• Earnings extravaganza, FOMC meeting, GDP: What to know in the week ahead
    Yahoo Finance

    Earnings extravaganza, FOMC meeting, GDP: What to know in the week ahead

    Several events with market-moving potential will test markets this week.

  • Sky News

    Global Talent visa: Scientists to be granted fast-track entry to UK after Brexit

    Top scientists, researchers and mathematicians will get fast-track entry to the UK under a new scheme announced by Boris Johnson. The so-called Global Talent visa opens on 20 February, less than a month after Brexit, due to take place on Friday. It replaces the old tier-one "exceptional talent" visa, which allowed applicants to be recommended by a number of science and research academies.

  • AbbVie-Allergan $63 billion deal aided by Nestle, AstraZeneca buys
    Reuters

    AbbVie-Allergan $63 billion deal aided by Nestle, AstraZeneca buys

    U.S. drugmaker AbbVie's $63 billion tie-up with Allergan is getting help from Nestle and AstraZeneca buying up products the Irish-domiciled company is shedding to placate regulators. AbbVie is swallowing Allergan to give it control of the lucrative wrinkle treatment Botox and to diversify a portfolio heavily dependent on its $19-billion-per-year arthritis drug Humira, the world's best-selling medicine that is advancing toward U.S. patent expiration. Swiss food group Nestle bulked up its medical nutrition business with Allergan's Zenpep, a product with 2018 sales of $237 million which treats people whose pancreases do not provide enough enzymes to digest fats, proteins and sugars.

  • Bloomberg

    Why Planting a Trillion Trees Should Start With Small Farmers

    (Bloomberg) -- Trees are an important tool to counter climate change: They capture carbon dioxide, improve biodiversity and increase groundwater. Adding a trillion trees could scrub out two-thirds of all emissions, according to scientists, and that’s why everyone from the World Economic Forum to YouTube influencers have launched large planting programs. There’s just one problem: The success rate of typical programs is often dismal. Many end up with no trees surviving to maturity.After years of experiments, John Leary believes he has found the magic ingredient to boost results: local people.Leary is the executive director of Trees for the Future (TFF), a nonprofit group founded in 1989 and based in Silver Springs, Maryland. The first few million trees Leary and his team planted were aimed at reforestation, providing carbon offsets or wildlife conservation zones. But less than 5% of the trees survived without local supervision.That led them to the Forest Garden Approach, which trains farmers to use trees as a means of improving the productivity of degraded lands. Now TFF can plant each tree for as little as 10 cents while quadrupling the earnings of locals and boosting tree survival rates. Instead of releasing carbon through using techniques like slash and burn, the farmers growing the forest gardens are capturing more than 230 tons of carbon dioxide per acre over a 20-year period.The Forest Garden Approach looks to first make poor farmers richer, rather than focusing on the number of trees planted. It’s a lesson Leary took from his previous role as a volunteer for the Peace Corps, a U.S. program aimed at promoting economic and social development abroad. “You need to get local people involved and design any project such that it also benefits the local community,” he said.So far, Leary and his team have worked with farmers to build 10,000 forest gardens, which is estimated to sequester 2.4 million tons of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period—that’s like taking 25,000 cars off U.S. roads. Projects so far have focused almost exclusively in Africa, with major projects in Senegal, Kenya and Tanzania. TFF typically targets a distressed region in a poor country. Leary’s team recruits 100 or more farmers interested in improving their farms and then provides training.In the four-year program, TFF provides educational resources tailored to their local needs and ongoing support, along with seeds and saplings. Farmers are taught how to build a “living fence”—that is, planting trees all along the edges of the farmland. The green wall keeps grazing animals (and neighbors) from plundering the farm. The trees also help retain more water in the soil.By the end of the program, each acre of farmland can boast of as many as 1,500 trees, with many bearing produce that can be eaten or sold.One of the most common reasons lands degrade is because farmers grow the wrong kind of crop, and so Leary helps them recognize what will flourish. “In most countries, there tends to be one major cash crop that has destroyed the countryside,” Leary said. “It's peanuts in Senegal and maize in Kenya and Tanzania.”He teaches farmers to move away from monoculture. They also become adept at making their own fertilizers. The upshot is that the farmers have something to sell every month of the year. That results in an increase of income and consumption of more nutritious food in their diets.“It’s clear that the major solution to climate change has to be reduction in fossil-fuel emissions,” said Dominick Spracklen, professor of biosphere-atmosphere interactions at England’s University of Leeds, who hasn’t worked with TFF. “But we will also need negative emissions, and tree planting is the main way we can get there… it’s really important that local people are involved in any tree-planting program.”In the 12 months to July 2019, Leary’s group built nearly 6,000 forest gardens containing 11 million trees. The nonprofit’s budget has grown, too. Annual contributions to TFF have doubled to $5 million last year from $2.5 million in 2017, and Leary expects to raise as much as $8 million in 2020.While Leary’s attention will continue to be on African countries, TFF has built an app that any farmer in the world (who can read English and French) can use to learn the steps needed to build a forest garden. Leary has seen a large number of downloads in India, Australia and Zambia. “Anyone with a little bit of experience in gardening or forestry can pick up what we do pretty easily,” Leary said.To contact the columnist of this story: Akshat Rathi in London at arathi39@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Aaron Rutkoff at arutkoff@bloomberg.net, Emily BiusoMichael TigheFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • A New Type of Bond Could Help Japan Utilities Cut Emissions
    Bloomberg

    A New Type of Bond Could Help Japan Utilities Cut Emissions

    (Bloomberg) -- Japanese power producers have been emitting more carbon dioxide since a nuclear disaster in 2011 led to an increased reliance on fossil fuels, but a new kind of bond could help them reverse that trend.So-called transition bonds can pay for not-so-green companies to move toward cleaner business models, and Japanese electrical utilities could issue them to help reduce carbon emissions, according to Mana Nakazora, chief ESG and chief credit analyst at BNP Paribas SA. Companies overseas such as Hong Kong’s Castle Peak Power Finance Co. and Brazil’s Marfrig Global Foods SA have already sold such notes.Read a QuickTake about transition bondsThe introduction of transition bonds in Japan could provide investors with more opportunities to put their money in environmentally-friendly debt at a time when its Japanese market is expanding fast. Japan aims to reduce emissions from fossil-fuel generated power 34% by 2030, as part of a broader commitment to cut total emissions by 26%, according to BloombergNEF. However, those cuts are being measured against the highest levels in decades, set in 2013.In the meantime, companies abroad are pushing ahead with issuance of debt they call transition bonds.Castle Peak, a subsidiary of CLP Holdings Ltd., issued $500 million of notes in July 2017 to pay for a natural gas plant that it said was critical to Hong Kong’s efforts to cut emissions. Marfrig, the world’s second-largest beef supplier, sold $500 million of bonds last year that it said will fund the purchase of cattle from ranchers in the Amazon region who comply with non-deforestation and other sustainable criteria.Read more: Europe’s ‘Taxonomy’ May Set Global Standards for Green: Q&A(Updates with link to story on one-day record bond sales in Japan)To contact the reporter on this story: Ayai Tomisawa in Tokyo at atomisawa@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Monahan at amonahan@bloomberg.net, Ken McCallumFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • The Alphabet Soup of Responsible Investing Needs a Good Stir
    Bloomberg

    The Alphabet Soup of Responsible Investing Needs a Good Stir

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Investors continue to pour funds into passive investment products that aim to replicate the performance of benchmark indexes. They’re also increasingly keen that their money gets used to influence corporations to stop damaging the planet and improve social inclusiveness. Unfortunately, many of the products designed to achieve both objectives currently fall short on the goal of responsible investing.The shift in emphasizing environmental, social and governance issues puts pressure on the index providers to come up with benchmarks that more accurately reflect the concerns investors are attempting to express by allocating capital to ESG investment products. Currently, though, even dedicated ESG indexes have shortcomings that many investors are probably unaware of.The U.S. Vegan Climate exchange-traded fund, for example, tracks a $124 billion index created by Beyond Investing that excludes companies engaged in a laundry list of potentially harmful activities, including animal exploitation, human rights abuses and fossil fuels extraction. While the $14 million ETF’s top five holdings — Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Facebook Inc., Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. — may all meet those criteria, they’re hardly the first names that spring to mind when thinking about the words vegan or climate. And there are many other examples.BlackRock Inc.’s announcement this month that it plans to prioritize sustainability in its investment decisions highlights the issue confronting index trackers. With two-thirds of its $7.4 trillion of assets managed passively, the world’s biggest asset manager acknowledged that the bulk of its cash isn’t available to pursue those goals. Harnessing that firepower will become increasingly important if the passive industry is to meet the ESG aspirations of its growing customer base.It’s even likely to radically change the industry, and sooner than people realize. To that point, Hiro Mizuno, the chief investment officer of Japan’s $1.6 trillion Global Pension Investment Fund, says the days are over when it’s enough for passive fund managers to compete simply on providing the lowest tracking errors at the lowest cost. Now they have to add value too. “The main battlefield among our passive managers is going to be in the stewardship area.” he told the Financial Times last month. BlackRock is far from alone in shifting to a more moral investing stance. A survey of 300 institutional investors, financial advisers and fund managers that use ETFs published on Monday by Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. showed that almost three-quarters of respondents expect to increase the amount allocated to ESG investments in the coming year.European participants in the BBH survey ranked ESG-themed products as the ETF category they would most like to see more supply of, while Chinese investors ranked the sector as their second most desired area of expansion, along with more funds designed to track core indexes.Money is flooding into the sector. ESG-designated assets were the fastest-growing category of ETFs listed on Deutsche Boerse AG’s Xetra market last year, with investments more than tripling to more than 23 billion euros ($25 billion). Globally, ESG ETFs have enjoyed net inflows for 52 consecutive weeks, taking in $30 billion in the past year and garnering almost $3.4 billion in the week ended Jan. 20, according to data compiled by Bloomberg LP, which competes in selling index data to investors.There are two main routes whereby ETF providers can meet the implicit demands of clients allocating money to passively managed ESG products. The first is to use their collective muscle to prompt index providers to increase the granularity of the benchmarks used to shape asset allocations. Improving the discrimination of ESG indexes would go a long way to ensuring investors aren’t being hoodwinked into products that aren’t as green or socially savvy as they first appear.The second is trickier. Excluding companies deemed to be damaging the environment or being socially irresponsibly isn’t enough to move the needle. Engaging with the boards of those firms and using the clout of a shareholding to force them to change their ways is much more effective.But that costs money, and the success of the ETF model has been founded in large part on its ability to charge ultra-low fees. If BlackRock and its peers are serious about taking their social responsibilities more seriously, investors will have to pay for the privilege — and the sellers of index trackers will need to be honest about the increased cost of that kind of activism. Let’s hope the buyers of the products decide it’s a price worth paying to do good.To contact the author of this story: Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at mpozsgay@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering asset management. He previously was the London bureau chief for Bloomberg News. He is also the author of "Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable."For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Italy Populist Defeated in Key Vote, Lifting Conte Coalition
    Bloomberg

    Italy Populist Defeated in Key Vote, Lifting Conte Coalition

    (Bloomberg) -- Italy’s Matteo Salvini suffered a stinging loss in a key regional vote, providing a much-needed boost to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s fragile government and making a snap general election less likely.Interior Ministry figures showed a center-left bloc led by the Democratic Party, or PD -- a partner in Conte’s ruling coalition -- at 51.3% in Emilia-Romagna, a long-time leftist stronghold. A center-right group headed by Salvini’s anti-migrant League trailed at 43.8%.Salvini had hoped that taking Emilia-Romagna would deal a death blow to Conte’s government and force an early national election that he would likely win. Instead, Sunday’s defeat for the populist firebrand, after a failed power grab last year, settled nerves in the market and yields on Italian 10-year government fell the most since August 27.Investors have been closely watching the vote, spooked by the possibility that a Salvini government would clash with the European Union and give a prominent role to euroskeptic lawmakers within the ranks of his League party.Turnout at almost 70% appeared to favor the center-left. The anti-Salvini grassroots movement known as “the Sardines” had filled city squares in recent months and mobilized young voters.With their mission accomplished, the Sardines leaders said in a Facebook post that they plan to return to their normal lives and won’t be speaking to the media about the election.Meanwhile, support for the Five Star Movement, Conte’s main coalition partner which won more than a third of the votes in national elections in 2018, collapsed to about 5%, according to projections.The dismal result could shift the balance of power within the government, with Five Star possibly toning down its populist demands on issues from toll-road licenses to judicial reform. Five Star Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio quit as party leader on the eve of the vote and the movement’s implosion seems set to accelerate.Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti claimed victory in the early hours of Monday, saying that thwarting Salvini will give fresh impetus to Conte’s government, while warning that the balance of power could be changing in the coalition.“A bipolar system is coming back into play, with two main forces fighting over leadership,” the PD leader said, in comments cited by Ansa news agency. “The Movement finds itself faced with this dilemma, though I say this as an ally, not an adversary.”Conte plans to set out a detailed plan for his cabinet’s priorities in coming weeks, including tax cuts, boosting private and state investment and speeding up the sclerotic justice system.Salvini said he was proud that the election was close despite Emilia-Romagna being a traditional stronghold of the center-left. He could take comfort in the result in a separate, less significant vote in Calabria, where a rightist coalition led by the League comfortably defeated the incumbent Democrats. Polls had shown Salvini’s forces comfortably ahead in the southern region.Salvini, 46, campaigned tirelessly across prosperous Emilia-Romagna, with up to a dozen campaign stops a day. He even pledged to head straight for Conte’s official residence in Rome and serve him an eviction notice if his group won Sunday’s ballot.Salvini has been trying to cash in on the lead he’s held in national opinion polls since last summer, when he abandoned Conte’s first coalition. That ploy backfired when Conte managed to cobble together a new alliance without the League.Nationally, surveys show support for the League at about 31%, and for the three-way center-right bloc at 48%. The Democrats are at 19% while Five Star has 16%, half the score it achieved when it won the 2018 general election.(Updates with official figures in second paragraph “Sardines” in sixth, PD leader in ninth)\--With assistance from Caroline Alexander, Alberto Brambilla, Flavia Rotondi, Iain Rogers and Tommaso Ebhardt.To contact the reporters on this story: John Follain in Rome at jfollain2@bloomberg.net;Alessandro Speciale in Rome at aspeciale@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Jerrold Colten, Dan LiefgreenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • TikTok Rival From Vine Creator Debuts at Top of U.S. App Store
    Bloomberg

    TikTok Rival From Vine Creator Debuts at Top of U.S. App Store

    (Bloomberg) -- Byte, a new video-sharing app released Friday to compete with ByteDance Inc.’s TikTok, has rocketed to the top of Apple Inc.’s U.S. App Store.Created by Dom Hofmann, Byte reboots the deprecated Vine video-sharing service, which he co-founded in the summer of 2012 and sold to Twitter Inc. later that year. The parent company failed to find a way to make the service profitable and eventually discontinued it in 2016. Despite its brief existence, Vine became a cultural touchpoint in the U.S., with many users embracing its six-second time limit as a creative challenge. It was where controversial YouTube star Logan Paul, whose channel now has more than 20 million subscribers, got his start.Byte “ended Friday as the No. 1 free iPhone app on the U.S. App Store and is still in the top spot,” said Randy Nelson of research firm Sensor Tower. Beside the U.S., Byte is also the top free iOS app in Canada and ranks in the top 10 in Australia, New Zealand, Norway and the U.K. On Android’s Play Store, Byte is sixth among free apps in the U.S.The timing of Byte’s release coincides with a moment of reckoning for TikTok and its Beijing-based parent company. ByteDance is looking to hire a chief executive officer for TikTok, which is under increasing scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers wary about the influence of Chinese companies on American consumers. TikTok’s runaway popularity has been deemed to create “national security risks,” according to a letter by Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton in the fall.Unlike ByteDance, which is the world’s highest-valued startup, and most other social media contenders, Byte is starting off small and its community guidelines make several references to the company’s modest budget. Still, the strong early response to Byte’s arrival -- coming with little to no advance fanfare -- suggests the community that Vine built up remains loyal to the particular six-second format. Some of the early popular videos on the platform are humorous proclamations of “Don’t post TikToks here.”To contact the reporter on this story: Vlad Savov in Tokyo at vsavov5@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Amazon Employees Escalate Climate Challenge to Management
    Bloomberg

    Amazon Employees Escalate Climate Challenge to Management

    (Bloomberg) -- More than 350 Amazon.com Inc. employees contributed public statements focused on the company’s climate practices, defying company policy and escalating a feud between management and a coalition of concerned workers.The employees’ comments, posted to Medium on Sunday, come a few weeks after it emerged that Amazon had threatened workers who had talked to the Washington Post with disciplinary action or termination if they continued to speak publicly about the company without authorization. The employees are members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, an organization that has been campaigning for more than a year to get Amazon to cut ties with fossil fuel companies and commit to limiting its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.Among the newly published contributions, each of them from named Amazon workers, the shared sentiment is summed up by the comment of Amanda Seyfer, a software development engineer: “Amazon has the scale to be a bold leader in the move toward clean energy, or a significant contributor to climate change. We know we’ll have to deal with this eventually, so why wait?”Amazon Threatens to Fire Climate Activists, Group SaysAmazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos in September announced an initiative aimed at making his company a net-zero carbon emitter by 2040 and to court other companies to join a pledge to do the same. The next day, thousands of Amazon employees walked off the job in a show of support for student-led climate marches around the world. Some Amazon employees there took credit for their executives’ new public commitment to the environment and asked for more.An Amazon spokesperson, in an emailed statement, said “of course we are passionate about these issues.”“While all employees are welcome to engage constructively with any of the many teams inside Amazon that work on sustainability and other topics, we do enforce our external communications policy and will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company or the hard work of their colleagues who are developing solutions to these hard problems,” the statement said.To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Day in Seattle at mday63@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Vlad SavovFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Sky News

    Boeing 777X: One of world's biggest passenger planes completes test flight

    Boeing has successfully completed the first flight of the world's largest twin-engine jetliner - a respite from the ongoing controversy surrounding the 737 MAX. It took three attempts to get the 777X off the ground, as the first two planned tests were abandoned owing to high winds. Four hours later, it landed at the historic Boeing Field, not far from rows of 737 MAX planes left grounded after two fatal crashes triggered safety concerns.

  • U.S. state AGs, Justice Department officials to meet and coordinate on Google probe: sources
    Reuters

    U.S. state AGs, Justice Department officials to meet and coordinate on Google probe: sources

    The probes revolve around monopolistic behavior that may harm consumers through Google's control of online advertising markets and search traffic. The Wall Street Journal had first reported about the meeting and said it could eventually lead the Justice Department and state attorneys general to join forces. Talks will likely include Google's dominance in online search, possible anticompetitive behavior in its Android mobile operating system, and the best division of labor as the probes move forward, the paper said, citing some of the people.

  • U.S. state AGs, Justice Dept. officials to meet and coordinate on Google probe - sources
    Reuters

    U.S. state AGs, Justice Dept. officials to meet and coordinate on Google probe - sources

    The probes revolve around monopolistic behaviour that may harm consumers through Google's control of online advertising markets and search traffic. The Wall Street Journal had first reported about the meeting and said it could eventually lead the Justice Department and state attorneys general to join forces.

  • Tesla's Musk seeks to allay water concerns at factory site after protests
    Reuters

    Tesla's Musk seeks to allay water concerns at factory site after protests

    Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk sought to allay environmental concerns about the electric carmaker's planned factory in Germany, saying the plant would use less water than was estimated originally. The U.S. company had said in planning documents that the factory would need 372 cubic meters of water from the public drinking water network per hour, sparking protests by local residents earlier this month. Tesla won't use this much net water on a daily basis.

  • Intel Corporation Just Beat EPS By 7.8%: Here's What Analysts Think Will Happen Next
    Simply Wall St.

    Intel Corporation Just Beat EPS By 7.8%: Here's What Analysts Think Will Happen Next

    It's been a pretty great week for Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) shareholders, with its shares surging 15% to...

  • Bloomberg

    Spy Novels Need to Come in From the Cold War

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The golden age of the spy thriller ended with the Cold War. But of late, news reports have provided enough material for a silver age to start — if authors take heed.The last time a spy thriller topped the list of a year’s bestselling novels in the U.S., compiled by Publisher’s Weekly, was in 1988 or 1989 — depending on whether one counts the latter year’s “Clear and Present Danger” by Tom Clancy as an espionage novel or a political one. (In 1988, another Clancy book, “The Cardinal of the Kremlin,” unmistakably a spy novel, was number one.) John Le Carre, who had his first book on top of the list in 1964 (“The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”) and was in the Top 10 a total of nine times, had his last big hit in 1989, too, with “The Russia House,” although he has continued to publish regularly. That year, glasnost reigned in Mikhail Gorbachev’s moribund Soviet Union and the Berlin wall came down. In November, 1989, the New York Times book critic Walter Goodman wrote — prophetically, as it turned out — about the future of spy fiction:With ideological walls tumbling and affinities popping up, lesser practitioners find themselves in straits whose direness matches those of their heroes. An Ian Fleming might bring into play some space-age Mafia out to extort billions from both Washington and Moscow, but his books were always kid stuff. Will [Len] Deighton resort to having his creations take on Colonel Muammar Qaddafi of Libya or General Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama, at the risk of provoking a PEN resolution against picking on little guys? And will [Le Carre’s] next plot find hardliners in the Pentagon and the Kremlin united against the Greens? Until new threats present themselves, addicts of the spy stuff may find themselves out in the cold.All these tacks, and countless variations, have been tried, and some novels have sold well. But it’s a sign of the genre’s decline that the current Top 10 of espionage bestsellers on Amazon.com includes — in the third spot, no less — Le Carre’s “The Honorable Schoolboy,” originally published in 1977. The post-Cold War offerings in the genre, or at least those of them that didn’t take the reader back to the World War II and its long aftermath, suffered from a critical flaw: The absence of an underlying clash of civilizations and value systems. Not even the post-9/11 war on terror provided that missing element. In 2011, the website Salon.com collected the views of spy-novel writers and qualified readers on the genre’s post-Cold War development. Amid practitioners’ comments to the effect that spy fiction is alive and well regardless of who the adversaries of intelligence services are, the words of Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, stood out. “Without the Soviet Union (or Nazi Germany before it) and the struggle with a titanic power, there’s really not much to the genre,” he said. “The kind of novel where the world itself hangs in the balance, where moral choices are stark because they are moral choices — that’s gone now.”Without such a grand conflict, according to Nichols, spy fiction became cynical, painting all governments with the same critical brush. “Most importantly, the bad guys — usually greedy businessmen or terrorists — are now uninteresting,” Nichols said. “Terrorists are especially uninteresting, because for a spy novel to work, the agent needs a worthy adversary” — and terrorists are essentially just a bunch of petty criminals trying on a bigger hat that doesn’t fit them.In short, Western spy fiction needs state actors with strong non-Western or, better, anti-Western values to become exciting again. In real life, these state actors are back, and there’s a greater variety of them than during the Cold War.First, there’s Russia, of course. Highly professional Russian spies, reminiscent of the Cold War crop, operate in Le Carre’s latest offering, last year’s “Agent Running in the Field.” But the doyen of the genre is behind the curve: Today’s Russian spy thriller should, by rights, be a black comedy featuring the ham-handed operatives of the Russian military intelligence, formerly known as the GRU.The latest story providing fuel for this treatment features the two Russian “plumbers” with diplomatic passports discovered by the Swiss intelligence in Davos, Switzerland, apparently trying to install surveillance equipment to spy on the world leaders and billionaires who arrive there every year for the World Economic Forum. Earlier installments include the failed assassinations of three Bulgarian arms-making executives; the bungled poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, by two thugs who claimed to have come to look at the spire of the local cathedral; and an amateurish coup attempt in Montenegro in 2016. Then, for authors still looking for sophistication in spying, there’s China, trying to make inroads into the European Union, a more welcoming playground for its state-owned businesses than the U.S. This month, the scandal making headlines in Brussels and Berlin involved a top former EU diplomat — named in a Politico story on Thursday — who is married to a Chinese woman and who reportedly spied for China while maintaining a network of high-powered friends. The ex-diplomat, lately employed by a lobbying firm, denies the accusations.Finally, there’s the almost-unbelievable story of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s suspected hacking operation against Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos. Here’s an almost-head-of-state reportedly personally involved in spying, and in cyber-spying at that. In all three cases, stark moral choices and values clashes are evident. In all three, the West’s adversaries are foreign powers, not mere lone wolves or terrorist groups. The conflicts are quintessentially modern: Law-governed states vs. authoritarian ones; free enterprise vs. state capitalism; moxie vs. mass surveillance. In an increasingly transactional, leaderless world, it’s every country for itself — and that’s potentially more interesting than the duality of Cold War. It’s not about “picking on little guys,” but rather a free-for-all that has come to involve smaller countries in more terrifying, and intriguing, ways than before.This is heady stuff just waiting for the literary equals of Le Carre or plot-moving geniuses of Clancy’s stature to turn into fiction. There are certainly lots of former spies around, bitterly disappointed by “deep state” narratives that devalue their work, who could try their hand at modernizing the espionage thriller. As an "addict of the spy stuff," to use Goodman's description, perhaps there's hope for me again.(This is my last column for Bloomberg Opinion. I'm moving to the news automation team at Bloomberg News to try my hand at teaching machines to help organize data into stories; I'm pretty sure they won't be writing columns anytime soon, though, so please keep reading my wonderful colleagues.) To contact the author of this story: Leonid Bershidsky at lbershidsky@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Tobin Harshaw at tharshaw@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Leonid Bershidsky is Bloomberg Opinion's Europe columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Boeing's 777X jetliner successfully completes maiden flight
    Reuters

    Boeing's 777X jetliner successfully completes maiden flight

    Boeing Co successfully staged the first flight of the world's largest twin-engined jetliner on Saturday in a respite from the crisis over its smallest model, the grounded 737 MAX. The 777X, a larger version of the 777 mini-jumbo, touched down at the historic Boeing Field outside Seattle at 2 pm (2200 GMT) after a debut which began almost four hours earlier at Boeing's revamped wide-body assembly lines north of the city. "It's a proud day for us," said the chief executive of Boeing's commercial airplane unit, Stan Deal.

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