Barack Obama closes the book on his presidency Tuesday, with a farewell speech in Chicago that will try to lift supporters discouraged by Donald Trump’s shock victory.
Obama’s last trip on Air Force One will be a pilgrimage to his adoptive hometown, where he will address a sell-out crowd not far from where he accepted the presidency eight years ago.
Diehard fans — many African Americans — have braved Chicago’s frigid winter to collect free tickets, which now sell for upwards of $1,000 a piece on Craigslist.
The First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden will come along on for the ride.
Obama’s cross-country trek would be a sentimental trip down memory lane, were it not slap-bang in the middle of a tumultuous presidential handover.
Trump has smashed conventions, vowed to efface Obama’s legacy and hurled personal insults left and right.
The 2016 election campaign has raised serious questions about the resilience of US democracy.
In a virtually unprecedented move, US intelligence has accused the Kremlin of tipping the electoral scales in Trump’s favor.
Democrats, cast into the political wilderness with the loss of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives plus a majority of statehouses, are struggling to regroup.
With an approval rating hovering around 55 percent, Obama will hope to steel them for new battles ahead.
Lead speechwriter Cody Keenan said the address will be about Obama’s vision for where the country should still go.
“It’s not going to be like an anti-Trump speech, it’s not going to be a red meat, rabble-rousing thing, it will be statesman-like but it will also be true to him,” Keenan told AFP. “It will tell a story.”
– Life after White House –
Trump’s unorthodox politics has thrown 55-year-old Obama’s transition and post-presidency plans into flux.
Obama, having vowed a smooth handover of power, finds himself being increasingly critical of Trump as he prepares to leave office on January 20.
After that there will still be a holiday and an autobiography, but Obama could find himself being dragged backed into the political fray if Trump were to enact a Muslim registry or deport adults brought to the United States years ago by their parents.
Having vowed to take a back seat in politics, Obama’s second act could yet be as politically engaged as Jimmy Carter — whose post-presidency has remade his image as an elder statesman.
Many Obama aides who had planned to take exotic holidays or launch coffer-replenishing forays into the private sector are also reassessing their future and mulling a return to the political trenches.
Obama’s foundation is already gearing up for a quasi-political role — funnelling idealistic youngsters into public life.
– Presidential precedent –
Presidents since George Washington have delivered a farewell address of sorts.
Washington’s final 7,641-word message — which is still read once a year in the Senate by tradition — contained warnings about factionalism and interference by foreign powers that seem oddly prescient.
But speechwriter Keenan sees few obvious templates: “Bush and Clinton did theirs from here (the White House), George H.W. Bush went to West Point, gave a foreign policy speech,” he told AFP. “They are all totally different.”
The trip to Chicago is not just for nostalgia, Keenan indicated.
“The thread that has run though his career from his days as community organizer to the Oval Office is the idea that if you get ordinary people together and get them educated, get them empowered, get them to act on something, that’s when good things happen,” he said.
“For him, as someone who started as a community organizer, whose campaign was powered by young people, ordinary people, we decided we wanted to go back to Chicago.”
“Chicago is not just his hometown, it’s where his career started.”
And now it is also where Obama’s presidential career will effectively end.
Vodafone holds off deploying Huawei in core network due to security row
The Vodafone logo is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
LONDON: 25 January 2019: Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, said it was “pausing” the deployment of Huawei equipment in its core networks until Western governments give the Chinese firm full security clearance.
The United States and some allies, including Australia and New Zealand, have banned Huawei from 5G networks because of alleged ties to the Chinese government, while the firm has denied that its technology could be used by Beijing for spying.
Vodafone’s Chief Executive Nick Read said on Friday after reporting third-quarter results that the debate was playing out at a “too simplistic level”, adding that Huawei was an important player in an equipment market which it dominates along with Ericsson Sweden’s Ericsson and Nokia.
“We have decided to pause further Huawei in our core whilst we engage with the various agencies and governments and Huawei just to finalise the situation, of which I feel Huawei is really open and working hard,” Read said.
Poland is set to exclude Huawei from 5G after it arrested a Huawei executive earlier this month on spying allegations. Huawei fired the man, who has denied wrongdoing.
Europe’s mobile industry would face higher costs and delays to faster networks if authorities imposed a blanket ban on Huawei equipment, particularly the radio technology deployed on mobile towers, Vodafone’s Read said.
Operators in Europe such as BT and Orange, have already removed Huawei’s equipment or taken steps to limit its future use.
Read said Huawei’s equipment was used in Vodafone’s core – which he described as the intelligent part of the network – in Spain and some other smaller markets.
European governments and security agencies had not pressurised Vodafone into taking the step, but the “noise level” had increased, and the debate now needed more facts, Read said, adding that governments in Africa and the Middle East, where Vodafone also uses Huawei, had not raised concerns.
A spokesman for Huawei, which become the world’s biggest telecoms equipment maker earlier this decade despite being shut out of the U.S. market, said it had been a long-term strategic partner to Vodafone since 2007.
“Huawei is focused on supporting Vodafone’s 5G network rollouts, of which the core is a small proportion. We are grateful to Vodafone for its support of Huawei and we will endeavour to live up to the trust placed in us,” he said.
However, Read said that Vodafone had already agreed terms with a range of 5G suppliers, so moving away from Huawei in parts of the roll-out would not incur additional costs.
TOUGH END TO YEAR
Shares in Vodafone fell after it reported a deterioration in its key revenue measure in the third quarter, down 40 basis points quarter-on-quarter to 0.1 percent, reflecting price competition in Spain and Italy and a slowdown in South Africa.
Analysts had expected growth of 0.3 percent and the stock fell to its lowest level since July 2010 after the update, trading down 2.9 percent at 140 pence at 1245 GMT.
Vodafone said, however, that competition in the Spanish and Italian markets had moderated through the quarter and it improved its level of churn, or the number of customers leaving, by two percentage points year-on-year.
The company’s Chief Financial Officer Margherita Della Valle said the performance improvements would start to show in the top line after the current quarter.
“We expect as we enter into the next fiscal year to start seeing the benefits in terms of revenue growth,” she said.
Analysts at UBS said Vodafone performed well in net adds and churn across Europe, but they expected fourth quarter service revenue to drop to –0.5 percent, driven by weakness in Spain and tougher comparatives in Britain.
“This is disappointing relative to prior comments that service revenues would be similar to the +0.5 percent seen in Q2,” they said.
Vodafone’s reiterated its guidance for this year of around 3 percent growth in underlying adjusted core earnings, with free cash flow before spectrum costs of about 5.4 billion euros.
Euro zone bond yields slide as Brexit, U.S. shutdown sap risk appetite
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons in London on Jan 15, 2019 ahead of the meaningful vote on the Government’s Brexit deal. (Photo: AFP/Mark Duffy/UK Parliament)
LONDON – 17 January 2019: Euro zone bond yields edged lower on Thursday after rising the day before, as markets continued to assess the outlook for the UK, and the U.S. shutdown failed to provide much direction to markets.
Eurozone bond markets have taken their cue this week from Britain, where Gilt yields rose on Wednesday after the UK parliament rejected a Brexit agreement.
Britain remained in focus after UK Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote on Wednesday night, though uncertainty over the passage of Britain’s exit from the European Union rumbled on.
Germany’s 10-year government bond yield, the benchmark for the region, opened 1.6 basis points lower to 0.207 percent while other 10-year bond yields in the euro zone slid around two basis points.
Euro area inflation figures, released at 1000 GMT, are expected to confirm flash estimates and drop to 1.6 percent year-on-year from 1.9 percent, brought down by lower gas prices.
The data “won’t give the markets any hint because of the storm in British Parliament and the prospect of delay in their departure from the euro zone,” said Commerzbank’s rate strategist, Rene Albrecht.
However, euro zone data are likely to surprise to the upside, Albrecht said. “We expect better data than sentiment indicators are. We think yields should bottom out at the long end.”
New supply is due from Spain, which will tap its 2021s, 2023s, 2024s and 2027s to raise 4 billion to 5 billion euros.
Elsewhere, Italian five-year government bonds continued to perform following Italy’s successful 15-year bond sale, which prompted a follow-on rally in Italian government bonds.
Italy’s five year government bond fell 13.5 basis points on Wednesday, its biggest one-day fall in over a month.
GOOD FOR GREECE Greek bond yields fell on Thursday after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won a confidence vote in parliament, triggered by Greece’s approval of an accord to end a dispute over Macedonia’s name, which averted the prospect of a snap election.
Greece is widely expected to return to the debt markets in the coming weeks, with Italy’s deal likely to provide confidence to the southern European nation.
EU Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on Wednesday that Greece should regain full access to the debt markets and all efforts should be made to that end.
Greece’s 10-year government bond yield slipped in early trade to its lowest level since December 13 at 4.22 percent .
Diet Coke Unveils New Flavors and Marketing as Brand Refresh Enters Second Year
Diet Coke entered a new era in 2018 by debuting a modern new look, sleek new packaging, four bold new flavors and new marketing – with the goal of reenergizing and contemporizing the beloved brand for new drinkers and loyal fans alike.
And in 2019, America’s top-selling zero-calorie sparkling beverage is picking up where it left off with the introduction of two more flavors – Blueberry Acai and Strawberry Guava – and releasing new content as part of the “Because I Can” campaign.
The restage helped spark a 2018 turnaround for the brand, which posted retail dollar sales growth in Nielsen measured channels for four consecutive quarters after at least five years of decline.
“We focused on modernizing Diet Coke to appeal to a new consumer base while at the same time connecting with our core drinkers by preserving the essence of what makes this brand so special,” said Rafael Acevedo, group director, Diet Coke. “We took smart risks in our approach to this holistic brand restage, and everything worked together to generate excitement and draw new fans to the brand.”
Diet Coke Blueberry Acai and Diet Coke Strawberry Guava were selected from a shortlist of 20 options and tested with more than 2,000 Americans. The new flavors will offer even more variety to the existing Diet Coke lineup, which also includes Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango. They aim to satisfy adventurous fans’ thirst for bolder tastes and more dynamic experiences.
“These new flavors are highly incremental to our current flavors and will continue to drive excitement for the brand,” Acevedo said. “Flavor variety is key because it provides more points of entry into the brand. Different consumers have different favorites, so it’s important to offer a range. And we’re finding that when new drinkers try a flavor, they’re also more likely to reach for (original) Diet Coke.”
Both flavors, which hit stores nationwide in mid-January, are available in sleek 12-oz. cans and sold as on-the-go singles and in eight packs. A nationwide sampling activation will give people the chance to experience the new flavors through August. The six-month tour will hit 15 cities and more than 100 college campuses runs through August and. Learn more at DietCoke.com.
Fresh new marketing will launch in the coming weeks across all channels – from TV, to social, to experiential – and will extend the “Because I Can” invitation for fans to live life confidently and on their own terms.
“Last year’s campaign introduced Diet Coke’s new personality and philosophy,” said Tara Mathew Sahu, integrated marketing communications (IMC) director, Diet Coke. “As we enter year two, we aim to show how the brand delivers a refreshing boost to everyday moments.
She added, “Many of our newer fans were not even born when Diet Coke first launched in 1982, so they may see the brand as a choice of generations before them. We’re reframing the brand in a youthful, energetic and aspirational tone and showing how Diet Coke can fit into their lives.”
Acevedo said that while he’s encouraged by the brand’s rebound over the last year, the team has its eye on the long term.
“You don’t restage a brand the size of Diet Coke in one quarter or one year,” he added. “This is a multi-year plan, so it’s important to stay focused on our core strategy.”
Source: Nielsen AMC, Full-Year 2018