unexpectedly severe El Nino and widespread drought results in diminished food production across much of the world. With trade patterns already disrupted by a tariff war, hunger spreads and refugees start moving.

As global stockpiles shrink and buyers wait on harvests from North America and the Black Sea region of Russia and Ukraine, the only two areas unaffected by El Nino, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin face critical choices.

Amid tightened domestic supplies, Putin opts to keep his wheat off the global market, causing bread prices to rise outside Russia.

With food-fueled unrest spreading, millions of hungry refugees begin migrating toward the European Union. While U.S. producers sitting on massive surpluses are ready to act as sellers of last resort, many nations can’t pay inflated world prices.

Trump must decide whether to open markets or bar exports as part of an “America First’’ food policy. With national security at stake, he tweets, “Our harvest Treasure will remain home.’’

2019 : The Year of Living Even More Dangerously

Global Headlines

Just In: China will remove the retaliatory duty on automobiles imported from the U.S. for three months in an effort to defuse trade tensions with the world’s biggest economy.

Hush money
| Trump was present at an August 2015 meeting with the publisher of the National Enquirer aimed at killing unflattering news stories about the then-candidate, Patricia Hurtado and Shahien Nasiripou report. Federal prosecutors say the plan involved working with his campaign to pay to stop the stories' publication. The emergence of Trump’s participation in a plot that prosecutors described as “secret and illegal” is the latest in a series of legal and political headaches that have gripped the White House.

Border politics | Ireland set the terms of the U.K.’s Brexit talks even before the British realized, Dara Doyle writes. Irish officials convinced European Union allies to make an open border with Northern Ireland a key negotiating requirement by framing it as a question of preserving peace, rather than market access. With her Brexit plan floundering amid domestic opposition to the Irish border backstop, EU leaders again yesterday rebuffed U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s plea for additional assurances.

Clock's ticking | The U.S. could be heading for a partial government shutdown in a week after House Republicans sent members home for a six-day break without revealing any plan to avert a funding lapse. Party leaders are wavering about whether to even try to pass a spending bill with the $5 billion Trump is demanding for his Mexican border wall. The political optics of a funding lapse over Christmas would be tricky for Trump and Republicans to navigate.

Battle for Africa | U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton laid out a policy rethink toward Africa yesterday that acknowledged Washington is losing sway over the world’s second-most populous continent to geopolitical rivals China and Russia. Yet while Beijing is flooding the region with trade deals, construction projects and so-called soft power – academic scholarships and scientific exchange – much of Bolton's strategy, including counterterrorism and overhauling foreign aid, was far narrower in focus.

Climate clash | China accused some of the world’s richest nations of “backsliding” on pledges to cut pollution and provide $100 billion a year in climate-related aid by 2020. Amid deepening tensions at a United Nations conference on climate change that ends in Poland today, China’s lead envoy, Xie Zhenhua, said “there are still quite a number of developed countries who did not start” providing financial and technological support promised in the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

What to Watch

  • Trump met with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last night as he continues to consider a replacement for outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly. The president says he’s weighing five candidates after eliminating Representative Mark Meadows.
  • Members of the Yellow Vest movement plan to resume protests against President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and elsewhere in France tomorrow, even as security concerns mount following a terror attack in Strasbourg.

And finally… Maria Butina pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court yesterday to acting as an undeclared Russian agent as she befriended National Rifle Association leaders and influential Republicans. The 30-year-old gun enthusiast agreed in a plea deal to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Russian efforts to build back channels to politically connected Americans. Butina, who was arrested in July, reported back on her efforts to a former deputy chairman of Russia's central bank.

2019 : The Year of Living Even More Dangerously

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