Tesla Gets Approval To Continue Cutting Down Thousands Of Trees To Build Its German Gigafactory

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Tesla Gets Approval To Continue Cutting Down Thousands Of Trees To Build Its German Gigafactory

Congratulations, Tesla! You now have the approval of a German court to continue cutting down a massive local forest that has stood in Germany for hundreds of years! Ah, yes, the sweet smell of saving the planet!

Tesla has reportedly "overcome a legal roadblock" in the building of its German Gigafactory, as a German court ruled on Thu

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rsday that Tesla can "can resume cutting down trees at a forest site in the small town of Gruenheide" in order to make way for a production facility, according to Bloomberg. 

The court found that local authorities were not violating laws when they allowed work on the factory to start, throwing out a complaint that was filed by an environmental group days ago.

Recall, days ago, we noted that the same German court ruled that Elon Musk had to halt his plan to clear the forest in order to build Tesla's German Gigafactory. The court put the stay on Tesla while it considered the challenge from environmentalists, according to Bloomberg. 

The court issued an injunction against further construction after it overturned a lower court's ruling against environmental group Gruene Liga Brandenburg, who was seeking to prevent Tesla from clearing the forest. 

The court order could have hindered Tesla's proposed data to open the factory, which is mid 2020. When open, Musk says the factory would be able to produce 500,000 cars per year and employ 12,000 people. The factory is located right in the backyard of major German auto players like Volkswagen and BMW. 

Tesla has already cleared about "150 soccer fields" worth of forest and has been forced to relocate several species of animals, while also considering the breeding periods of local wildlife.

Recall it was about one month ago that we first reported Tesla was cutting down "thousands of trees" in order to make space to erect its German Gigafactory. 

The company was tasked with clearing so much forest space to put up its factory that dozens of protesters recently organized a gathering known as a "Forest Walk" to protect against Tesla's tree removal activities at the site, according to Teslarati. 

The protesters were dressed in yellow vests, replicating the "Yellow Vest Movement" in France and are also concerned about what the deforestation may do to the drinking water in the area. 

    Tyler Durden

    Mon, 02/24/2020 - 02:45

    Global Surveillance State: Plans For New EU-US Transatlantic Facial-Recognition Database

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    Global Surveillance State: Plans For New EU-US Transatlantic Facial-Recognition Database

    Via 21stCenturyWire.com,

    Much is made in western media and discourse about the horrors the Chinese surveillance state. In many ways, this is a convenient scapegoat for western establishment pundits to deflect from what is currently being erected in North America and Europe.

    This latest story (bel

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    ow) is indicative of the growth in power and influence of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, which can always expand to add the EU into its fold. This new system will be driven by expansive Silicon Valley cloud services and an array of artificial intelligence processing hubs which the Carnegie Endowment recently described as:

    “A growing number of states are deploying advanced AI surveillance tools to monitor, track, and surveil citizens to accomplish a range of policy objectives - some lawful, others that violate human rights, and many of which fall into a murky middle ground.

    The European Union has not yet enacted new legislation for this new global surveillance system, but it has already allocated millions of euros in funding for exploratory research into the data logistic and architecture of this new Orwellian grid.

    The The Intercept reports…

    A police investigator in Spain is trying to solve a crime, but she only has an image of a suspect’s face, caught by a nearby security camera. European police have long had access to fingerprint and DNA databases throughout the 27 countries of the European Union and, in certain cases, the United States. But soon, that investigator may be able to also search a network of police face databases spanning the whole of Europe and the U.S.

    According to leaked internal European Union documents, the EU could soon be creating a network of national police facial recognition databases. A report drawn up by the national police forces of 10 EU member states, led by Austria, calls for the introduction of EU legislation to introduce and interconnect such databases in every member state. The report, which The Intercept obtained from a European official who is concerned about the network’s development, was circulated among EU and national officials in November 2019. If previous data-sharing arrangements are a guide, the new facial recognition network will likely be connected to similar databases in the U.S., creating what privacy researchers are calling a massive transatlantic consolidation of biometric data.

    The report was produced as part of discussions on expanding the Prüm system, an EU-wide initiative connecting DNA, fingerprint, and vehicle registration databases for mutual searching. A similar system exists between the U.S. and any country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, which includes the majority of EU countries; bilateral agreements allow U.S. and European agencies to access one another’s fingerprint and DNA databases...

    Read more here at The Intercept...

    Tyler Durden

    Mon, 02/24/2020 - 02:00

    How The "Interpreter" Scam Brought 75,000 Iraqis And Afghans To America

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    How The "Interpreter" Scam Brought 75,000 Iraqis And Afghans To America

    Authored by Daniel Greenfield via Sultan Knish blog,

    The latest battle over Special Immigrant Visas pitted Stephen Miller, President Trump’s senior advisor, against the Pentagon. The military brass was lobbying for 6,000 special immigrant visas for Iraqis who worked for American forces in the country. These visas were once again billed as helping “i

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    That’s a lot of interpreters considering that there were only 5,200 American troops in Iraq.

    How could there be more Iraqi interpreters for American troops than there are troops?

    The Special Immigrant Visa scam has been sold for over a decade using the same claim that it’s needed to save the lives of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who are risking death by helping American soldiers.

    In one decade, the United States has handed out 75,250 of these visas to Iraqi and Afghan employees, and their dependents. Between 2007 and 2017, they represented 1 percent of all immigrant visas.

    The truth is that the military brass has wrongly used the incentive of Special Immigrant Visas to recruit local personnel and cut costs by promising them resettlement in the United States. Considering the costs of resettling even the nicest Iraqi or Afghan families, it would have been cheaper to pay each of them a six-figure salary. But that would have come out of the defense budget. The SIV scam passes the buck to local cities and states, to ordinary taxpayers and communities who have to hire interpreters who speak Pashto to interact with the children of the interpreters who are swamping local school systems.

    One Iraqi or Afghan employee brings a lot more dependents and expenses with him. In 2017, the 4,677 Iraqi and Afghan employees brought 13,713 dependents with them for a total of 18,390 refugees.

    Those were the worst numbers since before Obama took office.

    While conventional refugee numbers have been slashed, the number of Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqis and Afghans drastically shot up because the Pentagon was getting its way on immigration. Few of these visas were for actual interpreters. That number tends to be capped at 50 a year. Most of the SIV applicants coming in had to have only worked for a few years in often vaguely defined capacities.

    Some were actual interpreters. Many more were cultural advisors and linguists.

    All they have to do is claim that they received threats over their work for the US or the ISAF, the multinational force in Afghanistan, and they are resettled in the United States as refugees.

    While the media has repeatedly accused President Trump of stopping interpreters from coming to this country even though they, allegedly, risked their lives, the number of SIV visas for Afghans and Iraqis shot up from 10,681 in 2014, to 14,383 in 2016, to 18,390 in 2017.

    That's when Stephen Miller tried to slam on the brakes.

    The media complains that visa processing isn’t fast enough. And that the lives of SIV applicants are at risk every day they’re living in their own country. But bypassing vetting puts American lives at risk.

    As a measure of how bad the vetting is, Ali Yousif Ahmed Al-Nouri, the Emir of an Al Qaeda group in Fallujah, entered this country as a refugee and applied for disability. He then went to work as a military contractor on a California base, teaching soldiers deploying to Iraq about the local culture. That’s the typical sort of task that many SIV visas are provided for which require little more than English skills.

    Was an Al Qaeda Emir employed by the US military in Iraq? Did Al-Nouri come here on an SIV visa? The answer is he probably did, but no one seems to be especially willing to ask or answer that question.

    Bilal Abood came to the United States on an SIV visa. Like many SIV applicants, he had worked as a contract linguist in Iraq. Like most SIV applicants, he claimed to have faced threats because of his work.

    Once in the United States, Abood began viewing ISIS beheading videos and tweeted, “I pledge obedience to the Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” That was the leader of ISIS.

    "The United States is the enemy of Allah," he had said.

    Jasim Mohammed Hasin Ramadon and Ali Mohammed Hasan Al Juboori, Mustafa Sataar Al Feraji, Ali Mohammed Hasan Al Juboori, and Yasir Jabbar Jasim, 5 Iraqis who who came to America on SIV visas, took part in the rape of an American woman in Colorado Springs who was abused so badly that there was blood splattered on the wall. Her mistake was sympathizing with the poor hapless refugees.

    That’s our mistake as a country.

    Ramadon, like the other SIV applicants celebrated by the media, had an NCO lobby for him. He appeared on Oprah, was featured in a book, and became a celebrity. Then he was hit with a restraining order for choking and threatening to kill his girlfriend. His crimes ended with the brutal rape of an older woman.

    But the SIV lobby doesn’t care about the woman he nearly killed. Or the threat to Americans.

    District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, an Obama appointee involved in controversial decisions, like inventing a right to taxpayer-funded abortions for illegal migrants, ruled that the Trump administration must immediately start processing visa applications for SIV migrants and bring them to America.

    Meanwhile the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 provided 4,000 more SIV slots for Afghans.

    Shutting down the SIV pipeline has been painfully difficult because the refugee program has broad bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and from military brass.

    In this case, it’s actually the bureaucracy that has saved American lives by slowing SIV visa processing.

    The United States has spent years figuring out exactly how to throw in the towel in Afghanistan through some sort of meaningless deal with the Taliban, even as we continue passing out SIV visas to Afghan employees in a country we may be leaving at any time. And we are handing out SIV visas like candy to Iraqis even though we have a very limited military presence there that is not expected to last for long.

    But facts have never stopped the SIV express from barreling through America at an incredible cost.

    85% of SIV recipients have received refugee resettlement benefits. Over 17,000 have been dumped in California, over 10,000 in Texas, and over 7,000 in Virginia. In Virginia, that meant that over 800 Iraqi children and almost 2,000 Afghan children became part of the system. In Northern Virginia, SIV holders increased tenfold and doubled in just one year, putting a potential terrorist population close to the center of government, to top terror targets, including the headquarters of the CIA in Fairfax County.

    Meanwhile a GAO report found that 60% of SIV refugees were unemployed after three months and 94% were on food stamps.

    70% of Iraqi SIVs were unemployed.

    In one single year, SIV refugees racked up $80 million in federal aid from two agencies alone. That doesn’t account for some federal refugee assistance programs that go on for as long as 5 years.

    How many American soldiers could have been trained to speak Arabic or Pashto for that money?

    As their number has grown, so has the monumental expense of subsidizing them. In 2008, SIV refugees accounted for only 1% of resettlement assistance. By 2017, SIV refugees made up a quarter of costs.

    After 75,000 Iraqi and Afghan SIV recipients, maybe it’s time that we shut down the SIV scam, instead of expanding it, as politicians from both parties and Pentagon brass, keep insisting that we must do.

    We currently have 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and over 55,000 Afghans here through the SIV program. There are 5,200 American military personnel in Iraq and over 20,000 Iraqis through the SIV program in America. We’ve resettled enough “interpreters” to fill Kalamazoo, Wilmington, or Boca Raton.

    America is all “interpreted” out.

    The US Army began deploying the Machine Foreign Language Translation System (MFLTS) in 2011. Millions of dollars have been signed in contracts for MFLTS systems that can provide automatic translations of Arabic, Pashto, Urdu, and many other languages. The system was deployed in 2017.

    MFLTS is no doubt inferior to living translators. But software doesn’t shoot our soldiers in the back, rape women in Colorado Springs, demand food stamps, swamp social services in Virginia, or join ISIS.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 23:30

    Bloomberg "Tried To Ruin Me For Speaking Out" On China

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    Bloomberg "Tried To Ruin Me For Speaking Out" On China

    Authored by Leta Hong Fincher via The Intercept,

    I am one of the many women Mike Bloomberg’s company tried to silence through nondisclosure agreements. The funny thing is, I never even worked for Bloomberg.

    But my story shows the lengths that the Bloomberg machine will go to in order to avoid offending Beijing

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    trong>. Bloomberg’s company, Bloomberg LP, is so dependent on the vast China market for its business that its lawyers threatened to devastate my family financially if I didn’t sign an NDA silencing me about how Bloomberg News killed a story critical of Chinese Communist Party leaders. It was only when I hired Edward Snowden’s lawyers in Hong Kong that Bloomberg LP eventually called off their hounds after many attempts to intimidate me.

    In 2012, I was working toward a Ph.D. in sociology at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and my husband, Michael Forsythe, was a lead writer on a Bloomberg News article about the vast accumulation of wealth by relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping, part of an award-winning “Revolution to Riches” series about Chinese leaders.

    Soon after Bloomberg published the article on Xi’s family wealth in June 2012, my husband received death threats conveyed by a woman who told him she represented a relative of Xi. The woman conveying the threats specifically mentioned the danger to our whole family; our two children were 6 and 8 years old at the time. The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos reports a similar encounter in his award-winning book, “Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China,” when the same woman told Osnos’s wife: “He [Forsythe] and his family can’t stay in China. It’s no longer safe,” she said. “Something will happen. It will look like an accident. Nobody will know what happened. He’ll just be found dead.”

    The experience was especially terrifying because it came just months after the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who was poisoned by the wife of a senior Chinese leader, Bo Xilai, according to Chinese state media. His body was reportedly discovered in a hotel in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing. While our family spent the kids’ summer vacation in 2012 outside of China, Bloomberg executives kept my husband busy in nonstop conference calls about how to maintain our security. I had recurring nightmares about my young children getting beaten up or killed. I desperately wanted to speak publicly about the death threats, feeling it would give us stronger protection, but Bloomberg News wanted us not to say anything about it while the company conducted its own internal investigation. I had been loyal to the company ever since my husband and I married in 2002, and I didn’t want to jeopardize his job. I stayed silent until October 26, 2012, when another (unrelated) story was published in defiance of the Chinese government. I decided to tweet that we had received death threats after the Bloomberg story on Xi Jinping.

    Screenshot: Leta Hong Fincher

    Within hours of my tweets — the original and my replies to questions — a Bloomberg manager called my husband and said, “Get your wife to delete her tweets.” I did not delete them, but I also did not tweet or speak publicly about the death threats again. I did not want to anger the company because we needed it to relocate us to Hong Kong, where our children would be safe. As we finished the remainder of our time in Beijing, applying for schools in Hong Kong and preparing for our move, I lived in constant fear. Would someone get to our children while they were on their way to or from school? Who was watching and listening to us? I obsessively pulled down all our window blinds at night in case Chinese security agents were watching us. I was careful not to speak loudly about our plans in our home or on my phone in case we were bugged.

    In August 2013, I finally relaxed as we flew out of Beijing and moved to a temporary apartment in Hong Kong. I thought that our yearlong nightmare had ended. But things would soon get even worse.

    My husband had been working for many months on another investigative report for Bloomberg about financial ties between one of China’s richest men, Wang Jianlin, and the families of senior Communist Party officials, including relatives of Xi. Bloomberg editors had thus far backed the story. A Bloomberg managing editor, Jonathan Kaufman, said in an email in late September 2013, “I am in awe of the way you tracked down and deciphered the financial holdings and the players. … It’s a real revelation. Looking forward to pushing it up the line,” according to an account published by the Financial Times.

    Then Bloomberg killed the story at the last minute, and the company fired my husband in November after comments by Bloomberg News editor-in-chief Matt Winkler were leaked.

    “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China,” Winkler reportedly said on a company call.

    Mike Bloomberg, then New York City mayor and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, was asked on November 12, 2013, about reports that his company had self-censored out of fear of offending the Chinese government and he dismissed the question.

    “Nobody thinks that we’re wusses and not willing to stand up and write stories that are of interest to the public and that are factually correct,” Bloomberg told a press conference.

    Yet, days after Bloomberg made those comments to reporters in New York, Bloomberg lawyers in Hong Kong threatened to devastate my family financially by forcing us to repay the company for our relocation fees to Hong Kong from Beijing and the advance on my husband’s salary that we took out, leave us with no health insurance or income, and take me to court if I did not sign a nondisclosure agreement — even though I had never been a Bloomberg employee.

    The law firm representing Bloomberg, Mayer Brown JSM, sent a letter to my lawyer on December 6, 2013, threatening a court injunction if I didn’t agree to their confidentiality terms within seven days.

    I told my husband’s lawyer that I did not want to sign a gag order, so Bloomberg summoned me and my husband to a meeting on December 16 at Mayer Brown JSM’s office in central Hong Kong. We sat around a fancy conference table with some Bloomberg senior editors and Mayer Brown lawyers and spoke via videoconference with a lawyer from Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, representing Bloomberg in New York. My husband’s lawyer said that I did not possess any recordings or emails that might be damaging evidence about the company’s practices.

    “But what about all the evidence that is in her head?” said the outsized man on the video screen. When Bloomberg’s lawyer in New York uttered those words, I suddenly pictured him holding a giant vacuum cleaner, trying to suck all the memories out of my brain. I told everyone that I needed to leave the room and I walked out of the building, determined to go down fighting.

    On December 20, they sent a letter to my husband demanding that I sign a nondisclosure agreement. If I didn’t agree, we might owe the company thousands of dollars. I might even have had to pay Bloomberg’s legal bills. The thought of Bloomberg possibly ruining our family financially if I didn’t give in to their threats made me sick, but I was also infuriated that they had kept us in harm’s way after we received threats, forbidden me from speaking publicly about the death threats we received in Beijing, and now were trying to take away my freedom of speech forever.

    It was only when I hired Snowden’s lawyers in Hong Kong — Albert Ho and Jonathan Man offered me a low rate because it was a “good cause” — that Bloomberg finally backed off. In the meantime, they had sent me several more threatening letters. One letter from Mayer Brown JSM on January 8, 2014, spelled out that “by virtue of the knowledge that she retains (in her head) of our client’s [Bloomberg’s] Confidential Information she has an ongoing duty of confidentiality to our client.” They demanded that I sign away my right to speak out about things such as “unpublished drafts of an article prepared for our client; documents concerning our client’s newsgathering, editorial processes and editorial judgment …; any emails and other communications (including oral discussions) between and among our client’s employees concerning our client’s newsgathering editorial processes and editorial judgment.”

    Ho, a veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator and activist who has been assaulted twice over the years, told me that if Bloomberg didn’t back down, we could hold a press conference to shame them. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that and in February 2014, Bloomberg finally stopped sending me legal threats. I returned to Tsinghua University to finish my Ph.D. and published my first book about women in China. My husband joined the New York Times, re-reported the entire story on the Chinese businessman, Wang, which Bloomberg claimed was “not ready for publication,” and his story was published on the front page of the New York Times in late April 2015.

    I never wanted to seek publicity about Bloomberg’s threatening behavior and was genuinely terrified of financial ruin, so in spite of preserving my freedom of speech, I have never written about my experience before. I am speaking out now because unlike so many other women, I am not bound by a nondisclosure agreement. Given the large number of women silenced by NDAs, it’s clear that there has been an environment of sexism at Bloomberg’s company. Bloomberg managers and lawyers treated me as though I were a piece of company property, an appendage of my husband, using intimidation and threats to try to bully me into submission. I agonized over whether to sign the NDA and I remember feeling physically suffocated, as though my mouth were stuffed with cotton balls. I haven’t met any of the other women, but I imagine that they, too, may have experienced the same terror of being threatened by a multibillion-dollar corporation, which could ruin their lives if they did not comply. Even now, I am nervous about the consequences of speaking out. But the more of us speak out, the stronger we are.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 22:40

    "Sick People" - Russian Lawmakers Blast US For Nuclear War Exercise 

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    "Sick People" - Russian Lawmakers Blast US For Nuclear War Exercise 

    US Defense Secretary Mark Esper participated in a war exercise late last week at the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) HQ in Omaha, Nebraska, which featured how the Pentagon would respond to a Russian nuclear attack on Europe, reported Defense One. 

    "We conducted a mini-exercise," a senior defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The scenario i

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    ncluded a European contingency where you are conducting a war with Russia and Russia decides to use a low-yield limited nuclear weapon against the site on NATO territory, and then you go through the conversation that you would have with the secretary of defense and then with the president ultimately to decide how to respond."

    "During the exercise, we simulated responding with a nuclear weapon," the official said.

    News of the "mini-exercise" immediately traveled to Moscow. Russian lawmakers called the Pentagon's nuclear war simulation completely outrageous: 

    Senator Sergei Tsekov called organizers and participants of the exercise "sick people," telling RBC News on Saturday, that he was "very surprised, frankly, very much, that they are doing this and also declare it. Although, on the other hand, judging by their current state and current actions, why be surprised?" 

    Alexander Sherin, the deputy head of the Duma's defense committee, told HCH news on Saturday that the US' nuclear war simulation with Russia has several objectives: 

    "Firstly, the population is getting used to such an incredible scenario for resolving the conflict as a nuclear strike between the Russian Federation and the NATO bloc. Secondly, an attempt to intimidate the population of Europe and justify the presence of American bases in European countries as guarantors of security and defenders in the event of a nuclear attack from Russia," Sherin said.

    He said it would be foolish for Moscow to launch nuclear strikes on European countries because the fallout would flow back into Russia.

    Sherin says the reason the US nonchalantly leaks its nuclear war exercises to the media is because it has never had a major war on its soil, unlike Europe and Russia. 

    The latest drill comes as President Trump's gargantuan military budget of more than $740 billion has allocated a whopping $44 billion for nuclear weapons. 

    Peter Kuznick, the director of the American University's Nuclear Studies Institute, told RT News there is no such thing of limited nuclear war. 

    Kuznick said how these things play out is that both sides will continue shooting atomic weapons at one another until the human civilization is completely wiped out.

    The exercise comes weeks after we reported the US added a 'low yield' nuclear weapon to its submarine arsenal in a controversial first in decades.  

    Trump's soaring military budget has led to the most significant increase in global military spending in more than a decade suggests governments across the world are preparing for the next big conflict.  

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 23:05

    Pizza Hut's Largest Franchisee Is On The Brink Of Bankruptcy

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    Pizza Hut's Largest Franchisee Is On The Brink Of Bankruptcy

    NPC International, better known as Pizza Hut's largest franchisee, is on the brink of bankruptcy.

    The company is reportedly exploring restructuring options for its more than 1,200 Pizza Hut locations and 400 Wendy's locations. The franchise secured $35 million in loans earlier this year to help bolster its liquidity, but also recently defaulted on $800 million

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    of its $1 billion in debt, according to Restaurant Dive.

    NPC reportedly skipped loan payments and entered into a forebearance agreement with lenders to allow time to weigh options for restructuring. The company is working with advisers at Greenhill & Co., AlixPartners LLP and Eldridge Industries LLC to weigh its restructuring options. 

    A bankruptcy could help the company re-negotiate agreements with landlords and the company is reportedly still weighing options that will keep it out of court. 

    The company's woes are partially attributable to lack of delivery, which is a consumer trend that other fast food companies have been able to embrace with services like Uber Eats and DoorDash. The company has also experienced headwinds from rising food and labor costs - and domestic same store sales that slipped 2% during Q4. 

    Chris Tuner, Yum Brands CFO, said last week: "There is potential for choppiness in near-term results of Pizza Hut U.S., primarily related to our largest franchisee."

    The chain has tried to adapt to other ideas, like self-service pickup cubbies and in-store kiosks. Pizza Hut is considering rolling these ideas out to all stores, pending the results of a pilot test in two Texas restaurants. Meanwhile, Yum Brands has leveraged a delivery partnership with Grubhub to try and compete with other delivery names and competitors like Domino's. 

    Pizza Hut announced last year it could temporarily close up to 500 underperforming restaurants for remodeling. 

    Recall, just weeks ago, we reported about the epidemic of small restaurants going bankrupt due to lack of traffic in areas where they are situated. 

    In that piece, that noted that names like Bar Louie and American Blue Ribbon Holdings, which owns Village Inn and Bakers Square, both filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and that both both cited lower foot traffic in the U.S. as the reason for their downfall. 

    Bar Louie's Chief Restructuring Officer Howard Meitiner said at the time: “This inconsistent brand experience, coupled with increased competition and the general decline in customer traffic visiting traditional shopping locations and malls, resulted in less traffic at the company’s locations proximate to shopping locations and malls.”

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 20:35

    Chinese Workers Refuse To Go Back To Work Despite Beijing's Demands

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    Chinese Workers Refuse To Go Back To Work Despite Beijing's Demands

    When we commented earlier that the coronavirus pandemic means that the vast majority of Chinese small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have at most 2-3 months of cash left, a potentially catastrophic outcome that will not only crippled China's economy but its $40 trillion financial system, we summarized the circular quandary in which Beijing finds itself, to wit:

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    ... unless China reboots its economy, it faces an economic shock the likes of which it has never seen before in modern times. Yet it can't reboot the economy unless it truly stops the viral pandemic, something it will never be able to do if it lies to the population that the pandemic is almost over in hopes of forcing people to get back to work. Hence the most diabolic Catch 22 for China's social and economic system, because whereas until now China could easily lie its way out of any problem, in this case lying will only make the underlying (viral pandemic) problem worse as sick people return to work, only to infect even more co-workers, forcing even more businesses to be quarantined.

    Shockingly (or perhaps not at all in light of China's tremendous human rights record), Beijing has picked output over life expectancy, and in a furious scramble to restart its economy, which as we showed earlier remains flatlined...

    ... according to most high-frequency metrics, it has been "advising" people to get back to work, even as new coronavirus cases are still coming in, in the process threatening to blow out the current epidemic with orders of magnitude more cases as places of employment become the new hubs of viral distribution.

    As Bloomberg picked up late on Sunday, following what we said earlier namely that "local governments around the country face a daunting question of whether to focus on staving off the virus or encourage factory reopenings" China's central and local governments are one again easing the criteria for factories to resume operations "as they walk a tightrope between containing a virus that has killed more than 2,400 people and preventing a slump in the world’s second-largest economy." This schizophrenic dilemma for a government which faces two equally terrible choices, was best summarized by the following two banners observed in China:

    • Banner 1 says: “If you go out messing around now, expect grass on your grave to grow soon.“

    • Banner 2 says, “Sitting at home eats up all your have, hurry up go out & find a job.”

    Indeed, a perfectly schizophrenic message from the government to the people:

    And yet, even with both options equally terrible, Beijing also has no choice but to pick one. As a result, as Bloomberg writes, "the rush to restart has been propelled by China’s leader Xi Jinping and top leaders, who are urging companies to resume production so the country can continue to meet lofty goals for growth and economic development in 2020."

    Regular Zero Hedge readers know the rest: with most of Chinese economic output paralyzed, officials in China’s provinces have taken up Xi’s call, with one region after another relaxing rules that had kept more than half the nation’s industrial base idle following the Lunar New Year holiday.

    So as China undergoes a wholesale push to reboot its economy, there is certainly some success. AS Bloomberg notes, "about 600 kilometers east of the virus epicenter of Wuhan, vendors and customers at the Yiwu wholesale market in Zhejiang province are having their body temperature tested at the entrances after the vast complex that wholesales manufactured goods reopened on Tuesday, three days earlier than expected. Power demand has also started to pick up in China, with six major generators reporting that coal consumption - while still below pre-holiday levels - rose 7% on Feb. 20 from the previous day."

    Well, "pick up" may be a bit of an exageration but here it is: the smallest possible increment, yet still more than 50% below where it was on previous years, suggesting China's economy is running at half of its capacity, which in GDP terms means an epic collapse, a lifetime away from the traditional 6%-7% Y/Y increase.

    Ultimately, the core problem China is facing as we explained earlier today, is one of trust: trust by workers that their employers, and certainly the government, has their best interest in mind when it is urging everyone to get back to work. Or lack thereof.

    "Our factory is still missing quite a lot of workers, so we can only resume limited production," said Dong Liu, vice president of a textile manufacturer in Fujian, southeastern China, that employs more than 400 workers. Dong said he applied to the government on Feb. 17 to restart and the inspector came the next day and gave permission. “More and more factories are allowed to reopen this week,” he said, although as they reopen, they find the problem mentioned before: nobody is gullible enough to go back to work. After all why risk it if a return to the place of work with the pandemic still raging means a material chance of a death sentence?

    Naturally, China's massive population - while bombarded by propaganda on a daily basis - is hardly naive, and is very well attuned to what is really going on. And what is going on is that China's economy has ground to a halt because nobody trusts the government anymore!

    Even Bloomberg admits it: "the push to get production rolling again risks a renewed spread of the virus, about which much is still not yet known" (it's certainly not known where it came from after Chinese scientists disproved the widely held propaganda narrative that it miraculously emerged from some bat at the Wuhan seafood market during the peak of bat hibernation season).

    “A peak may come at the end of this month for the whole country but it won’t necessarily indicate a turning point,” Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory disease expert who led research into a treatment for SARS, told reporters in Guangzhou earlier this week. “The epidemic could have a new peak after people travel back to work.”

    The last sentence is predicated on two major assumptions:

    1. that workers will decide they want to return to work; and

    2. that they will consider the outsized risk to their lives from returning to work as lesser than the threat to their livelihood from not receiving a salary.

    And what happens if they all refuse to come back? What if China, sick of the lies and fabrications of its government, creates the largest, if completely unexpected, labor union in history and one which refuses to work and demands handouts from the government until the coronavirus pandemic is well and truly halted, something which can not be ascertained for a long, long time in light of the government's flagrant and ongoing lies?

    Meanwhile, the government schizophrenic, contradictory instructions continue:

    “Every day several government departments send representatives to spot check our efforts to curb the virus,” said Melissa Shu, the company’s export manager. “They come from the district government, the center for disease control, the city government, at different times of day and check if we disinfect in time, whether we test the temperature of workers, whether workers have masks, whether one person has a separate lunch seat, whether lunch is properly arranged, etc, etc.”

    Shu said at lunchtime, workers need to sit at least one meter apart (about three feet).

    “As a result, we can’t ask all the workers to come to work even when they’re in town ready to work,” she said, adding that the plant has about 40-50 staff working in rotation, about half the number employed before the virus.

    Ironically, some Chinese factories already have plenty of space, thanks to the long-running trade war with the U.S.

    “Compared with the virus, that was much worse” said Hui Zhuo, founder of a wooden furniture manufacturer in Zhongshan, in the Pearl River Delta. “We’ve cut a lot of workers in the last two years -- so I’m not too worried this time because the space in my factory is big enough to avoid being crowded.”

    And speaking of trade war, if the long-running feud between the US and China wasn't enough for Chinese customers to seek alternative supply chains, the coronavirus fiasco is sure to be the tipping point:

    In the longer term, the outbreak is likely to exacerbate the damage wrought on China’s factories by the trade war. For some overseas customers in fast-moving industries like fashion, the factory shutdown amid the virus has been another wake-up call that may spur them to reduce their reliance on Chinese suppliers.

    “I think for the next season or the next year’s goods, retailers would be looking at sourcing more from other countries,” said AJ Mak, CEO of Chain of Demand, which provides artificial-intelligence systems to retailers in Asia and the U.S. to predict product demand. “I think those conversations which started from the trade war would be definitely accelerated.”

    The irony is that by the time most Chinese workers do return to their jobs, those jobs may not exist anymore.

    Meanwhile China’s push to salvage its growth targets won’t be complete until the virus is fully under control - something that is impossible to predict, and will in fact be delayed the more China pushes to restore full factory staffing:

    “When can everyone come back to work? No one knows,” said Shu at the Zhenjiang LED factory. “Logistics is still not yet fully resumed, inter-city transportation is still restricted. Only after the epidemic is fully controlled, we can truly return to normal work and life.“

    What we do know, is that for now, when given the choice of the carrot or the stick, Chinese employers and the government are picking the carrot... for now. As China's Global Times reported, fabrication giants such as Apple supplier Foxconn have rolled out incentives to encourage workers to return to their posts amid the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, the company's factory in Zhengzhou said it would award 7000 yuan to back-to-work staff and give bonuses in stages to workers who clock in for up to 55 days.

    So far such "carrot" approaches have failed to yield results, which leads us to think that a far worse eventuality is next: the stick.

    And if China's population was already furious at the inept response to the coronavirus pandemic, the information blackout, the self-serving lies by the communist party over the past two months, and the general lack of respect for ordinary people by China's billionaire oligarchs, one can only imagine what happens to the mood across China's workforce - the largest in the world - once the entire nation becomes one giant gulag, where everyone is forced to work for the greater good, or else...

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 20:55

    World's Biggest Oil Hedge Fund Plunges 8% In January Following Two Years Of Losses

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    World's Biggest Oil Hedge Fund Plunges 8% In January Following Two Years Of Losses

    Back in 2008 Forbes Magazine placed Pierre Andurand in its list of the top 20 highest-earning hedge-fund managers. That was the year after the French commodity trader co-founded the hedge-fund BlueGold with $300 million AUM. In June of 2008, just before oil crashed, BlueGold's returns were described by the New York Post as "eye-popping" and "monstrous". although it was a very diffe

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    rent story just a few months later when oil plunged from $145 to $40. In any case, riding the dramatic recovery in the price of oil from 2009 to 2011 helped BlueGold cement its position as one of the largest oil-focused hedge funds, with AUM hitting $2.4 billion after returning 210% in 2008, 55% in 2009, 13% in 2010, and -34% in 2011.

    Then, after BlueGold shuttered in April 2012, Andurand launched a new hedge fund: Andurand Capital, which once again invested mostly in oil but also has a secondary focus on other commodities such as metals and as of May 2018, the firm managed $1.2bn in assets.

    And while Andurand timed the 2014 oil crash perfectly, returning 38% the year when the near OPEC-breakup sent oil plunging from above $100 to $30, it has been a challenging time for the commodity investor who turned bullish on oil in 2016, only to suffer a very choppy oil market for the past several years. So choppy, in fact, that after two years of losses, Andurand suffered another dramatic loss in January, when oil prices once again tumbled, this time on fears the coronavirus was hurting global economic growth, which in turn hit demand for oil and roiled global commodity markets.

    The furious January drop was so unexpected that the Andurand Commodities Fund, dubbed by Bloomberg as "one of the oil market’s last remaining hedge funds", plunged 8.4% last month, according to Bloomberg. The loss was the fund's biggest monthly decline since October 2018 when it plunged 21% as global stocks swooned amid fears the Fed was hiking rates into a recession. Last month's loss followed two prior painful years for Andurand who was down 7.1% in 2019 and 20% a year earlier.

    So is another name for "brilliant hedge fund investor" just "that guy who uses a ton of leverage to boost his beta" and picked the right side of the coin toss? What about picking the wrong side for three years in a row? If so, one wonders if an even better description for someone like Andurand is just "lucky", something has has not been for the past three years when he desperately hoped that oil prices would skyrocket higher even as China's economic slowdown meant that oil demand would suffer so much even OPEC now agrees.

    As Bloomberg notes, oil had its worst start to a year since 1991 on concern the spread of the coronavirus will curb demand in China for energy. Brent fell 16% in January as China, the world’s largest oil importer, locked down its cities in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

    According to various sources from Goldman to commodities trading giant Vitol, the market is facing a 200 million-barrel demand loss in the first quarter, culminating in a 4 million-barrels-a-day decrease in China currently as the virus hits economic activity and restricts travel.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 18:55

    10-Year Treasury Yield Plunges To Just 1 Basis Point Away From Recession "Tipping Point"

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    10-Year Treasury Yield Plunges To Just 1 Basis Point Away From Recession "Tipping Point"

    After more than a month of shocking complacency (because what, central banks will somehow print antibodies and "fix" the covid pandemic which will restore collapsing global supply chains?) traders are "suddenly" realizing that the coronavirus outbreak contains a significant likelihood of impact to the global economy and the potential to become a black bat, pardon, bl

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    ack swan type event. An event which could quickly spiral into a US - and global - recession.

    How to determine if a recession is coming? One place to watch is the NY 'sFed recession probability indicator, which is a function of the slope of the curve between 3m bills and the 10y rate and was developed using a logistic regression technique. As BofA writes, going back to 1960, there have been 8 recessions, but comparisons with the last 3 recession are likely more relevant. Chart 1 shows that within a 12-month window prior to each of the last 3 recessions, the probability exceeded 30%. If we look at all 8 recessions since 1960, we find that the critical 30% threshold remains relevant back to 1969 (7 recessions), but provided a false positive in 1967 and was not reached in the 1960 recession.

    Yet while a 30% recession probability is still a gray zone, once the NY Fed's indicator reached a level of 40% it has not provided any historical false positives.

    Why is this notable? Because in the Fed's framework, the 40% level corresponds to a slope of -45bp between 3m bills and the 10y rate.

    Looking at the current cycle, not only is the current probability above 30%, but it was above 40% in August of 2019, when the world was flooded with recession fears and sent a record $17 trillion in global sovereign debt into negative yielding territory. The probability indicator declined post-August as the Fed's 3 cuts steepened the curve, but given the current reading - and the August reading - versus the critical 30% level of the past 3 recessions, BofA warns that we "have to view the recession outcome as significant enough to consider hedging against."

    Furthermore, when looking for recession proxy signals, BofA focuses squarely on the probability of a zero lower bound (i.e. fed funds rate cut to 0%) in 18 months (this is shown in chart 2 below). With this approach, BofA obtains roughly one in three chance of seeing the Fed at the ZLB by mid-2021, corroborating the above.

    What does all this mean for the 10Year Treasury as a recessionary signal?

    According to BofA, recent mini-cycle troughs have coincided with bottoms on 10y Treasury yields around 1.4% (as shown in chart 3 below for The Conference Board Leading Indicators and 10yT yields since the great recession).

    More importantly, breaking through this "tipping point" level requires more than 50% probability priced for the Fed cutting rates back to 0%! This means that breaking 1.4% in an on-hold context for the Fed creates a significant inversion of the curve, pushes recession signals higher, and pressures a further inversion of the FF1/FF6 spread which we found in Pricing cuts ahead of the Fed to have no false positives for Fed cuts following a -30bp inversion (currently -16bp).

    As of open of trading on Sunday evening, the implied 10Y yield is 1.41%, or just 1 basis point above this critical "tipping point" below which trapdoors to both a recession and the Zero Lower Bound are open.

    What this means in practical terms from a duration perspective is that "the market may gap lower on a break below 1.4% for the 10Y Treasury", as this corresponds to phase transition higher in recession probabilities and a clear challenge to the on-hold Fed stance, "particularly as convexity flows add to what would likely be a broader risk-off move. "

    Finally, while the threshold for cuts is high - especially if a slowdown is driven by pandemic fears - and considering the Fed's recent rhetoric which has sought to allay expectations of a rate cut as soon as June, once the Fed commits to cuts, BofA finds it unlikely that they will be the insurance style of 2019, and instead the Fed will proceed to cut all the way to zero to avert the coming recession. For the curve, this implies some scope for further bull flattening, but limited beyond 1.4% in the 10Y, as the Fed is likely to be more significantly priced in beyond this level.

    And while BofA goes on to list several ways to hedge this eventuality, the simple take home here is that if the 10Y tips below 1.40%, it will proceeds to plunge straight down, which in turn will force the Fed to change its "reaction function" again, and announce that an aggressive rate cut phase is coming, one which will be meant to offset what the market is now saying is a virtually assured recession. It also means that anyone hoping the Fed will further taper its QE4 in coming months is in for a rude awakening.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 19:12

    China's 'Fake' Coronavirus Numbers Exposed: Doctor In Hunan Confirms 50 New Cases, Only One Reported

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    China's 'Fake' Coronavirus Numbers Exposed: Doctor In Hunan Confirms 50 New Cases, Only One Reported

    In one of many shocking videos circulating on Twitter, a recent clip of a doctor in Hunan that was widely shared by credible journalists covering the outbreak has caught our attention because it supports our theory - which has become increasingly widely adopted among the western press - that Chinese health officials are seriously undercounting the number of cases

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    and deaths.

    As the Washington Post wrote in a piece published earlier this week: "Chinese leaders and state media strike a coordinated note this week about the government’s ability to contain the outbreak, inconsistencies and sudden changes in official data are leaving experts — and journalists — struggling to plot meaningful trends, or even place any confidence in the figures coming from government."

    The WaPo reporters pointed to a clear case of manipulation where the authorities suppressed the true number of cases.

    Authorities in Hubei province reported good news Thursday: There were only 349 new coronavirus cases the previous day, the lowest tally in weeks.

    The bad - and puzzling - news? Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, reported 615 new cases all by itself.

    Hubei authorities have changed their criteria for counting cases three times over the past week or so.

    Hubei officials explained that they deducted cases that have not been confirmed through genetic tests from their total reported number of cases. Since this mistake was very, very public, we also reported on it.

    But we've been reporting on this for weeks. The mainstream press in the US has since caught on, as the WaPo post shows. As its reporters claim, though there is no obvious smoking gun, most experts still believe China is underreporting cases based on mathematical algorithms and other methods used to project the rate of infection.

    There is no smoking gun suggesting that Chinese officials fabricate numbers - at least not since late January. But many researchers say the official figures probably underestimate the true numbers because of limited testing capacity and the prevalence of cases with mild or no symptoms. That is why having case numbers collected with consistent methodology would help scholars chart the general contours, if not the precise values, of how the epidemic is unfolding.

    We could go back all the way to the first "shift" in China's reporting methodology on Feb. 12, when officials reported the first major spike in cases, shaking market confidence in the process, until Beijing axed two senior local officials in one of many obvious scapegoatings by Beijing.

    China's numbers have consistently kept the fatality rate from the virus at around 2%. But given the exponential rate of spread outside China, and evidence that it acted too late with its quarantine's to really blunt the outbreak, some suspect that this number, too, will rise once researchers get a fuller picture of what's happening on the ground.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 18:05

    "It Will Be Really, Really Bad": China Faces Financial Armageddon With 85% Of Businesses Set To Run Out Of Cash In 3 Months

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    "It Will Be Really, Really Bad": China Faces Financial Armageddon With 85% Of Businesses Set To Run Out Of Cash In 3 Months

    For the past two weeks, even as the market took delight in China's doctored and fabricated numbers showing the coronavirus spread was "slowing", we warned again and again that not only was this not the case (which recent data out of South Korea, Japan and now Italy has confirmed), but that for all its assertions to the contrary, China's work

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    ers simply refused to go back to work (even with FoxConn offering its workers extra bonuses just to return to the factory) and as a result the domestic economy had ground to a halt as we described in:

    • China Has Ground To A Halt: "On The Ground" Indicators Confirm Worst-Case Scenario

    • China Is Disintegrating: Steel Demand, Property Sales, Traffic All Approaching Zero

    • Terrifying Charts Show China's Economy Remains Completely Paralyzed

    Unfortunately, it's not getting any better as the latest high frequency updates out of China demonstrate:

    Also unfortunately, it is getting worse, because as we explained several weeks ago, China is now fighting against time to reboot its economy, and the longer the paralysis continues, the more dire the outcome for both China's banks and local companies. And since it is no longer just "scaremongering" by "conspiracy blogs", but rather conventional wisdom that China may implode, here is a summary of how the narrative that "it will all be over by mid-March" is dramatically changing.

    Let's start with Chinese businesses: while China's giant state-owned SOEs will likely have enough of a liquidity lifeblood to last them for 2-3 quarters, it is the country's small businesses that are facing a head on collision with an iceberg, because according to the Nikkei, over 85% of small businesses - which employ 80% of China's population - expect to run out of cash within three months, and a third expect the cash to be all gone within a month.

    Should this happen, not only will China's economy collapse, but China's $40 trillion financial system will disintegrate, as it is suddenly flooded with trillions in bad loans.

    Take the case of Danny Lau who last week reopened his aluminum facade panel factory in China's southern city of Dongguan after an extended Lunar New Year break. To his shock, less than a third of its roughly 200 migrant workers showed up.

    "They couldn't make their way back," the Hong Kong businessman said. Most of his workers hail from central-western China, including 11 from Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people. Many said they had been banned from leaving their villages as authorities race to contain the epidemic.

    Lau's business had already been hurt by the 25% tariff on aluminum products the U.S. imposed in its tit-for-tat trade war with China. Now he worries the production constraints will give American customers another reason to cancel orders and switch to Southeast Asian suppliers. The virus is making a bad situation "worse," he said.

    Lau is not alone: this same double blow is hitting small and midsize enterprises across China, prompting a growing chorus of calls for the government to step in and offer lifelines. The stakes could not be higher: These smaller employers account for 99.8% of registered companies in China and employ 79.4% of workers, according to the latest official statistics. They contribute more than 60% of gross domestic product and, for the government, more than 50% of tax revenue. In short: they are the beating heart of China's economy.

    Companies like Lau's that have resumed some production are the lucky ones. Many factories and other businesses remain completely stalled due to the virus. Many owners have no other choice but pray that things return to normal before they careen off a financial cliff.

    Chinese street vendor transacting at more than an arm's length basis.

    And here is the stark reality of China's T-minus 3 months countdown: 85% of 1,506 SMEs surveyed in early February said they expect to run out of cash within three months, according to a report by Tsinghua University and Peking University. And forget about profits for the foreseeable future: one-third of the respondents said the outbreak is likely to cut into their full-year revenue by more than 50%, according to the Nikkei.

    "Most SMEs in China rely on operating revenue and they have fewer sources for funding" than large companies and state-owned enterprises, said Zhu Wuxiang, a professor at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management and a lead author of the report.

    The problem with sequential supply chains is that these also apply to the transfer of liquidity: employers need to pay landlords, workers, suppliers and creditors - regardless of whether they can regain full production capacity anytime soon. Any abrupt and lasting delays will wreak havoc on China's economic ecosystem.

    "The longer the epidemic lasts, the larger the cash gap drain will be," Zhu said, adding that companies affected by the trade war face a greater danger of bankruptcy because many are already heavily indebted.  "Self-rescue will not be enough. The government will need to lend help."

    So where are we nearly two months after the epidemic started? Wwll, as of last Monday, only about 25% of people had returned to work in China's tier-one cities, according to an estimate by Japanese brokerage Nomura, based on data from China's Baidu. By the same time last year, 93% were back on the job.

    And making matters worse, as we first noted several weeks ago, local governments around the country face a daunting question of whether to focus on staving off the virus or encourage factory reopenings, as the following tweet perfectly captures.

    As long as the national logistics network "is still in shambles," Nomura's chief China economist, Lu Ting said, there might be little to gain from rushing restarts, whereas "the cost of a rebound in infections might be quite high." He expects economic activity to pick up again in a couple of months, although the longer Beijing fails to confidently put an end to the pandemic, the longer it will take for activity to return to normal. Meanwhile the 3 month countdown clock is ticking...

    Don't tell that to Zhou Dewen, the chairman of the Small and Medium Business Development Association in the city of Wenzhou, who knows this and agrees that this crisis is worse than SARS. Far, far worse. In fact, he said, it is "the most severe" of any crisis in the 40 years since China embarked on major economic reforms. He sees not a double but a "triple whammy," factoring in the economic slowdown the country was experiencing even before the trade conflict and the virus.

    Wenzhou, on the coast of Zhejiang Province, was the first city outside Hubei put into full lockdown in an attempt to stop the pathogen. As of last week, Zhou said, only factories that produce medical supplies had been allowed to resume work.

    "What entrepreneurs need is confidence," Zhou said. "But first they need to survive." He is hoping the government will offer fiscal support and tax breaks to buy more time for small businesses. Some local governments have already responded to such pleas by waiving electric bills and delaying taxes, social security payments and loans. But for some businesses, such relief measures are little consolation.

    Worse, last Sunday the communist party's mouthpiece, the Global Times, suggested that instead of waiting for fiscal bailouts, Beijing will have no choice but to cut spending and unleash austerity, a move that would have catastrophic consequences for China.  But even if Beijing does ease fiscally, it is unclear just what it can do short of printing money and handing it out to everyone. "A tax reduction doesn't help if you don't even have income," said Zhu, who must somehow scrape together around 700,000 yuan ($100,000) for rent and the salaries of about 40 employees.

    Zhu reckons her company will lose about 3 million yuan in profit over the two months. Besides the postponements, couples that were looking at wedding options before the outbreak have put their planning on hold. There is little room, it seems, to think about love in the time of the coronavirus.

    "This is the most difficult time I have ever experienced" after 11 years of running the company, Zhu said. The worst part might be the uncertainty: She has no idea when the authorities might lift the ban or whether she can make it that long. "All of this is unknown to us," Zhu said.

    She is not alone: Wu Hai, owner of Mei KTV, a chain of 100 Karaoke bars across China, took to the nation’s premier outlet of discontent, social media platform WeChat, to voice his despair. KTV’s bars have been closed by the government because of the virus, choking off its cash flow. The special loans from the authorities will be of little help and no bank will provide a loan without enough collateral and cash flow, he said on his official WeChat account earlier this month. On WeChat , Wu gave himself two months before he has to shutter his business.

    * * *

    It's not just Japan's flagship financial publication and owner of the Financial Times, the Nikkei, that is dramatically changing the narrative away from "all shall be well." In its headline article today, Bloomberg writes that "Millions of Chinese Firms Face Collapse If Banks Don’t Act Fast" and described the plight of Brigita, a director at one of China’s largest car dealers, who is also running out of options. Her firm’s 100 outlets have been closed for about a month because of the coronavirus, cash reserves are dwindling and banks are reluctant to extend deadlines on billions of yuan in debt coming due over the next few months. There are also other creditors to think about.

    “If we can’t pay back the bonds, it will be very, very bad,” said Brigita, whose company has 10,000 employees and sells mid- to high-end car brands such as BMWs. She asked that only her first name be used and that her firm not be identified because she isn’t authorized to speak to the press. With much of China’s economy still idled as authorities try to contain an epidemic that has infected more than 75,000 people, millions of companies across the country are in a race against the clock to stay afloat.

    The irony, of course, is that all this is happening even as China has in fact eased dramatically in recent weeks, from cutting rates, to engaging in a barrage of mini stimulus measures, to injecting massive amounts of liquidity, to cutting taxes, to supporting virus-stricken companies...

    ... to flooding the economy with a record 5 trilion in loans and shadow debt in the last month.

    Yet while China’s government has cut interest rates, ordered banks to boost lending and loosened criteria for companies to restart operations, many of the nation’s private businesses say they’ve been unable to access the funding they need to meet upcoming deadlines for debt and salary payments. Without more financial support or a sudden rebound in China’s economy, some may have to shut for good.

    "If China fails to contain the virus in the first quarter, I expect a vast number of small businesses would go under," said Lv Changshun, an analyst at Beijing Zhonghe Yingtai Management Consultant company.

    Said otherwise, unless China reboots its economy, it faces an economic shock the likes of which it has never seen before. Yet it can't reboot the economy unless it truly stops the viral pandemic, something it will never be able to do if it lies to the population that the pandemic is almost over in hopes of forcing people to get back to work. Hence the most diabolic Catch 22 for China's social and economic system, because whereas until now China could easily lie its way out of any problem, in this case lying will only make the underlying (viral pandemic) problem worse as sick people return to work, only to infect even more co-workers, forcing even more businesses to be quarantined.

    Some, like Bloomberg, blame the banks.

    As a group, Chinese banks had offered about 254 billion yuan in loans related to the containment effort as of Feb. 9, according to the banking industry association, with foreign lenders such as Citigroup Inc. also lowering rates. To put that into perspective, China’s small businesses typically face interest payments on about 36.9 trillion yuan of loans every quarter.

    In an emailed response to questions from Bloomberg News, ICBC said it has allocated 5.4 billion yuan ($770 million) to help companies fight the virus. “We approve qualified small businesses’ loan applications as soon as they arrive,” the bank said

    Alas, it is not that simple: as we explained two weeks ago in "China's Banks Face $6 Trillion Coronavirus Cataclysm If Epidemic Is Not Contained Soon", China's banks are rapidly retrenching well-aware that they face an explosion in bad debt as the bulk of Chinese companies face collapse. As such, it makes little sense for them to throw good money after bad, and instead most are hunkering down in anticipation of the coming shock. 

    Indeed, as even Bloomberg concedes, banks are hardly any better off themselves: "Many are under-capitalized and on the ropes after two years of record debt defaults. Rating firm S&P Global has estimated that a prolonged emergency could cause the banking system’s bad loan ratio to more than triple to about 6.3%, amounting to an increase of 5.6 trillion yuan."

    The bottom line is that for both companies and their bank lenders (and sources of potential rescue financing), there is one commodity in very short supply: trust. Trust that the counterparty will do the right thing; trust that the government will treat everyone fairly instead of just bailing out a handful of connected politicians. Trust, which in China in general has been lacking for years, as the formerly communist country succumbed to crony hypercapitalism with Chinese characteristics, one in which knowing who to bribe and who to lie to meant the difference between success and failure. Trust was never cultivated. And now that lack of trust is about to cost China dearly.

    In any case, the lack of far more funding means that China's smaller businesses whose revenue have suddenly collapsed, have just weeks if not days of liquidity left. Brigita, whose firm owes money to dozens of banks, said she has so far only reached an agreement with a handful to extend payment deadlines by two months. For now, the company is still paying salaries. But those will stop too.

    And that's when the real crisis begins as hundreds of millions of workers suddenly find themselves unemployed.

    For some the crisis has already begun. Wang Qiang, a 23-year-old migrant worker, has been unable to find work in Shenzhen after three weeks of searching. On top of the limited factory job openings, the Nikkei notes that he faces another major obstacle: his identification labels him a native of Hubei.

    His home province, where the virus originated, accounts for the vast majority of the 74,000-plus mainland infections and most of the deaths. "The labor dispatch companies told me that the factories don't want people from Hubei," he said. The fact that he did not go home for the Lunar New Year holidays seems to make no difference.

    Wang spends his nights sleeping on the floor of an uncompleted building. "I'll wait and see if the situation gets better when companies restart work on Feb. 24."

    In a few short hours Wang will be greatly disappointed. He won't be the last one, however, and if China's doesn't find some miraculous solution to the current coronavirus crisis, in two months China will face a financial, economic and social cataclysm the likes of which it has never seen in its modern history.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 14:45

    "America Is Not Great": Trump Supporters Allegedly Forced Off Road In Indiana

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    "America Is Not Great": Trump Supporters Allegedly Forced Off Road In Indiana

    Authored by Jonathan Turley,

    We have been discussing how the media coverage on political-related violence often downplays attacks on conservatives.

    I have repeatedly criticized Trump for his rhetoric, but I also see dangerous rhetoric coming from his critics. That is not covered as much and certainly not treated as a pattern is violen

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    ce against conservatives and Republicans or motivated by the politics from the left.

    Another such example can be found in Indiana where Kyren Gregory Perry-Jones, 23, and Cailyn Marie Smith, 18, are accused of using their car to force two twin brothers off a road after they were spotted bicycling with flags supporting Trump.

    Police say that the two followed the boys and then pulled up to ask “if they were Trump supporters.”

    When they said that they were, the driver allegedly swerved at the boys and forced them off the road. The driver then got out, tore away the flags, and then ran over the flags.

    Police reviewed a video posted to Snapchat where “the driver turns the wheel sharply as if he saw the boys and wanted to hit them with the vehicle while yelling ‘ya’ll better get home.'”

    A male’s voice is heard telling the female passenger “pull that flag down” and shows the female trying to reach it through her window while saying, “get closer.”

    The police then stated that the female is then heard saying “ya’ll scared, just like your president” and “America is not great.”

    Perry-Jones and Smith are now charged with two felony counts of intimidation and criminal recklessness as well as one misdemeanor count each of theft and criminal mischief.

    My concern is not with the criticism of Trump for some of his rhetoric or the coverage of violence by conservatives. Rather I am concerned that the relative light coverage of the inverse violence is due to the fact that it does not fit a narrative of Trump coverage.

    As I discussed in a prior column, rhetoric can be triggering but there is plenty reckless rhetoric on both sides to trigger violence.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 15:10

    Iran's Hardliners Win Landslide Victory In Low Turn-Out Parliamentary Elections

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    Iran's Hardliners Win Landslide Victory In Low Turn-Out Parliamentary Elections

    Early results from Friday's nationwide Iran parliamentary elections show a landslide for conservative and hawkish anti-West candidates, with forecasts showing them taking more than two-thirds of the seats. 

    Iranian state TV announced Sunday that hardliners won a landslide all 30 seats in Tehran, AP reports. Much of this conservative group is

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    led by old guard supporters of ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a victory seen as a major blow to 'reformist' President Hassan Rouhani and his supporters.

    US state-funded Radio Farda identifies "that least 15 former cabinet ministers and provincial governors close to former ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's have also won in the elections" among them Habibollah Dahmardeh, Ebrahim Azizi, Abdolreza Mesri, Hamid Reza Hajibabai, and Ali Nikzad.

    Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his vote near his office in Tehran. Image source: Reuters

    And The Guardian notes of the early results that "The reformists, the largest grouping in the outgoing parliament, have been decisively beaten, with predictions showing them taking only 17 seats in the 290-strong parliament. The principalists – or conservatives – were on course to take around 200 seats, including all 30 seats in the capital, Tehran, previously a stronghold of the reformers."

    This after Iran's election watchdog, dubbed the Guardian Council, admitted to disqualifying thousands of candidates just days before the vote.

    The State Department has said this translated to over 7,000 candidates that were denied a place in Friday's parliamentary elections, for which the Trump administration leveled sanctions against key Iranian individuals on the Guardian Council.

    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei still lambasted a "conspiracy" of external US and Israeli attempts at interference in the elections, but still praised the election as a "shining" victory affirming "the people's religious and revolutionary beliefs."

    Interestingly, Iran's leaders have lately blamed hyped and 'exaggerated' coverage of the coronavirus as designed to keep Iranians away from the polls. It's being reported as an incredibly low turnout compared to past elections. 

    "In the face of the enemy's conspiracy to hit various pillars of the country, we all need to be vigilant in defense and ready for attack and counterattack," Khamenei said Sunday.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 13:55

    James Carville Says The Big Winner In Nevada Is Putin

    zerohedge News james carville says winner nevada putin All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    James Carville Says The Big Winner In Nevada Is Putin

    With Bernie Sanders having solidified his status as clear front runner for the Democratic nomination by his commanding victory in Nevada last night, also dominating across demographic groups, especially Latinos and young voters, get ready for eight more months of hysterical and anonymously sourced "Russian interference" claims. 

    Perhaps to be expected it started right away on MSNBC, with long

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    time Democratic strategist James Carville declaring Putin is very thrilled with the Bernie landslide win

    Right now, it’s about 1:15 Moscow time. This thing is going very well for Vladimir Putin. I promise you. He’s probably staying up watching this right now. How you doing, Vlad?” Carville quipped in an interview with MSNBC.

    We mentioned previously that this latest twist on the essentially resurrected and repackaged Russiagate conspiracy goes something like this: the Kremlin wants Trump for four more years, so the best way to do this is elevate Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee — ensuring a Trump win. 

    Carville was echoing this precisely, claiming that Russia's attempts to interfere are because the Russian leader “wants Donald Trump to win.” 

    “I mean, it’s a straight line. I don’t think the Sanders campaign in any way is collusion or collaboration.”

    “I think they don’t like this story, but the story is a fact, and the reason that the story is a fact is Putin is doing everything that he can to help Trump, including trying to get Sanders the Democratic nomination,” Carville said.

    As The Libertarian Institute's Scott Horton observes of the next eight months until November: "It’s just going to be like this from now on you know."

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 12:15
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    zerohedge News Editorial   Discuss    Share

    Chief Magistrate In Assange Extradition Received Financial Benefits From Shadowy Groups

    zerohedge News chief magistrate assange extradition received financial benefits from shadowy groups All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Chief Magistrate In Assange Extradition Received Financial Benefits From Shadowy Groups

    Authored by Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis via the Daily Maverick

    Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange leaves Southwark Crown Court in a security van after being sentenced on May 1, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

    The senior judge overseeing the extradition proceedings of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange receive

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    d financial benefits from two partner organisations of the British Foreign Office before her appointment, it can be revealed.

    It can further be revealed that Lady Emma Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster on the advice of a Conservative government minister with whom she had attended a secretive meeting organised by one of these Foreign Office partner organisations two years before. 

    Liz Truss, then Justice Secretary, “advised” the Queen to appoint Lady Arbuthnot in October 2016. Two years before, Truss — who is now Trade Secretary — and Lady Arbuthnot both attended an off-the-record two-day meeting in Bilbao, Spain. 

    The expenses were covered by an organisation called Tertulias, chaired by Lady Arbuthnot’s husband — Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom, a former Conservative defence minister with extensive links to the British military and intelligence community exposed by WikiLeaks.

    Tertulias, an annual forum held for political and corporate leaders in the UK and Spain, is regarded by the UK Foreign Office as one of its “partnerships”. The 2014 event in Bilbao was attended by David Lidington, the Minister for Europe, while the Foreign Office has in the past funded Lord Arbuthnot’s attendance at the forum.

    The Foreign Office has long taken a strong anti-Assange position, rejecting UN findings in his favour, refusing to recognise the political asylum given to him by Ecuador, and even labelling Assange a “miserable little worm”.

    Lady Arbuthnot also benefited financially from another trip with her husband in 2014, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, a forum established by the UK and Turkish governments for “high level” individuals involved in politics and business. 

    Both Tertulias and Tatlidil are secretive gatherings about which little is known and are not obviously connected — but Declassified has discovered that the UK address of the two organisations has been the same. 

    Lady Arbuthnot personally presided over Assange’s case as judge from late 2017 until mid-2019, delivering two controversial rulings. Although she is no longer personally hearing the Assange extradition proceedings, she remains responsible for supporting and guiding the junior judges in her jurisdiction. Lady Arbuthnot has refused to declare any conflicts of interest in the case.

    The new revelations follow previous investigations by Declassified showing that Lady Arbuthnot received gifts and hospitality in relation to her husband from a military and cybersecurity company exposed by WikiLeaks. Declassified also revealed that the Arbuthnots’ son is linked to an anti-data leak company created by the UK intelligence establishment and staffed by officials recruited from US intelligence agencies behind that country’s prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder.

    Lady and Lord Arbuthnot attend the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2017. Lady Arbuthnot was appointed Chief Magistrate in Westminster by the Queen eight months before, in September 2016, on the advice of Liz Truss, who had attended the 2014 Tertulias event with Lady Arbuthnot.

    The Arbuthnots and Liz Truss

    Tertulias’ annual meetings between the UK and Spain have been held since 1989 but the organisation has no public presence and provides no record of events. Declassified found that its current president is Jose de Areilza, a Spanish law professor who is also a board member of the Spanish Ministry of Defence.

    Lord Arbuthnot records that he became the unpaid chair of Tertulias in 2012, at which time he was also chair of parliament’s Defence Committee. Arbuthnot was then also a member of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel.

    In October 2014, Liz Truss, who was then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), attended the Tertulias meeting in Bilbao, alongside the Arbuthnots, Lidington and at least four other British MPs.

    Lord and Lady Arbuthnot spent two days at the event and received expenses worth £1,488.20 from Tertulias. Although having attended the annual event regularly since 2000, this was the first time Lord Arbuthnot recorded in his parliamentary register of interests the attendance of his wife.

    At the time Lady Arbuthnot was deputy senior district judge. The reason for her attending a meeting described by Lord Arbuthnot as “bringing MPs, business people, academics and artists together to discuss topical issues” is not clear.

    Liz Truss was in Bilbao for three days and accrued expenses of £1,235.48 paid by Tertulias. Her flight cost £825.48, suggesting she was flown first class. By contrast, Nick Boles MP charged £178.98 for his flight. The funders of Tertulias and Tatlidil are not known. 

    The trip to Bilbao was one of only three Truss has accepted from third parties since becoming an MP in 2010. She also joined a group of Conservative MPs on a trip to Berlin in 2011 and attended in 2019 the annual forum of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a highly secretive meeting organised by the most influential neoconservative think tank in Washington populated by senior US military and intelligence officials. 

    Declassified recently revealed how the AEI, which has a strongly anti-Assange position, has been courting British ministers for years. 

    Liz Truss, then minister for DEFRA, speaks in the Guggenheim museum at the secretive Tertulias meeting in Bilbao, Spain, 18 October 2014. Standing to her right is Tertulias’ chairman, Lord Arbuthnot. Foreign Office partner organisation Tertulias also paid for Lady Arbuthnot — Julian Assange’s senior judge — to attend this event.

    Declassified is now publishing a photo of Truss giving a speech at the 2014 Tertulias forum in the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. Lord Arbuthnot can be seen standing next to her, likely having just introduced his fellow Conservative MP. It is not known if Lady Arbuthnot was present. 

    Truss’s visit to Tertulias is secret enough for even the department she oversaw as minister at the time — DEFRA — to have no information on it. Responding to Declassified’s Freedom of Information request for communications between the minister and Tertulias or an itinerary for the Bilbao meeting, DEFRA responded: “Following a search of our paper and electronic records, we have established that the information…you have requested is not held by DEFRA.” It is unclear if Truss used a private email to organise the visit.

    In Istanbul

    The month following the Tertulias forum, in November 2014, Lady Arbuthnot went on another trip with her husband, this time to Istanbul for the British-Turkish Tatlidil, which paid the Arbuthnots £2,426 for flights and expenses. 

    Lord Arbuthnot described the purpose of the visit as “to promote and further bilateral relations between Britain and Turkey at a high level”. Tatlidil, which means “sweet talk” in Turkish, was established in 2011 by then prime minister David Cameron and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It describes its objectives as “facilitating and strengthen [sic] relations between the Republic of Turkey and the United Kingdom at the level of government, diplomacy, business, academia and media”.

    The UK delegation to the 2014 meeting in Istanbul was led by Prince Andrew, who also hosted the Tatlidil in Edinburgh the previous year. Then foreign minister Tobias Ellwood spoke at the forum while former foreign secretary Jack Straw, who is a co-chair of Tatlidil, presided over one of the discussions. Erdoğan spoke at the meeting and reportedly called for the removal of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. 

    The sparse information available on the meeting, which largely comes from social media, suggests that Lady Arbuthnot may not have attended the discussions since there was a separate “spouses/partners programme” involving local visits.

    Prince Andrew talks to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other officials at the Foreign Office-linked off-the-record British-Turkish Tatlidil forum, 29 November 2014. Lord and Lady Arbuthnot were both paid by Tatlidil to attend that year’s event.

    Same addresses

    Declassified has discovered that the addresses given by Lord Arbuthnot and other parliamentarians for Tertulias and Tatlidil have been the same — despite no obvious connection between the two organisations other than the UK Foreign Office. All the addresses are residential with no clear reason why they would be official addresses of high-level Foreign Office-linked fora.

    In 2012, Arbuthnot recorded in his parliamentary register of interests that the address of both organisations was a Grade II listed house in the village of Cowlinge, Suffolk, which has a population of just over 600 people. From 2013-16, the address changed to a house in Higham, a small village with 140 people, also in Suffolk.

    The land registry states that the Higham address is part of the Dalham Estate in Newmarket, and is owned by Arat Investments, a vehicle incorporated in Guernsey with a PO Box address. There is little information publicly available about Arat, given Guernsey’s secrecy laws. It has been reported that the estate is owned by Sheikh Mohammed al-Makhtoum, the ruler of Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates.

    In 2017, the address for Tertulias changed again to a house — which is divided into three flats — in Battersea, south London. In more recent entries to the register of interests, the address is given by MPs as simply “private”.

    Declassified has discovered that both Tertulias and Tatlidil had been managed by the same person living at the addresses given by parliamentarians. She told Declassified that Tertulias is “independent” but “works closely” with the Foreign Office. When asked about the organisation’s funders or any personnel involved, including its current parliamentary chair, information was refused.

    One of the three residential properties which have been recorded by MPs in the parliamentary register of interests as the location of the Tertulias organisation, which funded Lady Arbuthnot’s trip to Bilbao. In the latest entries, the organisation’s address is listed only as “private”. (Photo: Matt Kennard)

    Tertulias and the Foreign Office

    Tatlidil was openly set up by the UK government, but Tertulias is also closely linked to the Foreign Office, which describes Tertulias as one of its “partnerships” and in 2013 referred to the forum as “our Tertulias”. Britain’s former ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, described the annual event as “our #1 bilateral forum” between the UK and Spain.

    Last October, Europe minister Christopher Pincher attended the forum in Edinburgh and stated that “the annual Tertulias dialogue illustrates the breadth and depth of the relationship between the United Kingdom and Spain”. His predecessor Sir Alan Duncan attended the previous forum in Malaga.

    Duncan, who has now left office, personally insulted Julian Assange in parliament in 2018 before adding: “It is of great regret that Julian Assange remains in the Ecuador embassy,” where he had been given political asylum by the Ecuadorian government.

    Lord Arbuthnot recorded that the costs of his attending his first forum in 2000 were partly met by a “grant” from the Foreign Office. Labour minister Peter Mandelson said in 1998 that he attended the Tertulias forum “following official advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”

    At the 2014 Tertulias attended by Truss and the Arbuthnots, a Spanish banker was awarded a CBE by the Queen on recommendation of the British government.

    Minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan and Cabinet Minister David Liddington enjoy "warm encounter" with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell at 30th annual Tertulias in Malaga. pic.twitter.com/a8EbIIToE5

    — GBC News (@GBCNewsroom) October 27, 2018

    Lady Arbuthnot’s rulings

    Lady Arbuthnot’s husband is a key figure in the British military and intelligence establishment — a highly controversial issue given that Lady Arbuthnot has made rulings in the Assange case and continues to oversee it as chief magistrate.

    Lord Arbuthnot was from 2016-17 a director of SC Strategy, a consultancy created by Sir John Scarlett, the former head of MI6 who had been behind the “dodgy dossier” used by Tony Blair to push for war with Iraq.  

    Arbuthnot is currently the chair of the advisory board of arms corporation Thales UK and board member of Montrose Associates, a “strategic intelligence” consultancy, whose president is former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd. 

    Lady Arbuthnot has refused to formally recuse herself from the Assange case. A judiciary spokesman has said, “There has been no bias demonstrated by the chief magistrate. The chief magistrate, however, is aware of the judicial conduct guidance that advises on avoiding the perception of bias and is not hearing the case”.

    It is unclear what “perception of bias” Lady Arbuthnot accepts and on what basis she stepped aside from personally hearing the case. 

    The chief magistrate’s role includes “supporting and guiding district judge colleagues”, including Vanessa Baraitser, who ruled on the case in 2019. Lady Arbuthnot is also likely to have approved of Baraitser’s appointment to hear the Assange case. 

    Her previous rulings on Assange cannot be revisited by the defence when she fails to declare a conflict of interest. 

    Lady Arbuthnot’s first ruling on Assange was made in February 2018 while he was a political asylee in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange’s lawyers had applied to have his British arrest warrant withdrawn. 

    Assange had never been charged with a crime, and in May 2017 the Swedish proceedings had been discontinued along with the European Arrest Warrant. The warrant related to Assange skipping bail to claim asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, where the Ecuadorian government agreed that he was at risk of political persecution in the United States. 

    Arbuthnot refused the request. Her ruling was irregular, dismissing Assange’s fears of US extradition and the findings of the UN. “I accept that Mr Assange had expressed fears of being returned to the United States from a very early stage in the Swedish extradition proceedings but… I do not find that Mr Assange’s fears were reasonable,” she said.  

    I give little weight to the views of the Working Group,” she added, referring to the United Nations body which termed Assange’s condition one of “arbitrary detention”. “I do not find that Mr Assange’s stay in the Embassy is inappropriate, unjust, unpredictable, unreasonable, unnecessary or disproportionate.”

    When he was grabbed from the Ecuadorian embassy by British police in April 2019, district judge Michael Snow pilloried Assange’s claims that Lady Arbuthnot was conflicted: “His assertion that he has not had a fair hearing is laughable. And his behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests,” Snow told the court. 

    Lady Arbuthnot made her most recent ruling on Assange in June 2019. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser — who is still overseen by Lady Arbuthnot — will rule on the extradition proceedings which begin on 25 February. 

    Liz Truss, Lady Arbuthnot, Lord Arbuthnot, and the Foreign Office, did not respond to requests for comment. DM

    Matt Kennard is head of investigations and Mark Curtis editor, of Declassified UK, a media organisation investigating UK foreign, military and intelligence policies. They tweet at @DCKennard and @markcurtis30. Follow Declassified on twitter at @DeclassifiedUK

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 08:10

    iMask? Companies Race To Build Next-Gen Facewear To Block Germs

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    iMask? Companies Race To Build Next-Gen Facewear To Block Germs

    So, here's something you haven't heard unless you read ZeroHedge. 

    Several companies, as far as what we can see, are racing to build the next generation of wearable air purifiers for the face to block germs and dirty air, just because legacy masks aren't effective.

    In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in China, South Korea, Japan, and quickly spreading acr

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    oss the world, personal protective gear sales had sharply moved higher in the last month, something we've documented on various occasions. 

    Earlier this month, we noted how Dyson patented a wearable air purifier that can also be used as headphones.

    Now Ao Air's Atmos Faceware is the next generation of maks to block germs up to 50 times better than traditional masks currently on the market, reported AUT BioDesign Lab.

    The company commissioned its own study (note: the research isn't published nor peer-reviewed) describes how Atmos Faceware is a much better solution against particulate matter than standard air filter mask certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

    Ao Air claims Atmos Faceware is unlike traditional face masks because it doesn't require an airtight seal to be effective.

    The new mask is considered an expensive choice and could be worn by the upper class while everyone else resorts to cheap 3M N95 masks. The new mask is expected to retail around $350-$400 this summer. 

    An emerging trend with the virus outbreak, wildfires, and leftist media claiming climate change is torching the world has been the explosion in protective gear sales. 

    AO Air and Dyson appears to be leading the push to blend technology into mask making.

    Since Foxconn is getting into mask development, we're surprised Apple hasn't released plans for an iMask, or scheming Elon Musk hasn't touted a Cybermask.

    To sum up, we could all be wearing masks one day – if you think that's crazy just look at what's happening across Asia. Mask wearing is coming to America – it's only a matter of time.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 08:45

    Researchers Find 61.5% Of Coronavirus Patients With Severe Pneumonia Won't Survive

    zerohedge News researchers find coronavirus patients with severe pneumonia wont survive All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Researchers Find 61.5% Of Coronavirus Patients With Severe Pneumonia Won't Survive

    Since the Wuhan coronavirus first appeared late last year, researchers have been studying it, though for the first month or so, only Chinese scientists had access to the data.

    But now that China has shared its data with the world, research has been appearing more quickly, with more opportunities for peer review.

    According to a

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    study published in the Lancet on Friday, patients who are especially vulnerable to severe COVID-19 infections - a group that includes the very old, very young and those with co-occurring conditions - die at a higher rate from COVID-19 than they did from SARS and MERS.

    A study of 52 critically ill adults at Wuhan Jin Yin-tan hospital found that 61.5% of patients requiring hospitalization and intense monitoring ended up becoming "non-survivors", to borrow some of the researchers' terminology.

    The researchers concluded that COVID-19 - or SARS-CoV-2, as they call it - is more lethal for vulnerable patients than SARS or MERS was.

    Like SARS-CoV and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus that can be transmitted to humans, and these viruses are all related to high mortality in critically ill patients.12 However, the mortality rate in patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection in our cohort is higher than that previously seen in critically ill patients with SARS. In a cohort of 38 critically ill patients with SARS from 13 hospitals in Canada, 29 (76%) patients required mechanical ventilation, 13 (43%) patients had died at 28 days, and six (16%) patients remained on mechanical ventilation. 17 (38%) of 45 patients and 14 (26%) of 54 patients who were critically ill with SARS infection were also reported to have died at 28 days in a Singapore cohort13 and a Hong Kong cohort,14 respectively. The mortality rate in our cohort is likely to be higher than that seen in critically ill patients with MERS infection. In a cohort of 12 patients with MERS from two hospitals in Saudi Arabia, seven (58%) patients had died at 90 days.15 Since the follow-up time is shorter in our cohort, we postulate that the mortality rate would be higher after 28 days than that seen in patients with MERS-CoV.

    Researchers presented their findings in a series of tables which clearly broke down each patient's symptoms and path to recovery (or death).

    The mean age of the 52 patients who participated in the study was 59 years old. 35 (67%) were men, 21 (40%) had been diagnosed with some kind of chronic illness, and 51 (98%)were found to have a fever.

    Readers can find the whole article below:

    s 2213260020300795 by Zerohedge on Scribd

    We expect to learn more about the virus when the team of WHO experts, which includes 2 Americans, delivers their press conference on Monday.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 20:00

    Mapping Out The Banking Elite's Goal For A Cashless Monetary System – Part Two

    zerohedge News mapping banking elites goal cashless monetary system part All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Mapping Out The Banking Elite's Goal For A Cashless Monetary System – Part Two

    Authored by Steven Guinness,

    In the first part of this article we traced the development of the ‘Utility Settlement Coin– a project that began in 2015 and which has now evolved through the inception of a consortium called Fnality International. Fnality are comprised of a number of the world’s biggest banks including Barclays and UB

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    S, all of whom are shareholders in the scheme. Their objective as stated on the company’s website reads:

    Fnality International has been founded to create a network of decentralised Financial Market Infrastructures (dFMIs) to deliver the means of payment-on-chain in tomorrow’s wholesale banking markets.

    In practice, what Fnality are seeking to deliver is the construction of a distributed ledger technology based global payment system, one that can ‘facilitate tokenised, peer-to-peer markets‘.

    Before we look into this more, let’s examine some of the key figureheads behind the project. First there is the CEO Rhomaios Ram, who for the best part of two decades worked for Deutsche Bank in roles that included European Head of Currencies & Commodities and Head of Transaction Banking in the UK and Ireland. The Chairman of Fnality, Jim Turley, has also worked at Deutsche Bank in various different positions. Outside of commercial banking, Turley once served on the board of the New York Fed Foreign Exchange Committee.

    But perhaps the standout name on Fnality’s management team is Daniel Heller, the firm’s advisor on regulatory affairs. Described as an expert in financial sector regulation and financial stability, Heller has a track record of having served at both the Bank for International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund. At the BIS he was head of the Secretariat of the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems, whilst at the IMF he was the executive director for Switzerland, Poland, Serbia, Azerbaijan, and four Central Asian republics. According to the Peterson Institute, for which Heller is a visiting fellow, Heller’s present research ‘focuses on the impact of emerging digital technologies such as blockchain on the financial sector, financial stability, and central banking.’

    Back in September last year, the BIS held a ‘Conference on global stablecoins‘ in which one of the participants was Fnality International who gave a presentation on the day (along with JP Morgan and the Libra Association behind Facebook’s planned digital currency). High on the agenda of this conference was the legal uncertainties around stablecoins as well as how they could be regulated in the name of promoting financial and monetary policy stability.

    In conjunction with a DLT based global payment system, a leading focus of Fnality is to devise and implement solutions to the legal, regulatory, operational and technical aspects. If they were successful, the end result would be a regulated network of distributed, or decentralised, financial market infrastructures. That is the theory at least.

    As evidenced by the coverage on the Libra Association, the regulatory environment is one of the main issues around the future implementation of a digital currency network, so it will no doubt benefit Fnality to have Daniel Heller amongst their management, given his speciality in regulatory affairs and his former role at the BIS. After all, it was they who in 2019 introduced the Innovation BIS 2025 project which is centred around the technology that would underpin CBDC’s.

    It is worthwhile at this point to remind ourselves of what the Utility Settlement Coin project was set up to achieve. Five years ago we were told that USC would be implemented on DLT, and have the potential to transform clearing and settlement processes. One practical example of this is that cross border transactions that might normally take days to clear would be instantaneous thanks to both DLT and the blockchain technology at the heart of the infrastructure.

    USC was described from the outset as an ‘enabler‘ of tokenised markets. For clarity, an asset such as money can be converted into a token and then be stored on a digital blockchain. JP Morgan’s JPM Coin follows this principle. One JPM Coin holds the equivalent value of $1 dollar, which JP Morgan will guarantee. These type of tokenised assets are widely being referred to by central bankers as stablecoins. The argument they use is that stablecoins pegged to stable (fiat) currencies work to minimise fluctuations in value. But whilst one token may hold the value of one corresponding dollar, it does not guarantee the purchasing power of that dollar. And as proven in the UK throughout the Brexit process, fiat currencies are not the panacea for exchange rate instability.

    The vision for USC, which has carried through to Fnality International, was for it to be 100% backed by fiat currency held at the central bank level. Initially five currencies would be focused on: the dollar, the euro, the pound, the Japanese yen and Canadian dollar. According to the IMF, these five make up over 90% of global foreign exchange reserves. Aside from the Canadian dollar, all of them are part of the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights. The SDR is considered by some to be the foundations for a future global currency framework. Since the onset of renewed political nationalism and populism, a reformed SDR has been touted as a possible method to re-embolden multilateralism (another term for globalism).

    The crux of USC is that it has been sold to people as a model for a decentralised digital future. We are told that JPM Coin and other stablecoins will offer an alternative method for transacting through distributed ledger technology, one that moves away from the centralised ground of today – ground that is monopolised by central banks.

    In 2016, outgoing governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney commented that distributing the ledger ‘means multiple copies of the system. It can continue to operate if parts get knocked out. That removes the single point of failure risk inherent in a centralised system.

    On the face of it that sounds promising. That is until you examine what Carney said next:

    We need to be certain that the privacy of the data in those distributed copies cannot be compromised by cyber attack. One way this might be achieved is to limit the distribution of the ledger to existing trusted parties, such as other public sector entities.

    As I have written about previously, the Bank of England are in the process of renewing their RTGS payments system to make it compatible with DLT. What this quote from Carney demonstrates is that even before distributed ledgers has been implemented through the BOE’s own systems, the bank is already exploring how to limit distribution. The rationale is not difficult to imagine – the BOE could simply say that opening the ledger out to multiple different providers could jeopardise financial stability and heighten the risk of cyber terrorism and data theft. Therefore, streamlining access would be the safer option.

    Already there is a link between Fnality International and the Bank of England. Fnality’s tech partner, Clearmatics, took part in a BOE proof of concept in 2018 which was designed to understand the capability of DLT as a future component of the bank’s renewed RTGS payment system. Clearmatics reported back to the BOE that their systems were able to connect and achieve settlement in central bank money.

    Where USC comes into that is potentially key. It has been suggested that it could operate as a bridge between different coins – a ‘tokenised correspondent channel‘ – to enable holders of one coin to transfer them to another provider. So rather than changing coins directly, the process would be conducted through USC. An objective of Fnality International is to connect decentralised market infrastructures to a corresponding central bank, which presumably would result in transactions being settled in central bank money through DLT ready payment systems. Hardly an example of a decentralised utopia.

    Right now, the only form of central bank issued money is banknotes. With globalists intent on pushing the world towards a digital only monetary system, central banks will require an alternative form of issuing money in order to maintain control. That is where CBDC’s enter the picture.

    As explained by the World Economic Forum in March 2019, distributed ledger technology is essential for the future introduction of central bank digital currencies, in short because it is DLT that would facilitate the use of CBDC’s:

    If a central bank has strong motivations to employ CBDC for anti-money laundering, anti-corruption or tax evasion, or capital control and monitoring purposes, it will be less inclined to enable anonymity (at the cost of discouraging adoption). However, unless the central bank or state compels CBDC usage, those who wish to engage in illegal or illicit activity will continue to use cash and other alternatives (as well as new privacy-enabling cryptocurrencies) for these purposes.

    How could a central bank ‘compel CBDC usage‘? One method could be through the rise of stablecoins and the regulatory uncertainty surrounding them.

    The new head of the BIS Innovation Hub, Benoit Coeure, gave a speech back in September 2019 where he stated that price stability was a ‘precondition for a currency to gain widespread use‘, and that if stablecoins meet that precondition then they would become ‘the natural next step in the evolution of digital assets.’

    The caveat is that all stablecoin initiatives ‘will have to conform to international anti-money laundering and know-your-customer regulations.’ In other words, one global regulatory standard adopted by all jurisdictions around the world. Right now stablecoin initiatives are pressing ahead with development amidst widespread regulatory uncertainty, which is allowing the narrative on CBDC’s to grow.

    To quote Coeure from the same speech:

    Many central banks have been working on CBDCs in recent years, though at differing speeds, depending on differences in demand for cash by citizens, among others.

    Sveriges Riksbank and the Central Bank of Uruguay, for example, are among the most advanced central banks in this area. Their experiments with the “e-krona” and “e-peso” provide useful food for thought. 

    The ECB and the Bank of Japan have already joined forces to examine the possible use of distributed ledger technology in financial market infrastructures.

    The next natural step would be for global central banks to join forces and jointly investigate the feasibility of CBDCs based on common technical standards.

    Right now, in the public domain at least, stablecoins are attracting the most attention. In a separate speech, Coeure commented that given their access to ‘large networks of existing users and customers‘, stablecoins ‘could be the first to have a truly global footprint.’

    But, again, ‘regulatory answers should be internationally consistent.’ With regards to Facebook’s Libra, this is the one area in which so far there is no agreement.

    It is a point I have laboured before but will do so again. Global planners largely depend on either instigating or taking advantage of crisis scenarios to help further their agenda of centralising power. For several years they have warned us of the dangers that stablecoins could present, in terms of terrorist financing, money laundering and data theft. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that they could prove a stalking horse for the implementation of a global CBDC network, under the auspices of the BIS and the IMF.

    But let’s not forget what the primary objective is here. The rise of digital currency has everything to do with bringing the estimated 1.7 billion people who exist outside of payment systems online. When it comes to the future of money, central banks have never had a problem with the technology behind stablecoins or crypocurrency. But they do have a problem with the anonymity of trade through the use of cash. If digital currency initiatives were to jeopardise the monetary system, and CBDC’s were put forward as a solution, the technology underpinning them will survive. What will not survive are physical, tangible assets.

    The cashless society is not just a buzz phrase. It is part of a highly choreographed agenda which has significantly advanced over the last five years. With intiatives like the BIS Innovation Hub now underway and growing in momentum, the push to completely digitise money will only grow more intense from here on in.

    Tyler Durden

    Sun, 02/23/2020 - 07:00

    The US Is World Leader In Bio-Weapons Research, Production, & Use Against Mankind

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    The US Is World Leader In Bio-Weapons Research, Production, & Use Against Mankind

    Authored by Gary Barnett via LewRockwell.com,

    Those that prevent disease and expose virus creation are heroic, but those that create and purposely spread disease and virus are inhuman.

    Given the history of the United States government and its military industrial complex concerning biological and ger

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    m warfare, the use of these agents against large populations, and the desire to create agents that are race specific strains, these powerful entities have become compassionless purveyors of death to the innocent. Manmade viruses meant for warfare, whether for economic destruction, starvation, or mass death, are the workings of the truly evil among us. Predation at this level is relegated to those in power; a president for example, could give the order to wipe out millions due to his inability to control a problem he caused and perpetuated, and then lay blame on the victims.

    Who would ever have believed that modern warfare could be more brutal, more torturous, more painful, and more harmful to innocents, especially children, than past atrocities committed in war. Memories of millions sent to their deaths fighting in trenches, cities obliterated by atomic bombs, entire countries destroyed, and millions purposely left to starve in order to appease some tyrant or elected “leader.” I once thought that nuclear war would signal the end of life as we know it, but considering modern warfare and technology, I now think that uncontrolled and deadly viruses may consume the world population, as one after another poisons are released as acts of hidden war. There can be no end to this madness, as any retaliation in kind will result in the spread of worldwide disease; all created by man.

    The new Coronavirus, Covid-19, is one in a line of many that were not just likely but most certainly produced by man in laboratories, is affecting almost exclusively the Chinese at this point. This has seemingly opened the floodgates to speculation as to its exact origin. This virus has unique characteristics that have happened before with SARS and MERS, and has genetic material that has never been identified, and is not tied to any animal or human known virus. This should be troubling to all, because if this is manmade, it was manufactured as a weapon of war. So who is responsible for its release in China? It is possible that this virus was created in China and was “accidentally” released into the population, but that does not sound credible at any level. Do any think that the Chinese government would create a Chinese race specific virus and release it in their country?

    Interestingly, in the past, U.S. universities and NGOs went to China specifically to do illegal biological experimentation, and this was so egregious to Chinese officials, that forcible removal of these people was the result. Harvard University, one of the major players in this scandal, stole the DNA samples of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens, left China with those samples, and continued illegal bio-research in the U.S. It is thought that the U.S. military, which puts a completely different spin on the conversation, had commissioned the research in China at the time. This is more than suspicious.

    The U.S. has, according to this article at Global Research, had a massive biological warfare program since at least the early 1940s, but has used toxic agents against this country and others since the 1860s. This is no secret, regardless of the propaganda spread by the government and its partners in criminal bio-weapon research and production.

    As of 1999, the U.S. government had deployed its Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) arsenal against the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, China, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, Haitian boat people, and our neighbor Canada according to this article at Counter Punch. Of course, U.S. citizens have been used as guinea pigs many times as well, and exposed to toxic germ agents and deadly chemicals by government. Keep in mind that this is a short list, as the U.S. is well known for also using proxies to spread its toxic chemicals and germ agents, such as happened in Iraq and Syria. Since 1999 there have been continued incidences of several different viruses, most of which are presumed to be manmade, including the current Coronavirus that is affecting China today.

    There is also much evidence of the research and development of race-specific bio-warfare agents. This is very troubling. One would think, given the idiotic race arguments by post-modern Marxists, that this would consume the mainstream news, and any participants in these atrocious race-specific poisons would be outed at every level. That is not happening, but I believe it is due to obvious reasons, including government cover-up, hypocrisy at all levels, and leftist agenda driven objectives that would not gain ground with the exposure of this government-funded anti-race science.

    I will say that it is not just the U.S. that is developing and producing bio-warfare agents and viruses, but many developed countries around the globe do so as well. But the United States, as is the case in every area of war and killing, is by far the world leader in its inhuman desire to be able to kill entire populations through biological and chemical warfare means. Because these agents are extremely dangerous and uncontrollable, and can spread wildly, the risk to not only isolated populations, but also the entire world is evident. Consider that a deadly virus created by the U.S. and used against another country was found out and verified, and in retaliation, that country or others decided to strike back with other toxic agents against America. Where would this end, and over time, how many billions could be affected in such a scenario?

    All indications point to the fact that the most toxic, poisonous, and deadly viruses ever known are being created in labs around the world. In the U.S. think of Fort Detrick, Maryland, Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas, Horn Island, Mississippi, Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, Vigo Ordinance Plant, Indiana, and many others. Think of the fascist partnerships between this government and the pharmaceutical industry. Think of the U.S. military installations positioned all around the globe. Nothing good can come from this, as it is not about finding cures for disease, or about discovering vaccines, but is done for one reason only, and that is for the purpose of bio-warfare for mass killing.

    The drive to find biological weapons that will sicken and kill millions at a time is not only a travesty, but is beyond evil. This power is held by the few, but the potential victims of this madness include everyone on earth. How can such insanity at this level be allowed to continue? If any issue could ever unite the masses, governments participating in biological and germ warfare, race-specific killing, and creating viruses with the potential to affect disease and death worldwide, should cause many to stand together against it. The first step is to expose that governments, the most likely culprit being the U.S. government, are planting these viruses purposely to cause great harm. Once that is proven, the unbelievable risk to all will be known, and then people everywhere should put their divisiveness aside, stand together, and stop this assault on mankind.

    “In vast laboratories in the Ministry of Peace, and in experimental stations, teams of experts are indefatigably at work searching for new and deadlier gases; or for soluble poisons capable of being produced in such quantities as to destroy the vegetation of whole continents; or for breeds of disease germs immunised against all possible antibodies.” George Orwell – 1984

    Additional notes: here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 21:30

    Unfriendly Skies: Southwest Airlines Wants You To Call Out Bad Behavior

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    Unfriendly Skies: Southwest Airlines Wants You To Call Out Bad Behavior

    Perhaps we can expect a lot more delayed flights and passenger infighting and general craziness over this next year as Southwest airlines has just implemented a controversial new policy. 

    As part of its required pre-flight emergency briefing, Southwest Airlines will now encourage passengers to report any "unwelcome behavior" that occurs to the flight attendants

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    Image via CNN

    The policy went into effect January 22, and the statement comes immediately after instructions over operating the oxygen masks. CNN recorded an announcement at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as saying: "We are here for your comfort and safety. Please report any unwelcome behavior to your flight attendant. Thank you for your attention."

    Southwest spokesman Brian Parrish told CNN: "This change reflects Southwest's commitment to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment at all times." He added that passengers should see the flight attendants as "an approachable, professional resource for reporting any unwelcome behaviors or conduct during a flight."

    However, in these times of heightened paranoia, there's a hundred ways this could go wrong, given the hundred different interpretations and thresholds different people have for what's deemed vaguely as "unwelcome behavior" (won't share an elbow rest? talking too loud? bad breath? someone merely doesn't like that there's a Muslim on board?).

    Recently an American Airlines flight was delayed when a man who boarded wearing a gas mask (and not merely a surgical mask), made neighboring passengers uncomfortable to the point of causing enough of a panic to significantly delay the flight. And in a Southwest Airlines incident which made national news, a dad and his toddler were kicked off a flight because the 2-year old threw a minor tantrum upon boarding. This happened even after the child had calmed down. 

    There have also been multiple instances over the past years of flights canceled or delayed simply because passengers and crew members felt "uncomfortable" upon seeing men wearing Muslim garb on board. 

    The new Southwest Airlines policy appears aimed at preventing in-flight sexual assaults or harassment, which authorities say have been on the rise. According to FBI figures cited by CNN:

    FBI investigations into midair sexual assaults increased by 66% over a four-year period, from fiscal year 2014 to 2017. The bureau reported that it had opened 63 investigations into sexual assault on aircraft in 2017, compared with 57 in 2016, 40 in 2015 and 38 in 2014.

    If notified of an assault or harassment, the airline says its crew members have been given a variety of options depending on the situation — from demanding the offending passenger stop their behavior to notifying the captain, or to alerting law enforcement on the ground should a significant incident take place. 

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 22:00

    Fat Women Are Not A National Priority

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    Fat Women Are Not A National Priority

    Authored by Eric Margolis via The Unz Review,

    Good work, Democrats! In the Las Vegas debate, you blasted every target but Donald Trump. Instead of quivering in his Gucci loafers, the man who would be king was left dancing on air.

    The man who should have been king, newcomer Mike Bloomberg, was left looking like a beaten-up cigar store Indian. He had not prep

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    ped for the debate and failed to dodge the obvious incoming missile attacks on him launched by a hissing Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.

    Many veteran Republicans fear that TV promoter Trump will steamroll Warren, Buttigieg, Biden and Amy Klobuchar. They may be right. Trump had to be delighted by the no-prisoners Democratic debate that bloodied his opponents before he could even get to them. Bloomberg was totally unprepared for the savage attacks launched against him. He looked like a neophyte suffering from camera fright.

    I got a good read on Bloomberg when I had an intimate dinner with him some years ago. Rather than the stiff, unsmiling man we saw on TV in Las Vegas, in real life Bloomberg is clearly brilliant yet understated, charming, and endowed with a sharp sense of humor and quick wit.

    Bernie Sanders, who has three homes, blasted Bloomberg for being ‘rich.’ This is a big sin to the Democrats who, like Hillary Clinton, pocketed millions in political support from big banks, unions and businesses under the cover of night or via bogus speaking fees and her fake foundation – a scam emulated by Trump.

    The deeply corrupt Democratic National Committee, controlled by Hillary Clinton, rigged the vote that blocked Bernie Sanders during the last election. When news of this scandal emerged, Hillary kicked off the anti-Russian hysteria to divert attention from her chicanery.

    Yes, Bloomberg may be the 9th or 10th richest man in the world. But his net worth comes from ownership of one of our most successful and reliable financial news organizations that he built up from nothing, and that employs important numbers of men and women. The use of Bloomberg terminals saves forests of trees.

    Ignore Elizabeth Warren’s cheap shots about women being called names like ‘horse-faced lesbians’ or ‘fat’ at his firm. Many men speak this way to one-another in casual talk. Women often do the same regarding men. The answer to this is to totally segregate the sexes, as in Saudi Arabia. Trying to whip up a war of the sexes is not going to make angry Elizabeth Warren president. She should stick to her commendable work with banking and voting rights.

    It’s pretty clear after the shootout in Vegas that Joe Biden has used up his last chance. Black voters and unions won’t save him. He looked old and very tired. But not as tired or off the mark as Mike Bloomberg. By contrast Bernie looked old, to be sure, but was full of beans.

    As a foreign affairs specialist, what really dismayed me was that there was only one significant mention of international policy. That’s when the abrasive, loud-mouthed Sen. Amy Klobuchar could not remember the name of the president of Mexico. For God’s sake, she on a senate committee that deals with Mexico.

    While our presidential debate focuses on overweight women and health care, the US and Russia have come terrifyingly close to open war in the Mideast.

    But barely any mention of this in the debates. Trump and his big money men from New York and Las Vegas are trying to push Iran into an air war. The US is seeking to overthrow the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, and Iran. Clashes between China and the US are a major danger. Former defense chief Sam Nunn warns the US and Russia are closer to a nuclear conflict than any time since the 1960’s Cuban missile crisis. No matter.

    Americans want entertainers for their made-for-TV politicians. Poor, dignified Mr. Bloomberg didn’t know he would face professional actors, not legislators.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 22:30

    Nevada Berning: Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses

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    Nevada Berning: Sanders Wins Nevada Caucuses

    Update (23:15): With 27% of precincts reporting, Sanders has retained a 46.6% lead over Biden (22.8), with Pete Buttigieg in third at 14.4%.

    * * *

    Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is projected to win the Nevada caucuses after early reports suggest a landslide victory, according to Fox News, which named Sanders the winner.

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    While just four percent of the results are in, Sanders has 56% of the delegates, followed by Biden at 18.8% and Warren at 8.5%.

    The closely-watched process began with Nevada Democrats optimistic that they would avoid a repeat of the technical glitches that plagued the caucuses in Iowa. Those fears led the state Democratic Party to decide to rely on traditional reporting by phone, rather than an app made by the same developer that created the app blamed for the debacle in Iowa. It has also scrapped a plan to use a Google Forms app loaded onto iPads. -Fox News

    "Nevada Democrats have learned important lessons from Iowa, and we're confident they're implementing these best practices into their preparations," said DNC spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. "We've deployed staff to help them across the board, from technical assistance to volunteer recruitment."

    On Saturday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez told Fox News that the party is in "great shape," adding "We have all of the early vote results distributed to the caucus sites. People are checking now…. I think it’s going to be a really exciting day."

    This story is developing, check back for updates.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 23:18

    Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler? The Last General To Criticize US Imperialism

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    Where Have You Gone, Smedley Butler? The Last General To Criticize US Imperialism

    Authored by Danny Sjursen via TomDispatch.com,

    There once lived an odd little man - five feet nine inches tall and barely 140 pounds sopping wet - who rocked the lecture circuit and the nation itself. For all but a few activist insiders and scholars, U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Darlington Butler is now lost to history. Yet more

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    than a century ago, this strange contradiction of a man would become a national war hero, celebrated in pulp adventure novels, and then, 30 years later, as one of this country’s most prominent antiwar and anti-imperialist dissidents.

    Raised in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and educated in Quaker (pacifist) schools, the son of an influential congressman, he would end up serving in nearly all of America’s “Banana Wars” from 1898 to 1931. Wounded in combat and a rare recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor, he would retire as the youngest, most decorated major general in the Marines.

    A teenage officer and a certified hero during an international intervention in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion of 1900, he would later become a constabulary leader of the Haitian gendarme, the police chief of Philadelphia (while on an approved absence from the military), and a proponent of Marine Corps football. In more standard fashion, he would serve in battle as well as in what might today be labeled peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, and advise-and-assist missions in Cuba, China, the Philippines, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, France, and China (again). While he showed early signs of skepticism about some of those imperial campaigns or, as they were sardonically called by critics at the time, “Dollar Diplomacy” operations -- that is, military campaigns waged on behalf of U.S. corporate business interests -- until he retired he remained the prototypical loyal Marine.

    But after retirement, Smedley Butler changed his tune. He began to blast the imperialist foreign policy and interventionist bullying in which he’d only recently played such a prominent part. Eventually, in 1935 during the Great Depression, in what became a classic passage in his memoir, which he titled “War Is a Racket,” he wrote:

    “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service... And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and for the Bankers.”

    Seemingly overnight, the famous war hero transformed himself into an equally acclaimed antiwar speaker and activist in a politically turbulent era. Those were, admittedly, uncommonly anti-interventionist years, in which veterans and politicians alike promoted what (for America, at least) had been fringe ideas. This was, after all, the height of what later pro-war interventionists would pejoratively label American “isolationism.”

    Nonetheless, Butler was unique (for that moment and certainly for our own) in his unapologetic amenability to left-wing domestic politics and materialist critiques of American militarism. In the last years of his life, he would face increasing criticism from his former admirer, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the military establishment, and the interventionist press. This was particularly true after Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany invaded Poland and later France. Given the severity of the Nazi threat to mankind, hindsight undoubtedly proved Butler’s virulent opposition to U.S. intervention in World War II wrong.

    Nevertheless, the long-term erasure of his decade of antiwar and anti-imperialist activism and the assumption that all his assertions were irrelevant has proven historically deeply misguided. In the wake of America’s brief but bloody entry into the First World War, the skepticism of Butler (and a significant part of an entire generation of veterans) about intervention in a new European bloodbath should have been understandable. Above all, however, his critique of American militarism of an earlier imperial era in the Pacific and in Latin America remains prescient and all too timely today, especially coming as it did from one of the most decorated and high-ranking general officers of his time. (In the era of the never-ending war on terror, such a phenomenon is quite literally inconceivable.)

    Smedley Butler’s Marine Corps and the military of his day was, in certain ways, a different sort of organization than today’s highly professionalized armed forces. History rarely repeats itself, not in a literal sense anyway. Still, there are some disturbing similarities between the careers of Butler and today’s generation of forever-war fighters. All of them served repeated tours of duty in (mostly) unsanctioned wars around the world. Butler’s conflicts may have stretched west from Haiti across the oceans to China, whereas today’s generals mostly lead missions from West Africa east to Central Asia, but both sets of conflicts seemed perpetual in their day and were motivated by barely concealed economic and imperial interests.

    Nonetheless, whereas this country’s imperial campaigns of the first third of the twentieth century generated a Smedley Butler, the hyper-interventionism of the first decades of this century hasn't produced a single even faintly comparable figure. Not one. Zero. Zilch. Why that is matters and illustrates much about the U.S. military establishment and contemporary national culture, none of it particularly encouraging.

    Why No Antiwar Generals

    When Smedley Butler retired in 1931, he was one of three Marine Corps major generals holding a rank just below that of only the Marine commandant and the Army chief of staff. Today, with about 900 generals and admirals currently serving on active duty, including 24 major generals in the Marine Corps alone, and with scores of flag officers retiring annually, not a single one has offered genuine public opposition to almost 19 years worth of ill-advised, remarkably unsuccessful American wars. As for the most senior officers, the 40 four-star generals and admirals whose vocal antimilitarism might make the biggest splash, there are more of them today than there were even at the height of the Vietnam War, although the active military is now about half the size it was then. Adulated as many of them may be, however, not one qualifies as a public critic of today’s failing wars.

    Instead, the principal patriotic dissent against those terror wars has come from retired colonels, lieutenant colonels, and occasionally more junior officers (like me), as well as enlisted service members. Not that there are many of us to speak of either. I consider it disturbing (and so should you) that I personally know just about every one of the retired military figures who has spoken out against America’s forever wars.

    The big three are Secretary of State Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson; Vietnam veteran and onetime West Point history instructor, retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich; and Iraq veteran and Afghan War whistleblower, retired Lieutenant Colonel Danny Davis. All three have proven to be genuine public servants, poignant voices, and -- on some level -- cherished personal mentors. For better or worse, however, none carry the potential clout of a retired senior theater commander or prominent four-star general offering the same critiques.

    Something must account for veteran dissenters topping out at the level of colonel. Obviously, there are personal reasons why individual officers chose early retirement or didn’t make general or admiral. Still, the system for selecting flag officers should raise at least a few questions when it comes to the lack of antiwar voices among retired commanders. In fact, a selection committee of top generals and admirals is appointed each year to choose the next colonels to earn their first star. And perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that, according to numerous reports, “the members of this board are inclined, if not explicitly motivated, to seek candidates in their own image -- officers whose careers look like theirs.” At a minimal level, such a system is hardly built to foster free thinkers, no less breed potential dissidents.

    Consider it an irony of sorts that this system first received criticism in our era of forever wars when General David Petraeus, then commanding the highly publicized “surge” in Iraq, had to leave that theater of war in 2007 to serve as the chair of that selection committee. The reason: he wanted to ensure that a twice passed-over colonel, a protégé of his -- future Trump National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster -- earned his star.

    Mainstream national security analysts reported on this affair at the time as if it were a major scandal, since most of them were convinced that Petraeus and his vaunted counterinsurgency or “COINdinista" protégés and their "new" war-fighting doctrine had the magic touch that would turn around the failing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, Petraeus tried to apply those very tactics twice -- once in each country -- as did acolytes of his later, and you know the results of that.

    But here’s the point: it took an eleventh-hour intervention by America’s most acclaimed general of that moment to get new stars handed out to prominent colonels who had, until then, been stonewalled by Cold War-bred flag officers because they were promoting different (but also strangely familiar) tactics in this country’s wars. Imagine, then, how likely it would be for such a leadership system to produce genuine dissenters with stars of any serious sort, no less a crew of future Smedley Butlers.

    At the roots of this system lay the obsession of the American officer corps with “professionalization" after the Vietnam War debacle. This first manifested itself in a decision to ditch the citizen-soldier tradition, end the draft, and create an “all-volunteer force.” The elimination of conscription, as predicted by critics at the time, created an ever-growing civil-military divide, even as it increased public apathy regarding America’s wars by erasing whatever “skin in the game" most citizens had.

    More than just helping to squelch civilian antiwar activism, though, the professionalization of the military, and of the officer corps in particular, ensured that any future Smedley Butlers would be left in the dust (or in retirement at the level of lieutenant colonel or colonel) by a system geared to producing faux warrior-monks. Typical of such figures is current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley. He may speak gruffly and look like a man with a head of his own, but typically he’s turned out to be just another yes-man for another war-power-hungry president.

    One group of generals, however, reportedly now does have it out for President Trump -- but not because they’re opposed to endless war. Rather, they reportedly think that The Donald doesn't “listen enough to military advice” on, you know, how to wage war forever and a day.

    What Would Smedley Butler Think Today?

    In his years of retirement, Smedley Butler regularly focused on the economic component of America’s imperial war policies. He saw clearly that the conflicts he had fought in, the elections he had helped rig, the coups he had supported, and the constabularies he had formed and empowered in faraway lands had all served the interests of U.S. corporate investors. Though less overtly the case today, this still remains a reality in America’s post-9/11 conflicts, even on occasion embarrassingly so (as when the Iraqi ministry of oil was essentially the only public building protected by American troops as looters tore apart the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, in the post-invasion chaos of April 2003). Mostly, however, such influence plays out far more subtly than that, both abroad and here at home where those wars help maintain the record profits of the top weapons makers of the military-industrial complex.

    That beast, first identified by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is now on steroids as American commanders in retirement regularly move directly from the military onto the boards of the giant defense contractors, a reality which only contributes to the dearth of Butlers in the military retiree community. For all the corruption of his time, the Pentagon didn’t yet exist and the path from the military to, say, United Fruit Company, Standard Oil, or other typical corporate giants of that moment had yet to be normalized for retiring generals and admirals. Imagine what Butler would have had to say about the modern phenomenon of the “revolving door” in Washington.

    Of course, he served in a very different moment, one in which military funding and troop levels were still contested in Congress. As a longtime critic of capitalist excesses who wrote for leftist publications and supported the Socialist Party candidate in the 1936 presidential elections, Butler would have found today’s nearly trillion-dollar annual defense budgets beyond belief. What the grizzled former Marine long ago identified as a treacherous nexus between warfare and capital “in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives” seems to have reached its natural end point in the twenty-first century. Case in point: the record (and still rising) “defense” spending of the present moment, including -- to please a president -- the creation of a whole new military service aimed at the full-scale militarization of space.

    Sadly enough, in the age of Trump, as numerous polls demonstrate, the U.S. military is the only public institution Americans still truly trust. Under the circumstances, how useful it would be to have a high-ranking, highly decorated, charismatic retired general in the Butler mold galvanize an apathetic public around those forever wars of ours. Unfortunately, the likelihood of that is practically nil, given the military system of our moment.

    Of course, Butler didn't exactly end his life triumphantly. In late May 1940, having lost 25 pounds due to illness and exhaustion -- and demonized as a leftist, isolationist crank but still maintaining a whirlwind speaking schedule -- he checked himself into the Philadelphia Navy Yard Hospital for a “rest.” He died there, probably of some sort of cancer, four weeks later. Working himself to death in his 10-year retirement and second career as a born-again antiwar activist, however, might just have constituted the very best service that the two-time Medal of Honor winner could have given the nation he loved to the very end.

    Someone of his credibility, character, and candor is needed more than ever today. Unfortunately, this military generation is unlikely to produce such a figure. In retirement, Butler himself boldly confessed that, “like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical...”

    Today, generals don’t seem to have a thought of their own even in retirement. And more’s the pity...

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 23:30

    Visualizing The Cost And Composition Of America's Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

    zerohedge News visualizing cost composition americas nuclear weapons arsenal All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Visualizing The Cost And Composition Of America's Nuclear Weapons Arsenal

    The American nuclear weapons arsenal is nowhere near its 1960s peak, but, as Visual Capitalist's Nick Routley details below, there are still thousands of warheads in the stockpile today.

    The U.S. nuclear program is comprised of a complex network of facilities and weaponry, and of course the actual warheads themselves. Let’s look at the location of warheads, how they’re dep

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    loyed, and the costs associated with running and refurbishing an aging nuclear program.

    Let’s launch into the data.

    Nuclear Weapons Map

    As of 2019, the U.S. Department of Defense maintained an estimated stockpile of 3,800 nuclear warheads for delivery by more than 800 ballistic missiles and aircraft. Roughly 1,300 warheads are actually deployed, while most of the remaining inventory is either held in reserve (as a hedge against “technical or geopolitical surprises”) or is destined to be dismantled.

    These weapons are thought to be stored across 11 U.S. states, with the vast majority residing in New Mexico, Washington, and Georgia.


    Over 1,500 of the warheads in New Mexico are retired and are destined to be dismantled at the Pantex facility in Texas.

    The United States also maintains a small amount of nuclear inventory in and around Europe as well. Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base likely holds the biggest supply of warheads outside the U.S., and a few weapons are also located in storage vaults in Belgium, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

    Deployment Data

    Nuclear warheads, while devastatingly powerful, are nothing without a delivery mechanism. In simple terms, there are three primary methods for actually launching missiles: Silos, bombers, and submarines.

    The most common deployment of nuclear weapons is under the sea. The U.S. Navy is thought to operate 14 ballistic missile submarines, with each carrying as many as 24 Trident II missiles.

    Missile silos are not as popular as they once were, but the U.S. Air Force still maintains 400 silo-based missiles, and another 50 are kept “warm” in the event of an emergency.

    America’s Nuclear Weapons Budget

    The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is required to project the 10-year costs of nuclear forces every two years.

    Though much of the program is shrouded in secrecy, the budget below provides an overview of the costs of running America’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

    Costs in the budget are split between the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Defense (DoD), which handle different parts of the process.

    On one hand, the DoD takes care of the delivery systems for warheads. Those submarines, bombers, and missile silos spread around the country will add up to a projected $249 billion in costs over the next decade. Another large portion of the DoD budget accounts for operational aspects of the program, such as funding facilities, control, and early warning systems.

    On the other hand, the DoE is responsible for building and maintaining the actual warheads themselves. The U.S. stopped producing new warheads in the 1990s, but all that changed last year.

    Back in the Bomb Business

    Generally, we think of nuclear weapons stockpiles as a sunsetting resource, slowly being dismantled; however, since the treaty that ended the arms race collapsed in mid-2019, the flood gates may be opening once again.

    New warheads are reportedly rolling off the production line, and in the beginning of this year, Lockheed Martin was tapped by the U.S. Navy to manufacture low yield submarine-based nuclear missiles.

    The development of lower yield nuclear weapons appears to be a response to efforts by Russia to modernize their arsenal.

    Recent Russian statements […] appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons.

    – Nuclear Posture Review (2018)

    With this new weapons development, the U.S. is aiming to create “tailored response options” to any potential conflict. By eliminating the perceived advantages that adversaries may have, the U.S. is hoping to lower the likelihood of a nuclear conflict.

    Arms control advocates warn that new lower-yield warheads entering production will lower the threshold for a nuclear conflict.

    While advocates and critics of nuclear weapons debate the merits of new weapons, we appear to be entering a new era of weapons proliferation.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 23:00

    Who Is Funding The Anti-Bernie Sanders Super PAC?

    zerohedge News funding anti-bernie sanders super All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Who Is Funding The Anti-Bernie Sanders Super PAC?

    Authored by Ilma Hasan via OpenSecrets.org

    Several outside groups are trying to slow the momentum of current Democratic presidential frontrunner Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) by spending millions on ad buys, as he continues to dominate the polls

    The campaign against Sanders originated with hybrid PAC Democratic Majority for Israel, a pro-Israel moderat

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    e group, that spent over $1.4 million against Sanders. The group spent over $800,000 running ads against the frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate in Iowa and it’s spending $600,000 in Nevada, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. 

    Sanders campaign file image via Der Spiegel 

    Most of the PAC’s contributors have a clear history of giving money to candidates on both sides of the aisle. Its biggest donor is Stacy Schusterman, CEO of Samson Resources, an oil and gas company, who donated $1 million to the group in 2019. Schusterman has a long history of donating to Democratic candidates, except in 2016 when she contributed almost $130,000 to 25 Republican lawmakers including $2,700 to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

    Venture capitalist Gary Mark Lauder was the second highest donor to the hybrid PAC giving $500,000. New York businessman Milton Cooper was the next highest at $150,000. Active in donating to various Democrats, he also contributed $4,000 to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and $2,000 to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in 2019.

    Ron Zeff, founder and CEO of Carmel Partners, a real estate investment firm, gave the group $100,000. He previously contributed over $70,000 to the GOP. Zeff also donated to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign in 2012 against President Barack Obama. 

    The Sanders campaign said it raised $1.3 million within a day of the super PAC ads airing. Of the non-billionaires in the race, Sanders is the only candidate to report substantial cash on hand through January. 

    On Wednesday, Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, announced the group will no longer be running any ads against Sanders or contribute in the presidential race after its ad buys in Nevada run out. The group will focus on Democratic congressional races instead, Jewish Insider reported. 

    “We will be involved in congressional races and in some cases those are Democrats running against Republican and in some case, those are pro-Israel champions running against anti-Israel challengers,” Mellman reportedly said.

    The pro-Israel super PAC is closely affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and some of it’s largest donors are top members of the group, according to The Intercept.

    While Mellman’s group will be taking a backseat, the committee has been running an anti-Sanders campaign through Facebook ads since last year. It recently came under scrutiny for accusing “radicals” in the Democratic Party of “pushing their anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies down the throats of the American people.” The group later apologized for “the ad’s imprecise wording (that) distorted our message and offended many.”

    Another group meant to boost moderates, The Big Tent Project, reportedly has a budget of $1 million to run ads against Sanders. Big Tent has spent $200,000 of the budget running two test ads in Nevada and South Carolina, as both states will hold upcoming primaries. Sanders is projected to win both states according to FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls. 

    While one ad accuses the frontrunner of dumping waste in Latino communities, the other criticizes his healthcare policy. “The cost? Another four years of Trump,” the ad says. Run by Jonathan Kott, a former top aide to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Big Tent is classified as a 501(c)(4) and is not required to disclose its donors. 

    Sanders has long questioned American policy toward Israel and advocates an approach that addresses both Israeli security and a “pro-Palestinian” perspective. His criticism has made pro-Israel Democrats and supporters anxious, resulting in a surge of anti-Sanders ads. 

    As Sanders is projected to win the upcoming contests, big Democratic donors have concerns about him being the presidential candidate, Politico reported. The concern within democrats is that an anti-Sanders campaign could result in boosting his contributions from an already devoted support base. For others, it’s about Sanders’ possible inability to woo moderate and Republican voters. 

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 20:30

    Google Says Apps No Longer Work On New Huawei Phones, Warns Users Not To "Sideload"

    zerohedge News google says apps longer work huawei phones warns users sideload All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Google Says Apps No Longer Work On New Huawei Phones, Warns Users Not To "Sideload"

    Last year, the U.S. government banned companies in the U.S. from working with Huawei - with Google being one of the notable names that would have to cease and desist, given its popular Android operating system and Google Play app store.

    At the time, Trump had signed "executive order declaring a national emergency banning sales and use of telecom

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    equipment that poses 'unacceptable' risks to national security, including critical infrastructure and the online economy," according to Engadget. Huawei was obviously on that list. China was called the "primary target" of the order. 

    But there's still confusion about what's going on and which products are subject to the services ban, according to The Verge. This is mainly due to the fact that there are still updates and services available for older Huawei devices, but that newer phones like the Mate 30 Pro (below), don't have access to its services. 

    To clarify, Google published a note on its Android forums on Friday, explaining its stance with Huawei phones and reminding its users not to try and "sideload" apps onto a phone where they shouldn't be. The note from Google says that the company can only work with device models available to the public before May 16,2019:

    "Our focus has been protecting the security of Google users on the millions of existing Huawei devices around the world.  We have continued to work with Huawei, in compliance with government regulations, to provide security updates and updates to Google’s apps and services on existing devices, and we will continue to do so as long as it is permitted. To be clear: US law currently allows Google to only work with Huawei on device models available to the public on or before May 16, 2019."

    The note also makes it crystal clear that Google apps and services are simply not available "for preload or sideload" on Huawei's new devices:

    We have continued to receive a number of questions about new Huawei devices (e.g., new models launching now, or earlier models launched after May 16, 2019 but now becoming available in new regions of the world) and whether Google’s apps and services can be used on these devices.  We wanted to provide clear guidance to those asking these important questions. 

    Due to government restrictions, Google’s apps and services are not available for preload or sideload on new Huawei devices.

    The note says that sideloaded apps on newer devices, despite the warning, "will not work reliably because [Google] does not allow these services to run on uncertified devices where security may be compromised."

    "Sideloading Google’s apps also carries a high risk of installing an app that has been altered or tampered with in ways that can compromise user security," the note says. 

    Google also offers users a way to check and verify whether or not their phone is certified for its apps: 

    To check if your device is certified, open the Google Play Store app on your Android phone, tap “Menu” and look for “Settings.” You will see if your device is certified under “Play Protect certification.” You can learn more on android.com/certified.

    While it seems as though Google is trying to sidestep the political implications of these rule changes, it is also stern in reminding its users from using backdoor access to load Google apps onto to Huawei phones. 

    Meanwhile, China has much bigger problems than Huawei on their hands right now. And the U.S.? Perhaps they should consider quarantining not just Huawei, but anything that comes out of China at the moment.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 21:00

    Luongo: We Don't Need A Ministry Of Truth To Protect Us From The Bad People

    zerohedge News luongo dont need ministry truth protect from people All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Luongo: We Don't Need A Ministry Of Truth To Protect Us From The Bad People

    Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns,

    Don’t Be Fooled by the Deplatforming of Facebook

    The push for speech control escalates. There is now a concentration of stories concerning social media companies and their role in shaping political thought.

    We are nine months from a pivotal presidential election

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    in the U.S. and the push is on to ensure that the outcome goes the way those in power want it to.

    Three times in as many weeks billionaire busybody George Soros has attacked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, demanding he be removed because he is working to re-elect Donald Trump.

    This seems like an absurdity. But it isn’t. It’s all part of the game plan.

    Create a controversy that isn’t real to seed a narrative that there’s a problem in need of a solution. Facebook has been the center of this controversy to inflame passions on both sides of the political aisle to ensure the desired outcome.

    They want regulation of all social media companies to create unscalable barriers to entry for new ones while curtailing free speech on the existing ones.

    Warren Buffet would call that a moat. I call it tyranny.

    Enter Attorney General William Barr.

    He weighed in recently that we need to have a conversation about Facebook et.al. in relation to their Section 230 immunity under the Communications Decency Act.

    Section 230 grants immunity to companies like Facebook and Google from prosecution for content hosted on their services as they argue they are not publishers but rather just pass-through entities or platforms of user-generated content.

    Now, it’s pretty clear for the past few years the social media companies have been acting with open editorial bias to deplatform undesirables. They rewrite broadly defined terms of services and EULAs (End-User Licence Agreements) which they use to justify controlling what content they are willing to host.

    And that’s where the Section 230 immunity comes into play. The big tech companies want to have it both ways, be a neutral platform legally but self-define ‘neutrality’ in such a way that benefits them politically, economically and socially while insulating themselves from breaching contracts with their customers.

    What’s clear from Barr’s comments he’s approaching this from a law enforcement perspective.

    “We are concerned that internet services, under the guise of Section 230, can not only block access to law enforcement — even when officials have secured a court-authorized warrant — but also prevent victims from civil recovery,” Barr said. “Giving broad immunity to platforms that purposefully blind themselves — and law enforcers — to illegal conduct on their services does not create incentives to make the online world safer for children.”

    And this clearly doesn’t address the real issue. That’s your sign there’s something wrong here.

    Both political parties are unhappy with the current situation and that should be your red flag that a great stitch-up is in progress. Because the end goal here is government oversight that has bipartisan support.

    That support has to be manufactured from both sides. The left wants protection from ‘fake news’ and ‘Russian meddling’ while the right wants a level playing field to air ideas in the public square.

    Didn’t you all notice how both of these things became issues right after the wrong person won the 2016 presidential election and the British people made the wrong decision about EU Membership?

    I’m sure you noticed the blatant bias exhibited by Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and the rest of these protected platforms and wondered why they were allowed to act so egregiously with seemingly no recourse?

    The big tech companies don’t want more government oversight, they simply want to continue to have their have their editorial take and enforce it too while taking your money and suppressing your voice.

    Government intervention is not the solution here. In fact, it is the goal of the entire exercise.

    I don’t want the government coming in and further defining the rules by which Facebook can deplatform everyone who tells inconvenient truths.

    Because that’s all government does. And then it empowers a bureaucracy to enforce those rules.

    I don’t need a Ministry of Truth to protect me from the bad people. I know where the bad people are and, in your heart, so do you.

    So the question isn’t whether Barr should strip these companies of their Section 230 immunity. Of course he should if they exhibit any kind of editorial behavior.

    But, in typical Swamp fashion, Barr isn’t concerned about that. He’s concerned with using Facebook to track down criminals; the implication being drug runners, murderers, etc.

    That’s a sop to law and order conservatives to get their support politically.

    But the real criminals are in the bowels of the compliance departments and algorithm factories of these social media companies pushing the bounds of indecency by trying to protect us from fake news to control the flow of information.

    They’ve already done a great deal of this, altering search algorithms to ensure only approved news sources show up in the results.

    We know they are all working in cahoots with the intelligence agencies here in the U.S. but no one will admit it publicly. The EU and China are more honest about their tyrannical impulses using their anti-democratic structure to create rules which they force onto these multi-national companies.

    Now Twitter is testing new flagging abilities for verified accounts to act as community censors, creating the illusion of a user-controlled public space. It’ll only be for those that get blue check marks. And that’s a system clearly gamed to reflect a particular ideological bias as no one who dissents from the approved globalist message gets one of those anymore.

    So, only journalists from official news outlets will have this ability to fact-check in real time the pronouncements of important influencers.

    If you don’t think this is simply a means by which to make it seem fair to suppress the king of Twitter, Donald Trump, then you clearly haven’t had your morning coffee.

    For a couple of years now I’ve been warning you that the elites are desperate to regain control over what I call The Wire. What is The Wire?

    The Wire is simply a metaphor for the transmission of information.  The Wire takes many forms.  And if you aren’t sure whether something is The Wire just ask if you have control over it or not.

    The Internet?  The Wire.

    Electricity?  The Wire

    Roads?  The Wire.

    Media?  The Wire.

    Money?  The Wire.

    In short, The Wire is the main conduit through which we communicate with each other.  Money?  Really?  Yes, really.  What are prices if not information about what we are willing to part with your money in exchange for?

    Without The Wire modern society fails.  So, government can’t shut it down but neither can it allow unrenstrained access to it.

    Electricity, commerce, communications, everything, goes over The Wire.  

    Control of The Wire is everything. Soros is desperately trying to hold onto control over the social media companies he’s invested so heavily in to influence their influence.

    And it’s clear we’ve entered the next phase of regaining control over it.

    The solution to the Section 230 Immunity issue for these companies is to remove it and open them up to civil liabilities for their inconsistent enforcement of their own policies.

    Because once you do that they have no protection under commercial contract law.

    Those users that use these platforms for commercial purposes are materially harmed by the ever-changing rules of these platforms.

    They entered into an agreement with YouTube or Facebook in good faith expectation of a certain level of service.

    Facebook’s business is built on the implicit guarantee of that service. In turn, Facebook was built on the backs of those using the platform.

    Unilaterally taking away that access without compensation simply because Facebook said so is a perversion of contract law. Why should Facebook be allowed to do that? Why hasn’t this clear inequity between parties to a contract been addressed by the courts?

    And that’s what we should be addressing here.

    And I’m not just talking about Facebook here. Remember when the social network Gab had its internet access revoked by GoDaddy? How does GoDaddy escape paying damages for unilaterally denying service?

    There is clear opportunity for them to be sued into submission by the millions of users whose businesses and reputations have been destroyed due to arbitrary enforcement of company rules.

    At the end of the day these companies create and use as excuses broad powers which have almost no precedent in contract law. Their EULAs are contracts the user signs which grants them no rights or guarantees of service in any way. They can be abrogated, updated and changed to suit the company’s whim with no redress for the breach of contract from the other party.

    This is outrageous, unacceptable and flies in the face of hundreds of years of contract law.

    And they should be challenged in court and thrown out as illegal Contracts of Adhesion. This is settled contract law.

    If Facebook wants to ban Alex Jones from their platform fine. I have zero problem with that. If they want to act as a private business which is protected under the First Amendment’s protection of Freedom of Association, great!

    I’m all for re-establishing that in this society.

    Let’s open up that can of worms.

    It would finally be an honest conversation. Because we are rapidly approaching the moment of reverse racism, whereby Facebook doesn’t want to host racist or sexist content.

    And I’m fine with that. But I’m also fine then with restaurants not serving black people or people baking wedding cakes for gay couples.

    Freedom OF association is also Freedom FROM association, folks.

    The shit-libs and the oligarchs want it both ways. They want you to be forced to associate with others on their terms but deny you a place in society because you disagree with them.

    That is, in a word, tyrannical.

    So, in a just world, Facebook owes Alex Jones millions for lost revenue and damages to Jones’ business as well as, one could argue, a portion of Facebook’s revenue it generated during the time it hosted Jones’ content which brought the company users, revenue and market share.

    Multiply that lawsuit by ten for the number of platforms Alex Jones has been banned from. Then multiply that number by the millions for everyone else these platforms have materially harmed.

    And then we’ll see what the market cap of the NASDAQ 100 would truly be.

    And that’s one way we should fight this, not by empowering more bureaucrats to police everyone’s speech on Twitter, but to sue Twitter for non-fulfillment of obligations under the reasonable expectation of service they are to provide as a party to a legal contract.

    This is what I wanted to hear William Barr was focusing on in working on. But that is exactly what will not happen.

    The other is to develop technology which resists the centralizing power of these companies to control our speech, democratizing it at the incentive level, through projects like Brave and other blockchain-based systems, which empower the user, not the platform to decide which content has value and which doesn’t.

    *  *  *

    Beware the deplatforming of Facebook, it’s just another brick in the wall.  Join my Patreon if you believe in free and open exchange of ideas.

    Install the Brave Browser if you want to help disempower Google and Facebook from controlling it.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 18:30

    401(k) Millionaires Surge To Record Level Under Trump

    zerohedge News 401k millionaires surge record level under trump All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    401(k) Millionaires Surge To Record Level Under Trump

    A Fidelity Investments press release on Thursday said the number of customers with more than $1 million in their 409k  401k soared to record levels in 4Q19 fueled by higher savings rates and surging stock markets. 

    There's a reason why President Trump touted 401k growth during his State of the Union address last week, because balances are increasing, and it will help him win the electi

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    Fidelity noted that 401k millionaires soared last quarter, reaching a record level. Customers with the brokerage house that have over one million dollars in their 401k hit 233,000, up from 200,000 in Q3, a 17% jump M/M. 

    The number of IRA millionaires increased to 208,000, also a record high and an increase from 182,400 in Q3. 

    All of these new 401k and IRA millionaires were created through President Trump's pressure on the Federal Reserve to unleash easy money policies to boost the stock market.

    And, of course, as we all know, JPM's drain of liquidity via Money Markets and reserves parked at the Fed promoted a liquidity crisis that resulted in "Not QE," which allowed even more liquidity to flow into the stock market starting last September, the same period when all of these investment accounts soared in value. Coincidence? 

    Kevin Barry, president of Workplace Investing at Fidelity Investments, noted in the release that "growth in savings levels over the last 10 years demonstrates the positive impact of taking a long-term approach to retirement, and recent Fidelity research demonstrates workers who do so have reason to feel increasingly confident about their retirement readiness."

    "However, as we enter a new decade and continue to see markets rise and fall, it's more important than ever to remember some of the important elements of a successful retirement strategy – these include maintaining positive savings habits, ensuring your account has the right balance of stocks, bonds, and cash, and continuing to focus on your long-term savings goals," Barry added.

    Sven Henrich via NorthmanTrader.com recently discussed the topic of soaring investment accounts, called it: "FOMO by executive order I called it."

    Every chance Trump gets, he tweets or tells everyone that their 409k 401k is performing great. 

    Raoul Pal of Real Vision had a good take on it:

    It seems that the Fed's easy money policies over the last year, juicing markets to all-time highs, could be a vote of confidence by the central bank to get Trump reelected.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 19:00

    Bernie Tells "Autocrat" & "Thug" Putin To "Stay Out" Of US Elections, But Also Slams WaPo For Hit Job

    zerohedge News bernie tells autocrat thug putin stay elections also slams wapo All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Bernie Tells "Autocrat" & "Thug" Putin To "Stay Out" Of US Elections, But Also Slams WaPo For Hit Job

    The newest evidence-free anonymously sourced claims of Russian interference ahead of the 2020 election is a return to and new twist on Trump and Putin's supposed three-dimensional chess playing, this latest version which goes something like this:

    ...the Kremlin wants Trump for four more years, so the best w

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    ay to do this is elevate Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee — ensuring a Trump win. 

    Sanders said he's been briefed on the matter, however, The Washington Post admitted revealingly, “It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken.”

    As we noted earlier this seemingly by design puts the Democratic front-runner in a difficult spot, given he runs the risk of being attacked for disbelieving (even disloyalty to) U.S. intelligence, and, by default, defending the Kremlin.

    Naturally, he had to go full anti-Putin to satisfy the Russia-obsessed Democratic base, warning the "autocrat" and "thug" to "stay out out US elections". 

    “Mr. Putin is a thug. He is an autocrat. He may be a friend of Donald Trump —  he’s not a friend of mine,” Sanders said while in California.

    “Let me tell Mr. Putin: The American people, whether you’re Republicans, Democrats, independents, are sick and tired of seeing Russia and other countries interfering in our elections.”

    He also took the timing of The Washington Post's reporting to task. Sanders' intelligence briefing was about a month ago, but has only been made public a day before the crucial Nevada vote.

    “I’ll let you guess, about one day before the Nevada caucus. Why do you think it came out?” he told reporters. “It was The Washington Post? Good friends,” he added sarcastically.

    Sanders had previously questioned of the new allegations, “Show me the proof that Russia is trying to help me” because, well... zero evidence has actually been presented. Sanders said additionally:

    “I don’t care, frankly, who Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do. In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020.”

    But his opponents have predictably already seized on what appears a carefully timed and calibrated smear.

    Joe Biden immediately on the heels of the Post report told a Las Vegas crowd that Russia is “engaged again, right now as we speak, trying to affect not only the general election but who becomes the nominee of the Democratic Party.”

    Elizabeth Warren also chimed in, questioning why the "Russian efforts" were not made public earlier, saying further the Russians "continue to have too much influence". 

    Though this is all clearly part of the Democratic establishment's well-documented ongoing war to prevent a Bernie Sanders nomination, it must be remembered that Sanders himself for years added his own fuel to the Russiagate conspiracy fire when it came to Trump and the Republicans.

    It's now been repackaged and is coming back to bite him. 

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 16:25

    Bizarro World: Retail Investors Are Now Crushing Hedge Funds

    zerohedge News bizarro world retail investors crushing hedge funds All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Bizarro World: Retail Investors Are Now Crushing Hedge Funds

    As if financial markets needed one more reason to boycott the "smart money" and stop paying 2 and 20 for the "privilege" of underperforming the free S&P500 for the 10th straight year - an S&P which is now actively managed by central banks who step in any time there is even a modest 5% drop in stock prices  - here it is: Retail investors are now crushing the smartest money on Wall Street

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    Yesterday we reported that 2020 has started off dismally for equity hedge funds, whose short books and unwillingness to chase the rally crippled their YTD performance, which is at the very bottom of asset classes tracked by Goldman...

    ... yet it was the impressive outperformance of the most popular longs, also known as the Goldman Sachs Hedge Fund VIP basket of stocks...

    ... that has saved the day for hedge funds, whose performance would have been far worse had it not been for the handful of stocks owned by most hedge funds.

    During the last few months, the most popular hedge fund positions have enjoyed one of their strongest rallies on record. Our Hedge Fund VIP basket, which tracks the most popular hedge fund long positions has returned 24% since the start of 4Q 2019, sharply outperforming both the S&P 500 (+14%) and our basket of the largest short positions. The basket’s return relative to its realized volatility and its outperformance versus the largest shorts each rank as the strongest in the basket’s history. The outperformance of VIPs has continued in early 2020 (+9% YTD), contributing to a 1% YTD return for the average hedge fund.

    And not just hedge funds have piled into the same small group of mega cap stocks: as we pointed out yesterday, it was retail investors, i.e., the "dumb money" that saved the day for the "smartest guys in the room" as they scrambled  to buy the names most widely held by the hedge fund community.

    Recall that the YTD period has been most notable because after a long absence, retail investors finally stormed back into the market with a bang, buying not just stocks, but call options - highly levered bets typically with a 1 week maturity  - on stocks at a time when nothing seemed like it could go down, in the process creating a self-reinforcing tidal wave of buying that has risen all boats, especially those owned by hedge funds.

    To be sure, it wasn't just single-stocks as index and ETF options volumes have also soared to record highs...

    ... but yes, a handful of stocks were the biggest benficiaries.

    Goldman confirmed as much, when Ben Snider and David Kostin said that "the most popular hedge fund stocks have also been bolstered by a surge in retail trading activity. The sharp increase in retail trading has lifted a basket of popular retail stocks by 14% YTD and 25% since the start of 4Q 2019."

    Which brings us to the most remarkable chart we showed yesterday in our recap of the latest quarterly Goldman Hedge Fund Monitor: retail investors, i.e., the "dumb money" has now trounced the performance of hedge funds, incorrectly known as "the smart money" not only YTD, as the 50 most-popular stocks among retail investors rallied 13% so far in 2020, nearly double the 8.7% return for the hedge fund favorites but since the start of 2018.

    It's not just the breadth of returns that has diverged between the two investor classes. Picking up on where we left off yesterday, Bloomberg writes on Saturday morning that retail investors have also been far better pickers of blockbuster stocks in 2020: "Only two of their popular holdings have gained at least 50%: Tesla Inc. and PG&E Corp. By contrast, individual investors scored seven such wins. Besides Tesla and PG&E, they reaped big pay-offs from Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., Plug Power Inc., Sprint Corp., Vivint Solar Inc. and Beyond Meat Inc."

    These, of course, as the berserker momo names that went parabolic as an army of retail investors staged a call buying spree in one momo name after another, orchestrated out of a peculiar source: the wallstreetbets section on reddit.

    We also know the enabler, of course: the retail investing hordes have the Fed's QE4 which was launched in October 2019 to thank for the outperformance. It was then that hedge funds had hunkered down and turned short, when Powell instead of allowing the market to drop, injected hundreds of billions in liquidity into the market, bailing out not hedge funds - he did that back in September with the return of repo operations, but retail investors.

    "Retail investors tend to buy what’s just done well, and in a market like we’ve been in the last several years, that’s worked very well," said Rich Weiss, CIO of multi-asset strategies at American Century Investments told Bloomberg, adding that "if that type of outperformance by the retail basket over the hedge fund basket would persist for another year or longer, that makes quite a statement, if not an indictment, on professional money managers."

    Rich is right, but only partially: it would make an even bigger statement on the Federal Reserve, which now finds it imperative to intervene in the market to rescue all investors, not just a given wealthy subset.

    But what is worse, is that this intervention by the Fed, and the tremendous outperformance of retail investors over hedge funds, will further bolster optimism among small investors, who are rushing back to the market with the conviction that they are investing geniuses further facilitated after some brokerages eliminated commissions on trades. According to the latest sentiment reading from the Conference Board, the share of respondents expecting stocks to rise in the next year advanced to 43.1% in January, the highest since October 2018.

    Some additional observations on the two stocks baskets.

    Among the 50 favorite stocks for both hedge funds and retail investors, 13 overlap, with tech giants - Apple Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp - at the top of both lists. That said, retail investors have gravitated more toward smaller companies, with sixteen of the top 50 picks having a market value of less than $10 billion, compared with six for hedge funds.

    Ultimately it all really boils down to the far higher beta of the retail basket compared to the hedge fund VIPs: which means that while retail investors tend to win big, they also lose big when stocks tumble. As Bloomberg notes, seven of the top retail stocks have fallen at least 10% this year, including Chesapeake and Groupon. Meanwhile, all of the hedge funds’ top selections have fared better.

    For those wondering, here is the full list of the Top 50 "VIP" hedge fund names as of Dec. 31...

    ... and the same list for retail investors.

    And while it is certainly a novelty to see retail investors outperform hedge funds, we doubt this divergence will last long, especially once the Fed is forced to taper its QE4 in the coming months, at which point the retail panic will be a sight to behold, as will be the length of the list of those furious at Chair Powell.

    Which is why the only thing that matters, in our view, is the list of Top 50 most shorted names. As discussed extensively here in the past, it is the 50 or so most shorted - or hated by hedge fund - names that has year after year been and a far better source of alpha (for those who buy them) as they have significantly outperformed the braoder market due to periodic and vicious short squeezes year after year...

    ... especially in this day and age when the link between fundamentals and asset prices has been terminally severed by central banks, something we described most recently in "Going Against The Wall Street Crowd Has Been The Most Profitable In 5 Years."

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 16:50

    Why The US Is Headed Into Its Fourth Turning

    zerohedge News headed into fourth turning All https://www.zerohedge.com   Discuss    Share
    Why The US Is Headed Into Its Fourth Turning

    Via InternationalMan.com,

    International Man: The economic, political, social, and cultural situation seems to have become increasingly volatile in the United States and more broadly in the West. Is this a unique situation or part of a recurring historical cycle?

    Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe introduced a popular theory in their book, The

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    Fourth Turning, outlining the recurring generational cycles that have occurred throughout American history.

    What are your thoughts?

    Doug Casey: I read Strauss and Howe’s first book, Generations, when it came out back in 1992. I thought it was brilliant.

    Let me start off by recommending both Generations and The Fourth Turning to everybody. Both books offer quite a scholarly, readable, and prescient view of the cyclicality of history. And offer a very plausible forecast for the 2020s.

    History’s best seen as cyclical, rather than a straight-line progress to some preordained end the way both the Marxists and the Abrahamic religions see it. But then, Ecclesiastes has its famous quote that there’s nothing new under the sun.

    Plato in the Republic talks about how the younger generation—and we’re talking fourth century BC—can’t stand up to the moral values of their forefathers.

    Older people have always thought that the younger generation wouldn’t quite measure up. In recent American history, you’ll recall, the younger generation were the beatniks in the ’50s, the hippies in the ’60s, and the yuppies in the ’80s—so it’s a passing parade. Older people have a tendency to think the world is going downhill. Nothing new there. But there’s always a rebirth.

    Niccolò Machiavelli, in his Florentine Histories, said:

    Virtue gives birth to tranquility, tranquility to leisure, leisure to disorder, disorder to ruin… and similarly from ruin, order is born, from order virtue, from virtue, glory and good fortune.

    The bottom line is that societies arise from poverty through moral strength—and that brings them prosperity. But that prosperity brings on arrogance, and the arrogance brings on laziness, which brings on weakness and moral decline. Then they’re reduced to a condition of slavery and poverty again. Change is the only constant—except in human nature.

    As I look at the United States, it seems to me the peak of American culture was the time just before Teddy Roosevelt came into office. Teddy is certainly among the top five worst presidents. And there’s plenty of competition for that title.

    He was the first real “progressive” president; he wanted the government actively involved in all areas of life.

    Now, that’s not to say that Teddy Roosevelt wouldn’t have been a really great drinking pal, a wonderful guy to go camping with, a fun guy to have an intellectual conversation with. He had a lot of admirable personal values. But he was a nationalist, a statist, and a warmonger. That’s why I say he was a horrible president.

    The long-term trend of US overseas imperialism started with the Spanish–American War and the building of an overseas American empire in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawaii—followed by World War I.

    The US has gone from being noninterventionist to now having many hundreds of bases around the world and trying to give orders to every other country in the world. That kind of arrogance always ends badly.

    As a civilization—a culture—the US has been on an accelerating path downhill for about 120 years now. That’s true even while science and technology have greatly increased the general standard of living. It’s a mistake to conflate a higher standard of living with higher moral values—that’s what Machiavelli was talking about.

    I question whether that trend will change—at least until we have a genuine crisis. Why not? Because a lot of the way a society acts comes from the way kids are brought up—the values that are inculcated in them when they’re young. And increasingly, kids are taught what I would call the wrong values.

    Saint Ignatius said this in the 17th century, and Lenin repeated it in the 20th century. They both said that if you indoctrinate someone in his youth, chances are you’ve directed his worldview for the rest of his life.

    Cultural Marxists are now totally in control of the US educational system, and have been for a couple of generations. That’s absolutely the case in the colleges and universities but also in the high schools and even in the grade schools. Kids are being taught to be socialists, ecowarriors, social justice warriors, and “woke” from an early age. It’s really serious.

    And it’s not a cyclical phenomenon. This is one of the few areas in which I take some issue with The Fourth Turning. The trend towards collectivism and statism seems to be a secular long-term trend that’s still accelerating.

    There are a few bright spots. Libertarians, for instance, are somewhat more prominent than in the past. But the fact that libertarians believe in personal freedom, in the face of a societal trend in the opposite direction, makes me tend to believe they’re actually genetic mutants. They’re just a small percentage of the population, whose nature has resisted the prevailing nurture.

    I say that, only partially because of my own experience. I grew up in what could—jokingly—be called a cannibalistic death cult and was imbued with all kinds of strange notions by nuns and priests at the schools that I went to. I rejected them intuitively and intellectually, but they still stick to you like tar. It can take years to wash off the effects of early indoctrination.

    I’m more of a maverick than most people are, however. Most just continue to believe what they’re taught as kids, reflexively and automatically—right or wrong. So I don’t think there’s really much hope of a serious change in the direction of American culture. At least until a major crisis—and the outcome of that is in doubt.

    International Man: OK. That’s the long-term trend. Where are we in the generational cycle now? Are we moving into the fourth turning and headed for a crisis?

    Doug Casey: Strauss and Howe take a cyclical point of view over the course of roughly 80 years, four generations.

    To very briefly summarize their theory, there are four “turnings”: a “high,” an “awakening,” an “unraveling,” and a “crisis.”

    Over the last couple of decades, we’ve been undergoing the unraveling, where old values fall apart. Next, Strauss and Howe predicted a crisis, starting about 2015, which tests the very existence of the society. Or at least the way it’s run.

    They go beyond seeing generations as being simply “liberal” or “conservative.” According to Strauss and Howe, there are four generational archetypes that last over a cycle of 80 years—20 years per generation—corresponding to the “turnings.”

    Without going into all the details, they see the baby boomers as being a “Prophet” Generation. The authors are ideologically oriented—fire and brimstone types—very much like Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right. Kind of biblically apocalyptic by nature.

    They were quite correct in defining the Generation X types as the so-called “Nomad” Generation. These are kids who learned to take care of themselves—and are not so ideological in the way they think.

    The Millennials are who are relevant at the moment. They correspond, in Strauss and Howe’s view, to the World War II generation. They’d be the frontline soldiers in the coming crisis and conflicts.

    International Man: What happens after a crisis? Is there a positive way forward?

    Doug Casey: Historically, the answer is, “Almost never”—in the short run. The best recent example is the French Revolution. It got worse with Robespierre—a Bernie Sanders of the era—followed by Napoleon. Or take the case of the Russian revolution. As necessary as it was to get rid of Nicholas II, it got worse with Lenin, and then it got even worse with Stalin. But even in those cases, France and Russia recovered.

    If it all comes unglued in the US over the next decade, those two revolutions could be templates. Look at the way leading Democrats think, and listen to what they’re saying. They’re echoing Robespierre and Lenin.

    The Republicans aren’t much better, because although they sometimes talk the talk of peace and personal freedom, they almost never walk the walk. The two major US parties—and people in the Red counties and the Blue counties—seem to really hate each other.

    It’s quite ugly sociologically. There are irreconcilable differences. They’re exacerbated by the fact we’re headed for a financial blow up. There’s no doubt about that.

    Some years ago, there was a poll taken among Generation X types. It turned out that more of them believed that space aliens were going to invade than that they were ever going to collect Social Security. People have very little faith in “the system” anymore, the society, or the government.

    If we go back to the beginning of the 20th century, the country really wasn’t very political at all. People worried about their own lives, their own families, and their own local communities. Americans shared a common culture, beliefs, and values—that’s no longer true. Now the country has become very politicized—everybody has a loud voice and they use votes as weapons against their neighbors. It’s become a nation of nasty busybodies.

    That makes me think the next upset will be something like a revolution. It’s likely to be really ugly, because we’re looking, simultaneously, at an economic catastrophe, political chaos, and a social and demographic upset—and probably a military situation as well. Government often sees war as a way to unite the country.

    So, what’s going to happen?

    I’ll hazard a guess that 50 years from now, the United States and, for that matter, most countries are not going to exist in anything like their present form. The best solution is a peaceful break up into smaller political subdivisions. As opposed to a civil war—which is a contest between one or more groups for the control of a central government.

    *  *  *

    The economic trajectory is troubling. Unfortunately, there’s little any individual can practically do to change the course of these trends in motion. The best you can and should do is to stay informed so that you can protect yourself in the best way possible, and even profit from the situation. That’s precisely why bestselling author Doug Casey just released Surviving and Thriving During an Economic Collapse an urgent new PDF report. It explains what could come next and what you can do about it so you don’t become a victim. Click here to download it now.

    Tyler Durden

    Sat, 02/22/2020 - 15:10
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