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Florida federal judge says Trump"s former status as a US President doesn"t exempt him from Twitter"s terms of service

Trump is suing Twitter and its CEO for suspending his account after the January 6 Capitol attack. Former President Donald Trump is suing Twitter for suspending his account. Thiago Prudencio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images and James Devaney/GC Images via Getty Images Twitter's terms of service still apply to former President Donald Trump, says a Florida federal judge. Trump is suing Twitter and its CEO for suspending his account after the January 6 Capitol attack. A clause in Twitter's agreement requires the lawsuit be moved to California, but Trump's lawyers argued that he's exempt because of his presidency. On Tuesday, a Florida federal judge ruled that former President Donald Trump's status as a US president doesn't exclude him from Twitter's terms of service, according to court documents seen by Insider. In July, Trump filed a lawsuit in Florida against Twitter and its CEO for suspending his account permanently on January 7, a day after the Capitol siege. The suspension was made on the grounds of Trump inciting violence through the platform, said Twitter at the time.The former president cited censorship concerns in his lawsuit, saying that social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google were "silencing" conservative voices and were being coerced by Democratic lawmakers.On Tuesday, Florida District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr granted Twitter's motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of California, as required by a clause in the social media company's user agreement signed by all Twitter users.Trump's lawyers argued that he was exempt from the clause because he was sitting president at the time of his account's suspension, and that it was in the public's interest to keep the case in Florida.They failed to convince Judge Scola. "The Court finds that Trump's status as President of the United States does not exclude him from the requirements of the forum selection clause in Twitter's Terms of Service," he said.Trump resides in Palm Beach, Florida, with his wife Melania and son Barron, at the Mar-a-Lago resort.Apart from suing Twitter, he has also launched legal action against Facebook, Google, and their CEOs for banning him on their social media platforms.Earlier this month, Trump filed a request for preliminary injunction to have his Twitter account reinstated, pointing out that the Taliban is allowed to tweet their military victories in Afghanistan while he is censored.He announced last week that he would launch his own social media network, Truth Social, to "stand up to the tyranny of big tech." A report later said that Truth Social had violated a license agreement and ripped off code, and that the platform had 30 days to resolve the violation before it would be sued.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytOct 27th, 2021

Victim Hopes For Justice In Ghislaine Maxwell Trial

Victim Hopes For Justice In Ghislaine Maxwell Trial Authored by Charlotte Cuthbertson via The Epoch Times, Jeffrey Epstein molested her and she didn’t tell a soul for 17 years. Teresa Helm was 22, and she had already patched her life back together after being sexually abused by a close family member, starting at age 8. “I really suffered in silence,” Helm told The Epoch Times’ “Insight” magazine. As a child, she had told her mother about the abuse in the hope that she’d make it stop. Instead, her mother told her not to tell anyone, and it continued for 3 1/2 years. “I just didn’t get help, even though I kept asking for it. And so after what happened with Jeffrey, I suffered in silence, just like I had always kind of done,” she said. In 2002, Helm had moved to California from Ohio and was attending a massage therapy school, positive of a bright future. It became even more exciting when a fellow student, a year ahead of her, approached her about an opportunity for a traveling massage therapist job. Helm was interested and was connected with another young woman, whom she subsequently met at Santa Monica to discuss the potential job. “We looked similar, we were at a similar age, so I connected with her,” Helm said. “I never felt like anything she was saying to me wasn’t legitimate, or I never felt fearful.” Teresa Helm at age 21. (Courtesy of Teresa Helm) Helm said the woman painted a phenomenal picture of what life would be like as “Miss Maxwell’s” personal traveling massage therapist—private jets, top chefs, access to the best education all over the world. “So I’d say that she did her job very well. Because in an hour or so of walking around the boardwalk, I was like, ‘Wow. This is really great. I’m so lucky, this is meant to be.'” Wanting to grasp the incredible opportunity, Helm told the woman she was interested, and was informed that she’d need to fly to New York City and meet Maxwell for the final interview. Two weeks later, Helm’s travel to New York City had been arranged—flights, driver, an Upper East Side apartment to stay in, a gift basket waiting. “I go meet with Miss Maxwell. I was expecting to give a massage because that’s what the interview was pertaining to. And everything with Ghislaine Maxwell was legitimate and pleasant, and she was very polite. Her home was stunning,” Helm said. “I was super impressed with her because she’s this very well-spoken woman, and she’s clearly successful because of her beautiful home, and she has photos on the wall of ex-president Bill Clinton. And I’m thinking: ‘Wow, she’s really something special, she’s worked hard. She’s accomplished a lot in her life.'” Helm spent a couple of hours in the home before Maxwell told her she was next going to meet up with Maxwell’s partner, Jeffrey. It was the first time Helm had heard of a partner, but nothing had indicated she should feel alarmed or that she was in any kind of danger. Any red flags, she realized in hindsight, had been easily normalized and explained away. Even when Maxwell told her to “give Jeffrey whatever he wants” during his massage because he “always gets what he wants,” Helm thought Maxwell clearly must mean, “Do a good job, because he’s had a lot of professional massages.” “Because of my trust with [Maxwell]—she was able to create that trusting bond within me in a matter of hours—I literally walked myself to the man of the house who was going to assault me,” Helm said. “I took myself there, because those three women did their job perfectly well and I didn’t suspect a darn thing. When I look back at the fact that three women set me up to be assaulted, it’s just disgusting. It’s a different level of betrayal.” Helm said Epstein sexually assaulted her in his office during the interview and threatened her as she ran out of the house, her world shaking and head spinning. Shocked to the core and full of shame, Helm returned to California the following day. (Photo and illustration by The Epoch Times) “The shame was overwhelming, it was paralyzing,” she recalled. “I was just so ashamed to say anything.” Her life spiraled down, and three months later she broke her lease, dropped out of school, and returned to Ohio. For the next five years, Helm fell into a destructive pattern. But just weeks before her 28th birthday, she found out she was pregnant, and life shifted again—this time toward the positive. “That’s what really saved my life and turned my life around,” she said. “It was the first time I really valued myself. It was like that sense of purpose. And knowing that I was going to protect my child the way that I was never protected. “Then after having him, I was so honored to be his mom. And then it really actually dug up, it was like, almost hatred toward my mom and Jeffrey. That first year of my son’s life was a lot of emotional processing for me. And I just wanted to kind of remove myself from the world and just be a mom. And that’s what I did.” Helm’s son has just turned 14, and she also has a daughter who is 7. She is the full-time caregiver for both. ‘The World Shifted’ Helm, who had moved to Florida, was folding laundry one Thursday evening in July 2019 when she went online and saw a headline about Epstein after he’d been arrested for sex trafficking. She clicked the link to open the article and came face-to-face with her abuser. In that instant, she realized “Jeffrey” was Epstein. Stunned, she sat down and googled Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein. “It was life changing, just in that moment. It was like retraumatization, No. 1. No. 2, it was like the world shifted and changed all over again. It’s been different ever since that moment, like the world changed yet again, in that moment and it has not gone back. Nor will it,” Helm said. “Because I didn’t know there were others. I didn’t know that this was this huge thing with these people.” The following day, after a regular yoga class, Helm sat in her car and sobbed as the emotions swirled. She decided it was time to break her silence. The opportunity to speak out presented itself quickly. Epstein was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Aug. 10, 2019, one month after his arrest. A medical examiner ruled it a suicide by hanging nine days later. The New York judge, Richard Berman, would be forced to dismiss the charges against Epstein—which included the sex trafficking of dozens of minors from as early as 1995—but not before he allowed survivors to speak. Twenty-three women spoke in the courthouse on Aug. 27 about being sexually abused by Epstein, either in person or through a lawyer. “I’m coming forward because it is time to bring light to that darkness, and it’s time to replace that darkness with light,” Helm said that day. She had only decided that morning to speak out and use her name publicly. Another survivor, “Jane Doe 9,” said she was 15 when she met Epstein, in 2004. “I flew on Jeffrey Epstein’s plane to Zorro Ranch, where I was sexually molested by him for many hours.” she said through a lawyer. “What I remember most vividly was him explaining to me how beneficial the experience was for me and how much he was helping me to grow. Yikes.” Epstein’s Zorro Ranch is in New Mexico. He also owned multimillion dollar properties in New York, Florida, and France, and his own islands in the Caribbean, Little St. James Island and Great St. James Island. Epstein has been linked with a veritable who’s who of the fashion and political worlds. Attorney Gloria Allred (R) and her client Teala Davies, who claims to have been a victim of sexual abuse by Jeffrey Epstein when she was a minor, at a press conference to announce a lawsuit against Epstein’s estate, in New York on Nov. 21, 2019. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images) Chauntae Davies also spoke in the courtroom. She said she was recruited by Maxwell while doing a massage apprenticeship. “Upon my first meeting her, I wouldn’t know I had been recruited until many years later, when I would read it in a headline,” Davies said. She said Maxwell and Epstein took her in, sent her to school, and gave her a job. “They flew me around the world, introduced me to a world I had only dreamt of and made me feel as though I had become a part of their family—another thing I was desperately searching for,” Davies said. “But on my third or fourth time meeting them, they brought me to Jeffrey’s island for the first time.” Davies said a knock on her door late at night indicated that Epstein was ready for another massage, so she hesitantly went to his villa. As Epstein began his assault on her, Davies said she told him, “No, please stop.” “But that just seemed to excite him more. He continued to rape me, and when he was finished, he hopped off and went to the shower.” Davies said she ran out of the villa, cried herself to sleep, and then spent two weeks in a Los Angeles hospital throwing up from a neurological disorder that manifests into violent vomiting attacks, largely triggered by stress. “Jeffrey’s abuse would continue for the next three years, and I allowed it to continue because I had been taken advantage of my entire life and had been conditioned to just accept it.” A protestor holds up a sign of Jeffrey Epstein in front of the federal courthouse in New York City on July 8, 2019. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images) Maxwell on Trial Helm had finally broken her silence, and it was a watershed moment. She didn’t get to see Epstein face his charges, but she’s eager to be in court to see Maxwell face hers. FBI agents arrested Maxwell at her New Hampshire estate on July 2, 2020. She has been in a Brooklyn jail since. Bail has been denied several times, with Judge Alison Nathan ruling that she is a flight risk. The trial was originally set for July, but was delayed until Nov. 29 and is expected to last six weeks. Jury selection began on Nov. 16. Maxwell is charged with sex trafficking children, perjury, and the enticement of minors while she was a close associate of Epstein, according to a superseding indictment filed in the Southern District of New York on March 29. “In particular, from at least in or about 1994, up to and including at least in or about 2004, Maxwell assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18,” the indictment alleges. “Moreover, in an effort to conceal her crimes, Maxwell repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims described herein, when providing testimony under oath in 2016.” Virginia Giuffre (formerly Virginia Roberts), one of Epstein’s most well-known accusers, claimed in a 2016 deposition that she was directed by Maxwell to have sex with a number of rich and powerful men, including “foreign presidents,” a “well-known” prime minister, and “other world leaders.” None of the men Giuffre named in the documents have been charged, and all have denied the claims. A court officer stands outside a Manhattan courthouse where media have gathered for the arraignment hearing of Ghislaine Maxwell in New York City on July 14, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images) Maxwell, often described as a British socialite, maintains her innocence on all charges and in a 2016 deposition claimed she had no idea Epstein abused young girls. During the deposition, Maxwell was asked: “Did Jeffrey Epstein have a scheme to recruit underage girls for sexual massages? If you know.” She replied: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” according to the transcript. “I never saw any inappropriate underage activities with Jeffrey ever.” Maxwell acknowledged that former President Bill Clinton traveled on Epstein’s plane, but denied introducing Britain’s Prince Andrew to underage sex partners. “I’m ready for this trial to start,” Helm said. “I really aim to be there and look at her right in her face, and equally as important is for her to see me.” Helm isn’t named in the indictment and won’t be testifying, but that doesn’t matter. “I’m hopeful that there will be justice in this, that she will finally be held accountable and finally be sentenced for crimes that she has committed and for the lives that she has just willingly stepped in and ruined. This is a woman that changed the entire trajectory of my life and not for the better.” Helm said she hopes Maxwell is found guilty on all charges and receives the maximum penalties. “I don’t think for a moment that she deserves to be on the outside of a jail cell,” she said. “I and other girls, we’re on the outside of these bars, and yet we haven’t fully regained our freedom back. So I hope she gets the maximum sentence. She doesn’t deserve any less than that.” Helm said she often gets asked if she thinks Epstein’s death means Maxwell is now a scapegoat and is being punished for his crimes. “No, I do not. She knew what she was doing. She didn’t think twice about doing it. She did it countless times. She did it … very masterfully, very successfully,” she said. “You don’t help facilitate and run and orchestrate one of the largest sex trafficking rings on this globe, on this earth, without knowing what you’re doing and intentionally doing it.” An exterior view of the Metropolitan Detention Center in New York City on July 14, 2020. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images) The indictment alleges that Maxwell befriended some of Epstein’s minor victims prior to their abuse, including by asking the victims about their lives, their schools, and their families. Other times, Maxwell and Epstein would take the victim shopping or to the movies, or pay travel or education expenses. “Having developed a rapport with a victim, Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein,” the court document states. The indictment goes on to say that in order to “maintain and increase his supply of victims,” Epstein, Maxwell, and other Epstein employees also paid certain victims to recruit additional girls to be similarly abused by Epstein. Helm said she has tried to understand what would cause a woman such as Ghislaine to intentionally set girls up to be forever traumatized. She said she has read how Ghislaine lost her father, whom she was very close to, and met Epstein not long afterwards. Helm said she lost her own father unexpectedly almost seven years ago. “I still to this very day miss him incredibly, and I am not out there hurting people,” she said. “There’s no grievance, or there’s no tragedy that justifies you turning around becoming literally a monster.” Maxwell’s lawyers didn’t respond to a request for comment by Insight. Epstein avoided criminal charges for years, raising questions about being protected by the rich and powerful. In September 2007, he entered into a nonprosecution agreement that gave him immunity against prosecution for numerous federal sex crimes in the Southern District of Florida. As part of the deal, in 2008, Epstein ultimately pled guilty to state charges of procuring a minor for prostitution and was registered as a sex offender. He spent 13 months in jail but was granted work release for 12 hours a day, six days a week. The Grooming Process Grooming and recruitment are critical steps in the sex trafficking industry. “If you don’t have a successful grooming process, you don’t have the abuse, because it just doesn’t make it that far,” Helm said. Jennifer Hill, assistant executive director of the Children’s Assessment Center in Houston, said her organization sees 5,000 children a year who’ve been sexually abused, both by family members or through trafficking. And that’s just the children who have spoken up. “I think most people never, ever tell. And that’s what’s tragic,” she said. Hill said it’s hard to discern how many children don’t report abuse, but statistics show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they’re 18. Common events—the divorce of parents, a breakup, bullying, or the death of a family member—can all make a child vulnerable. Many trafficked children come from the foster care system. But sexual abuse is the most common source of vulnerability for sex-trafficked children—70 to 90 percent of these children have a history of sexual abuse, according to anti-trafficking organization Path2Freedom. Hill said the grooming and recruitment process takes different forms, but involves getting access to the intended victim and gaining their trust so that eventually they’ll be willing to listen to that person, and that person has some control over their behavior. For children, it can include buying gifts, listening to their problems, or helping them in some way. These days, a lot of grooming occurs online through messaging apps or social media and gaming platforms. Post-abuse, children can be threatened to stay silent. Hill said she hopes the Maxwell trial will spur other victims of trafficking and sexual abuse to come forward. As a former prosecutor of child sex abuse cases, she said a lot of abusers are teachers or trusted adults in the community, which can be intimidating for victims. Her organization conducts awareness trainings for law enforcement, medical professionals, mental health professionals, teachers, and the community on recognizing and reporting trafficking. Helm said so many lessons can be taken from the Maxwell case, “like the fact that it can be a woman.” “That woman groomed me precisely well, beautifully. And that grooming process is so crucial for parents to identify that this is what’s happening to their children. Or for a child to think I think this might be happening to me. Because that grooming process is such a transfer of power [and] a gatekeeper to the abuse.” During 2019, the National Human Trafficking hotline received reports of 11,500 human trafficking cases, representing more than 22,000 victims. California, Texas, and Florida are identified as the worst three states for human trafficking. In Texas alone, more than 79,000 children are being trafficked for sex, according to a study by the University of Texas at Austin. “There’s not one single zip code in this nation, not one that is exempt from trafficking,” Helm said. “It happens in the wealthiest of the wealthiest, to the most impoverished, and everything in between. It has exploded online.” A residence belonging to Jeffrey Epstein on East 71st St. on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City on July 8, 2019. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images) The Threat Online Fifty-five percent of domestic sex-trafficking survivors who entered the life in 2015 or later met their trafficker for the first time using a mobile app, website, or text, said Tammy Toney-Butler, an anti-human trafficking consultant for Path2Freedom. Predators ramped up their sexual enticement of minors and the posting of child sexual abuse material as schools closed and kids worked online from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The number of reports of online child sexual abuse materials reported to the NCMEC during the first six months of 2020 surged 90 percent to more than 12 million, the center reported. Reports of predators enticing minors went up 93 percent to more than 13,200. Facebook was used for most (59 percent) of the online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases in 2020, according to the Human Trafficking Institute’s annual trafficking report. That makes Facebook “by far the most frequently referenced website or app in public sources connected with these prosecutions, which was also true in 2019,” the report found. In June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Facebook could be held liable if sex traffickers use the platform to prey on children, arguing the social media website isn’t a “lawless no-man’s-land.” The ruling was made following three Houston-area lawsuits involving teenage trafficking victims who alleged that they met their abusers through Facebook’s messaging service. Prosecutors also said that Facebook was negligent by not doing more to block sex traffickers from using the site. The court said the victims can move forward with their lawsuits against Facebook. They claimed that the company violated the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which was approved in 2009. Toney-Butler said the income traffickers can make from one victim can be close to $400,000 a year, and survivors have reported being forced to have sex more than 20 times a day while being six to seven months pregnant. And once a woman is over 18, she’s often seen by society as “a drug-addicted prostitute” rather than a victim of sex trafficking, she said. A child, after being pulled into sex trafficking, “only lives for seven years before they succumb to the environment,” Toney-Butler said. Suicide, drug overdose, and violence are often the killers. Teresa Helm (R) with three other sex-trafficking survivors, (L–R) Cathy Hoffman, Sabrina Lopez, and Nissi Hamilton, in Houston on April 24. (Kathleen O. Ryan) The Future Now 41, Helm is hopeful. Aside from looking after her children, she’s a fierce advocate and mentor to other survivors and a consultant to organizations and politicians to ensure laws and programs are victim-centered. “Helping others is the ultimate payback. That I didn’t completely break forever. I’ve been broken and I have repaired myself stronger,” she said. She referred to the old Japanese art form called kintsukuroi, or “to repair with gold,” which is the practice of repairing broken ceramics with gold, making them stronger and more beautiful than before. “And I definitely kind of view myself as that, in the fact that I can turn around and leverage this pain into purpose and help others—that’s the ultimate thing for me, to be able to be strong enough to go out and help others, help them change their lives, help them recover their lives and recover their power.” For Help The National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free, and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. Call: 1-888-373-7888 Text: “Help” or “Info” to 233733 Chat: humantraffickinghotline.org Tyler Durden Mon, 11/29/2021 - 23:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 30th, 2021

America"s Woke Colleges Can"t Be Salvaged. We Need New Ones

America's Woke Colleges Can't Be Salvaged. We Need New Ones Authored by Niall Ferguson, op-ed via Bloomberg.com, I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken If you enjoyed Netflix’s “The Chair” - a lighthearted depiction of a crisis-prone English Department at an imaginary Ivy League college - you are clearly not in higher education. Something is rotten in the state of academia and it’s no laughing matter.   Grade inflation. Spiraling costs. Corruption and racial discrimination in admissions. Junk content (“Grievance Studies”) published in risible journals. Above all, the erosion of academic freedom and the ascendancy of an illiberal “successor ideology” known to its critics as wokeism, which manifests itself as career-ending “cancelations” and speaker disinvitations, but less visibly generates a pervasive climate of anxiety and self-censorship. Some say that universities are so rotten that the institution itself should simply be abandoned and replaced with an online alternative — a metaversity perhaps, to go with the metaverse. I disagree. I have long been skeptical that online courses and content can be anything other than supplementary to the traditional real-time, real-space college experience. However, having taught at several, including Cambridge, Oxford, New York University and Harvard, I have also come to doubt that the existing universities can be swiftly cured of their current pathologies. That is why this week I am one of a group of people announcing the founding of a new university — indeed, a new kind of university: the University of Austin. The founders of this university are a diverse group in terms of our backgrounds and our experiences (though doubtless not diverse enough for some). Our political views also differ. To quote our founding president, Pano Kanelos, “What unites us is a common dismay at the state of modern academia and a belief that it is time for something new.” There is no need to imagine a mythical golden age. The original universities were religious institutions, as committed to orthodoxy and as hostile to heresy as today’s woke seminaries. In the wake of the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution, scholars gradually became less like clergymen; but until the 20th century their students were essentially gentlemen, who owed their admission as much to inherited status as to intellectual ability. Many of the great intellectual breakthroughs of the Enlightenment were achieved off campus. Only from the 19th century did academia become truly secularized and professional, with the decline of religious requirements, the rise to pre-eminence of the natural sciences, the spread of the German system of academic promotion (from doctorate up in steps to full professorship), and the proliferation of scholarly journals based on peer-review. Yet the same German universities that led the world in so many fields around 1900 became enthusiastic helpmeets of the Nazis in ways that revealed the perils of an amoral scholarship decoupled from Christian ethics and too closely connected to the state. Even the institutions with the most sustained records of excellence — Oxford and Cambridge — have had prolonged periods of torpor. F.M. Cornford could mock the inherent conservatism of Oxbridge politics in his “Microcosmographia Academica” in 1908. When Malcolm Bradbury wrote his satirical novel “The History Man” in 1975, universities everywhere were still predominantly white, male and middle class. The process whereby a college education became more widely available — to women, to the working class, to racial minorities — has been slow and remains incomplete. Meanwhile, there have been complaints about the adverse consequences of this process in American universities since Allan Bloom’s “Closing of the American Mind,” which was published back in 1987. Nevertheless, much had been achieved by the later years of the 20th century. There was a general agreement that the central purpose of a university was the pursuit of truth — think only of Harvard’s stark Latin motto: Veritas — and that the crucial means to that end were freedom of conscience, thought, speech and publication. There was supposed to be no discrimination in admissions, examinations and academic appointments, other than on the basis of intellectual merit. That was crucial to enabling Jews and other minority groups to take full advantage of their intellectual potential. It was understood that professors were awarded tenure principally to preserve academic freedom so that they might “dare to think” — Immanuel Kant’s other great imperative, Sapere aude! — without fear of being fired. The benefits of all this defy quantification. A huge proportion of the major scientific breakthroughs of the past century were made by men and women whose academic jobs gave them economic security and a supportive community in which to do their best work. Would the democracies have won the world wars and the Cold War without the contributions of their universities? It seems doubtful. Think only of Bletchley Park and the Manhattan Project. Sure, the Ivy League’s best and brightest also gave us the Vietnam War. But remember, too, that there were more university-based computers on the Arpanet — the original internet — than any other kind. No Stanford, no Silicon Valley. Those of us who were fortunate to be undergraduates in the 1980s remember the exhilarating combination of intellectual freedom and ambition to which all this gave rise. Yet, in the past decade, exhilaration has been replaced by suffocation, to the point that I feel genuinely sorry for today’s undergraduates. In Heterodox Academy’s 2020 Campus Expression Survey, 62% of sampled college students agreed that the climate on their campus prevented them from saying things they believed, up from 55% in 2019, while 41% were reluctant to discuss politics in a classroom, up from 32% in 2019. Some 60% of students said they were reluctant to speak up in class because they were concerned other students would criticize their views as being offensive. Such anxieties are far from groundless. According to a nationwide survey of a thousand undergraduates by the Challey Institute for Global Innovation, 85% of self-described liberal students would report a professor to the university if the professor said something that they found offensive, while 76% would report another student. In a study published in March entitled “Academic Freedom in Crisis: Punishment, Political Discrimination and Self-Censorship,” the Centre for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology showed that academic freedom is under attack not only in the U.S., but also in the U.K. and Canada. Three-quarters of conservative American and British academics in the social sciences and humanities said there is a hostile climate for their beliefs in their department. This compares to just 5% among left-wing faculty in the U.S. Again, one can understand why. Younger academics are especially likely to support dismissal of a colleague who has made some heretical utterance, with 40% of American social sciences and humanities professors under the age of 40 supporting at least one of four hypothetical dismissal campaigns. Ph.D. students are even more intolerant than other young academics: 55% of American Ph.D. students under 40 supported at least one hypothetical dismissal campaign. “High-profile deplatformings and dismissals” get the attention, the authors of the report conclude, but “far more pervasive threats to academic freedom stem … from fears of a) cancellation — threats to one’s job or reputation — and b) political discrimination.” These are not unfounded fears. The number of scholars targeted for their speech has risen dramatically since 2015, according to research by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE has logged 426 incidents since 2015. Just under three-quarters of them resulted in some kind of sanction — including an investigation alone or voluntary resignation — against the scholar. Such efforts to restrict free speech usually originate with “progressive” student groups, but often find support from left-leaning faculty members and are encouraged by college administrators, who tend (as Sam Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College demonstrated, and as his own subsequent experience confirmed) to be even further to the left than professors. There are also attacks on academic freedom from the right, which FIRE challenges. With a growing number of Republicans calling for bans on critical race theory, I fear the illiberalism is metastasizing. Trigger warnings. Safe spaces. Preferred pronouns. Checked privileges. Microaggressions. Antiracism. All these terms are routinely deployed on campuses throughout the English-speaking world as part of a sustained campaign to impose ideological conformity in the name of diversity. As a result, it often feels as if there is less free speech and free thought in the American university today than in almost any other institution in the U.S. To the historian’s eyes, there is something unpleasantly familiar about the patterns of behavior that have, in a matter of a few years, become normal on many campuses. The chanting of slogans. The brandishing of placards. The letters informing on colleagues and classmates. The denunciations of professors to the authorities. The lack of due process. The cancelations. The rehabilitations following abject confessions. The officiousness of unaccountable bureaucrats. Any student of the totalitarian regimes of the mid-20th century recognizes all this with astonishment. It turns out that it can happen in a free society, too, if institutions and individuals who claim to be liberal choose to behave in an entirely illiberal fashion.  How to explain this rapid descent of academia from a culture of free inquiry and debate into a kind of Totalitarianism Lite? In their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” the social psychiatrist Jonathan Haidt and FIRE president Greg Lukianoff lay much of the blame on a culture of parenting and early education that encourages students to believe that “what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker,” that you should “always trust your feelings,” and that “life is a battle between good people and evil people.” However, I believe the core problems are the pathological structures and perverse incentives of the modern university. It is not the case, as many Americans believe, that U.S. colleges have always been left-leaning and that today’s are no different from those of the 1960s. As Stanley Rothman, Robert Lichter and Neil Nevitte showed in a 2005 study, while 39% of the professoriate on average described themselves as left-wing in 1984, the proportion had risen to 72% by 1999, by which time being a conservative had become a measurable career handicap. Mitchell Langbert’s analysis of tenure-track, Ph.D.-holding professors from 51 of the 66 top-ranked liberal arts colleges in 2017 found that those with known political affiliations were overwhelmingly Democratic. Nearly two-fifths of the colleges in Langbert’s sample were Republican-free. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio across the sample was 10.4:1, or 12.7:1 if the two military academies, West Point and Annapolis, were excluded. For history departments, the ratio was 17.4:1; for English 48.3:1. No ratio is calculable for anthropology, as the number of Republican professors was zero. In 2020, Langbert and Sean Stevens  found an even bigger skew to the left when they considered political donations to parties by professors. The ratio of dollars contributed to Democratic versus Republican candidates and committees was 21:1. Commentators who argue that the pendulum will magically swing back betray a lack of understanding about the academic hiring and promotion process. With political discrimination against conservatives now overt, most departments are likely to move further to the left over time as the last remaining conservatives retire. Yet the leftward march of the professoriate is only one of the structural flaws that characterize today’s university. If you think the faculty are politically skewed, take a look at academic administrators. A shocking insight into the way some activist-administrators seek to bully students into ideological conformity was provided by Trent Colbert, a Yale Law School student who invited his fellow members of the Native American Law Students Association to “a Constitution Day bash” at the “NALSA Trap House,” a term that used to mean a crack den but now is just a mildly risque way of describing a party. Diversity director Yaseen Eldik’s thinly veiled threats to Colbert if he didn’t sign a groveling apology — “I worry about this leaning over your reputation as a person, not just here but when you leave” — were too much even for an editorial board member at the Washington Post. Democracy may die in darkness; academic freedom dies in wokeness. Moreover, the sheer number of the administrators is a problem in itself. In 1970, U.S. colleges employed more professors than administrators. Between then and 2010, however, the number of full-time professors or “full-time equivalents” increased by slightly more than 50%, in line with student enrollments. The number of administrators and administrative staffers rose by 85% and 240%, respectively. The ever-growing army of coordinators for Title IX — the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination — is one manifestation of the bureaucratic bloat, which since the 1990s has helped propel tuition costs far ahead of inflation. The third structural problem is weak leadership. Time and again — most recently at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a lecture by the University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot was abruptly canceled because he had been critical of affirmative action — academic leaders have yielded to noisy mobs baying for disinvitations. There are notable exceptions, such as Robert Zimmer, who as president of the University of Chicago between 2006 and 2021 made a stand for academic freedom. But the number of other colleges to have adopted the Chicago statement, a pledge crafted by the school’s Committee on Freedom of Expression, remains just 55, out of nearly 2,500 institutions offering four-year undergraduate programs. Finally, there is the problem of the donors — most but not all alumni — and trustees, many of whom have been astonishingly oblivious of the problems described above. In 2019, donors gave nearly $50 billion to colleges. Eight donors gave $100 million or more. People generally do not make that kind of money without being hard-nosed in their business dealings. Yet the capitalist class appears strangely unaware of the anticapitalist uses to which its money is often put. A phenomenon I find deeply puzzling is the lack of due diligence associated with much academic philanthropy, despite numerous cases when the intentions of benefactors have deliberately been subverted. All this would be bad enough if it meant only that U.S. universities are no longer conducive to free inquiry and promotion based on merit, without which scientific advances are certain to be impeded and educational standards to fall. But academic illiberalism is not confined to college campuses. As students collect their degrees and enter the workforce, they inevitably carry some of what they have learned at college with them. Multiple manifestations of “woke” thinking and behavior at newspapers, publishing houses, technology companies and other corporations have confirmed Andrew Sullivan’s 2018 observation, “We all live on campus now.” When a problem becomes this widespread, the traditional American solution is to create new institutions. As we have seen, universities are relatively long-lived compared to companies and even nations. But not all great universities are ancient. Of today’s top 25 universities, according to the global rankings compiled by the London Times Higher Education Supplement, four were founded in the 20th century. Fully 14 were 19th-century foundations; four date back to the 18th century. Only Oxford (which can trace its origins to 1096) and Cambridge (1209) are medieval in origin.  As might be inferred from the large number (10) of today’s leading institutions founded in the U.S. between 1855 and 1900, new universities tend to be established when wealthy elites grow impatient with the existing ones and see no way of reforming them. The puzzle is why, despite the resurgence of inequality in the U.S. since the 1990s and the more or less simultaneous decline in standards at the existing universities, so few new ones have been created. Only a handful have been set up this century: University of California Merced (2005), Ave Maria University (2003) and Soka University of America (2001). Just five U.S. colleges founded in the past 50 years make it into the Times’s top 25 “Young Universities”: University of Alabama at Birmingham (founded 1969), University of Texas at Dallas (1969), George Mason (1957), University of Texas at San Antonio (1969) and Florida International (1969). Each is (or originated as) part of a state university system. In short, the beneficiaries of today’s gilded age seem altogether more tolerant of academic degeneration than their 19th-century predecessors. For whatever reason, many prefer to give their money to established universities, no matter how antithetical those institutions’ values have become to their own. This makes no sense, even if the principal motivation is to buy Ivy League spots for their offspring. Why would you pay to have your children indoctrinated with ideas you despise? So what should the university of the future look like? Clearly, there is no point in simply copying and pasting Harvard, Yale or Princeton and expecting a different outcome. Even if such an approach were affordable, it would be the wrong one. To begin with, a new institution can’t compete with the established brands when it comes to undergraduate programs. Young Americans and their counterparts elsewhere go to college as much for the high-prestige credentials and the peer networks as for the education. That’s why a new university can’t start by offering bachelors’ degrees. The University of Austin will therefore begin modestly, with a summer school offering “Forbidden Courses” — the kind of content and instruction no longer available at most established campuses, addressing the kind of provocative questions that often lead to cancelation or self-censorship. The next step will be a one-year master’s program in Entrepreneurship and Leadership. The primary purpose of conventional business programs is to credential large cohorts of passive learners with a lowest-common-denominator curriculum. The University of Austin’s program will aim to teach students classical principles of the market economy and then embed them in a network of successful technologists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and public-policy reformers. It will offer an introduction to the world of American technology similar to the introduction to the Chinese economy offered by the highly successful Schwarzman Scholars program, combining both academic pedagogy and practical experience. Later, there will be parallel programs in Politics and Applied History and in Education and Public Service. Only after these initial programs have been set up will we start offering a four-year liberal arts degree.  The first two years of study will consist of an intensive liberal arts curriculum, including the study of philosophy, literature, history, politics, economics, mathematics, the sciences and the fine arts. There will be Oxbridge-style instruction, with small tutorials and college-wide lectures, providing an in-depth and personalized learning experience with interdisciplinary breadth.   After two years of a comprehensive and rigorous liberal arts education, undergraduates will join one of four academic centers as junior fellows, pursuing disciplinary coursework, conducting hands-on research and gaining experience as interns. The initial centers will include one for entrepreneurship and leadership, one for politics and applied history, one for education and public service, and one for technology, engineering and mathematics. To those who argue that we could more easily do all this with some kind of internet platform, I would say that online learning is no substitute for learning on a campus, for reasons rooted in evolutionary psychology. We simply learn much better in relatively small groups in real time and space, not least because a good deal of what students learn in a well-functioning university comes from their informal discussions in the absence of professors. This explains the persistence of the university over a millennium, despite successive revolutions in information technology. To those who wonder how a new institution can avoid being captured by the illiberal-liberal establishment that now dominates higher education, I would answer that the governance structure of the institution will be designed to prevent that. The Chicago principles of freedom of expression will be enshrined in the founding charter. The founders will form a corporation or board of trustees that will be sovereign. Not only will the corporation appoint the president of the college; it will also have a final say over all appointments or promotions. There will be one unusual obligation on faculty members, besides the standard ones to teach and carry out research: to conduct the admissions process by means of an examination that they will set and grade. Admission will be based primarily on performance on the exam. That will avoid the corrupt rackets run by so many elite admissions offices today. As for our choice of location in the Texas capital, I would say that proximity to a highly regarded public university — albeit one where even the idea of establishing an institute to study liberty is now controversial — will ensure that the University of Austin has to compete at the highest level from the outset. My fellow founders and I have no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead. We fully expect condemnation from the educational establishment and its media apologists. We shall regard all such attacks as vindication — the flak will be a sign that we are above the target. In our minds, there can be no more urgent task for a society than to ensure the health of its system of higher education. The American system today is broken in ways that pose a profound threat to the future strength and stability of the U.S. It is time to start fixing it. But the opportunity to do so in the classic American way — by creating something new, actually building rather than “building back” — is an inspiring and exciting one. To quote Haidt and Lukianoff: “A school that makes freedom of inquiry an essential part of its identity, selects students who show special promise as seekers of truth, orients and prepares those students for productive disagreement … would be inspiring to join, a joy to attend, and a blessing to society.” That is not the kind of institution satirized in “The Chair.” It is precisely the kind of institution we need today. *  *  * Niall Ferguson is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He was previously a professor of history at Harvard, New York University and Oxford. He is the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, a New York-based advisory firm. His latest book is "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." Tyler Durden Wed, 11/10/2021 - 22:05.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 10th, 2021

Here"s everything Biden has done so far to address the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis

From extending the student-loan payment pause to cancelling student debt for some borrowers, here's everything Biden has done on student debt to date. Shutterstock.com Since Biden took office, he's taken a number of actions to address the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis. They include cancelling debt for borrowers with disabilities and extending the payment pause on loans. Democrats are pushing for him to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person, which the DOJ is reviewing. See more stories on Insider's business page. Forty-five million Americans have a $1.7 trillion student-debt burden in the country. And many of them, alongside Democrats and advocates, want President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 of their debt.He hasn't done that yet, but the president has taken steps to lessen the burden and provide relief during the pandemic.As one of his first actions in office, Biden extended the pause on student-loan payments through September, coupled with zero growth in interest, to ensure borrowers suffering financially would not have to worry about paying off their loans. That is now running through January 2022.Since then, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has cancelled billions in student debt for borrowers with disabilities and borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools. He's also started conducting reviews of student loan forgiveness programs that don't work as they should.But Democrats want Biden to do more.They have been keeping the pressure on the president to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person using his executive authority. Biden has expressed hesitancy to do so, and although he has asked the Education and Justice Departments to review his executive abilities to wipe out that debt, Democrats remain adamant that he can, and should, cancel student debt immediately with the flick of a pen."Student loan cancellation could occur today," Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Insider. "The president just needs to sign a piece of paper canceling that debt. It doesn't take any act of Congress or any amendment to the budget."Detailed below is everything Biden has done to date to confront the student debt crisis: Extended the pause on student-loan payments Evan Vucci/AP On his first day in office, Biden asked the Education Department to extend the pause on federal student loan payments through September 30, following Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' extension of it through the end of January 2020. This was accompanied by a 0% interest rate during that time period.National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said at the time that the extension would alleviate burdens on many households. "In this moment of economic hardship, we want to reduce the burden of these financial trade-offs," Deese said.This extension, however did not apply to the more than 7 million borrowers with loans held by private companies. In August, nearly two months before the pause was set to expire, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced the pause would be extended through January 31, 2022. This is the fourth extension of the pause during the pandemic, and Cardona said in a statement that it will be the "final" one."The payment pause has been a lifeline that allowed million of Americans to focus on their families, health, and finances  instead of student loans during the national emergency," Cardona said.The announcement of the extension was welcomed by many Democrats and advocacy groups who have been pushing for additional student debt relief for borrowers. Expanded the scope of the student loan payment pause Reuters/Andrew Burton Biden's payments pause on student loans initially only applied to borrowers with federal loans, meaning those with privately-held loans had to continue making payments during the pandemic.But on March 29, Cardona expanded the scope of that pause to apply to loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, which are privately held. This helped 1.14 million additional borrowers. The FFEL Program ended in 2010, but according to Education Department data, 11.2 million borrowers still have outstanding FFEL loans totaling over $248 billion. And while the department acquired some of the outstanding FFEL loans, many are still privately owned and were not affected by the earlier pause on federally owned student loan payments.According to a press release, any FFEL borrower who made a payment in the past year will have the option to request a refund.  Asked the Justice and Education Departments to review his authority to cancel student debt REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst At a CNN town hall in February, Biden said he doesn't have the executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person, but said he is prepared to cancel $10,000 — something he campaigned on. The same month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden will ask the Justice Department to review his legal authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt. Biden's administration has not yet commented on the status of the Justice Department's review.However, Insider reported that he has yet to deliver on that campaign promise, and while Biden said he would support legislation brought to him to cancel $10,000 in student debt, Democrats argue that legislation takes too long, and the president can cancel debt immediately using his executive authority."We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things," Warren said in a February press call. "I have legislation to do it, but to me, that's just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will."And White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Politico in April that Biden had asked Cardona to create a memo on the president's legal authority to forgive $50,000 in student loans per person.Biden will "look at that legal authority," Klain said. "He'll look at the policy issues around that, and he'll make a decision. He hasn't made a decision on that either way, and, in fact, he hasn't yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision." Reversed a DeVos methodology for determining loan forgiveness Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Alex Wong/Getty Images On March 18, Cardona reversed a Trump-era policy that gave only partial relief to defrauded students.The debt-cancellation methodology, known as the "borrower defense to repayment" — approved by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — compared the median earnings of graduates with debt-relief claims to the median earnings of graduates in comparable programs. The bigger the difference, the more relief the applicant would receive.But compared to a 99.2% approval rate for defrauded claims filed under President Barack Obama, DeVos had a 99.4% denial rate for borrowers and ran up a huge backlog of claims from eligible defrauded borrowers seeking student debt forgiveness.Cardona said that process did not result in appropriate relief determination and needed to be reversed, and a judge recently ruled that DeVos must testify over why so few borrowers were approved for loan forgiveness. Cancelled student debt for some defrauded borrowers Nirat.pix/Getty Images So far, Cardona has cancelled over $2.6 billion in student debt for borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools.For-profit institutions that shut down years ago, such as Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, were accused of violating federal law by persuading their students to take out loans, and Cardona's new policy helped approximately 72,000 of those students receive $1 billion in loan cancellation in March."Borrowers deserve a simplified and fair path to relief when they have been harmed by their institution's misconduct," Cardona said in a statement. "A close review of these claims and the associated evidence showed these borrowers have been harmed and we will grant them a fresh start from their debt."On June 16, Cardona cancelled student debt for 18,000 additional borrowers defrauded by ITT Technical Institutes, totaling to about $500 million in debt relief.The Education Department announced in a press release that 18,000 borrowers who attended ITT Tech will get 100% of their student debt forgiven, and the department will begin notifying borrowers of their approvals for loan forgiveness in the coming weeks and will work quickly to discharge those borrowers' loan balances."Our action today will give thousands of borrowers a fresh start and the relief they deserve after ITT repeatedly lied to them," Cardona said in a statement.An additional 115,000 defrauded ITT borrowers got $1.1 billion in student debt relief on August 26, applicable for those who did not complete their degree and left ITT on or after March 31, 2008.And in the first time since 2017 that borrower defense claims have been approved for borrowers outside of ITT Tech, Corinthian Colleges, and American Career Institute, on July 9, Cardona cancelled student debt for 1,800 borrowers who attended the for-profit schools Westwood College, Marinello Schools of Beauty, and the Court Reporting Institute. Cancelled student debt for some borrowers with disabilities Getty Images / Dan Kitwood On March 29, Cardona cancelled $1.3 billion of student debt for about 41,000 borrowers with disabilities.He also waived an Obama-era requirement for those borrowers to submit documentation during a three-year monitoring period to verify that their incomes did not exceed the poverty line of $12,880 annually for a single person.A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office found that 98% of reinstated disability discharges occurred because borrowers did not submit the required documentation — not because their incomes were too high."Borrowers with total and permanent disabilities should focus on their well-being, not put their health on the line to submit earnings information during the COVID-19 emergency," Cardona said in a statement. "Waiving these requirements will ensure no borrower who is totally and permanently disabled risks having to repay their loans simply because they could not submit paperwork."But experts said this action did not make up for the significant number of borrowers who never received loan forgiveness simply due to paperwork."Today's announcement is not cause for celebration but rather for outrage," Persis Yu, the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said in a statement at the time. "It is scandalous that the Department revoked the loan discharges for 41,000 borrowers with total and permanent disabilities due to paperwork issues during a pandemic."Then, on August 19, Cardona wiped out student debt for 323,000 additional borrowers with disabilities, resulting in $5.8 billion in student-debt relief, and he "indefinitely" waived the requirement to provide proof of income."We've heard loud and clear from borrowers with disabilities and advocates about the need for this change and we are excited to follow through on it," Cardona said. "This change reduces red tape with the aim of making processes as simple as possible for borrowers who need support."Cardona also said the department will consider further waiving the three-year monitoring period. Started a review of student-loan forgiveness programs Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images On May 24, the Education Department announced it is beginning the process of issuing new higher education regulations, mainly concerning student debt-forgiveness programs. The first step of the process will be through holding hearings in June to receive feedback on "regulations that would address gaps in postsecondary outcomes, such as retention, completion, student loan repayment, and loan default," according to a press release.The department will also seek comments on rules regarding student loan forgiveness for borrowers in public service and borrowers with disabilities, among other things.The main topics the department plans to address concern the methods for forgiving debt for defrauded borrowers and borrowers with disabilities, along with looking into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which has rejected 98% of eligible borrowers. Forbes reported that the process to implement new rules could be lengthy, though. After the hearings in June, there will be "negotiated rulemaking," during which stakeholders meet with the department to review proposed regulations, and it could take a year or longer until changes are implemented. Biden's regulatory agenda also included plans to review loan forgiveness programs, but Insider reported on June 15 that details for those reviews remain unclear, and an Education Department spokesperson told Insider there is not yet a timeline for when improvements will be implemented.  Waived interest on student loans for service members Members of the United States Marine Corps stand listening to the 45th President Donald J. Trump's address of the crowd for the opening ceremony of the New York City 100th annual Veterans Day Parade and wreath-laying at the Eternal Light Flag Staff. Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images The Education Department announced on August 20 that 47,000 former and active-duty service members will get the interest on their student loans retroactively waived.The relief will happen automatically, removing the requirement for service members to make individual requests to access the benefit, which, according to the press release, will make service members eight times more likely to receive the benefit than in 2019."Brave men and women in uniform serving our country can now focus on doing their jobs and coming home safely, not filling out more paperwork to access their hard-earned benefits," FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray said in a statement. "Federal Student Aid is grateful for our strong partnership with the Department of Defense, and we will seek to reduce red tape for service members wherever possible."Service members deployed to areas that qualify them for "imminent danger or hostile fire pay," according to the Higher Education Act, should not accrue interest on student loans that were first disbursed on or after October 1, 2008. But since the process was not previously automated, only a small proportion of eligible service members were able to access the benefit, with only about 4,800 of them getting relief in 2019. Overhauled a student-loan forgiveness program for public servants Andreas Rentz/Getty Images The Education Department on October 6 announced a major overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. It's supposed to wipe out student debt for public servants after 120 qualifying monthly payments, but to date it has rejected 98% of applicants due to deep flaws within the program.According to the department's press release, it will implement a limited-time waiver through October 31, 2022, that will allow borrowers to count payments from any federal loan programs or repayment plans toward loan forgiveness through PSLF, including programs and plans that were not previously eligible.The department said this waiver alone would bring 550,000 borrowers closer to student-debt relief automatically, including 22,000 borrowers who will be immediately eligible for relief without any action on their part, totaling $1.74 billion in forgiveness. An additional 27,000 borrowers could also qualify for $2.82 billion in forgiveness if they certify additional periods of employment."Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. "The system has not delivered on that promise to date, but that is about to change for many borrowers who have served their communities and their country."Other changes, to be rolled out in the next few months, include making payments easier to qualify for the program and reviewing denied applications and correcting errors. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 6th, 2021

Camber Energy: What If They Made a Whole Company Out of Red Flags? – Kerrisdale

Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake […] Kerrisdale Capital is short shares of Camber Energy Inc (NYSEAMERICAN:CEI). Camber is a defunct oil producer that has failed to file financial statements with the SEC since September 2020, is in danger of having its stock delisted next month, and just fired its accounting firm in September. Its only real asset is a 73% stake in Viking Energy Group Inc (OTCMKTS:VKIN), an OTC-traded company with negative book value and a going-concern warning that recently violated the maximum-leverage covenant on one of its loans. (For a time, it also had a fake CFO – long story.) Nonetheless, Camber’s stock price has increased by 6x over the past month; last week, astonishingly, an average of $1.9 billion worth of Camber shares changed hands every day. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q2 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Is there any logic to this bizarre frenzy? Camber pumpers have seized upon the notion that the company is now a play on carbon capture and clean energy, citing a license agreement recently entered into by Viking. But the “ESG Clean Energy” technology license is a joke. Not only is it tiny relative to Camber’s market cap (costing only $5 million and granting exclusivity only in Canada), but it has embroiled Camber in the long-running escapades of a western Massachusetts family that once claimed to have created a revolutionary new combustion engine, only to wind up being penalized by the SEC for raising $80 million in unregistered securities offerings, often to unaccredited investors, and spending much of it on themselves. But the most fascinating part of the CEI boondoggle actually has to do with something far more basic: how many shares are there, and why has dilution been spiraling out of control? We believe the market is badly mistaken about Camber’s share count and ignorant of its terrifying capital structure. In fact, we estimate its fully diluted share count is roughly triple the widely reported number, bringing its true, fully diluted market cap, absurdly, to nearly $900 million. Since Camber is delinquent on its financials, investors have failed to fully appreciate the impact of its ongoing issuance of an unusual, highly dilutive class of convertible preferred stock. As a result of this “death spiral” preferred, Camber has already seen its share count increase 50- million-fold from early 2016 to July 2021 – and we believe it isn’t over yet, as preferred holders can and will continue to convert their securities and sell the resulting common shares. Even at the much lower valuation that investors incorrectly think Camber trades for, it’s still overvalued. The core Viking assets are low-quality and dangerously levered, while any near- term benefits from higher commodity prices will be muted by hedges established in 2020. The recent clean-energy license is nearly worthless. It’s ridiculous to have to say this, but Camber isn’t worth $900 million. If it looks like a penny stock, and it acts like a penny stock, it is a penny stock. Camber has been a penny stock before – no more than a month ago, in fact – and we expect that it will be once again. Company Background Founded in 2004, Camber was originally called Lucas Energy Resources. It went public via a reverse merger in 2006 with the plan of “capitaliz[ing] on the increasing availability of opportunistic acquisitions in the energy sector.”1 But after years of bad investments and a nearly 100% decline in its stock price, the company, which renamed itself Camber in 2017, found itself with little economic value left; faced with the prospect of losing its NYSE American listing, it cast about for new acquisitions beginning in early 2019. That’s when Viking entered the picture. Jim Miller, a member of Camber’s board, had served on the board of a micro-cap company called Guardian 8 that was working on “a proprietary new class of enhanced non-lethal weapons”; Guardian 8’s CEO, Steve Cochennet, happened to also be part owner of a Kansas-based company that operated some of Viking’s oil and gas assets and knew that Viking, whose shares traded over the counter, was interested in moving up to a national exchange.2 (In case you’re wondering, under Miller and Cochennet’s watch, Guardian 8’s stock saw its price drop to ~$0; it was delisted in 2019.3) Viking itself also had a checkered past. Previously a shell company, it was repurposed by a corporate lawyer and investment banker named Tom Simeo to create SinoCubate, “an incubator of and investor in privately held companies mainly in P.R. China.” But this business model went nowhere. In 2012, SinoCubate changed its name to Viking Investments but continued to achieve little. In 2014, Simeo brought in James A. Doris, a Canadian lawyer, as a member of the board of directors and then as president and CEO, tasked with executing on Viking’s new strategy of “acquir[ing] income-producing assets throughout North America in various sectors, including energy and real estate.” In a series of transactions, Doris gradually built up a portfolio of oil wells and other energy assets in the United States, relying on large amounts of high-cost debt to get deals done. But Viking has never achieved consistent GAAP profitability; indeed, under Doris’s leadership, from 2015 to the first half of 2021, Viking’s cumulative net income has totaled negative $105 million, and its financial statements warn of “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”4 At first, despite the Guardian 8 crew’s match-making, Camber showed little interest in Viking and pursued another acquisition instead. But, when that deal fell apart, Camber re-engaged with Viking and, in February 2020, announced an all-stock acquisition – effectively a reverse merger in which Viking would end up as the surviving company but transfer some value to incumbent Camber shareholders in exchange for the national listing. For reasons that remain somewhat unclear, this original deal structure was beset with delays, and in December 2020 (after months of insisting that deal closing was just around the corner) Camber announced that it would instead directly purchase a 51% stake in Viking; at the same time, Doris, Viking’s CEO, officially took over Camber as well. Subsequent transactions through July 2021 have brough Camber’s Viking stake up to 69.9 million shares (73% of Viking’s total common shares), in exchange for consideration in the form of a mixture of cash, debt forgiveness,5 and debt assumption, valued in the aggregate by Viking at only $50.7 million: Camber and Viking announced a new merger agreement in February 2021, aiming to take out the remaining Viking shares not owned by Camber and thus fully combine the two companies, but that plan is on hold because Camber has failed to file its last 10-K (as well as two subsequent 10-Qs) and is thus in danger of being delisted unless it catches up by November. Today, then, Camber’s absurd equity valuation rests entirely on its majority stake in a small, unprofitable oil-and-gas roll-up cobbled together by a Canadian lawyer. An Opaque Capital Structure Has Concealed the True Insanity of Camber’s Valuation What actually is Camber’s equity valuation? It sounds like a simple question, and sources like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance supply what looks like a simple answer: 104.2 million shares outstanding times a $3.09 closing price (as of October 4, 2021) equals a market cap of $322 million – absurd enough, given what Camber owns. But these figures only tell part of the story. We estimate that the correct fully diluted market cap is actually a staggering $882 million, including the impact of both Camber’s unusual, highly dilutive Series C convertible preferred stock and its convertible debt. Because Camber is delinquent on its SEC filings, it’s difficult to assemble an up-to-date picture of its balance sheet and capital structure. The widely used 104.2-million-share figure comes from an 8-K filed in July that states, in part: As of July 9, 2021, the Company had 104,195,295 shares of common stock issued and outstanding. The increase in our outstanding shares of common stock from the date of the Company’s February 23, 2021 increase in authorized shares of common stock (from 25 million shares to 250 million shares), is primarily due to conversions of shares of Series C Preferred Stock of the Company into common stock, and conversion premiums due thereon, which are payable in shares of common stock. This bland language belies the stunning magnitude of the dilution that has already taken place. Indeed, we estimate that, of the 104.2 million common shares outstanding on July 9th, 99.7% were created via the conversion of Series C preferred in the past few years – and there’s more where that came from. The terms of Camber’s preferreds are complex but boil down to the following: they accrue non- cash dividends at the sky-high rate of 24.95% per year for a notional seven years but can be converted into common shares at any time. The face value of the preferred shares converts into common shares at a fixed conversion price of $162.50 per share, far higher than the current trading price – so far, so good (from a Camber-shareholder perspective). The problem is the additional “conversion premium,” which is equal to the full seven years’ worth of dividends, or 7 x 24.95% ≈ 175% of face value, all at once, and is converted at a far lower conversion price that “will never be above approximately $0.3985 per share…regardless of the actual trading price of Camber’s common stock” (but could in principle go lower if the price crashes to new lows).6 The upshot of all this is that one share of Series C preferred is now convertible into ~43,885 shares of common stock.7 Historically, all of Camber’s Series C preferred was held by one investor: Discover Growth Fund. The terms of the preferred agreement cap Discover’s ownership of Camber’s common shares at 9.99% of the total, but nothing stops Discover from converting preferred into common up to that cap, selling off the resulting shares, converting additional preferred shares into common up to the cap, selling those common shares, etc., as Camber has stated explicitly (and as Discover has in fact done over the years) (emphasis added): Although Discover may not receive shares of common stock exceeding 9.99% of its outstanding shares of common stock immediately after affecting such conversion, this restriction does not prevent Discover from receiving shares up to the 9.99% limit, selling those shares, and then receiving the rest of the shares it is due, in one or more tranches, while still staying below the 9.99% limit. If Discover chooses to do this, it will cause substantial dilution to the then holders of its common stock. Additionally, the continued sale of shares issuable upon successive conversions will likely create significant downward pressure on the price of its common stock as Discover sells material amounts of Camber’s common stock over time and/or in a short period of time. This could place further downward pressure on the price of its common stock and in turn result in Discover receiving an ever increasing number of additional shares of common stock upon conversion of its securities, and adjustments thereof, which in turn will likely lead to further dilution, reductions in the exercise/conversion price of Discover’s securities and even more downward pressure on its common stock, which could lead to its common stock becoming devalued or worthless.8 In 2017, soon after Discover began to convert some of its first preferred shares, Camber’s then- management claimed to be shocked by the results and sued Discover for fraud, arguing that “[t]he catastrophic effect of the Discover Documents [i.e. the terms of the preferred] is so devastating that the Discover Documents are prima facie unconscionable” because “they will permit Discover to strip Camber of its value and business well beyond the simple repayment of its debt.” Camber called the documents “extremely difficult to understand” and insisted that they “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder. … Only after signing the documents did Camber and [its then CEO]…learn that Discover’s reading of the Discover Documents was that the terms that applied were the strictest and most Camber unfriendly interpretation possible.”9 But the judge wasn’t impressed, suggesting that it was Camber’s own fault for failing to read the fine print, and the case was dismissed. With no better options, Camber then repeatedly came crawling back to Discover for additional tranches of funding via preferred sales. While the recent spike in common share count to 104.2 million as of early July includes some of the impact of ongoing preferred conversion, we believe it fails to include all of it. In addition to Discover’s 2,093 shares of Series C preferred held as of February 2021, Camber issued additional shares to EMC Capital Partners, a creditor of Viking’s, as part of a January agreement to reduce Viking’s debt.10 Then, in July, Camber issued another block of preferred shares – also to Discover, we believe – to help fund Viking’s recent deals.11 We speculate that many of these preferred shares have already been converted into common shares that have subsequently been sold into a frenzied retail bid. Beyond the Series C preferred, there is one additional source of potential dilution: debt issued to Discover in three transactions from December 2020 to April 2021, totaling $20.5 million in face value, and amended in July to be convertible at a fixed price of $1.25 per share.12 We summarize our estimates of all of these sources of potential common share issuance below: Might we be wrong about this math? Absolutely – the mechanics of the Series C preferreds are so convoluted that prior Camber management sued Discover complaining that the legal documents governing them “were drafted in such a way as to obscure the true terms of such documents and the total number of shares of common stock that could be issuable by Camber thereunder.” Camber management could easily set the record straight by revealing the most up- to-date share count via an SEC filing, along with any additional clarifications about the expected future share count upon conversion of all outstanding convertible securities. But we're confident that the current share count reported in financial databases like Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance significantly understates the true, fully diluted figure. An additional indication that Camber expects massive future dilution relates to the total authorized shares of common stock under its official articles of incorporation. It was only a few months ago, in February, that Camber had to hold a special shareholder meeting to increase its maximum authorized share count from 25 million to 250 million in order to accommodate all the shares to be issued because of preferred conversions. But under Camber’s July agreement to sell additional preferred shares to Discover, the company (emphasis added) agreed to include proposals relating to the approval of the July 2021 Purchase Agreement and the issuance of the shares of common stock upon conversion of the Series C Preferred Stock sold pursuant to the July 2021 Purchase Agreement, as well as an increase in authorized common stock to fulfill our obligations to issue such shares, at the Company’s next Annual Meeting, the meeting held to approve the Merger or a separate meeting in the event the Merger is terminated prior to shareholder approval, and to use commercially reasonable best efforts to obtain such approvals as soon as possible and in any event prior to January 1, 2022.13 In other words, Camber can already see that 250 million shares will soon not be enough, consistent with our estimate of ~285 million fully diluted shares above. In sum, Camber’s true overvaluation is dramatically worse than it initially appears because of the massive number of common shares that its preferred and other securities can convert into, leading to a fully diluted share count that is nearly triple the figure found in standard information sources used by investors. This enormous latent dilution, impossible to discern without combing through numerous scattered filings made by a company with no up-to-date financial statements in the public domain, means that the market is – perhaps out of ignorance – attributing close to one billion dollars of value to a very weak business. Camber’s Stake in Viking Has Little Real Value In light of Camber’s gargantuan valuation, it’s worth dwelling on some basic facts about its sole meaningful asset, a 73% stake in Viking Energy. As of 6/30/21: Viking had negative $15 million in shareholder equity/book Its financial statements noted “substantial doubt regarding the Company’s ability to continue as a going ” Of its $101.3 million in outstanding debt (at face value), nearly half (48%) was scheduled to mature and come due over the following 12 months. Viking noted that it “does not currently maintain controls and procedures that are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by the Company in the reports it files or submits under the Exchange Act are recorded, processed, summarized, and reported within the time periods specified by the Commission’s rules and forms.” Viking’s CEO “has concluded that these [disclosure] controls and procedures are not effective in providing reasonable assurance of compliance.” Viking disclosed that a key subsidiary, Elysium Energy, was “in default of the maximum leverage ratio covenant under the term loan agreement at June 30, 2021”; this covenant caps the entity’s total secured debt to EBITDA at 75 to 1.14 This is hardly a healthy operation. Indeed, even according to Viking’s own black-box estimates, the present value of its total proved reserves of oil and gas, using a 10% discount rate (likely generous given the company’s high debt costs), was $120 million as of 12/31/20,15 while its outstanding debt, as stated above, is $101 million – perhaps implying a sliver of residual economic value to equity holders, but not much. And while some market observers have recently gotten excited about how increases in commodity prices could benefit Camber/Viking, any near-term impact will be blunted by hedges put on by Viking in early 2020, which cover, with respect to its Elysium properties, “60% of the estimated production for 2021 and 50% of the estimated production for the period between January, 2022 to July, 2022. Theses hedges have a floor of $45 and a ceiling ranging from $52.70 to $56.00 for oil, and a floor of $2.00 and a ceiling of $2.425 for natural gas” – cutting into the benefit of any price spikes above those ceiling levels.16 Sharing our dreary view of Viking’s prospects is one of Viking’s own financial advisors, a firm called Scalar, LLC, that Viking hired to prepare a fairness opinion under the original all-stock merger agreement with Camber. Combining Viking’s own internal projections with data on comparable-company valuation multiples, Scalar concluded in October 2020 that Viking’s equity was worth somewhere between $0 and $20 million, depending on the methodology used, with the “purest” methodology – a true, full-blown DCF – yielding the lowest estimate of $0-1 million: Camber’s advisor, Mercer Capital, came to a similar conclusion: its “analysis indicated an implied equity value of Viking of $0 to $34.3 million.”17 It’s inconceivable that a majority stake in this company, deemed potentially worthless by multiple experts and clearly experiencing financial strains, could somehow justify a near-billion-dollar valuation. Instead of dwelling on the unpleasant realities of Viking’s oil and gas business, Camber has drawn investor attention to two recent transactions conducted by Viking with Camber funding: a license agreement with “ESG Clean Energy,” discussed in further detail below, and the acquisition of a 60.3% stake in Simson-Maxwell, described as “a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial engines, power generation products, services and custom energy solutions.” But Viking paid just $8 million for its Simson-Maxwell shares,18 and the company has just 125 employees; it defies belief to think that this purchase was such a bargain as to make a material dent in Camber’s overvaluation. And what does Simson-Maxwell actually do? One of its key officers, Daryl Kruper (identified as its chairman in Camber’s press release), describes the company a bit less grandly and more concretely on his LinkedIn page: Simson Maxwell is a power systems specialist. The company assembles and sells generator sets, industrial engines, power control systems and switchgear. Simson Maxwell has service and parts facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Prince George, Vancouver, Nanaimo and Terrace. The company has provided its western Canadian customers with exceptional service for over 70 years. In other words, Simson-Maxwell acts as a sort of distributor/consultant, packaging industrial- strength generators and engines manufactured by companies like GE and Mitsubishi into systems that can provide electrical power, often in remote areas in western Canada; Simson- Maxwell employees then drive around in vans maintaining and repairing these systems. There’s nothing obviously wrong with this business, but it’s small, regional (not just Canada – western Canada specifically), likely driven by an unpredictable flow of new large projects, and unlikely to garner a high standalone valuation. Indeed, buried in one of Viking’s agreements with Simson- Maxwell’s selling shareholders (see p. 23) are clauses giving Viking the right to purchase the rest of the company between July 2024 and July 2026 at a price of at least 8x trailing EBITDA and giving the selling shareholders the right to sell the rest of their shares during the same time frame at a price of at least 7x trailing EBITDA – the kind of multiples associated with sleepy industrial distributors, not fast-growing retail darlings. Since Simon-Maxwell has nothing to do with Viking’s pre-existing assets or (alleged) expertise in oil and gas, and Viking and Camber are hardly flush with cash, why did they make the purchase? We speculate that management is concerned about the combined company’s ability to maintain its listing on the NYSE American. For example, when describing its restruck merger agreement with Viking, Camber noted: Additional closing conditions to the Merger include that in the event the NYSE American determines that the Merger constitutes, or will constitute, a “back-door listing”/“reverse merger”, Camber (and its common stock) is required to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American, pursuant to the applicable guidance and requirements of the NYSE as of the Effective Time. What does it take to qualify for initial listing on the NYSE American? There are several ways, but three require at least $4 million of positive stockholders’ equity, which Viking, the intended surviving company, doesn’t have today; another requires a market cap of greater than $75 million, which management might (quite reasonably) be concerned about achieving sustainably. That leaves a standard that requires a listed company to have $75 million in assets and revenue. With Viking running at only ~$40 million of annualized revenue, we believe management is attempting to buy up more via acquisition. In fact, if the goal is simply to “buy” GAAP revenue, the most efficient way to do it is by acquiring a stake in a low-margin, slow- growing business – little earnings power, hence a low purchase price, but plenty of revenue. And by buying a majority stake instead of the whole thing, the acquirer can further reduce the capital outlay while still being able to consolidate all of the operation’s revenue under GAAP accounting. Buying 60.3% of Simson-Maxwell seems to fit the bill, but it’s a placeholder, not a real value-creator. Camber’s Partners in the Laughable “ESG Clean Energy” Deal Have a Long History of Broken Promises and Alleged Securities Fraud The “catalyst” most commonly cited by Camber Energy bulls for the recent massive increase in the company’s stock price is an August 24th press release, “Camber Energy Secures Exclusive IP License for Patented Carbon-Capture System,” announcing that the company, via Viking, “entered into an Exclusive Intellectual Property License Agreement with ESG Clean Energy, LLC (‘ESG’) regarding ESG’s patent rights and know-how related to stationary electric power generation, including methods to utilize heat and capture carbon dioxide.” Our research suggests that the “intellectual property” in question amounts to very little: in essence, the concept of collecting the exhaust gases emitted by a natural-gas–fueled electric generator, cooling it down to distill out the water vapor, and isolating the remaining carbon dioxide. But what happens to the carbon dioxide then? The clearest answer ESG Clean Energy has given is that it “can be sold to…cannabis producers”19 to help their plants grow faster, though the vast majority of the carbon dioxide would still end up escaping into the atmosphere over time, and additional greenhouse gases would be generated in compressing and shipping this carbon dioxide to the cannabis producers, likely leading to a net worsening of carbon emissions.20 And what is Viking – which primarily extracts oil and gas from the ground, as opposed to running generators and selling electrical power – supposed to do with this technology anyway? The idea seems to be that the newly acquired Simson-Maxwell business will attempt to sell the “technology” as a value-add to customers who are buying generators in western Canada. Indeed, while Camber’s press-release headline emphasized the “exclusive” nature of the license, the license is only exclusive in Canada plus “up to twenty-five locations in the United States” – making the much vaunted deal even more trivial than it might first appear. Viking paid an upfront royalty of $1.5 million in cash in August, with additional installments of $1.5 and $2 million due by January and April 2022, respectively, for a total of $5 million. In addition, Viking “shall pay to ESG continuing royalties of not more than 15% of the net revenues of Viking generated using the Intellectual Property, with the continuing royalty percentage to be jointly determined by the parties collaboratively based on the parties’ development of realistic cashflow models resulting from initial projects utilizing the Intellectual Property, and with the parties utilizing mediation if they cannot jointly agree to the continuing royalty percentage”21 – a strangely open-ended, perhaps rushed, way of setting a royalty rate. Overall, then, Viking is paying $5 million for roughly 85% of the economics of a technology that might conceivably help “capture” CO2 emitted by electric generators in Canada (and up to 25 locations in the United States!) but then probably just re-emit it again. This is the great advance that has driven Camber to a nearly billion-dollar market cap. It’s with good reason that on ESG Clean Energy’s web site (as of early October), the list of “press releases that show that ESG Clean Energy is making waves in the distributive power industry” is blank: If the ESG Clean Energy license deal were just another trivial bit of vaporware hyped up by a promotional company and its over-eager shareholders, it would be problematic but unremarkable; things like that happen all the time. But it’s the nature and history of Camber/Viking’s counterparty in the ESG deal that truly makes the situation sublime. ESG Clean Energy is in fact an offshoot of the Scuderi Group, a family business in western Massachusetts created to develop the now deceased Carmelo Scuderi’s idea for a revolutionary new type of engine. (In a 2005 AP article entitled “Engine design draws skepticism,” an MIT professor “said the creation is almost certain to fail.”) Two of Carmelo’s children, Nick and Sal, appeared in a recent ESG Clean Energy video with Camber’s CEO, who called Sal “more of the brains behind the operation” but didn’t state his official role – interesting since documents associated with ESG Clean Energy’s recent small-scale capital raises don’t mention Sal at all. Buried in Viking’s contract with ESG Clean Energy is the following section, indicating that the patents and technology underlying the deal actually belong in the first instance to the Scuderi Group, Inc.: 2.6 Demonstration of ESG’s Exclusive License with Scuderi Group and Right to Grant Licenses in this Agreement. ESG shall provide necessary documentation to Viking which demonstrates ESG’s right to grant the licenses in this Section 2 of this Agreement. For the avoidance of doubt, ESG shall provide necessary documentation that verifies the terms and conditions of ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group, Inc., a Delaware USA corporation, having an address of 1111 Elm Street, Suite 33, West Springfield, MA 01089 USA (“Scuderi Group”), and that nothing within ESG’s exclusive license with the Scuderi Group is inconsistent with the terms of this Agreement. In fact, the ESG Clean Energy entity itself was originally called Scuderi Clean Energy but changed its name in 2019; its subsidiary ESG-H1, LLC, which presides over a long-delayed power-generation project in the small city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (discussed further below), used to be called Scuderi Holyoke Power LLC but also changed its name in 2019.22 The SEC provided a good summary of the Scuderi Group’s history in a 2013 cease-and-desist order that imposed a $100,000 civil money penalty on Sal Scuderi (emphasis added): Founded in 2002, Scuderi Group has been in the business of developing a new internal combustion engine design. Scuderi Group’s business plan is to develop, patent, and license its engine technology to automobile companies and other large engine manufacturers. Scuderi Group, which considers itself a development stage company, has not generated any revenue… …These proceedings arise out of unregistered, non-exempt stock offerings and misleading disclosures regarding the use of offering proceeds by Scuderi Group and Mr. Scuderi, the company’s president. Between 2004 and 2011, Scuderi Group sold more than $80 million worth of securities through offerings that were not registered with the Commission and did not qualify for any of the exemptions from the Securities Act’s registration requirement. The company’s private placement memoranda informed investors that Scuderi Group intended to use the proceeds from its offerings for “general corporate purposes, including working capital.” In fact, the company was making significant payments to Scuderi family members for non-corporate purposes, including, large, ad hoc bonus payments to Scuderi family employees to cover personal expenses; payments to family members who provided no services to Scuderi; loans to Scuderi family members that were undocumented, with no written interest and repayment terms; large loans to fund $20 million personal insurance policies for six of the Scuderi siblings for which the company has not been, and will not be, repaid; and personal estate planning services for the Scuderi family. Between 2008 and 2011, a period when Scuderi Group sold more than $75 million in securities despite not obtaining any revenue, Mr. Scuderi authorized more than $3.2 million in Scuderi Group spending on such purposes. …In connection with these offerings [of stock], Scuderi Group disseminated more than 3,000 PPMs [private placement memoranda] to potential investors, directly and through third parties. Scuderi Group found these potential investors by, among other things, conducting hundreds of roadshows across the U.S.; hiring a registered broker-dealer to find investors; and paying numerous intermediaries to encourage people to attend meetings that Scuderi Group arranged for potential investors. …Scuderi Group’s own documents reflect that, in total, over 90 of the company’s investors were non-accredited investors… The Scuderi Group and Sal Scuderi neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings but agreed to stop violating securities law. Contemporary local news coverage of the regulatory action added color to the SEC’s description of the Scuderis’ fund-raising tactics (emphasis added): Here on Long Island, folks like HVAC specialist Bill Constantine were early investors, hoping to earn a windfall from Scuderi licensing the idea to every engine manufacturer in the world. Constantine said he was familiar with the Scuderis because he worked at an Islandia company that distributed an oil-less compressor for a refrigerant recovery system designed by the family patriarch. Constantine told [Long Island Business News] he began investing in the engine in 2007, getting many of his friends and family to put their money in, too. The company held an invitation-only sales pitch at the Marriott in Islandia in February 2011. Commercial real estate broker George Tsunis said he was asked to recruit investors for the Scuderi Group, but declined after hearing the pitch. “They were talking about doing business with Volkswagen and Mercedes, but everything was on the come,” Tsunis said. “They were having a party and nobody came.” Hot on the heels of the SEC action, an individual investor who had purchased $197,000 of Scuderi Group preferred units sued the Scuderi Group as well as Sal, Nick, Deborah, Stephen, and Ruth Scuderi individually, alleging, among other things, securities fraud (e.g. “untrue statements of material fact” in offering memoranda). This case was settled out of court in 2016 after the judge reportedly “said from the bench that he was likely to grant summary judgement for [the] plaintiff. … That ruling would have clear the way for other investors in Scuderi to claim at least part of a monetary settlement.” (Two other investors filed a similar lawsuit in 2017 but had it dismissed in 2018 because they ran afoul of the statute of limitations.23) The Scuderi Group put on a brave face, saying publicly, “The company is very pleased to put the SEC matter behind it and return focus to its technology.” In fact, in December 2013, just months after the SEC news broke, the company entered into a “Cooperative Consortium Agreement” with Hino Motors, a Japanese manufacturer, creating an “engineering research group” to further develop the Scuderi engine concept. “Hino paid Scuderi an initial fee of $150,000 to join the Consortium Group, which was to be refunded if Scuderi was unable to raise the funding necessary to start the Project by the Commencement Date,” in the words of Hino’s later lawsuit.24 Sure enough, the Scuderi Group ended up canceling the project in early October 2014 “due to funding and participant issues” – but it didn’t pay back the $150,000. Hino’s lawsuit documents Stephen Scuderi’s long series of emailed excuses: 10/31/14: “I must apologize, but we are going to be a little late in our refund of the Consortium Fee of $150,000. I am sure you have been able to deduce that we have a fair amount of challenging financial problems that we are working through. I am counting on financing for our current backlog of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) projects to provide the capital to refund the Consortium Fee. Though we are very optimistic that the financial package for our PPA projects will be completed successfully, the process is taking a little longer than I originally expected to complete (approximately 3 months longer).” 11/25/14: “I am confident that we can pay Hino back its refund by the end of January. … The reason I have been slow to respond is because I was waiting for feedback from a few large cornerstone investors that we have been negotiating with. The negotiations have been progressing very well and we are close to a comprehensive financing deal, but (as often happens) the back and forth of the negotiating process takes ” 1/12/15: “We have given a proposal to the potential high-end investors that is most interested in investing a large sum of money into Scuderi Group. That investor has done his due-diligence on our company and has communicated to us that he likes our proposal but wants to give us a counter ” 1/31/15: “The individual I spoke of last month is one of several high net worth individuals that are currently evaluating investing a significant amount of equity capital into our That particular individual has not yet responded with a counter proposal, because he wishes to complete a study on the power generation market as part of his due diligence effort first. Though we learned of the study only recently, we believe that his enthusiasm for investing in Scuderi Group remains as strong as ever and steady progress is being made with the other high net worth individuals as well. … I ask only that you be patient for a short while longer as we make every effort possible to raise the monies need[ed] to refund Hino its consortium fee.” Fed up, Hino sued instead of waiting for the next excuse – but ended up discovering that the Scuderi bank account to which it had wired the $150,000 now contained only about $64,000. Hino and the Scuderi Group then entered into a settlement in which that account balance was supposed to be immediately handed over to Hino, with the remainder plus interest to be paid back later – but Scuderi didn’t even comply with its own settlement, forcing Hino to re-initiate its lawsuit and obtain an official court judgment against Scuderi. Pursuant to that judgment, Hino formally requested an array of documents like tax returns and bank statements, but Scuderi simply ignored these requests, using the following brazen logic:25 Though as of this date, the execution has not been satisfied, Scuderi continues to operate in the ordinary course of business and reasonably expects to have money available to satisfy the execution in full in the near future. … Responding to the post- judgment discovery requests, as a practical matter, will not enable Scuderi to pay Hino any faster than can be achieved by Scuderi using all of its resources and efforts to conduct its day-to-day business operations and will only serve to impose additional and unnecessary costs on both parties. Scuderi has offered and is willing to make payments every 30 days to Hino in amounts not less than $10,000 until the execution is satisfied in full. Shortly thereafter, in March 2016, Hino dropped its case, perhaps having chosen to take the $10,000 per month rather than continue to tangle in court with the Scuderis (though we don’t know for sure). With its name tarnished by disgruntled investors and the SEC, and at least one of its bank accounts wiped out by Hino Motors, the Scuderi Group didn’t appear to have a bright future. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a new business was born: Scuderi Clean Energy, “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group, Inc. … formed in October 2015 to market Scuderi Engine Technology to the power generation industry.” (Over time, references to the troubled “Scuderi Engine Technology” have faded away; today ESG Clean Energy is purportedly planning to use standard, off-the-shelf Caterpillar engines. And while an early press release described Scuderi Clean Energy as “a wholly owned subsidiary of Scuderi Group,” the current Scuderi/ESG Clean Energy, LLC, appears to have been created later as its own (nominally) independent entity, led by Nick Scuderi.) As the emailed excuses in the Hino dispute suggested, this pivot to “clean energy” and electric power generation had been in the works for some time, enabling Scuderi Clean Energy to hit the ground running by signing a deal with Holyoke Gas and Electric, a small utility company owned by the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts (population 38,238) in December 2015. The basic idea was that Scuderi Clean Energy would install a large natural-gas generator and associated equipment on a vacant lot and use it to supply Holyoke Gas and Electric with supplemental electric power, especially during “peak demand periods in the summer.”26 But it appears that, from day one, Holyoke had its doubts. In its 2015 annual report (p. 80), the company wrote (emphasis added): In December 2015, the Department contracted with Scuderi Clean Energy, LLC under a twenty (20) year [power purchase agreement] for a 4.375 MW [megawatt] natural gas generator. Uncertain if this project will move forward; however Department mitigated market and development risk by ensuring interconnection costs are born by other party and that rates under PPA are discounted to full wholesale energy and resulting load reduction cost savings (where and if applicable). Holyoke was right to be uncertain. Though its 2017 annual report optimistically said, “Expected Commercial Operation date is April 1, 2018” (p. 90), the 2018 annual report changed to “Expected Commercial Operation is unknown at this time” – language that had to be repeated verbatim in the 2019 and 2020 annual reports. Six years after the contract was signed, the Scuderi Clean Energy, now ESG Clean Energy, project still hasn’t produced one iota of power, let alone one dollar of revenue. What it has produced, however, is funding from retail investors, though perhaps not as much as the Scuderis could have hoped. Beginning in 2017, Scuderi Clean Energy managed to sell roughly $1.3 million27 in 5-year “TIGRcub” bonds (Top-Line Income Generation Rights Certificates) on the small online Entrex platform by advertising a 12% “minimum yield” and 16.72% “projected IRR” (based on 18.84% “revenue participation”) over a 5-year term. While we don’t know the exact terms of these bonds, we believe that, at least early on, interest payments were covered by some sort of prepaid insurance policy, while later payments depend on (so far nonexistent) revenue from the Holyoke project. But Scuderi Clean Energy had been aiming to raise $6 million to complete the project, not $1 million; indeed, this was only supposed to be the first component of a whole empire of “Scuderi power plants”28 that would require over $100 million to build but were supposedly already under contract.29 So far, however, nothing has come of these other projects, and, seemingly suffering from insufficient funding, the Holyoke effort languished. (Of course, it might have been more investor-friendly if Scuderi Clean Energy had only accepted funding on the condition that there was enough to actually complete construction.) Under the new ESG Clean Energy name, the Scuderis tried in 2019 to raise capital again, this time in the form of $5 million of preferred units marketed as a “5 year tax free Investment with 18% cash-on-cash return,” but, based on an SEC filing, it appears that the offering didn’t go well, raising just $150,000. With funding still limited and the Holyoke project far from finished, the clock is ticking: the $1.3 million of bonds will begin to mature in early 2022. It was thus fortunate that Viking came along when it did to pay ESG Clean Energy a $1.5 million upfront royalty for its incredible technology. Interestingly, ESG Clean Energy began in late 2020 to provide extremely detailed updates on its Holyoke construction progress, including items as prosaic as “Throughout the week, ESG had met with and continued to exchange numerous e-mails with our mechanical engineering firm.” With frequent references to the “very fluid environment,” the tone is unmistakably defensive. Consider the September update (emphasis not added): Reading between the lines, we believe the intended message is this: “We didn’t just take your money and run – honest! We’re working hard!” Nonetheless, someone appears to be unhappy, as indicated by the FINRA BrokerCheck report for one Eric Willer, a former employee of Fusion Analytics, which was listed as a recipient of sales compensation in connection with the Scuderi Clean Energy bond offerings. Willer may now be in hot water: a disclosure notice dated 3/31/2021 reads: “Wells Notice received as a preliminary determination to recommend disciplinary action of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and recommendation without due diligence in the sale of bonds issued by Scuderi Holyoke,” with a further investigation still pending. We wait eagerly for additional updates. Why does the saga of the Scuderis matter? Many Camber investors seem to have convinced themselves that the ESG Clean Energy “carbon capture” IP licensed by Viking has enormous value and can plausibly justify hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental market cap. As we explained above, we find this thoroughly implausible even without getting into Scuderi family history: in the end, the “technology” will at best add a smidgen of value to some generators in Canada. But track records matter too, and the Scuderi track record of failed R&D, delays, excuses, and alleged misuse of funds is worth considering. These people have spent six years trying and failing to sell power to a single municipally owned utility company in a single small city in western Massachusetts. Are they really about to end climate change? The Case of the Fictitious CFO Since Camber is effectively a bet on Viking, and Viking, in its current form, has been assembled by James Doris, it’s important to assess Doris’s probity and good judgment. In that connection, it’s noteworthy that, from December 2014 to July 2016, at the very start of Doris’s reign as Viking’s CEO and president, the company’s CFO, Guangfang “Cecile” Yang, was apparently fictitious. (Covering the case in 2019, Dealbreaker used the headline “Possibly Imaginary CFO Grounds For Very Real Fraud Lawsuit.”) This strange situation was brought to light by an SEC lawsuit against Viking’s founder, Tom Simeo; just last month, a US district court granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC against Simeo, but Simeo’s penalties have yet to be determined.30 The court’s opinion provided a good overview of the facts (references omitted, emphasis added): In 2013, Simeo hired Yang, who lives in Shanghai, China, to be Viking’s CFO. Yang served in that position until she purportedly resigned in July 2016. When Yang joined the company, Simeo fabricated a standing resignation letter, in which Yang purported to “irrevocably” resign her position with Viking “at any time desired by the Company” and “[u]pon notification that the Company accepted [her] resignation”…Simeo forged Yang’s signature on this document. This letter allowed Simeo to remove Yang from the position of CFO whenever he pleased. Simeo also fabricated a power of attorney purportedly signed by Yang that allowed Simeo to “affix Yang’s signature to any and all documents,” including documents that Viking had to file with the SEC. Viking represented to the public that Yang was the company’s CFO and a member of its Board of Directors. But “Yang never actually functioned as Viking’s CFO.” She “was not involved in the financial and strategic decisions” of Viking during the Relevant Period. Nor did she play any role in “preparing Viking’s financial statements or public filings.” Indeed, at least as of April 3, 2015, Yang did not do “any work” on Viking’s financial statements and did not speak with anyone who was preparing them. She also did not “review or evaluate Viking’s internal controls over financial reporting.” Further, during most or all of the Relevant Period, Viking did not compensate Yang despite the fact that she was the company’s highest ranking financial employee. Nevertheless, Simeo says that he personally paid her in cash. Yang’s “sole point of contact” at Viking was Simeo. Indeed Simeo was “the only person at Viking who communicated with Yang.” Thus many people at Viking never interacted with Yang. Despite the fact that Doris has served as Viking’s CEO since December 2014, he “has never met or spoken to Yang either in person or through any other means, and he has never communicated with Yang in writing.” … To think Yang served as CFO during this time, but the CEO and other individuals involved with Viking’s SEC filings never once spoke with her, strains all logical credulity. It remains unclear whether Yang is even a real person. When the SEC asked Simeo directly (“Is it the case that you made up the existence of Ms. Yang?”) he responded by “invoking the Fifth Amendment.”31 While the SEC’s efforts thus far have focused on Simeo, the case clearly raises the question of what Doris knew and when he knew it. Indeed, though many of the required Sarbanes-Oxley certifications of Viking’s financial statements during the Yang period were signed by Simeo in his role as chairman, Doris did personally sign off on an amended 2015 10-K that refers to Yang as CFO through July 2016 and includes her complete, apparently fictitious, biography. Viking has also disclosed the following, which we believe pertains to the Yang affair (emphasis added): In April of 2019, the staff (the “Staff”) of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement notified the Company that the Staff had made a preliminary determination to recommend that the SEC file an enforcement action against the Company, as well as against its CEO and its CFO, for alleged violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder [laws that pertain to securities fraud] during the period from early 2014 through late 2016. The Staff’s notice is not a formal allegation or a finding of wrongdoing by the Company, and the Company has communicated with the Staff regarding its preliminary determination. The Company believes it has adequate defenses and intends to vigorously defend any enforcement action that may be initiated by the SEC.32 Perhaps the SEC has moved on from this matter and will let Doris and Viking off the hook, but the fact pattern is eyebrow-raising nonetheless. A similarly troubling incident came soon after the time of Yang’s “resignation,” when Viking’s auditing firm resigned, withdrew its recent audit report, and wrote a letter “advising the Company that it believed an illegal act may have occurred” – because of concerns that had nothing to do with Yang. First, Viking accounted for the timing of a grant of shares to a consultant in apparent contradiction of the terms of the written agreement with the consultant – a seemingly minor issue. But, under scrutiny from the auditor, Viking “produced a letter… (the version which was provided to us was unsigned), from the consultant stating that the Agreement was invalidated verbally.” Reading between the lines, the “uncomfortable” auditor suspected that this letter was a fake, created just to get him off Viking’s back. In another incident, the auditor “became aware that seven of the company’s loans…were due to be repaid” in August 2016 but hadn’t been, creating a default that would in turn “trigger[] a cross-default clause contained in 17 additional loans” – but Viking claimed it “had secured an oral extension to the loans from the broker-dealer representing the lenders by September 6, 2016” – after the loans’ maturity dates – “so the Company did not need to disclose ‘the defaults under these loans’ after such time since the loans were not in default.” It’s easy to see why an auditor would object to this attitude toward financial disclosure – no need to mention a default in August as long as you can secure a verbal agreement resolving it by September! Against this backdrop of disturbing behavior, the fact that Camber just dismissed its auditing firm three weeks ago on September 16th, even with delisting looming if the company can’t become current again with its SEC filings by November, seems even more unsettling. Have Camber and Viking management earned investors’ trust? Conclusion It’s not clear why, back in 2017, Lucas Energy changed its name to “Camber” specifically, but we’d like to think the inspiration was England’s Camber Castle. According to Atlas Obscura, the castle was supposed to help defend the English coast, but it took so long to build that its “advanced design was obsolete by the time of its completion,” and changes in the local environment meant that “the sea had receded so far that cannons fired from the fort would no longer be able to reach any invading ships.” Still, the useless castle was “manned and serviced” for nearly a century before being officially decommissioned. Today, Camber “lies derelict and almost unheard of.” But what’s in a name? Article by Kerrisdale Capital Management Updated on Oct 5, 2021, 12:06 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkOct 5th, 2021

San Francisco Homeless Insider Tells All

San Francisco Homeless Insider Tells All Authored by Michael Shellenberger via Substack, Why progressives defend and finance open drug scenes... In my new book, San Fransicko, I describe why progressives create and defend what European researchers call “open drug scenes,” which are places in cities where drug dealers and buyers meet, and many addicts live in tents. Progressives call these scenes “homeless encampments,” and not only defend them but have encouraged their growth, which is why the homeless population in California grew 31 percent since 2000. This was mostly a West Coast phenomenon until recently. But now, the newly elected progressive mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu, has decided to keep open a drug scene at Mass and Cass avenues, even though it has resulted in several deaths from drug overdoses and homicides. Progressives defend their approach as compassionate. Not everybody who is homeless is an addict, they say. Many are just down on their luck. Others turn to drugs after living on the street. What they need is our help. We should not ask people living in homeless encampments to go somewhere else. Homeless shelters are often more dangerous than living on the street. We should provide the people living in tents with money, food, clean needles, and whatever else they need to stay alive and comfortable. And we should provide everyone with their own apartment unit if that’s what they want. But this “harm reduction” approach is obviously failing. Cities already do a good job taking care of temporarily homeless people not addicted to drugs. Drug dealers stab and sometimes murder addicts who don’t pay. Women forced into prostitution to support their addictions are raped. Addicts are dying from overdose and poisoning. The addicts living in the open drug scenes commit many crimes including open drug use, sleeping on sidewalks, and defecating in public. Many steal to maintain their habits. The hands-off approach has meant that addicts do not spend any amount of time in jail or hospital where they can be off of drugs, and seek recovery. Now, even a growing number of people who have worked or still work within the homeless services sector are speaking out. A longtime San Francisco homeless service provider who read San Fransicko, and said they mostly agreed with it, reached out to me to share their views. At first this person said they wanted to speak on the record. But as the interview went on, and the person criticized their colleagues, they asked to remain anonymous, fearing retribution. Why “Housing First” Failed The main progressive approach for addressing homelessness, not just in San Francisco but in progressive cities around the nation, is “Housing First,” which is the notion that taxpayers should give, no questions asked, apartment units to anyone who says they are homeless, and asks for one. What actually works to reduce the addiction that forces many people onto the streets is making housing contingent on abstinence. But Housing First advocates oppose “contingency management,” as it’s called, because, they say, “Housing is a right,” and it should not be condition on behavior change. But such a policy is absurdly unrealistic, said the San Francisco homeless expert. “To pretend that this city could build enough permanent supportive housing for every homeless person who needs it is ludicrous,” the person said. “I wish it weren’t. I wish I lived in a land where there was plenty of housing. But now people are dying on our streets and it feels like we’re not doing very much about it.” The underlying problem with Housing First is that it enables addiction. “The National Academies of Sciences review [which showed that giving people apartments did not improve health or other life outcomes] you cited shows that. San Francisco has more permanent supportive housing units per capita than any other city, and we doubled spending on homelessness, but the homeless population rose 13%, even as it went down in the US. And so we doubled our spending and the problem got worse. But if you say that, you get attacked.” How did progressives, who claim to be evidence-based, ever get so committed to Housing First? “Malcolm Gladwell’s [2006 New Yorker article] “Million Dollar Murray,” really helped popularize this idea,” the person said. “But it was based on an anecdote of one person. It works for who it works for but is not scalable. [Governor] Gavin [Newsom] made a mistake [as San Francisco’s Mayor 2004-2011] which was that we stopped investing in shelter. But that’s because all the best minds were saying, ‘This is what’s going to work.’” One of the claims made defenders of the open drug scenes is that people who live in them are mostly locals who were priced out of their homes and apartments and decided to pitch a tent on the street. In San Fransicko, I cite a significant body of evidence to show that this is false, and that many people come to San Francisco from around the U.S. for the city’s unusually high cash welfare benefits, free housing, and tolerance of open drug scenes. The insider agreed. “People come here because they think they can. It’s bullshit that ‘Only 30 percent [of homeless] are from out of town.’ At least 20,000 homeless people come through town every year. Talk to the people on the street. There’s no way 70 percent of the homeless are from here. Ask them the name of their high school and they guess, ‘Washington? The one around the corner?’ But you can’t even talk about that without being called a fascist.”  The people living on the street suffer from serious addiction, this person said. “During the first point in time count [census of homeless population] in 2007, one-third had a disability, mental illness, or addiction, while last time, it was over two-thirds. The population fundamentally changed, whether from the drugs, or the time on the street. It doesn’t matter because a lot of the problems on the street are drugs-related. Neither San Francisco nor any other municipality can solve the housing policy without changing federal policy.” Life in the open drug scenes is brutal, this person confirmed. “Most homeless encampments are not communities but have paper-thin relationships based on their disease. It’s hard to have healthy relationships when you’re just trying to keep your head above water because you’re so dope dependent.” What San Francisco and other progressive cities are doing isn’t working. “People in those encampments have food brought to them, port-a-potties brought to them, and all they need to do is put drugs in their arm all day. They get really really sick and they die. Portugal didn’t make it so you can do whatever you want. The consequences of your action are treatment driven, but there are consequences. Here there are no consequences. And so we make it worse.” This person was harshly critical of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health for allowing drug overdoses to rise to over 700 per year. “They say, ‘It’s not our fault because it’s fentanyl.” But it’s only gotten worse.” This person stressed they were in favor of harm reduction policies like giving addicts clean needles in exchange for them giving back dirty ones, but not just giving out needles. “I’m all in favor of needle exchange, but not of needle distribution. Ask people to return the needles they’ve been given. There are people who don’t have it together enough. I get that. But when you tell people we’re going to give you whatever you want, to do whatever you want… Sleeping on a sidewalk is a crime. There are things you can’t do. You can’t shoot up on the street. The laws are there for a reason.” Why Progressives Create Homelessness So ⁦@SFPD⁩ just arrested ⁦@christinevans⁩ for interfering with their work of displacing folks in a large encampment under the freeway during a pandemic as Delta is spreading. I was talking to an unhoused pregnant woman when they threatened to arrest me too. pic.twitter.com/NBANKCWA0Y — Kelley Cutler (@NutCheese) July 27, 2021 Open drug scenes look like natural disasters, but they are the result of specific city policies. These policies including giving money, food, and drug paraphernalia to addicts to support their addiction. But even if progressives didn’t give people those things, many addicts would still live in open drug scenes. As such, the main reason “homelessness” is so much worse in progressive West Coast cities is because progressives hotly oppose efforts by cities to close the open drug scenes and move addicts into shelters and rehab. By blocking the closing of open drug scenes, which is referred to as “clearing an encampment,” people in need of help don’t get it. “The San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness recently [July 2021] protested an encampment clearing where a woman was pregnant,” the insider told me. “As soon as everybody left, the woman went into a shelter, after having been on the streets for three months. She went indoors. It’s like, ‘What are you fighting for? The right of this person to stay on private property and be pregnant?’” One of the questions I tried to answer in San Fransicko was when it was that street addicts started living in tents. I concluded that it started with the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in 2011, when progressive activists in San Francisco, Oakland, and other cities lived in tents in front of government buildings to protest capitalism. This person confirmed this account. “You’re right that the tents popped up after Occupy,” they said. “But it wasn’t just that the Occupy activists gave the homeless their tents. It was that the homeless saw well-heeled whites sleeping in tents. It got moralized.” The most influential homeless advocate in San Francisco, and perhaps the United States as a whole, is the head of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, Jennifer Friedenbach. Over the last three decades, Friedenbach has taken control over San Francisco’s homelessness budget and other policies. She blocks the closure of open drug scenes, calls people who disagree with her fascists and racists, and organizes protests at the homes of politicians. Time to house all San Franciscans, don’t you think? pic.twitter.com/PA5fFGivhN — Jennifer Friedenbach (@fbach4) May 18, 2021 A typical example of Friedenbach’s tactics could be seen in posters she promoted in May. The headline read, “See a tent? Just fucking leave it alone, thanks. Maybe instead of complaining about a homeless person’s only shelter from the elements, you could do something about the economic conditions that put them there in the first place?” The main reason San Francisco lacks sufficient homeless shelters is because Friedenbach and other Housing First advocates have long opposed them. They have demanded that money go to providing people with their own apartment units. The reason, Friedenbach explained to me, is that “if you ask unhoused people, they’re not screaming for shelter. They’re screaming for housing.” In the spring of 2021, Friedenbach published an op-ed opposing a proposal considered by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to create, within eighteen months, sufficient homeless shelters and outdoor “Safe Sleeping Sites” for all of the city’s unsheltered homeless. “One can simply take a look to New York City,” she wrote. “Their department spends about $1.3 billion dollars of its budget on providing shelter for their unhoused population while thousands remain on the street. . . . As a result, New York has a higher rate of homelessness than San Francisco.” But the claim was misleading. New York shelters the vast majority of its homeless, whereas San Francisco leaves the vast majority of its homeless unsheltered. “New York [City] has made the decision that everyone should have an exit from the street,” noted Rafael Mandelman, a San Francisco county supervisor. “San Francisco has consciously chosen not to make that commitment. And the conditions on New York’s streets versus San Francisco streets are somewhat reflective of what that means.” Friedenbach controls how San Francisco spends its astonishing $850 million annual budget. “Jenny built her power base by becoming a master of the budget’s “add back” process,” said the San Francisco insider. “The night before the budget is announced, it gets reviewed by the Board of Supervisors, but they’re trying to get out of there by midnight, and that’s when these ‘community asks.’ The board goes and trims stuff out of the mayor’s budget and does “add backs'' of money for struggling nonprofits. Jenny has mastered that process. And so if you’re a nonprofit executive director, and you want money in the add back process, which everyone does, you have to go through Jenny.” This person said that Friedenbach also operates behind the scenes. “She controls fake front groups like the Homeless Service Providers’ Coalition and the Justice Budget Coalition,” said the insider. “She knows the issue well. A lot of people look to her.” But more importantly, Friedenbach, like many progressive defenders of open drug scenes, demonize the people who stand up to her. “They shut down the discussion,” the insider said. “Everybody is just like, ‘Police bad. Public health good.’ It’s Animal Farm. But the city’s homeless outreach team can’t do their jobs without the cops. That’s the stuff that shuts down any meaningful discussion.” Why do they do it? Radical anti-system ideology. “There’s a San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness hat which says, ‘Coalition on Homelessness: On The Frontlines of Class Warfare,’” said the insider. “They feel like they’re fighting class warfare. They tell people to not take shelter.” I documented in San Fransicko that Friedenbach and other homeless advocates are motivated in significant measure by their belief that capitalism, not addiction, is responsible for the suffering on the streets. After I appeared on Joe Rogan, a clinical psychologist who for two decades ran programs for homeless veterans at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center, which included homeless vets, emailed me. “I agree with all you say about the ‘homeless’ people who are actually mislabeled mentally ill and drug addicts,” wrote Dr. Mark Zaslav. “I like your comparison of the ‘ideology’ of people who “advocate” for the homeless to a religion gone haywire. But I wanted, as a psychologist, to add another point for your consideration.  This is the fact that this leftwing religion is based on split-off hatred and contempt for civilization itself.  When I attended substance abuse conferences in San Francisco run by community leaders, it became clear to me that these people had no understanding of mental health disorders like addiction – they regarded “homeless” addicts as heroes of some kind.   “Thus, each drug addict defecating on the streets in the Tenderloin was a massive middle finger to some imagined white male with a briefcase.  The premise of your solutions, which make so much sense, assume that adherents to the now reigning ideology want things solved.  They do not.  They want people inconvenienced by addicts – the homeless become quote literal scared cows who roam society reminding everyone of the sins of capitalism. “You mentioned Noam Chomsky.  These people are angry and full of hate.  They have tapped into a form of blindness among the voters of places like San Francisco or California itself – these are angry people endlessly telling themselves they are compassionate while projecting their hatred toward the ‘bourgeoise.’ I am afraid this does not end well. “ The San Francisco homelessness insider agreed, and despaired over the religious fervor in which the people who work at the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, the San Francisco Public Health Department, and many elected members of the Board of Supervisors are gripped. “Maybe homelessness is part of capitalism and racism,” said this person. “I can’t solve that and neither can any nonprofit organization. I can’t stand seeing people suffering on the streets. What are we going to do right now?” .*  *  * Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine "Hero of the Environment,"Green Book Award winner, and the founder and president of Environmental Progress. He is author of just launched book San Fransicko (Harper Collins) and the best-selling book, Apocalypse Never (Harper Collins June 30, 2020). Our research and writing depends on individuals like you. Please consider subscribing now so we can expand our work in the coming year Tyler Durden Mon, 11/29/2021 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 29th, 2021

10 Things in Politics: Dems wants DOJ to be more aggressive

And the FDA seems ready to OK a booster shot for all adults this week. Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. Sign up here to receive this newsletter. Plus, download Insider's app for news on the go — click here for iOS and here for Android. Send tips to bgriffiths@insider.com.Here's what we're talking about:Democrats are frustrated with Merrick Garland's judge-like apolitical style as Biden's attorney generalThe FDA seems ready to OK a booster shot for all adults this weekRepublicans mock Democrats' plans to fight critical-race-theory claims, saying they're calling parents 'racist'Attorney General Merrick Garland.Win McNamee/Pool via AP1. INSIDE THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: Democrats wanted a fresh start at the Department of Justice. But party officials are increasingly growing frustrated with Attorney General Merrick Garland's judge-like approach to the job. They point to recent House and Senate hearings in which Republicans grilled Garland as evidence that he doesn't have the sharp elbows necessary to thrive in Washington.Here's a deeper look at what people are saying:"He's been out of the hurly-burly for 25 years," a former top Obama administration official told Insider of Garland. Some Democrats and former Justice Department officials told Insider they thought Garland missed an opportunity to more forcefully respond to Republicans and even challenge them on their strategy of turning local education into the latest front in the culture wars.Key quote: "I don't think it's his natural style to be a pugilistic fighter," said Matt Miller, who served in the Obama administration as the top spokesperson for Attorney General Eric Holder.Garland's decision-making is also under fire: "Not content with a high-level briefing, Garland is known to read case law himself and even inquire about the judges handling various matters. His interest in that level of detail is uncommon for attorneys general, according to people familiar with his approach," my colleague writes.His hiring has also raised eyebrows: "He's running it like it's a chambers, where he's going to have to write an opinion or something," the former top Obama administration official said.Read more on how Merrick Garland's apolitical style is grating on Democrats.With Jordan Erb.2. FDA seems ready to OK a booster shot for all adults this week: "The Food and Drug Administration is aiming to authorize booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for all adults as early as Thursday," The New York Times reports. Some state and local officials have already moved toward allowing all adults to get a booster shot amid an at-times-confusing rollout at the federal level. More on what would be a major moment in the US vaccination campaign.Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona.Reuters3. Rep. Paul Gosar faces punishment for posting a violent anime video: House lawmakers plan to vote today on whether to kick Gosar off of two committees and formally condemn the Arizona Republican for posting the video, Politico reports. In the video, a character with Gosar's face edited onto it kills a character with the face of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She said she supported the measure and felt lawmakers who threaten their colleagues should face severe consequences. Rep. Liz Cheney said she'd vote in favor of censuring Gosar, but it's unclear how many other Republicans might support the effort. Gosar later deleted the tweet containing the video and said he wasn't encouraging violence. It's been more than a decade since a House lawmaker was censured. Here's what else you need to know ahead of today's expected vote.4. Republicans mock Democrats' plans to fight back on critical-race-theory attacks: Republicans say Democrats' strategy on critical race theory is great — for the GOP. Their glee comes in response to an Insider story in which Democrats called for their party to more forcibly respond as the college-level idea has become a misused catch-all term among conservatives for teaching about race and diversity in K-12 schools. "It's that Republicans are willing to let white supremacists write curricula," one top Democratic strategist told Insider of what the message should be. "Double down on calling parents racist. Great plan," one Republican tweeted in response. More on how Republicans say Democrats are calling parents "racist."5. No verdict after daylong deliberation in Kyle Rittenhouse's trial: Jurors are set to resume considering the case later today. Rittenhouse faces life in prison if he is convicted of the most serious charge for killing two men and injuring a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Associated Press reports. Rittenhouse testified that he acted in self-defense. Judge Bruce Schroeder later defended his unusual move to allow Rittenhouse to play a minor role in the final selection of the jury.6. A UN agency responded to Elon Musk's call to back up its claims about world hunger: The UN's food-assistance branch, the World Food Programme, laid out how it believed $6.6 billion in funding could prevent 42 million people across 43 countries from starving in 2022. Musk recently challenged the UN to show him how $6 billion of his wealth could "solve world hunger." More on the news.7. Biden hits the road to tout newly signed infrastructure law: President Joe Biden visited an aging New Hampshire bridge, the first stop of what's expected to be a large tour by him and other administration officials and lawmakers to promote the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the same time, Democrats are still hoping to pass their massive social-spending bill on a party-line vote in the House later this week. Here's where things stand.8. Democratic lawmaker failed to properly disclose a 6-figure Apple stock buy: Democratic Rep. Kim Schrier of Washington was more than two months late disclosing a sizable purchase of Apple Inc. stock, according to her most recent financial-disclosure filings. Schrier reported buying up to $1 million worth of stock in the technology giant in late July via a jointly held family trust. A spokeswoman said Schrier's husband, David, conducted the trade. Forty-six lawmakers have failed to properly disclose their financial trades this year.9. Rep. Jackie Speier announces retirement: Speier, a Democrat from California, said it was time for her to leave Washington after representing San Mateo County and San Francisco since 2008, the Los Angeles Times reports. A close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Speier began her career in public service working for Rep. Leo Ryan, who she saw murdered at the Jonestown massacre in Guyana. Speier is the latest House Democrat to retire ahead of the potentially difficult midterms.10. Gen Z is making corded headphones cool again: Tired: AirPods. Wired, well, headphones apparently. It's partially an aesthetic thing; corded headphones radiate a cool, grungy, early-2000s vibe. But it's also a statement — they don't want to look like Patagonia-wearing "finance bros." Why Gen Z is resurrecting corded headphones.Today's trivia question: At least one chamber of Congress has passed four censures, or what would now be considered censure, against four presidents. Which president is the most recent to have received this formal reprimand? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.Yesterday's answer: The Democrat Robert C. Byrd is the longest-serving senator in American history, having represented West Virginia in the chamber for over 51 years when he died in 2010. It's unlikely that mark will be broken anytime soon.Note: A correction to the answer to Monday's question, no major party has nominated a sitting Cabinet secretary for president since Republicans nominated Herbert Hoover in 1928. Democrats, of course, nominated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 17th, 2021

Shellenberger: Why Progressives Ruin Democrats

Shellenberger: Why Progressives Ruin Democrats Authored by Michael Shellenberger via Substack, Since the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, progressives have made the argument that taking back the presidency, the Congress, and winning swing states requires that Democrats move to the Left on social and economic issues, aggressively confront structural racism, and stand more firmly with longstanding allies like the teachers’ unions, environmentalists, and criminal justice reformers.  But the election of an underdog Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, as governor of Virginia on Tuesday night, the election of Republicans in state races in New Jersey and New York, and the repudiation of progressives in Seattle and Minneapolis on issues relating to criminal justice, suggest that voters in even liberal cities are turning against progressive policies and ideology, particularly on issues relating to race, education, and crime, as part of a backlash to “woke” ideology. Some progressives say this is a misreading of the evidence. Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, is a Clinton-era Democrat, who ran on a centrist agenda. Progressive candidates won in other cities around the U.S., including in Boston. And, they argue, it was President Joe Biden’s unpopularity, partly due to the obstinance of moderate Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema to Biden’s budget proposal, that is to blame for the Democrats’ electoral losses.  But progressive efforts to deflect blame don’t stand up under scrutiny. While it’s true McAuliffe ran on a moderate platform, he refused to acknowledge much less renounce the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms, opposed expanded parental involvement, and campaigned with the teachers union. While Boston’s new mayor promotes progressive policies she also supports shutting down open drug scenes. And progressive demands for expanded federal control over regional electricity markets prevented a budget deal from passing before the election, contributing to Biden’s poor approval ratings, and giving Democratic candidates little upon which to campaign. “I think Democrats have to look in the mirror now,” said CNN contributor, Van Jones, on election night. “I think Democrats are coming across in ways that we don’t recognize, that are annoying, offensive, and seem out of touch in ways that don’t show up in our feeds, in our echo chamber —” “When you’re talking about ‘our,’” interrupted Anderson Cooper, “you’re talking about Democrats?” “Democrats” confirmed Jones “Because,” said Cooper, “it seems annoying to a lot of people.” Former advisor to Barack Obama, David Axelrod, agreed. “I think the attitude [of Democrats] is important,” he said. “The Democratic Party has become a more college-educated and urban party coalition with minority voters and the messages tend to be moralizing.” “Moralizing,” agreed Jones. “Self-righteous.” “It’s, ‘We’re going to tell you what’s right,’” said Axelrod. Democratic political strategist James Carville was even more blunt. "What went wrong is stupid wokeness,” he told PBS. “Don’t just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Washington. I mean, this ‘Defund the police!’ lunacy. This, ‘Take Abraham Lincoln’s name off of schools!’... people see that. And it really has a suppressive effect on all across the country on Democrats. Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something.” In the coming months and years, the rejection by voters of the progressive  agenda could extend to climate and environmental issues. Despite gasoline prices remaining high, progressives, including the Biden White House, remain opposed to expanded oil and gas production — at least in the U.S. — to lower them. Meanwhile, progressive climate change policies are increasing electricity prices, increasing blackouts, and resulting in greater dependence on imported foreign oil.  In truth, Carville, Axelrod, Jones and many others, including Obama himself, have been warning progressives that they had become too self-righteous, extreme, and shrill for years. Progressives have waved away, ridiculed, and even denounced such concerns as racist. And even after losing on Tuesday, many progressives took to the TV airwaves to assert that Democratic losses were due to racism. Progressives appear, in other words, determined to stick with an approach that is making Democratic candidates lose. Why is that? Luxury Beliefs Democratic and progressive elites often come across as out of touch. “I think Democrats are coming across in ways that we don’t recognize,” said Van Jones, because alternative views “don’t show up in our feeds, in our echo chamber.”  The sociologist Chistopher Lasch predicted as much in his 1995 book, Revolt of the Elites. “The physical segregation of the population is self-enclosed, racially homogeneous enclaves has its counterpart in the balkanization of opinion,” he wrote. “Each group tries to barricade itself behind its own dogmas.” Keep in mind that all of that was happening more than a decade before Twitter.   There is also tone deafness. In 2019 Prince Harry and Meghen Markle, other celebrities, and CEOs flew private jets, which produce eight to ten times the emissions as flying commercial, and stayed in yachts at a Google conference in Sicily to discuss climate change. In 2020, dozens of important policymakers around the world were caught violating their own covid regulations, and sometimes didn’t seem to care. When San Francisco Mayor London Breed was caught on video dancing at a packed night club without her mask on, she demonstrated no remorse. Breed told a television reporter that she was just letting off steam and people should lay off. Progressives wave away concerns of elitism. Earlier this year, Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went, unmasked, to the swanky Met Gala, wearing a dress emblazoned with the words, “Tax the Rich,” and surrounded by masked help, including a man subserviently holding the dress train. Progressive “fact checkers” pointed out that somebody else paid for Ocasio-Cortez’s $35,000 ticket, as though that made her behavior less elitist. In Apocalypse Never, I wrote that the hypocrisy of Prince Harry and Markle and other celebrities ostensibly concerned about climate change was the ultimate power move because it allowed them to communicate that they followed a different set of rules from the plebes. My suspicions were proven correct in September when the couple once again flew back to L.A. in a private jet after attending a climate change conference in New York. “It’s really not a good look!” scolded Marie Claire. But perhaps it is a good look if good looks are about advertising social status.  A worse look is calling half of the country racist, which is what many progressives and Democrats have done since 2016. Since then, Latino support for Trump and Republicans grew significantly. In Virginia, it was independents and white women who voted for Biden who were decisive, and education, particularly the influence of Critical Race Theory, appeared to be a deciding issue.  Documentary filmmaker Christopher Rufo has brought to light a significant quantity of evidence showing the teaching in schools, and the training of public and private sector employees, of the principles of critical race theory, or CRT for short. These activities include segregating employees and students by race; teaching children and training employees that there are essential differences between races; and claiming that all white people are inherently racist.  The Virginia vote showed that CRT views are highly unpopular with many voters, including African Americans and Democrats. Americans still hold race-neutrality, not race-obsession, as our goal, and reject the progressive moral panic over race and racism. Why, then, do progressives and Democrats insist, simultaneously, and incoherently, both that CRT doesn’t exist, and that it is good? CRT is an off-shoot of critical theory, the most important Marxist intellectual tradition of the 20th Century. Critical theory includes thinkers including Herbert Marcuse, Angela Davis, and Antonio Gramsci. Critical theorists, including Gramsci, argued that Marxist socialists should try to occupy key positions in important social institutions, including universities, churches, and labor unions. The idea was that Marxists would have more power to transform social institutions from the inside as NGO professionals, journalists, teachers, professors, university administrators, and corporate human relations officers than as shouty protesters outside the system.  Fast-forward 50 years later, and CRT and climate change have become the dominant ideology of elites, and aspiring elites, known as the professional managerial class, including the progressive nonprofit sector, and the news media. Wokeism is a “luxury belief system” of the ruling class, according to sociologist Rob Henderson. “Luxury beliefs are ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost, while taking a toll on the lower class,” Henderson argues. “In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements,” he noted. “But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before… When someone uses the phrase “cultural appropriation,” what they are really saying is ‘I was educated at a top college.’.. Only the affluent can afford to learn strange vocabulary because ordinary people have real problems to worry about.” [my emphasis]. Progressive, educated, and affluent people “promote open borders or the decriminalization of drugs,” writes Henderson, “because it advances their social standing, not least because they know that the adoption of those policies will cost them less than others.” That’s what’s occurred in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, and other Democratic cities. Progressive city council members and District Attorneys are allowing large open air drug markets to to persist so long as they remain in poor, historically black, neighborhoods. Unlike traditional religion, woke victimology seeks not universal morality, and laws, but rather one aimed at dismantling “the system.” It is for this reason that progressives are narrowly concerned with African Americans killed by the police rather than with the 30 times more African Americans killed by civilians. And the narrow concern among progressives for victims of “the system” is why progressives in San Francisco are allowing hundreds of people to die every year from drug overdose deaths, since the alternative requires working with the system. Progressive activists on CRT, criminal justice, and climate change don’t believe, in my experience, that they are adherents to a new religion, but rather that they are more compassionate and more moral than those who hold more traditional views. And that lack of self-awareness is part of why victimology is so powerful. But it may also be what makes it politically vulnerable. Progressives in recent years were on the rise in San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and nationally, but the governance of those cities is failing dramatically. Voters in California appeared willing to wave away growing public unhappiness when they rejected a proposed recall of Gavin Newsom in September. But Tuesday’s vote, including a vote in Seattle for a Republican as City Attorney, suggests that even many liberal Democrats are fed up with the “woke” victim-centered ideology that has taken over the party.  A Based Wokelash A few weeks ago Penguin published Woke Racism by Columbia University linguist John McWhorter, whose book has in common with San Fransicko the view that wokeism is a religion. In Woke Racism, McWhorter humorously ridicules the irrationality, immorality, and supernatural components of woke religion. McWhorter lampoons its contradictions. If whites move into black neighborhoods they are causing gentrification, which is racist, but if they move out of them they are engaging in “white flight,” which is racist. If whites appreciate black culture, they are engaging in “cultural appropriation,” but if they ignore it they are ostracizing. How can these beliefs, which McWhorter calls “the catechism of contradictions,” be part of the same woke religion? Because they’re all in service of singular goal of calling white people racist in order to gain cultural power.   One question I have long wondered about woke religion is why I could tomorrow declare myself a woman, and be praised for my bravery by progressives, but if I declared myself black, I would run out of Berkeley. Physically speaking, I have far more in common with a black man than a white woman. Why, then, does progressive morality hold that my becoming a woman is not only acceptable but laudable, whereas my becoming black is not only unacceptable but offensive? After I read Woke Racism, I realized the answer: because progressive trans activists have historically wanted to enlarge the number of people who identify as trans, whereas progressive black activists have wanted to stigmatize blacks for “acting white.” They are an entirely arbitrary and irrational reasons chosen, like McWhorter’s catechism of contradictions, to gain social and political power. Like other religions, wokeism promotes supernatural views. There is no evidence that climate change threatens human extinction, and yet progressive keep insisting that it does. Racism has declined dramatically over the last 200 years and yet progressives insist that it remains as powerful as ever, just more hidden, like a hidden demonic force. And sex is genetic and biological, and yet many progressives describe it as something that can be simply chosen at will, as though people are just random assemblages of body parts. Critics including Lasch, historian Michael Lind, and more recently, Democratic analysts David Shor and Ruy Teixeira, have been warning Democrats of the danger of becoming a party of moral relativism, and arguing that Democrats should emphasize the importance of intact families, race-neutrality, and economic growth. These warnings have been validated by strong evidence that the class-focused messages of Republicans, including Trump, have been winning over Latinos, and Tuesday’s elections. Climate alarmism has long created serious vulnerabilities for Democrats. “Very liberal white people care way more about climate change than anyone else,” Shor told The New York Times. “So when you talk about climate change, you sound like a weird, very liberal white person. This is why policy issues matter more than people realize. It’s not that voters have these very specific policy preferences. It’s that the policies you choose to talk about paints a picture of what kind of person you are.” And that was the case before the energy crisis. For weeks, the Biden White House has been pleading with the Saudis, the Russians, and other OPEC members to produce more oil and natural gas, even as it has restricted new oil and gas development in the United States. That doesn’t make sense, even to New York Times journalists. “What we are now seeing in soaring energy prices as we transition away from carbon is also a political risk for environmentalism,” argued conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan recently. “People notice unaffordable energy bills and gas prices very quickly. If they attribute that to the inconstancy of renewables — and in Europe, a sharp drop in winds was indeed a factor — then a populist backlash can happen.” Will Democrats moderate their agenda and attitudes in response to electoral defeat? Perhaps. Democrats may finally accept the advice of Carville, Jones, and Axelrod, and move away from the fringes and back toward the mainstream. In some parts of the U.S., Democratic candidates may reject CRT by name, embrace oil and gas production, and support greater parental involvement, including school choice, even though doing so would likely be opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Black Lives Matter, the teachers’ unions, and the Sierra Club. But the reaction to Tuesday’s election suggest that many other progressives will double down on off-putting attitudes and unpopular policies. After all, the progressive insistence that Democrats spend their social and political capital demonizing their opponents as racist, depicting criminals as victims, and portraying climate change as apocalyptic was never about creating a successful politics. It was about evangelizing for a new religion.  *  *  * Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine "Hero of the Environment,"Green Book Award winner, and the founder and president of Environmental Progress. He is author of just launched book San Fransicko (Harper Collins) and the best-selling book, Apocalypse Never (Harper Collins June 30, 2020). Subscribe To Michael's substack here   Tyler Durden Sat, 11/06/2021 - 23:00.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 6th, 2021

Florida judge rules Trump can’t skirt Twitter’s terms just because he was president, in latest legal setback

While Donald Trump’s attorneys have argued that his status as former president exempts him from Twitter’s terms of service, and that the case needed to stay in Florida instead of California in the public interest, U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said Trump “has not advanced any legal authority to support his contention.”.....»»

Category: topSource: washpostOct 27th, 2021

Florida judge rules Trump can’t skirt Twitter’s terms just because he was president in latest legal setback

While Donald Trump’s attorneys have argued that his status as former president exempts him from Twitter’s terms of service, and that the case needed to stay in Florida instead of California for the public’s interest, U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. said Trump “has not advanced any legal authority to support his contention.”.....»»

Category: topSource: washpostOct 27th, 2021

First United Corporation Announces Third Quarter And Year To Date 2021 Earnings

OAKLAND, Md., Oct. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- First United Corporation (NASDAQ:FUNC), a bank holding company and the parent company of First United Bank & Trust (the "Bank"), today announced earnings results for the three- and nine-month periods ended September 30, 2021. Third Quarter Financial Highlights: Total assets at September 30, 2021 decreased by $24.9 million, or 1.4%, when compared to December 31, 2020. Deployed cash during the third quarter to repay $70.0 million of Federal Home Loan Bank ("FHLB") advances and purchase a $39.0 million mortgage pool Gross loans increased by $16.5 million in the third quarter, driven by the purchase of a $39.0 million mortgage pool to offset the decline in mortgage portfolio balances that were refinanced to lower fixed rates.  Core commercial growth of $12.7 million, offset by forgiveness of $83.7 of Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") loans during the third quarter Deposits declined by $11.6 million during the third quarter; however, growth year to date was $22.1 million Declines in both non-interest bearing and interest bearing deposits as we allowed runoff in higher cost CDs, primarily municipalities The ratio of the allowance for loan losses ("ALL") to loans outstanding was 1.46% at September 30, 2021 as compared to 1.36% at September 30, 2020. The ALL to loans outstanding, excluding PPP loan balances of $30.3 million, was 1.49% at September 30, 2021, non-GAAP. Total provision expense was a credit of $0.6 million for the third quarter of 2021 as compared to expense of $0.2 million for the third quarter of 2020 Lower provision expense due primarily to continued strong asset quality, stable economic factors and stabilization of modified loans that have returned to principal and interest payments Net interest margin, on a non-GAAP, fully tax equivalent ("FTE") basis, increased to 3.38% for the third quarter of 2021 compared to 3.12% for the third quarter of 2020 and 3.13% for the second quarter of 2021. Non-interest income, excluding gains, increased 14%, or $0.6 million in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the third quarter of 2020. Increased trust department income of 16% Increased debit card income of 22% Non-interest expense increased 24%, or $2.5 million primarily due to the $2.4 million of penalties on the repayment of $70.0 million FHLB advances. According to Carissa Rodeheaver, President and CEO, "we experienced another strong quarter led by increased fee income from our Wealth department, other service charges, and recognition of Paycheck Protection Program fees as we continued to process forgiveness applications for our borrowers as well as reduced interest expense and operating costs.  We also acknowledged the strength of our loan portfolio, resulting in release of a portion of the allowance for loan losses that was provided in 2020 due to the uncertainties of the COVID environment and how it would impact our economy and borrowers.  The strong core income was offset by a penalty that we recognized on the prepayment of our Federal Home Loan Bank borrowings as we positioned the Bank for future interest expense savings.  The Bank remains strong, well-capitalized and poised for future growth." COVID-19 During the first nine months of 2021, we continued to assist our business customers with the PPP loan forgiveness process and to originate additional PPP loans through the third round of funding. We remained diligent in protecting our associates and customers from the lingering effects of the pandemic, delaying opening our lobbies until April 1, 2021.  During the third quarter, we made the decision to reclose our lobbies as COVID cases increased in most of our markets and staffing was at reduced levels.  Many of our sales and support employees continue to work remotely as we have adjusted to a hybrid work environment.  We have continued to monitor our market areas, maintaining travel protocols and utilizing safety precautions while continuing to provide full banking services to our customers. Paycheck Protection Program The Company continues to actively participate in the PPP administered by the Small Business Administration (the "SBA").  On January 19, 2021, the SBA implemented a third round of funding for PPP loans.   During 2020, a total of $148.5 million in PPP loans were originated under the initial round of funding, consisting of 1,174 loans with an average loan size of $162 thousand.  During 2021, a total of $66.1 million in PPP loans were originated under the third round of funding, consisting of 870 loans with an average loan size of $80 thousand. Net fees recognized in the first nine months of 2021 were $3.2 million due to amortization and forgiveness, compared to $2.4 million in 2020. During 2020, 290 loans, totaling $34.5 million were forgiven, resulting in 885 loans with a remaining balance of $114.0 million at December 31, 2020.   During the first nine months of 2021, an additional 1,384 loans under all three rounds, with an aggregate principal balance of $150.0 million, were forgiven, resulting in 371 loans with a total remaining balance of $30.3 million at September 30, 2021. Of the 2,046 PPP loans originated by the Bank since the PPP's inception, 1,675 loans, totaling $184.9 million, have been forgiven through the end of third quarter 2021, representing 86% of the number of loans originated and 82% of originated principal balances. COVID Modifications While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on most industries, some have been more affected than others.  In accordance with Section 4013 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and related regulatory pronouncements, we have not accounted for modifications of loans affected by the pandemic as troubled debt restructurings nor have we designated them as past due or nonaccrual.  As of October 15, 2021, total loan modifications was $9.9 million.  There were eleven commercial loans related to real estate rental, food services and health care sectors and one mortgage loan.  These loans are scheduled to return to contractual payment terms within the next quarter. Balance Sheet Overview Total assets at September 30, 2021 decreased to $1.7 billion, representing a $24.9 million decrease since December 31, 2020.  During the first nine months of 2021, cash and interest-bearing deposits in other banks decreased by $14.5 million, the investment portfolio increased by $2.4 million and gross loans decreased by $5.9 million.  The decrease in cash was due primarily to the strategic decision to deploy $39.0 million to purchase a pool of mortgage loans for the purpose of offsetting the declining mortgage portfolio balances due to the continued refinancing activity.  Management also used $70.0 million to prepay FHLB advances.  Although the Bank recorded $2.4 million in penalties in connection with the FHLP prepayments, management anticipates that the resulting reduction in interest expense for the remainder of 2021 and in future years will offset the penalty and have a significant impact on the cost of funds.  Other Real Estate Owned ("OREO") balances decreased $2.7 million due to the sale of a parcel of real estate securing a large commercial participation loan in the first quarter of 2021 and the additional sales of undeveloped lots.  We anticipate further reduction to OREO balances over the next quarter as we consummate additional sales contracts. Total liabilities decreased by $27.6 million when compared to liabilities at December 31, 2020.  The decrease in the first nine months of 2021 was attributable to deposit growth of $22.1 million due to stimulus programs and to growth in core relationships, increased balances in short-term borrowings related to our Treasury Management product, offset by the prepayment of $70.0 million in FHLB long-term borrowings. Total shareholders' equity increased slightly during the first nine months of 2021, as net income of $12.2 million was offset by the repurchase of $7.2 million (400,000 shares) of First United Corporation common stock. Outstanding loans of $1.2 billion at September 30, 2021 reflected a decline of $5.9 million during the first nine months of 2021, which was primarily attributable to growth in our mortgage loan portfolio due to the purchase of a $39.0 million loan pool, offset by a decline of portfolio balances.  This loan pool consisted of individual  adjustable and fixed rate residential mortgage loans.  Core commercial loan growth was offset by PPP loan forgiveness.  Commercial real estate ("CRE") loans increased by $2.6 million, acquisition and development ("A&D") loans increased by $15.3 million and commercial and industrial ("C&I") loans decreased by $71.0 million, as growth in core portfolio loans of $12.7 million was offset by PPP loan forgiveness.  Residential mortgage loans increased $26.7 million due to the purchase of a pool of 1-4 family residential loans, offset by the continued refinancing activity. Given the current low interest rate environment, customers appear to be seeking longer-term, fixed-rate loans and we continued to use the secondary market rather than hold these longer-term fixed rate mortgage loans in the portfolio. The consumer loan portfolio increased by $20.4 million due to the purchase of a pool of consumer loans in the second quarter of 2021 as an effort to deploy excess cash into higher yielding, short-term assets.  Commercial loan production for the first nine months of 2021 was approximately $136.6 million, with $46.7 million originated during the third quarter, exclusive of PPP loan production. PPP loan production was approximately $64.3 million for the first nine months of 2021.   At September 30, 2021, unfunded, committed commercial construction loans totaled approximately $26.6 million. Commercial amortization and payoffs were approximately $106.0 million through September 30, 2021, exclusive of PPP.  Consumer mortgage loan production was approximately $89.6 million through September 30, 2021.  The production and pipeline mix of in-house, portfolio loans and investor loans remained strong as of September 30, 2021, with those loans totaling $20.0 million, consisting of $16.0 million in portfolio loans and $4.0 million in investor loans. At the end of the second quarter of 2021, management implemented special promotions for residential mortgage products to shift production towards portfolio loans and utilize excess cash balances. Total deposits at September 30, 2021 increased by $22.1 million when compared to deposits at December 31, 2020.  During the first nine months of 2021, non-interest-bearing deposits increased by $71.0 million, driven by retail and commercial account growth partially attributable to government stimulus programs. Traditional savings accounts increased by $37.4 million as we continued to see significant growth in our Prime Saver product, and total demand deposits increased by $10.8 million. Total money market accounts decreased by $43.0 million due primarily to management's decision to sweep approximately $70.0 million of wealth management money market funds off balance sheet in the first quarter of 2021. These funds can be readily shifted back to in-house money market accounts should liquidity needs arise in the future.  Time deposits decreased by $54.1 million, primarily in time deposits over $100,000, due to repayment of a $10.0 million brokered CD in May 2021 and as we continued to reduce pricing on single-service relationships and municipal bids. Book value per share of the Company's common stock was $20.22 at September 30, 2021, compared to $18.74 per share at December 31, 2020.  At September 30, 2021, there were 6,617,941 of basic outstanding shares and 6,625,014 of diluted outstanding shares of common stock.  Income Statement Overview Quarterly Results Consolidated net income was $4.4 million for the third quarter of 2021 compared to $5.0 million for the third quarter of 2020.  Basic and diluted net income per share for the third quarter of 2021 were both $0.66, a 5.7% decrease when compared to basic and diluted net income per share of $0.70 for the third quarter of 2020.  The decline in earnings in the third quarter of 2021 was due to an increase in net interest income, a credit to provision expense, and increased wealth management income, offset by increased non-interest expenses, including the prepayment penalty of $2.4 million on FHLB borrowings. Net interest income, on a non-GAAP, FTE basis, increased by $2.0 million (16.2%) for the third quarter 2021 when compared to the third quarter of 2020.  This increase resulted from an increase in interest income of $0.7 million and a decrease in interest expense of $1.3 million.  The increase in interest income on loans was a result of increased interest on the consumer loans related to the purchase of a loan pool in the second quarter as well as an increase in the unearned fees related to the PPP forgiveness during the quarter.  The reduction of interest expense resulted from the further reduction of deposit rates early in the third quarter and the declining balances in the higher cost CD portfolio.  The prepayment of the FHLB advances should positively impact interest expense for the remainder of 2021 and future years.  The weighted rate on the $70.0 million FHLB long-term borrowings was 1.90%.  The net interest margin for the third quarter of 2021 was 3.38%, compared to 3.12% for the third quarter of 2020.  The net interest margin for the third quarter of 2021 would have been 3.12%, excluding the average balance of PPP loans of $48.5 million and interest and fees of $1.4 million. Other operating income, including gains, for the third quarter of 2021 decreased by approximately $0.6 million when compared with the same period of 2020.  Service charge income remained stable during the third quarter of 2021 when compared to the third quarter of 2020.  Trust and brokerage income increased $0.3 million due to increased production and market values on assets under management.  Net gains decreased $1.1 million when comparing the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2020.  This decrease is due to the slowing of refinancing activity in the mortgage portfolio, which resulted in less gains on sales as well as no sales activity in the investment portfolio during the third quarter of 2021.  Bank Owned Life Insurance ("BOLI") income decreased by $0.1 million when comparing the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2020 due to the receipt of policy proceeds in the third quarter of 2020. Other operating expenses increased by $2.5 million when comparing the third quarter of 2021 to the third quarter of 2020.  This increase was driven by an increase in salaries and benefits of $0.3 million related to a reduction in deferred loan origination costs in 2021 (primarily related to PPP activities) and the $2.4 million prepayment penalties incurred in connection with the prepayment of the FHLB advances.  As noted above, the prepayment was a strategic decision to use $70.0 million of cash for the purpose of reducing the cost of funds for the remainder of 2021 and future years.  Occupancy, equipment and technology service expenses were stable during the third quarter of 2021 when compared to the third quarter of 2020.  Investor relations and professional services costs were also stable during the third quarter of 2021 when compared to the third quarter of 2020.  Other miscellaneous expenses, such as Visa processing fees, contract labor, schools and seminars, dues and licenses, in-house training, trust department expense, debit card expense and other personnel related expenses, declined.  The decreases were offset by increases in marketing, contributions and consulting expenses.  Year to Date Results Consolidated net income was $12.2 million, inclusive of litigation settlement expenses of $3.3 million and FHLB prepayment penalties of $2.4 million, for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 compared to $9.3 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2020.  Basic and diluted net income per share for the first nine months of 2021 were both $1.81, a 37.1% increase when compared to basic and diluted net income per share of $1.32 for the same period of 2020. The increase in earnings for the first nine months of 2021 was attributable to an increase in net interest income of $2.2 million, reduced provision expense of $4.9 million and an increase in other operating income, including gains of $1.3 million, consisting of gains on sales of mortgage loans and securities' gains.  These changes were partially offset by an increase in other operating expenses of $4.0 million, inclusive of the $3.3 million in litigation settlement expenses and the $2.4 million FHLB prepayment penalty.    Net interest income, on a non-GAAP, FTE basis, increased by $2.2 million (5.9%) during the nine months ended September 30, 2021 when compared to the nine months ended September 30, 2020 driven by a $2.7 million (36.5%) decrease in interest expense, partially offset by a decrease in interest income of $0.5 million.  The decrease in interest expense resulted from proactive efforts to reduce the cost of funds by further reductions to rates on deposit accounts throughout 2021, the runoff of balances in the time deposits of $100,000 or more, including brokered deposits, and the expiration of empowered rates on money market accounts.  The prepayment of the FHLB advances in the third quarter should significantly reduce interest expense in the fourth quarter and future years.  The net interest margin, on an FTE basis, declined to 3.21% for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 compared to 3.43% for the same period of 2020.  The net interest margin for the nine months ended September 2021 would have been 3.07%, excluding the average balance of PPP loans of $100.6 million and interest and fees of $4.0 million. Other operating income, including net gains on sales of mortgage loans and sales of investment securities, increased $1.3 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 when compared to the nine months ended September 30, 2020.  Gains on the sale of mortgage loans to the secondary market decreased $0.5 million due to refinancing activity occurring at a slower pace than the pace experienced in 2020. Trust and brokerage income increased $1.2 million year-over-year due to growth in new client relationships and assets under management.  Debit card income increased $0.6 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 when compared to the same period of 2020 due to growth in deposit relationships and increased customer usage of our electronic services. Other income increased $0.5 million, due primarily to the receipt of insurance proceeds related to litigation claims recorded in the first quarter of 2021. Service charge income remained stable when comparing the nine months of 2021 to the same time period of 2020. Other operating expenses increased $4.0 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 when compared to the same period of 2020.  This increase was driven by $3.3 million of litigation settlement expenses recorded in the first quarter of 2021 and a $2.4 million penalty on the repayment of $70.0 million FHLB advances in the third quarter of 2021.  Salaries and benefits remained stable when compared to the first nine months of 2020, as increases in salaries, incentive pay and stock compensation were offset by decreases in pension and life and health insurance costs, a $0.3 million offset in salary expense from deferred loan origination costs primarily attributable to PPP loans and $0.1 million of reduced executive equity compensation due to a timing difference in long-term incentive grants.  Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation premiums increased slightly by $0.2 million due to credits received on quarterly assessments in 2020. Equipment, occupancy and technology expenses decreased $0.9 million when compared to the first nine months of 2020 as we began to realize cost savings from our core processor related to a new contract negotiated in the fourth quarter of 2020. OREO expenses were a net credit in the first nine months of 2021 due to $0.8 million in gains attributable to the sale of OREO properties.  Professional services increased $0.8 million as a result of increased legal and professional fees related to shareholder litigation early in 2021, partially offset by decreased investor relations expenses. The effective income tax rates as a percentage of income for the nine-month periods ended September 30, 2021 and 2020 were 24.9% and 22.1%, respectively.  The increase in the tax rate for the first nine months of 2021 was primarily due to the reduction in tax exempt income as well as the reduction in tax credits related to the expiration of a low-income housing tax credit in June 2021.  A new 2021 investment in low-income housing is expected to provide tax benefits in 2022 and beyond. Asset Quality The ALL increased to $16.9 million at September 30, 2021 compared to $16.5 million at December 31, 2020.  The provision for loan losses was $0.1 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 and $5.0 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2020.  The higher provision expense recorded in the first nine months of 2020 was driven by an increase in the qualitative factors reflecting the uncertainty of the economic environment related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Net recoveries of $0.4 million were recorded for the nine months ended September 30, 2021, compared to net charge offs of $0.3 million for the same period of 2020. The ratio of the ALL to loans outstanding, including PPP loan balances, was 1.46% at September 30, 2021 compared to 1.36% at September 30, 2020 and 1.41% at December 31, 2020.  The ALL to loans outstanding, excluding PPP loan balances of $30.3 million and $148.9 million, was 1.49% at September 30, 2021 and 1.55% at September 30, 2020 and December 31, 2020, non-GAAP. The ratio of net recoveries to average loans for the nine months ended September 30, 2021 was an annualized 0.04%, compared to net charge offs to average loans of 0.16% for the nine months ended September 30, 2020.  Details of the ratio, by loan type are shown below.  Our special assets team continues to effectively collect on charged-off loans, resulting in ongoing overall low net charge-off ratios. Ratio of Net Recoveries/ (Charge Offs) to Average Loans 09/30/2021 09/30/2020 Loan Type (Charge Off) / Recovery (Charge Off) / Recovery Commercial Real Estate 0.00% 0.03% Acquisition & Development 0.09% (1.21%) Commercial & Industrial 0.29% (0.06%) Residential Mortgage (0.03%) (0.01%) Consumer (0.45%) (0.59%) Total Net Recoveries/(Charge Offs) 0.04% (0.16%) Non-accrual loans totaled $7.4 million at September 30, 2021 compared to $3.3 million at December 31, 2020.  The increase in non-accrual balances at September 30, 2021 was due to the movement of two hospitality loans, totaling approximately $4.0 million, to non-accrual status during the first quarter of 2021.  These loans suffered reduced cash flows due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, received modifications and were classified as substandard at December 31, 2020.  These loans have returned to their contractual payment terms but will remain on non-accrual status until they pay full contractual payments for six months. Non-accrual loans that have been subject to partial charge-offs totaled $0.5 million at September 30, 2021 and $0.4 million at December 31, 2020.  Loans secured by 1-4 family residential real estate properties in the process of foreclosure totaled $0.2 million at September 30, 2021 and $0.4 million at December 31, 2020.  Foreclosure and repossession activities were temporarily suspended as a result of COVID-19 but resumed during the third quarter 2021. Management continues to conform to federal and state mandates relative to the foreclosure processes for both Federal Backed and Non-Federal Backed mortgages.  As a percentage of the loan portfolio, accruing loans past due 30 days or more decreased to 0.20%, including PPP loans, or 0.21% excluding PPP loans, compared to 0.73% at September 30, 2020 and 0.20% at December 31, 2020.  ABOUT FIRST UNITED CORPORATION First United Corporation is the parent company of First United Bank & Trust, a Maryland trust company with commercial banking powers, and two statutory trusts that were used as financing vehicles.  The Bank has four wholly-owned subsidiaries: OakFirst Loan Center, Inc., a West Virginia finance company; OakFirst Loan Center, LLC, a Maryland finance company; First OREO Trust, a Maryland statutory trust that holds and services real estate acquired by the Bank through foreclosure or by deed in lieu of foreclosure; and FUBT OREO I, LLC, a Maryland company that likewise holds and services real estate acquired by the Bank through foreclosure or by deed in lieu of foreclosure.  The Bank also owns 99.9% of the limited partnership interests in Liberty Mews Limited Partnership, a Maryland limited partnership, and a 99.9% non-voting interest in MCC FUBT Fund, LLC, an Ohio limited liability company, both of which were formed for the purpose of acquiring, developing and operating low-income housing units.  The Corporation's website is www.mybank.com. FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS This press release contains forward-looking statements as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.  Forward-looking statements do not represent historical facts, but are statements about management's beliefs, plans and objectives about the future, as well as its assumptions and judgments concerning such beliefs, plans and objectives.  These statements are evidenced by terms such as "anticipate," "estimate," "should," "expect," "believe," "intend," and similar expressions.  Although these statements reflect management's good faith beliefs and projections, they are not guarantees of future performance and they may not prove true.  The beliefs, plans and objectives on which forward-looking statements are based involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those addressed in the forward-looking statements.  For a discussion of these risks and uncertainties, see the section of the periodic reports that First United Corporation files with the Securities and Exchange Commission entitled "Risk Factors," including among many others the risk factor set forth in First United's Annual Report on Form 10-K, as amended, for the year ended December 31, 2020 entitled, "The outbreak of the recent coronavirus ('COVID-19'), or an outbreak of another highly infectious or contagious disease, could adversely affect the Corporation's business, financial condition and results of operations." and any updates thereto that might be contained in subsequent reports filed by First United.  The risks and uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on First United will depend on, among other things, the length of time that the pandemic continues; the duration of the potential imposition of further restrictions on travel in the future; the effect of the pandemic on the global, national, and local economies and on the businesses of our borrowers and their ability to make payments on their obligations; the remedial actions and stimulus measures adopted by federal, state, and local governments; and the inability of employees to work due to illness, quarantine, or government mandates. FIRST UNITED CORPORATION Oakland, MD Stock Symbol :  FUNC Financial Highlights - Unaudited (Dollars in thousands, except per share data) Three Months Ended Nine Months Ended September 30,  September 30,  September 30,  September 30,  2021 2020 2021 2020 Results of Operations: Interest income  $                14,910 $                14,253 $                43,408 $                43,973 Interest expense  1,285 2,351 4,784 7,528 Net interest income 13,625 11,902 38,624 36,445 Provision for loan losses (597) 160 68 4,981 Other operating income 4,523 3,978 13,586 11,411 Net gains 82 1,176 1,112 2,011 Other operating expense 13,027 10,540 36,986 32,972 Income before taxes $                   5,800 $                   6,356 $                16,268 $                11,914 Income tax expense 1,412 1,396 4,047 2,629 Net income $                   4,388 $                   4,960 $                12,221 $                   9,285 Per share data: Basic/ Diluted net income  $                     0.66 $                     0.70 $                     1.81 $                     1.32 Adjusted Basic/Diluted net income (1) $                     0.93 $                     0.70 $                     2.45 $                     1.32 Dividends declared per share $                     0.15 $                     0.13 $                     0.45 $                     0.39 Book value $                   20.22 $                   17.82 Diluted book value $                   20.19 $                   17.81 Tangible book value per share $                   18.55 $                   16.25 Diluted Tangible book value per share $                   18.53 $                   16.01 Closing market value $                   18.60 $                   13.34 Market Range:     High $                   19.45 $                   15.95     Low $                   16.26 $                   11.00 Shares outstanding at period end: Basic 6,617,941 6,983,523 Shares outstanding at period end: Diluted 6,625,014 6,988,593 Performance ratios: (Year to Date Period End, annualized) Return on average assets 0.92% 0.57% Adjusted return on average assets (1) 1.26% 0.57% Return on average shareholders' equity 12.45% 6.97% Adjusted return on average shareholders' equity (1) 16.72% 6.97% Net interest margin (Non-GAAP), includes tax exempt income of $705 and $678 3.21% 3.43% Net interest margin GAAP 3.16% 3.37% Efficiency ratio 68.39% 70.26% Adjusted efficiency ratio (1) 57.97% 70.26% (1) See reconcilation of this non-GAAP financial measure provided elsewhere herein. September 30, December 31, 2021 2020 Financial Condition at period end: Assets $           1,708,556 $           1,733,414 Earning assets $           1,466,664 $           1,473,733 Gross loans $           1,161,868 $           1,167,812 Commercial Real Estate $              371,785 $              369,176 Acquisition and Development $              132,256 $              116,961 Commercial and Industrial $              195,758 $              266,745 Residential Mortgage $              405,885 $              379,170 Consumer $                56,184 $                35,760 Investment securities $              297,543 $              295,148 Total deposits $           1,444,494 $           1,422,366 Noninterest bearing $              491,441 $              420,427 Interest bearing $              953,053 $           1,001,939 Shareholders' equity $              133,787 $              131,047 Capital ratios: Tier 1 to risk weighted assets 14.26% 14.83% Common Equity Tier 1 to risk weighted assets 12.15% 12.61% Tier 1 Leverage 10.33% 10.36% Total risk based capital 15.51% 16.08% Asset quality: Net recoveries/(charge-offs) for the quarter $                      435 $                    (123) Nonperforming assets: (Period End) Nonaccrual loans $                   7,441 $                   3,339 Loans 90 days past due and accruing 189 724 Total nonperforming loans and 90 day past due $                   7,630 $                   4,063 Restructured loans.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaOct 26th, 2021

Major US Cities Risk Losing One-Third Of Their Police Forces Due To Vaccine Mandates

Major US Cities Risk Losing One-Third Of Their Police Forces Due To Vaccine Mandates By Fred Lucas of The Daily Signal, As crime rates surge, so are vaccine mandates — and resistance by police to those mandates. That means major cities across the United States risk losing one-third or more of their police forces, hesitant about getting the COVID-19 shot. In Chicago, more than 4,500 employees of the Chicago Police Department — about one-third of both officers and civilian employees — refused to disclose their vaccine status. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city’s Fraternal Order of Police are in a political standoff. Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said last week, “It’s safe to say that the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50% or less for this weekend coming up.” A real disruption also soon could hit Los Angeles, where the city’s vaccine mandate deadline is in December. Last month, employees of the Los Angeles Police Department filed a federal lawsuit opposing the city’s vaccine mandate. Likewise, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told The Associated Press earlier this month, “I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5[%], 10% of my workforce overnight.” He added that he won’t enforce the county-level mandate. “It’s impossible to know how long this potentially lasts. We could see extreme shortages,” Jason Johnson, a former deputy commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told The Daily Signal. “Are cities going to enforce this mandate? There is greater risk to public safety by enforcing the mandate than not enforcing the mandate.” Two-thirds of Baltimore Police Department employees got at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, below the Maryland state average of 85%, Baltimore’s WJZ-TV reported. Those numbers are similar to Chicago’s. Baltimore police union leader Sgt. Mike Mancuso wrote to members: “Until the city responds to our right to bargain these issues, or the courts intervene, I suggest you do nothing in regard to revealing your vaccination status, as it is outlined in the city’s policy.” National Public Radio reported that more than 230 police officers across the United States have died from COVID-19 so far in 2021, which is more than four times as many deaths as by gunfire. In 2020, the coronavirus killed nearly 250 officers nationally. At least 150 Massachusetts State Police officers resigned ahead of the state’s vaccine mandate, NPR reported. Eighty-five percent of the State Police officers are vaccinated. The Washington State Patrol has objected to the state mandate there, and on Monday, lost 53 civil servants, along with 74 commissioned officers — 67 troopers, six sergeants, and one captain, The Seattle Times reported. That came after a viral final sign-off on Friday from one Washington state trooper, who told Washington Gov. Jay Inslee what he thought of the mandate in no uncertain terms. Meanwhile, the Seattle Police Department lost more than 300 officers, USA Today reported. Tuesday was the deadline for Seattle municipal government employees to comply with the vaccine mandate. Seattle Police Officers Guild President Mike Solan said he anticipates another “mass exodus.” Oregon State Police troopers sued to stop or delay the mandate, but lost in state court on Oct. 7. “This is more than just police officers,” said Johnson, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund president. “We are seeing this among firefighters and teachers. These mandates were not well thought through.” Police employees reached a deal with the city of Milwaukee last week that requires police union members to be vaccinated or wear face coverings while on duty, except when eating and drinking, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Police unions are likely open to negotiating a face-saving measure for mayors who don’t want to be seen as admitting to a poor policy, Johnson said. “This should provide more incentives to get vaccinated, not impose mandates,” he said. “There can be adjustments to make for officers hesitant to get vaccinated. If they have natural immunity, they can be exempt. If they don’t have natural immunity, they could have the option of wearing a mask. They could be put on limited duty.” Mayors and other municipal officials will have to reconsider a policy that leads to a massive loss of police officers, said John Malcolm, director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.) “I would be more worried about murderers, rapists, and drug dealers acting with impunity than I would about a couple of police officers transmitting the virus,” Malcolm told The Daily Signal. “I don’t know why these officers are refusing to get the vaccine. Presumably, they have a good reason. But any policy that leads to mass firings of police has to be fixed.” Tyler Durden Mon, 10/25/2021 - 10:01.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 25th, 2021

Washington State Trooper Gives "Final Sign Off" After Refusing To Take Vaccine; Tells Governor To Kiss His A**

Washington State Trooper Gives 'Final Sign Off' After Refusing To Take Vaccine; Tells Governor To Kiss His A** A Washington state trooper released a video of his 'final sign off' after more than 22 years on the Yakima County force, after he was forced out of his job for refusing to take the Covid-19 vaccine by Oct. 18. "This is my final sign-off after 22 years serving the citizens of the state of Washington, I've been asked to leave because I am dirty," said the unnamed officer. "Numerous fatalities, injuries, I've worked sick, I've played sick, buried lots of friends over these years," he continued. "I'd like to thank you guys, as well as the citizens of Yakima County as well as my fellow officers within the valley. Without you guys I wouldn't have been very successful." "So State 1034 this is the last time you'll hear me in a state patrol car... And [governor] Jay Inslee can kiss my ass," he concluded. WASHINGTON STATE TROOPER SIGNS OFF AFTER BEING FIRED FOR NOT TAKING THE JABpic.twitter.com/ELjD2L3T6R — The_Real_Fly (@The_Real_Fly) October 17, 2021 In response, a dispatcher thanked him for his years of service. "Thank you for your 22 years and five months of service to the citizens of Washington state," she said. "You’ve taken on many roles in your time with the patrol. In your first year, you delivered a baby while on patrol. You’ve been a theory instructor and part of the chaplaincy board." "You’ve been a great role model and a mentor for all the young troopers serving in the area by sharing your knowledge and experience throughout the years," she continued, adding: "Thank you for your service." Governor Jay Inslee issued a sweeping order in August mandating that state government workers must "Show proof of vaccination on or before October 18 or lose your job." According to the Seattle Times, more than 90% of state govt. employees were fully vaccinated as of Saturday. Last Monday we noted that up to 40% of Seattle PD may lose their job over the mandate. As of Oct. 6, 292 sworn personnel had yet to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination per the report, down from 354 on Tuesday. An additional 111 officers are awaiting the results of exemption requests, meaning the total number of potentially fired Seattle cops is as high as 403. That said, the President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, Mike Solan, said on Friday that officers who choose not to get vaccinated will not be terminated immediately on the Oct. 18 deadline - and will instead be given notice for a "Loudermill hearing" where they will be able to plead their case. Meanwhile in Chicago, a Judge issued a temporary restraining order late Friday against the Chicago police union president prohibiting him from making public statements which encourage members not to report their Covid-19 vaccination status to authorities. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s high-stakes standoff with the police union over the city’s vaccine mandate landed in court Friday, with a judge doing what the mayor could not — temporarily silencing Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara. Circuit Judge Cecilia Horan granted the city’s request for an injunction but only to the extent that Catanzara be precluded — at least until the next hearing Oct. 25 — from making any further YouTube videos or otherwise using social media platforms to encourage his members to defy the city’s mandate to enter their vaccine status on the city’s data portal. Catanzara soon took to the union’s YouTube channel where he said the courts were attempting to muzzle him. He said he would comply and urged his members to “do what’s in their hearts and minds.” -Chicago Sun Times "Enough is enough..." Tyler Durden Sun, 10/17/2021 - 22:40.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 17th, 2021

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer needs to retire now - or the country may be doomed

Democrats should be able to appoint a judge to replace the 82-year-old Breyer or the conservative supermajority will get even stronger. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images Liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, needs to retire - now. Democrats control the Senate and White House, but that control is precarious. Breyer should give Democrats a chance to appoint his successor and keep the Court from becoming a seven to two conservative majority. Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesman for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon. This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. It's time for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire. With both the White House and Senate in their control (for now), Democrats have what has become the rare moment to replace the longtime liberal justice on their own terms and stem the Court's undemocratic move to the right. Breyer needs to give the party that chance. Now.The rarest of appointmentsThe narrow victories in Georgia by Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock paved the way for a Democratic Senate majority, and with it, the ability to freely appoint federal judges and justices. The Biden administration and the Senate have been wasting no time using that appointment power: Biden has been nominating judges to the federal bench faster than any of his predecessors. But the most important appointment has thus far eluded him: a Supreme Court Justice. In the era when the Supreme Court has substantial power over the direction of the country, appointing young justices who can serve for decades is essential. Republicans have recognized that power and have made the Court a cornerstone of their minority-power plan over the past decade: their three most recent nominees were all younger than 55 at the time of appointment. Both of Obama's appointees were in their 50's as well. Going back even further, Clarence Thomas was 43 when he joined the Court in 1991. With so much at stake, having a reliable vote for decades is vital. That is why progressives are pushing for Justice Stephen Breyer, age 83, to retire. A Clinton appointee, he's been a reliable vote for the liberals since he joined the Court. But if he doesn't retire while Democrats own the Senate, we will likely see the arrival of another conservative justice, tipping the balance of the Court even further out of whack.2020 redux We've seen this "will they or won't they retire" dance play out before.In 2013, President Obama had a lunch with liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at which he indirectly encouraged her to retire, knowing that Democrats might lose the Senate in 2015, and with it the chance to appoint her successor. We all know what happened from there. Democrats did in fact lose the Senate majority and eventually the presidency. Ginsburg remained on the court until her death in 2020, paving the way for President Trump and Senate Republicans to ram through an appointment just before the 2020 election. As a result, the balance of the court shifted even further to the right, with six of the nine justices having been appointed by Republicans. This one change on the Court has pushed the Court in a radically conservative direction, taken the swing vote power away from Chief Justice John Roberts, and will almost certainly have a historically negative effect on abortion rights and gun safety. Given the terrifying prospects of the Court now, imagine a 7-2 Court if Breyer doesn't act now.The time is nowWith the narrowest of Senate majorities, the next year is perhaps Biden's only chance to replace Breyer. Midterms have a historical tendency to go against the party of the president, which means it's quite likely (though by no means a sure thing) that Republicans will control the chamber after the 2022 elections. We know a Republican-controlled Senate can't be trusted to vote on a Biden appointee, so it truly is now or never for appointing a young, liberal Justice to the Supreme Court. Breyer has served nearly 30 years with distinction and has hinted that he doesn't want to retire in part because he doesn't want to politicize the court. But that ship has sailed: the Court is already in a full-blown legitimacy crisis and has been deeply politicized by the GOP. If Breyer were to retire when Biden can no longer appoint his successor, the crisis would only deepen. We have seen the terrible decisions that a 6-3 conservative court has made, including moving closer to reversing Roe vs. Wade and ending the eviction moratorium that kept so many Americans housed during the height of the pandemic. A 7-2 conservative-dominated Supreme Court would be much worse and would only further many Americans' belief that the Court is no longer a trusted American institution. I expected Breyer to retire at the end of the last Supreme Court term a few months ago. That would have been the best time to do it -- before a new docket of cases arose. Now I'd bet that he'll do it next Summer after the current term ends. But the best time would be right now, leaving the Court upon the confirmation of a successor and leaving nothing to chance, either.The clock is ticking.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 10th, 2021

AG Garland "Weaponizes" DoJ Against Dissenting Parents After School Board Association Pleas

AG Garland "Weaponizes" DoJ Against Dissenting Parents After School Board Association Pleas One day after a North Carolina school board adopted a policy that would discipline or dismiss teachers if they incorporate critical race theory (CRT) into their teaching of the history of the United States, The Epoch Times' Ivan Pentchoukov reports that Attorney General Merrick Garland on Oct. 4 announced a concentrated effort to target any threats of violence, intimidation, and harassment by parents toward school personnel. The announcement also comes days after a national association of school boards asked the Biden administration to take “extraordinary measures” to prevent alleged threats against school staff that the association said was coming from parents who oppose mask mandates and the teaching of critical race theory. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. attorneys in the next 30 days to convene meetings with federal, state, and local leaders within 30 days to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff,” according to a letter (pdf) the attorney general sent on Monday to all U.S. attorneys, the FBI director, the director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, and the assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s criminal division. According to the DOJ, further efforts will be rolled out in the coming days, including a task force that will determine how to use federal resources to prosecute offending parents as well as how to advise state entities on prosecutions in cases where no federal law is broken. The Justice Department will also provide training to school staff on how to report threats from parents and preserve evidence to aid in investigation and prosecution. “In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,” Garland wrote. “While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.” School boards across the nation have increasingly become an arena for heated debate over culture, politics, and health. Parents groups have ramped up pressure on boards over the teaching of critical race theory and the imposition of mask mandates. The debate is split sharply along political lines, with Democrats largely in favor of critical race theory and mask mandates, and Republicans opposing both. The amount and severity of the threats against officials are not known, but Garland’s letter suggests the phenomenon is widespread. Full AG Garland Statement (with our thoughts): MEMORANDUM FOR DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION; DIRECTOR, EXECUTIVE OFFICE FOR U.S. ATTORNEYS ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CRIMINAL DIVISION UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS FROM:       THE ATTORNEY GENERAL SUBJECT:    PARTNERSHIP AMONG FEDERAL, STATE, LOCAL, TRIBAL, AND TERRITORIAL LAW ENFORCEMENT TO ADDRESS THREATS AGAINST SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, BOARD MEMBERS, TEACHERS, AND STAFF In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views. [ZH: But intimidating parents who dare to have the view that the nation's founding fathers and the founding documents are not in fact systemically racist and does not want their children taught that is the case is ok?] Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to he able to do their work without fear for their safety. [ZH: "Dedication" to a "proper education" is admirable; indoctrination in Marxism is not] The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel. [ZH: What exactly is the crime?] Coordination and partnership with local law enforcement is critical to implementing these measures for the benefit of our nation's nearly 14,000 public school districts. To this end, I am  directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days of the issuance of this memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response. [ZH: We wonder how many local law enforcement officials, while busily watching for vaccine passport offenders, and mask-mandate refusers, will acquiesce to enforcing these new laws to protect the very people who are preaching that America's systemic racism starts with the men (and women) in blue?] The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States from violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment. [ZH: Presumably intimidation and emotional harassment of young white boys and girls for their 'whiteness', privilege, and systemic racism is beyond that 'protection'?] As Chris Rufo (@RealChrisRufo) tweeted: "The Biden administration is rapidly repurposing federal law enforcement to target political opposition." The Biden administration is rapidly repurposing federal law enforcement to target political opposition. They want to reclassify dissent as "disinformation" and "domestic terrorism," justifying an unprecedented intervention, both directly and in partnership with tech companies. — Christopher F. Rufo ⚔️ (@realchrisrufo) October 4, 2021 Rufo goes on to note that: "Neither the Attorney General's memo nor the full Justice Department press release cites any significant, credible threat. This is a blatant suppression tactic, designed to dissuade citizens from participating in the democratic process at school boards." Parents have led the charge against controversial issues such as Critical Race Theory (CRT), masking mandates and vaccine requirements. CRT holds that America is fundamentally racist, yet it teaches people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies. This is Courtney Ann Taylor, a mother in Georgia. She’s one of the many parents who’ve HAD IT with mask mandates, especially for young kids in school. Share this video! pic.twitter.com/pyG3fYmgVI — Errol Webber (@ErrolWebber) April 22, 2021 In Loudoun County, Virginia, two parents were arrested in June for trespassing while protesting CRT and a transgender policy at the school district because they refused to leave the rowdy meeting that was declared an unlawful assembly. In July, a man was arrested at a school board meeting and charged with a felony because a gun reportedly fell out of his pocket, the Indianapolis Star reported.  In Utah, 11 anti-mask protestors were arrested on misdemeanor charges for allegedly disrupting a school board meeting in May, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The protestors entered the school board meeting and shouted obscenities, which resulted in an early end to the meeting. Senator Tom Cotton  (@SenTomCotton) tweeted his thoughts: "Parents are speaking out against Critical Race Theory in schools. Now the Biden administration is cracking down on dissent." Just this week, Ron Paul explained why it is so important for parents to control the education of their children: During last week’s Virginia gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe promised that as governor he would prevent parents from removing sexually explicit books from school libraries, because he doesn't think “parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” McAuliffe's disdain for parents who think they should have some say in their children’s education is shared by most “progressives,” as well as some who call themselves conservatives. They think parents should obediently pay the taxes to fund the government schools and never question any aspect of the government school program. School officials' refusal to obey the wishes of parents extends to the anti-science mask mandates. Mask mandates are not only useless in protecting children from a virus they are at low risk of becoming sick from or transmitting, the mandated mask-wearing actually makes children sick! Yet school administrators refuse to follow the science if that means listening to parents instead of the so-called experts. Replacing parental control with government control of education (and other aspects of child raising) has been a goal of authoritarians since Plato. After all, it is much easier to ensure obedience if someone has been raised to think of the government as the source of all wisdom and truth, as well as the provider of all of life’s necessities. In contrast to an authoritarian society, a free society recognizes that parents have both the responsibility and the right to provide their children with a quality education that reflects the parents’ values. Teachers who use their positions to indoctrinate children in beliefs that contradict the views of the parents are the ones overstepping their bounds. Restoring parental control of education should be a priority for all who believe in liberty. If government can override the wishes of parents in the name of “education” or “protecting children’s health” then what area of our lives is safe from government intrusion? Fortunately, growing dissatisfaction with government schools is leading many parents to try to change school policies. "It is shameful that activists are weaponizing the US Department of Justice against parents,” Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education told the Daily Caller News Foundation in response to the memorandum. “This is a coordinated attempt to intimidate dissenting voices in the debates surrounding America’s underperforming K-12 education – and it will not succeed. We will not be silenced.” Tyler Durden Tue, 10/05/2021 - 07:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 5th, 2021

Ken Griffin Says Chicago Violence Like "Afghanistan On A Good Day", Claims Crypto Is "Jihadist" Attack On The Dollar

Ken Griffin Says Chicago Violence Like "Afghanistan On A Good Day", Claims Crypto Is "Jihadist" Attack On The Dollar Move over Jamie Dimon. There's another American billionaire financier who appears to be quietly launching a post-business political career. Or at the very least, one could be forgiven for believing Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin's appearance Monday at the Chicago Club of Economics was one long stump speech. Griffin's hour-plus dialogue, which received extensive coverage from the financial press, comes at an interesting time. On the Internet, "conspiracy theorists" (according to Citadel) have continued to raise questions about possible collusion (or other wrongdoings) between Citadel and Robinhood (and one Robinhood exec in particular) before RH pulled the plug on January's meme stonk mania. Meanwhile, over at the SEC, Gary Gensler has said he's looking into regulating - or possibly eliminating or greatly restricting - the practice of 'Payment for Order Flow", whereby electronic retail brokerages like Robinhood sell their customers' orders to Citadel and other market makers (but primarily Citadel). Griffin spoke with Bloomberg's Erik Schatzker about a seemingly endless list of topics, offering imminently quotable lines and thoughtful takes on everything from crypto, to political corruption in Illinois and Chicago's slow decline into anarchy, President Biden's policies, the prospect of another Trump presidency, PFOF, crypto, and of course COVID. The dialogue started with a question on vaccination rates and meandered on from there. Here's a breakdown of what Griffin said by topic. COVID When it comes to containing COVID, Griffin believes that the US's battle against the virus was lost right at the beginning. "The country lost this battle in the first attack, when we weren’t willing to do what it took to shut down America, to truly contain Covid-19. And then to get back out of the seat, and we’ve all just paid a catastrophic price as a result." When it comes to vaccination rates, Griffin believes they have plateaued at an "unacceptably low level". The Fed According to Griffing "the Fed's in a really tough box." The Fed is in "no man's land", Griffin says, and as far as being its chairman, "it is a job I would not be so grateful to have". He also noted that inflationary pressures in the US are "really unsettling." What to do? "If i were Chairman Powell, i stay the course that I'm on as unnerving as that is. to see inflation running this hot is really unsettling." It was at this point that Griffin said something really interesting about the Fed and it's credibility. It's not often that you hear the people who actually run our financial system speak frankly about how it really works. But Griffin essentially said 'the quiet part out loud' when the discussion turned to the Fed's credibility, which we have argued time and again is already in tatters - especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. "And let's be clear right now we don't have price stability. Inflation is at 5% is the highest number people here have seen in their lifetimes," Griffin said. He added that the Fed's position that these pressures are "transitory" is really just "a big bet". But regardless of the course of inflation in the future, Griffin said that the more pressing issue is protecting the Fed from being tainted by the same ugly politics that afflict Capitol Hill. The whole point of a central bank is it's supposed to be independent from politics. Whether this is actually true or not, it's the appearance of neutrality that's necessary to maintain global confidence in the dollar. "We need to maintain the belief in the separation of the Fed from the halls of Washington for the sake of a strong dollar. If you're part of the financial community...you need to push back on that". Fiscal Stimulus Griffin slammed the post-COVID stimulus for being to expansive, and claimed all those benefits are still "disincentivizing lower-wage workers". China The first question Griffin was asked about China was whether he still opposes a "decoupling" between China and the US. According to Griffin, this "decoupling" is already happening. "I think in important ways we have already decoupled." But on a day where Biden's Trade Rep Katherine Tai essentially plagiarized President Trump's tough-on-China economic policies during a major speech, Griffin insisted that there will be drawbacks to what the US is doing - including limiting access to semiconductors and software, which has further motivated Beijing to develop their own. "By restricting Chinese access to semiconductors and American software we have pushed them into a national campaign to eliminate their dependence on the west...imagine a world where there are two totally independent software stacks." When it comes to the technology arms race, Griffin warned, the US is bound to lose. "They graduate about twice as many graduates as we do half of them have stem degrees. They're producing about 5x more talented engineers per annum. The belief that we will be technologically dominant...is naive." Once China surpasses American tech, "not only will they use it in the biggest market in the world which is their own market...but they'll push it to all their trading partners, the Brazils of the world..." Ultimately, "I can imagine a world where we have been divided...and I don't like thinking about that outcome. I can picture a world in 30 to 40 years where, in some sense we have divided the world up between east to west technologically,” Griffin said. TSMC Could Beijing's lust for better semis technology accelerate their takeover of Taiwan? The tiny rogue territory has somehow emerged as a global leader in chip technology and production thanks to TSMC. "They don't have the entire solution, they still buy equipment from around the world, but talk about a powerhouse...and going back to my point earlier, China views Taiwan as part of China, there's no way they will be technologically important against American in the next 20 years. They will get there eventually." The Rust Belt That's not to say there haven't been drawbacks to the US engagement with Beijing, and according to Griffin is the fact that China's advances in manufacturing and the state support allowing their companies to be more competitive helped contribute to the hollowing out of thousands of American factory towns. In retrospect, this was a necessary sacrifice to entice the Chinese to embrace first capitalism, and then democracy. But increasingly it looks like the CCP has no intention to ever loosen its monopoly on power, meaning all those sacrifices were for nothing. "To have the most populous country in the world becoming increasingly capitalistic our belief was that them becoming capitalist would inevitably lead to them becoming a democracy. when we wrote the rules of rht road for them, we did it with the objective of making that happen." "The challenge that we underestimated is how devastating this was going to be for small towns that had its only factory shut down. It wasn't how it was going to impact NYC, Chicago or LA but how it was going to impact a small town in upstate New York. That was a terrible policy miscalculation not done in bad faith...but we didn't have the trainin or relocation strategies to help people get back on their feet." Competition Griffin believes America is facing an identity crisis, and needs to get back to its "core values." And a big part of that is embracing "competition". Enough of this 'everybody gets a trophy' bs. "We need to get back to our core values if we're going to win. What does that mean? Children need to be taught the virtue of earned success. It can't be that every time a race is won, there's two gold medal winners. and earned success is so important to the psychological success of our country. When people know they've done a job well..." there's a sense of pride. The reason why 1 in 10 Americans is severely depressed is that "when life revolves around your instagram and facebook account not how well you do on the sports field, how well you do in class...you've lost your way in life." "We need to teach our children math and science and how to write and how to compete and how to enjoy success....because we need these children to lead this country in 20 years." Griffin also complained that the scientists who developed the COVID jabs weren't properly venereated. "Why haven't we brought the scientists from Pfizer and Moderna to the White House to recognize them for the accomplishment of developing a vaccine in a year. These people are the heroes of our lifetime..." "There are no people who are children are looking up to to say 'I wanna be like her'" Griffin said. Teachers Unions One of the biggest causes of the decay in the quality of public education, according to Griffin, are the teachers unions. He relayed how former Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel went to bat for the schools against the unions...and lost. That's why Chicago has one of the shortest school years, and shortest school days, in the country. "Our mayor went to bat to change that and got batted over the head by the teacher's union," he said. Biden Agenda Moving on to the subject of Biden's economic agenda, which is presently the subject of a Democratic civil war in Washington, Griffin said there was plenty in the bill he liked, but also plenty he opposed, starting with the price tag. "Let's just say thank God for Sen. Manchin," Griffin said. Debt Ceiling Griffin believes the responsibility for raising the debt ceiling lies with the Dems...whether or not that means falling back on reconciliation to bypass a GOP filibuster, or not. "We've played this game of chicken before...I hope somebody blinks before they go over the cliff. I do believe the Democrats have a responsibility....to push this forward." Payment for Order Flow Finally, the big one. Are hidden costs imposed by Citadel and other market makers via payment for order flow (PFOF) helping to line Griffin's pockets at the expense of retail traders? Of course not, he insisted. In fact, if you took away PFOF, Citadel would be just fine..."from the 100,000 feet view" at least, Griffin said. Even though the practice has been a major driver of profits at his firm, Griffin tried to frame PFOF as a nuisance cost, suggesting he would rather not have to "pay" for order flow at all. "Let us hope that we maintain the status quo. brokerage firms have a duty to secure the best price for their customers. That's the premise on which we compete that's the premise on which we win." Ultimately, losing PFoF would be "a huge loss" for traders who enjoy the lowest commissions in history right now (nothing), Griffin claimed, while adding that "let us hope that in Washington, they maintain the status quo." Ken Griffin discusses PFOF (1/2)#BanPFOF #KenGriffinLied pic.twitter.com/nprGSAzT1M — Antonio Martinez (@AntonioTheMexi) October 4, 2021 Ken Griffin discusses PFOF (2/2)#BanPFOF #KenGriffinLied pic.twitter.com/PwnVVNuex5 — Antonio Martinez (@AntonioTheMexi) October 4, 2021 Whatever the SEC decides regarding PFoF, "all i want to know are the rules of the road...If i have to drive on the left I'll drive on the left...just tell me to drive." Crypto While Griffin is certainly amused by crypto, he wishes all this energy could be channeled toward something that doesn't also inadvertently undermine the American financial system. Instead, Griffin sees crypto-mania as a "jihadist call"... Griffin Sees Crypto-Mania as ‘Jihadist Call’ Against the Dollar A mania which your Robinhood subsidiary is eagerly fanning... — zerohedge (@zerohedge) October 4, 2021 ...to attack and undermine the dollar. "I wish all this passion directed at crypto was redirected at making American stronger," adding that backing bitcoin over the dollar was a "Jihadist call". He also made a crack about how terribly energy inefficient bitcoin is, repeating a longstanding criticism. While he certainly has ethical objections to crypto, Griffin says he would absolutely let Citadel to get involved in the market if it's ever regulated. "If it were regulated, I would trade it because..it would be good to have a Tier 1 firm making prices." Chicago Griffin saved most of his anger for Gov. Pritzker and other Illinois elected officials. He started with a story of a conversation between him and Pritzker where Griffin claimed the governor refused to send in the National Guard to quell violence in the city because of the political optics. Since the last time Griffin spoke at the Economic Club in 2013, the City has gotten even worse. "Since the last time I spoke in 2013, 25,000 of my fellow Chicagoans have been shot. It is a disgrace that our governor will not insert himself into the challenge of addressing crime in our city. It won't look good to have men and women on corners on Michigan Avenue with assault weapons...well, if it would save the life of one child, I don't care. We need to try and start to take the state back inch by inch from people who put their politics first and the people second." On the subject of police, Griffin said: "We need our police officers to know that they are respected and welcomed as Americans." In fact, Griffin says Citadel has already started to dial back its presence in Chicago because of the safety issue before sharing an amusing crack about Chicago being more dangerous than Afghanistan. "We aren't as much in Chicago. It's becoming ever more difficult to have this as our global headquarters, a city that has so much violence. I mean Chicago is like Afghanistan on a good day. They tried to car jack the security detail that sits outside my apartment. It just shows you how deep crime runs in this city. There is nowhere you can feel safe walking home at 2130 at night. And it's really hard to recruit people to Chicago. When they read the headlines, theey know the facts. 20 years ago, this was a great place to raise a family...I could say that and be genuine...I can't give that speech today." As for New York City, Griffin warned that many of the same things he has seen in Chicago are starting to take place in New York City. Griffin added that Citadel's next big expansion will be office space in Miami, and that the company's time of remaining headquarter in Chicago will be measured in "years not decades". The Sun Belt Moving on from the Chicago discussion, Griffin believes that across the US, coastal blue states with high taxes will start to lose their economic edge to the Sun Belt, which has more business-friendly regulations. "Conditions are Better across the sun belt states, less regulation less taxes a workforce that's generally of the ethos of 'I'm here to earn it'. Northern cities still have a considerable advantage...those schools anchor our great northern cities. the south doesn't have that yet writ large. But as universities in the south continue to get better, you're going to see the balance of power shift from the north to the south as the ease of doing business in the south trumps the ease of hiring top employees in the north." Trump Finally, the big one. When it comes to President Trump, Griffin admits his economic policies were "pretty damn good." However, when asked about the prospect of another campaign in 2020, he said that "it's time for America to move on. The 4 years under president trump were so divisive it was not constructive for the country." He also said he was "appalled" by Trump's willingness to play identity politics. * * * Griffin's speech before the Chicago Club  the first major public appearance by Griffin since the "GameStopped" hearings back in Feb. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/04/2021 - 17:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 4th, 2021

Vaccines

    Nothing can convince them to get the shot. The most important article you can read this week is this: Our constitutional crisis is already here It’s no longer behind a paywall, but it wasn’t really written for non-subscribers. In this essay neoconservative Robert Kagan tells us to be afraid, very afraid. That the… Read More The post Vaccines appeared first on The Big Picture.     Nothing can convince them to get the shot. The most important article you can read this week is this: Our constitutional crisis is already here It’s no longer behind a paywall, but it wasn’t really written for non-subscribers. In this essay neoconservative Robert Kagan tells us to be afraid, very afraid. That the train has already left the station, that democracy is on its way to extinction as we fiddle while the wildfires burn. It was written for those inside the Beltway, those that subscribe to “The Washington Post.” Influencers. Newsmakers. Not those on social media, but the old guard, in the government, elected officials, you have the D.C. paper of record publishing what everybody knows but what everybody is afraid to say, the Republicans are leading us into autocracy. Doesn’t matter if you agree. As I said, this heads-up was not for the Covid deniers, the Trump enthusiasts, but the somnambulant believing its business as usual when it definitely is not. The best story I read today is how Liz Cheney’s Wyoming Senate challenger went from Trump hater to Trump lover, a complete 180: “How an Anti-Trump Plotter in 2016 Became His Champion Against Liz Cheney” Harriet Hageman, a Wyoming Republican, is the former president’s choice to take on his leading G.O.P. critic. But five years ago, she tried to overturn his victory in the party’s primary race” Not that you’ll find this on Fox News. The big news last week was how the White House already knew there was no issue with the Dominion voting machines, how the election results were secure, yet Giuliani and Sidney Powell still went out and testified to the opposite. I scrolled the Fox site for days, I couldn’t find a reference to it. That’s the big story in a just posted article in the “Washington Post”: “How badly unvaccinated Republicans are misinformed, in one stat” “Which brings us to unvaccinated Republicans. The median unvaccinated Republican believes that the percentage of unvaccinated people like themselves requiring hospitalization is 5 percent. How does that compare to how they believe the vaccinated fare? It’s exactly the same. They believe the hospitalization rate for vaccinated people is also 5 percent. So the median unvaccinated Republican essentially says the vaccines have net-zero efficacy — i.e. there is no benefit to getting vaccinated when it comes to landing in the hospital.”   Bottom line? The hard-core unvaccinated Republicans are not refusing vaccines because of their freedom, because they don’t want to get shot up, BUT BECAUSE THEY’RE CONVINCED THEY DON’T WORK! And why are they so convinced? It’s the media they’re exposed to, that’s what this article says. Now the world runs on gossip. Always has, always will. But it used to be gossip was inherently limited. To those in your social circle, to those in your school, or at your workplace. Gossip couldn’t travel from east to west very easily. Someone would have to get on the phone or travel, and it was a one-to-one proposition, whereas with social media it’s one to many. And the truth is prior to the internet the average person didn’t know much news. Most people did not subscribe to a newspaper and most people did not watch TV news broadcasts. They were uninformed and happy with that. They’d tune in around election time, maybe, then again vast swaths of Americans didn’t vote. Some felt powerless, others felt it didn’t make any difference, their life wouldn’t change no matter who was in power. But then the internet came along and it was gossip on steroids. As a matter of fact, it’s all gossip all the time. And you know Gossip, unless it’s juicy, it doesn’t spread. When someone tells us something boring, or something we already know, it ends there, we don’t pass it on. But if it’s a salacious rumor we can’t wait to tell others, we’re itching to tell others. And that is what is now happening. So the truth is there is no authoritative source. And as a result, as William Falk, Editor-in-chief of “The Week,” posited, there is a lack of trust. In Denmark, 90% of Danes trust the health service and the politicians, as a result, 86% of them are vaccinated and deaths over the course of the pandemic are only 22% of those in the U.S. Today Denmark is wide open, today you integrate with other Americans, especially in red states, at your peril. But it doesn’t have to be this way. “How France Overcame Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy” The French have long been wary of vaccines, but a mixture of mandates and inducements encouraged millions to get the shot as the Delta variant spread” This is behind a paywall. Like good food, you have to pay more for good news. Fast food is cheap, fruits and vegetables are not. Fast food makes you unhealthy and sick. Therefore only the wealthy and informed can AFFORD to eat well, never mind be aware of food facts. As for news, gossip online, on Facebook, on social media, it’s free. And it’s a free-for-all. Anybody can post anything, and Facebook bumps that which gets a reaction, the aforementioned juicy gossip. If you want to get the truth, you’ve got to pay for it. And except for “The Wall Street Journal”‘s opinion pages, you’d be shocked how aligned the paper is with “The New York Times” and “The Washington Post.” Facts are facts. But if you’re never exposed to them… So in France, you need a health pass, i.e. vaccine passport, to go almost anywhere. That’s right, to eat out, go to clubs and attend sporting events. Talk about a mandate… And at the beginning of the Covid crisis, France “had one of the highest rates of (vaccine) hesitancy in the world.” “A poll in 2018 gave France the lowest levels of trust in vaccines out of 144 countries surveyed. In December, an Ipsos poll conducted found that France ranked at the bottom of 15 countries on willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine, with only 40% of the public saying they wanted the shot.” “Some 88% of people over 12 years old in France have received at least one shot of vaccine, more than the U.S., U.K. or Germany. Its infection rate is now below 61 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 241 cases per 100,000 in the U.S. as of Sept. 24. The French figure is declining by more than one-quarter each week, with deaths and hospitalizations falling, too.”  –WSJ Whew! See how fast you can turn things around? Assuming you’ve got the balls to lay down the law, assuming people are not ignorant, assuming they have trust in institutions. But that’s the point of the Kagan article, Trump and Fox and other outlets are undermining trust 24/7, and it’s been happening for years, so what are the odds we can convince all Americans to get vaccinated? ZILCH! Then again, how many people are on the Trump train anyway? “America is not facing a civil war – only loudmouthed extremists” “The truth is that America is nothing like a polarized country. Large majorities agree on the most pressing issues of the day: They favor abortion rights, stricter gun controls and more COVID-related restrictions, especially on unvaccinated people. You might not be aware of this if you listen to programs on Fox News or even the average political commentary in our leading newspapers or on CNN.” As a result of gerrymandering and the Electoral College and loud angry voices, we have the impression that the two sides are equal in numbers when this is patently untrue. Most Americans want abortion rights, most Americans want gun control, but good luck getting any laws passed. Furthermore, Michael Hiltzik, the author of the above column, has absolutely no impact, because his words appear in “The Los Angeles Times,” and now with the big three newspapers available 24/7 all over the world, the L.A. “Times” has been marginalized. Keep cutting the budget and eventually, people stop reading and no one pays attention. But they do read “The New York Times.” And last week Paul Krugman wrote this article: “Are Centrists in the Thrall of Right-Wing Propaganda?” “The point is that as far as I can tell, those troublesome Democratic centrists are blinded by an economic narrative that was deliberately created to block progress and justify vast inequality. So they imagine that the Biden agenda — which is a fairly modest effort to address our nation’s very real problems — is somehow irresponsible and a threat to the nation’s future.” The bottom line, the infrastructure bill is $3.5 trillion over TEN YEARS! And the centrist Democrats have bought into the Republican mantra, fearful of looking like they’re taxing and spending. So there’s no there “there” in government, never mind Mitch McConnell, who single-handedly fixed the Supreme Court in his party’s favor, not only admitting he wants no bills passed, he doesn’t even want to pay for those that were already passed upon which the money has been spent. That’s what raising the debt limit is all about, not about new spending, but the money that already left the coffers. Try telling someone you bought their goods but refuse to pay for them, let me know how that works out, it won’t be good. So, being in “The New York Times,” Krugman’s words have an effect, since he wrote this the Democrats have started to emphasize the ten-year period of spending. As for Robert Kagan’s article? Bill Maher was all over it last week, as well as Rachel Maddow. You see it’s a club, you can join, but it takes effort, and oftentimes you have to pay for the information. And everybody in the club knows the truth, but plenty are banking on your not knowing it, keeping you in your backwater where they can manipulate you. And you can die. The best website I was turned on to this week was: Sorry, Anti-Vaxxer “The purpose of this site is educational, everyone listed on this site was/is an anti-vaxxer activist who helped spread COVID-19 misinformation on social media. Share to stop others from making the same mistake. GET VACCINATED!” You’ve got to go here. Please click through. These are people who believed the Covid misinformation and spread it far and wide and then died of the virus. And what the gossip will tell you is if you’re not over 65 and obese, if you’re sans comorbidities, you’re immune. But that is patently untrue. Really, read these people’s stories. Totally healthy forty-year-olds. Twenty-year-olds. They thought they were immune, but they weren’t. They’re DYING! Do you really want to take the risk of dying when there’s a vaccine? OF COURSE YOU DO! That’s the astonishing element of these stories. So many left behind ARE STILL ANTIVAXXERS! As William Falk said in “The Week”: “People shun a simple shot largely because they see it as a form of surrender.” So you can’t convince the unvaccinated to get the shot, the only thing you can do is force them to, make it so they can’t go into public places without being vaccinated. Is there enough political will in the U.S? I don’t think so. Which is just plain sad. Umair Haque wrote last week: “Brexit is Destroying Britain – And Britain Still Can’t Face It” Let’s go through the list of shortages above. Blood vials? Imported, made by a company called Becton Dickinson, made in America, mostly. Carbon dioxide? Imported from Europe, vital to producing beer and soft drinks and refrigerating meat and whatnot. Food and milk? Imported, mostly from Europe — the UK’s a net importer. Gas? Obviously imported, natural gas from Europe, and petrol, again via Europe. Where Can’t You Get Gas, Milk, Bread, and Beer? Welcome to Soviet Britain” There are no truck drivers to deliver goods. They just broke their own rules, they’re allowing foreigners to come in and do this job, those they wanted gone. But the irony is it’s still not enough, and most foreigners won’t come, the pay is too low. And you can’t get beer because the CO2 to make it comes from the Continent! But what really got my attention in the Haque article was the put-downs of America. “She was right. Britain’s turning Soviet. Even America – for all its folly and self-inflicted ruin, guns and theocracy and whole nine yards – isn’t as badly off as Britain.” But the conclusion is even worse, you don’t want to turn into AMERICA! “Eventually, Britain will probably find ways to get a little more bread and beer and so on. But they won’t be European. They’ll come from America, probably, and if you like American beer and bread, my friend, I feel a little sorry for you. Britain will eventually end up something like America’s 51st state – it’s NHS and BBC owned by American hedge funds, its people eating American diets, their minds poisoned by American junk culture. America’s a vastly poorer society than Europe. Americans live worse lives in every possible way — from health to wealth to trust to intimacy to stability and safety to basic decency and thoughtfulness. Britain’s only real destiny left at this point is to be Americanized. That was always the endgame of Brexit – to sell Britain off to American capital. But American capital has made paupers – literally, they’re lifelong debtors, without a penny to their names, most of them – of Americans.” The problem is this all rings true. The hedge funds buy the parking meters and therefore you’ve got to pay to park 24/7, there are no holidays. And the hedge fund buys the trailer park upon which your rust bucket sits and raises the price of rent on your little square of property, after all their investors have to see a return, and you lose your POS residence, forget YOUR investment, it’s history. I mean we have no national health care, no mandated vacations, no government funds for child care…we’re working like dogs to try and keep our heads afloat. Is this really the best we can do? America is no longer the country I grew up in. It slid while I wasn’t even realizing it. In the rest of the world our status has fallen to the level of…theirs. Haque posits the EU is more powerful than America, it fights bad actors like the tech companies while the FTC is paralyzed, if member countries get out of hand they stop sending them money, they freeze them out. But we’re supposed to believe the federal government has no power over Texas and Florida. Now the truth is Britain got Brexit because a lot of sentimental oldsters and rural folk wanted to return to a country that no longer squares with the modern world, just like those on the right in America want to go back to an era totally out of date with today’s trade and mores, it’s a fantasy. The Britons with money, the educated, they understood what was at risk, they overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, but they were defeated by the votes of the idiots told falsehoods. It’s no different in the U.S. Mexico was gonna pay for the wall. China was going to pay the tariffs. Say it enough and people believe it, after all, they’re not exposed to the truth, and they wouldn’t believe it if they saw it. But you can…discover the truth and be informed. Unlike the right-winger who sent me an anti-vax article from a PARODY website! He didn’t even realize it was a joke! We are in a crisis. Whether you admit it or not. Never mind politics, there’s that pesky climate too. And there’s no way we can convince those on the other side, the deniers, the ignorant, we must FORCE THEM to do what’s right, like France. Yes, that’s how far we’ve fallen, we need to model ourselves after the French. But they have it right. Because contrary to what Kellyanne Conway said there are facts, unassailable, and once we make people aware of them, get them to believe in them, we can make progress. But that day seems to be far away.   ~~~ Visit the archive: — Listen to the podcast: — @Lefsetz — Subscribe to the LefsetzLetter The post Vaccines appeared first on The Big Picture......»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureOct 3rd, 2021

From dedicated check-in desks to chauffeured cars, here are the perks Big Tech enjoys for spending hundreds of millions on air travel each year

Big Tech spends hundreds of millions of dollars on air travel each year and airlines use every tool in their belt to keep them happy and loyal. Delta Air Lines check-in for Amazon and Microsoft employees in Seattle.Alexei Oreskovic/Insider Companies that spend millions of dollars on air travel are given incredible perks from airlines. One such perk is top-tier frequent flyer status that comes with free upgrades, lounge access, and chauffeurs. Amazon and Microsoft even have dedicated check-in counters at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.  Loyalty has its perks, especially when loyalty means spending hundreds of millions of dollars on airline tickets every year.Business travel is a leading revenue source for airlines and the top corporate spenders are frequently given extra benefits in exchange for their continued business. Some of the perks go way beyond what even the most frequent individual traveler could ever hope to receive.Tech companies are among the top spenders on airline travel given as Big Tech giants have offices and facilities around the world. China, for example, is a top destination for Silicon Valley-based firms like Apple.United Airlines, in 2018, revealed that Apple was buying 50 business class seats every day on flights to Shanghai, China. Apple's business with United at the time was worth more than $150 million in revenue.Airlines, however, lost a big chunk of that revenue during the pandemic as international borders started to close in January 2020. Cost-minded leisure travelers tend not to spend as much as business flyers and are less likely to pay for premium cabin travel or costly last-minute fares when vacationing. When big business does return to the skies, these are the perks that will likely await them.Expedited access to elite statusWelcome email for Delta Silver Medallion status.Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderEmployees that travel enough will often earn elite status with an airline that gives them extra privileges when flying. "The basic idea is you get to bypass a lot of the hassles," Brett Snyder, founder of the aviation blog CrankyFlyer, told Insider. Acquiring elite status requires loyalty to a particular airline to the tune of a few thousand dollars in purchased tickets and tens of thousands of miles flown. But airlines can also offer elite status memberships to corporate travelers as a "sweetener" in a contract even before the first flight, Snyder said.Most of the perks will come from having that elite status but airlines can still go above and beyond for top corporate clients. Dedicated check-in lanesDelta's Sky Priority check-in area at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderFor some companies, spending millions of dollars on travel means never having to wait in line at certain airports. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, for example, Delta Air Lines has dedicated check-in desks for Amazon and Microsoft employees. While check-in counters are becoming obsolete given improvements to self-serve kiosks and airline mobile applications, employees can use them to quickly check their bags or have airline staff assist with any flight issues. The scheme isn't replicated at every Delta airport for Microsoft and Amazon employees but they will still likely have access to priority check-in areas. Business travelers often earn elite status on the airlines they frequent and can often use priority check-in lanes as a result, especially when traveling in a premium cabin, as Insider found when testing out the lowest tier of Delta's elite status. Some US airlines have private check-in areas altogether for elite status holders and premium cabin travelers, away from the main check-in desks, such as Delta's Sky Priority check-in area at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.Access to invite-only programsAmerican Airlines' first class check-in at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderWhile elite status is a common perk of frequent business travel, the highest echelons of those programs are reserved for an airline's top spenders. Attaining membership in the unlisted programs is the dream of any frequent traveler and top corporate clients may be given an allotment of memberships for their top travelers. American Airlines has ConciergeKey, United Airlines has Global Services, and Delta Air Lines has 360°."These are highly coveted programs, there's a mystery to them," Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst and president of Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider.Even if a member of these programs purchases the cheapest economy ticket on a given flight, they will still reap the benefits of complimentary lounge access, priority check-in lanes, early boarding, and a host of other secretive amenities that airlines won't discuss publicly. Airlines have different requirements for who is invited into their programs and limits on the number of memberships they can distribute each year, according to Harteveldt. Companies seeking to get memberships for their flyers would have to spend a significant amount on yearly air travel, with spend requirements varying from city to city. "Delta 360° is an annual, invitation-only program for our top SkyMiles Members, offering an exclusive suite of benefits and services even beyond Diamond Medallion Status," Delta writes on its website. "An invitation into Delta 360° is based on your overall investment with Delta. If you're selected to join, we'll contact you directly."A certain number of memberships are then given to corporate travel managers to distribute to employees, Harteveldt explained, with airlines being incredibly mindful of how many are allocated.Lounge accessAmerican Airlines' Admirals Club at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderAirline lounges are exclusive hideaways that offer private and comfortable seating when waiting for a flight, as well as complimentary snacks, beverages, and food items. Corporate customers flying internationally in business class will often have access to these lounges included in their tickets. Airlines will also give complimentary lounge memberships to their most frequent flyers. On American, for example, executive platinum status holders can choose to receive an Admirals Club membership as one of their free perks.ConciergeKey, Global Services, and Delta 360° members also receive complimentary lounge access for their respective airlines, according to, Harteveldt, Upgraded Points, and SFGate. Airside transfers in a luxury Porsche, General Motors, or Mercedes Benz vehiclesAn American Airlines Cadillac for ConciergeKey members.First Class Photography/Shutterstock.comMembers of the ConciergeKey, Global Services, and Delta 360° programs need not worry about running from one flight to another when passing through an airline hub with a tight connection. Rather, they'll be escorted down to the ramp and driven to their next flight in a luxury vehicle.American will chauffeur passengers in a luxury General Motors vehicle while United transfers its passengers in a Mercedes-Benz and Delta in a Porsche, according to Upgraded Points. [not sure this blog is reputable enough to cite on its own] Cadillac was formerly American's vehicle manufacturer of choice for airside transfers until the switch was made to GM, the airline confirmed to View from the Wing. [caddy is owned by GM — so need different wording here]It's a "surprise and delight" perk, Snyder said, that isn't guaranteed for everyone with a short layover. Airlines may also be more accommodating to passengers on delayed flights by holding their connections, Harteveldt said, depending on the customer and corporate client. Priority BoardingFlying on American Airlines during the pandemic.Thomas Pallini/InsiderElite status holders are often among the first passengers to board a flight, whether they're seated in a premium cabin or not. ConciergeKey members, for example, can board ahead of first class customers and active duty military members even if they've booked a basic economy ticket, according to American's boarding priority list.Early boarding gives flyers first pick at overhead bin space and more time to get settled before the rest of the plane boards.  Better opportunities for first class upgradesFlying Delta One on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-400.Thomas Pallini/InsiderComplimentary upgrades to first class are among the most valuable perks for an elite status holder. A single upgrade can be worth more than the price of a ticket and instantly elevate a travel experience, especially on longer flights. In many frequent flyer programs, any elite status holder can request an upgrade and they'll accommodate if there is a seat available. But oftentimes, there ends up being people that don't make the cut because there aren't enough seats available for all elite status holders. Corporate travelers, however, have a better shot at upgrades because airlines consider a variety of factors when determining who to upgrade. The level of elite status and how much a traveler's company spends with the airline in a given year are also taken into consideration. "Generally, if you have all things being equal, the person who works for a large corporate account that may have a major business relationship with an airline would likely get the nod for the upgrade ahead of the person who is an individual traveler," Harteveldt said. An airline also might give a certain number of upgrade coupons to a corporate client that can be used to get a premium cabin seat, Harteveldt added. Drink coupons and free snacksFlying Delta One on a Delta Air Lines Boeing 767-400.Thomas Pallini/InsiderNot all of what corporate clients get are grand gestures, however, and sometimes a free drink can make the difference. Coupons for a complimentary alcoholic beverage are sometimes included in a corporate contract, according to Harteveldt, and offered on certain fares geared towards business travelers.Airlines like Delta and American also offer complimentary alcoholic beverages in their extra legroom sections, which companies may be willing to purchase for their employees. Southwest Airlines' "Business Select" fare also comes with a free drink coupon.Some US airlines aren't currently offering alcohol in regular economy sections until the pandemic subsides but the perk will likely return. Some airlines also might offer complimentary meals or snacks to corporate flyers even if they're sitting in economy on domestic flights. American offers Executive Platinum status holders a complimentary snack and an alcoholic drink in economy, Snyder said. Dedicated reservation linesA Delta Air Lines employee.ReutersAirline hold times have markedly increased as airlines sought to shed their staff during the pandemic. Travelers can find themselves waiting on hold for hours.Elite status holders, however, have special phone numbers to use when calling the reservations desk with shorter hold times, and corporate travelers with elite status can also use them. Some companies were so important to airlines, however, that special phone lines were created just for their employees. "In the past, some airlines would create basically special toll-free numbers for their largest corporate accounts where the employees would call in and get a dedicated sub-group of agents within a reservations office so that they were served faster," Harteveldt said. Harteveldt noted that the perk likely doesn't exist anymore and those phone lines have been merged into the dedicated lines for top frequent flyers. "If you put somebody into the higher tiers of a frequent flyer program, they're going to get expedited service anyway," he said. Travel agents, however, including those with corporate accounts, still have lines to many airline reservation desks, Snyder said. "It's for the travel planners, the people that are doing the work," he said. Free or discounted extra legroom seatsA Delta Comfort+ seat.Thomas Pallini/Business InsiderNot all companies pay to fly their employees in a premium cabin on every flight but airlines can help make the economy experience more enjoyable by offering favorable rates on extra legroom seats, according to Harteveldt. Delta's "Comfort+" seats, for example, offer extra legroom as well as complimentary alcohol and premium snacks. Some airlines also offer complimentary upgrades into extra legroom sections for their elite status holders. Airlines also block certain regular economy seats that don't offer extra legroom but have a more preferable location in the cabin. Snyder says that corporate clients may be given advance access to those seats ahead of the public. Waived checked bag feesA United Airlines check-in counter.United Media LibraryA basic perk of earning elite status is getting a complimentary checked baggage allowance, which can save travelers and their companies money when a trip requires checked baggage. Companies may also be able to negotiate lower fees for checked baggage, Harteveldt said. More flexibility for corporate travelersFlying home from Bogota, Colombia on American Airlines.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMany US airlines have abandoned change fees for domestic flights but tickets can still be restrictive. The nature of corporate travel, however, requires additional leeway that airlines are willing to give to high-spending clients. "You get much more flexibility as a corporate [client]," Snyder said, noting that some airlines have a system for clients where points can be redeemed for perks. Common perks include things like name changes on tickets, flight changes, and converting non-refundable tickets into refundable tickets. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider3 hr. 12 min. ago

I flew from New York to San Diego through Mexico using an obscure border loophole — here"s what it was like

Flying between two US cities via Mexico on a single ticket normally isn't allowed. But a new type of airport terminal makes it perfectly legal. Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/Insider Tijuana International Airport directly connects with the US through a private border crossing called Cross Border Xpress. The cross-border terminal allows travelers to access Tijuana International and its cheap fares to cities inside Mexico without having to enter Tijuana and deal with busy border crossings.  I put Cross Border Xpress to the test by flying from New York to Tijuana and immediately crossing back into the US.  Conventional wisdom dictates that the fastest way to fly between New York and San Diego, California isn't through Mexico. Such a routing on a single ticket isn't even legal thanks to federal cabotage laws.Rigucci/ShutterstockBut that's where Tijuana International Airport's new cross-border terminal comes in. Travelers can book flights to the airport and walk right into San Diego, without ever having to step foot in Tijuana itself.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderCross Border Xpress, as the private border crossing is known, is solely available to passengers flying in and out of Tijuana International, drastically reducing border crossing times for air travelers and taking the hassle out of flying out of Mexico's northwesternmost city.The Cross Border Xpress bridge over the US-Mexico border fence.BILL WECHTER/AFP/GettyThe terminal wasn't built as an alternative to San Diego International Airport so that Americans could fly between two US cities. Rather, it's meant to give travelers more options when flying to Mexico's interior including access to Mexico's ultra-low-cost airlines, and ultimately save them the international air travel taxes that drive up airfares.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderBut I wanted to test CBX to the extreme so I booked a ticket from New York to Tijuana through Mexico City just to use the crossing. Here's how it went.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMy journey was simple: New York to Mexico City on Delta and Mexico City to Tijuana on Aeromexico. If I played my cards right, I wouldn't have to take one step inside Mexico beyond the two airports.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThere are no direct flights from New York to Tijuana and a stop in Mexico City was about the most direct routing I could get with the fewest connections. The total journey time was scheduled to be just shy of 12 hours.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderTaking a non-stop flight to San Diego is only around six and a half hours. But this was arguably the more interesting, and fun, option.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAlthough San Diego was my final destination, I still needed my passport as I'd have to legally enter Mexico. To the airport staff, I was just any old traveler flying to Tijuana.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThough, it's hard to believe that New York-Tijuana is a common routing because it's probably cheaper to fly direct to San Diego and cross the border at the San Ysidro Port of Entry.The San Ysidro Port of Entry on the US-Mexico border.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMexico doesn't require a negative COVID-19 test to enter and neither does the US when crossing by land. Checking in for the flight was just a matter of checking my passport.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderTaking us down to Mexico City was a Boeing 767-300ER, Delta's workhorse wide-body aircraft. It was a small upgrade from the narrow-body Boeing 757 aircraft flying on the New York-San Diego route.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI even scored an upgrade to Delta's Comfort+ cabin, which is becoming increasingly hard to come by when traveling domestically.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI flew Delta as an elite status holder and saw how difficult it is to get coveted first class upgrades as travel returnsBut even though this was an international flight, Delta wasn't serving up any hot meals or special snacks. We might as well have been flying to San Diego.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderFlight attendants came around just after takeoff with a small snack basket, Options for Comfort+ passengers included chocolate chip cookies, potato chips, Kind bars, Biscoff cookies, and more.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderPassengers in regular economy class were just given the standard options including almonds and Biscoff cookies.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe flight itself was largely uneventful as we crossed the Gulf of Mexico bound for Mexico City. I used the time to get some work done and watch a movie.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderFlight attendants came around one more time around an hour before landing for the final drink service.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMexico came into view shortly there after and we were greeted with some of the best views I've ever had as a traveler.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe rolling hills of Mexico City showed a side of Mexico that I had never seen before. This detour was worth it for the views alone.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderTouchdown in Mexico City marked the halfway point of the journey. The only things left to conquer now were a two-hour layover and a flight to Tijuana.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderBut until I could do that, I'd have to go through Mexican customs. Even though I was technically traveling between US cities, I'd still be entering Mexico when I touched down in Mexico City and there was no way around going through passport control.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThat was when I realized that it might sound odd if I had to explain why I was only going to be in Mexico for a few hours. But luckily, the border guard didn't ask too many questions.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAnd with the stamp of my passport, it was welcome to Mexico.Flying Delta Air Lines from New York to Mexico City, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderConnecting at Mexico City International Airport was quite straightforward and required going through one more security screening and filling out a health declaration required for all domestic flights.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMy flight to Tijuana was on Aeromexico, Mexico's flag carrier, with a flying time of around three and a half hours.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderBoarding required taking a bus to a remote gate away from the main terminal. It's arguably one of the worst ways to board a flight and almost always results in a delay.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAnd the flight to Tijuana was nearly fully loaded, meaning it would be a tight squeeze for the next few hours. All this I was willing to overlook, however, as it was my first flight on Aeromexico.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMasks were required onboard, just like in the US, and numerous announcements reminded passengers to be mindful of their hygiene and well-being.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe Boeing 737-800 taking us north had a tired and old interior. It had seen better days, for sure.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI wasn't as lucky with getting an upgrade as I was on my previous flight, so back to row 25 I went.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe one upside to this old plane was that there were seat-back televisions at every seat.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderWe ended up departing late, as expected, due to the extra time it took to board the plane via buses.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderBut soon enough, we were airborne out of Mexico City bound for the furthest reach of Mexico.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderMexico City once again surprised and delighted with stunning views on takeoff.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderWe soon ascended above the clouds and flight attendants began the first of two beverage services. A standard offering of drinks, including alcohol, was served.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI opted for my drink of choice when flying, a club soda.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderSmall snack bags with mixed nuts were also on offer; though, that was about it for the entire flight.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe rest of the flight was spent watching movies and getting some work done. In-flight WiFi was also available through Gogo In-flight Internet.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe dirty airplane window and direct sunlight made it hard to sightsee on this flight but there were some good views of the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean to be had. It wasn't before long that we started to descend into a cloudy Tijuana.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderTijuana soon appeared from below the clouds and it couldn't have felt any more different from San Diego, just a few miles to the north. Whereas the approach into San Diego is lined with skyscrapers, the approach into Tijuana was mostly warehouses and shacks.Visiting the community of Nueva Esperanza in Tijuana, Mexico next to Amazon's new fulfillment center.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe flight had come to its end but my cross-border journey was just about to begin. We were just about in the US as Tijuana International is right on the borderline.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI could literally see the border wall from my seat on the plane. Before CBX, getting to the other side would've meant journeying by taxi or bus to one of the nearby border crossings.Flying Aeromexico from Mexico City to Tijuana, Mexico.Thomas Pallini/InsiderOnce in the terminal, I was practically taken by the hand and led to CBX thanks to the never-ending branding and signage guiding me to the entrance.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI used CBX, the private border crossing bridge that connects Tijuana airport with the US and found it's one of the best kept secrets for travelersTijuana International has clearly embraced CBX as part of its identity, to the benefit of travelers.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAnd I couldn't have been more impressed by the airport itself. It was very much a place that I wanted to spend more time in.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAmerica, however, beckoned and CBX signage guided the way to baggage claim, with no shortage of ticket kiosks and advertisements along the way.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI had bought my ticket through the CBX mobile application at a cost of $16 one-way. But getting a ticket was probably the easy part as even airlines sell tickets on their websites.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderOnly air travelers arriving into Tijuana can use CBX and keeping the entrance behind security helps prevent unauthorized users from making the crossing.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThere was a very short line to use the crossing and staff checked boarding passes and travel documents.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAn automated gate was the final hurdle before beginning the long walk back to the US.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderSign after sign said the same thing "US/Mexico border" with an arrow pointing straight, as if there was any other direction in which to walk.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThe last stop in Mexico was a small duty free shop, just like in the international departures section of an airport.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderAfter endless winding and turning, the border bridge appeared and the US was in sight.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderThere's even a plaque at the actual borderline to demarcate the boundary. It was undeniably a long way to go just to end up back in the same country.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderBut I knew I was home free when I saw the line for Global Entry had only one person in it.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderJust like that, I was back in the US. The US Customs and Border Protection agent only asked if I was bringing anything back from Mexico, and I was free to go after that.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderI got in my rental car and drove off towards San Diego, just 20 minutes away.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderIt was a long day but I would absolutely do it again if the price was right. These types of flying adventures make travel fun and now I can say that I've flown between New York and San Diego through Mexico.Using Cross Border Xpress at Tijuana International Airport.Thomas Pallini/InsiderRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider3 hr. 12 min. ago

November Payrolls Preview: Strong Enough To Justify The Accelerated Taper?

November Payrolls Preview: Strong Enough To Justify The Accelerated Taper? With Powell's Fed having telegraphed it will accelerate the taper at this month's meeting so it can start presumably start hiking as soon as June of 2022, the November payrolls report may be moot although traders will be looking for barbell signs: will it be strong enough to validate an accelerated taper, or could it come so far below expectations that the Fed will be forced to delay its taper-boosting plans. Looking at the expectations, Newsquawk reminds us that analysts look for 550k nonfarm payrolls to be added to the US economy in November, similar to October's 531k; the jobless rate is seen falling by one-tenth of a percent to 4.5%. While as noted above the Fed appears almost certain to announce a quickening in the pace of QE tapering, analysts will be carefully watching measures of labor market slack to gauge the progress towards the Fed's 'three tests' for rate hikes: i) Participation was unchanged in October, ii) employment-population ticked up by 0.1ppts, while iii) the U6 measure of underemployment fell 0.2ppts. With the inflation tests met, the labor market data will form a key part of the Fed's arguments for rate hikes, and any significant  improvement in these metrics may see markets further price in tighter rates next year. Meanwhile, labor market gauges have generally been constructive in November: the rate of initial jobless claims going into the November survey period improved relative to the October window; ADP's gauge of payrolls was in line with expectations, though the pace eased vs October; business surveys saw employment sub-indices improve and are alluding to a very tight labor market, while today's Challenger job cuts fell to the lowest since 1993. Here is a summary of expectations: Nonfarm payrolls are expected to print 550k in November vs 531k in October (private payrolls expected at 530k vs 604k prior, manufacturing payrolls expected at 45k vs prior 60k); the 3-month average nonfarm payrolls trend rate eased to 442k in October (vs 629k in September), the 6-month average rose to 666k (from 622k) and the 12-month average eased to 481k (from 494k). The unemployment rate is seen declining by 0.1ppts in November to 4.5%; Labor market participation was unchanged at 61.6% in October (vs 63.6% in February 2020), U6 underemployment declined by 0.2ppts to 8.3% (vs 7.0% in February 2020), and the employment-population ratio rose 0.1ppts to 58.8% (vs pre-pandemic 61.1%). Average hourly earnings are seen rising 0.4% M/M, with the annual measure expected to rise by 0.1ppts to 4.0% Y/Y, Average workweek hours are likely to be unchanged at 34.7hrs. POLICY FOCUS: Fed Chair Powell this week delivered hawkish testimony to lawmakers, where he stated that the economy had continued to strengthen, the labor market had continued to improve, and he sees inflation moving down significantly over the next year. He added that it was appropriate to consider wrapping up the tapering of asset purchases a few months sooner, which participants will discuss at the December FOMC. Powell telegraphing the debate in advance may have taken some of the sting out of incoming economic data -- the rationale being that the Fed is set to accelerate the taper barring any significant deterioration in labor market and inflation data before the December 15th confab -- but Powell still suggested that there was a three-part test for raising rates (economy at maximum employment, inflation at 2%, inflation on track to moderately exceed 2% for some time); Fed officials have attempted to break the link between tapering and eventual rate hikes, but forward-looking markets will be assessing incoming data within the context of the three tests, and will price expectations of the Fed rate hike trajectory accordingly. The inflation test has been met, but Powell said there was still ground to cover to reach maximum employment, though he has previously said that could be achieved by the middle of next year; this week's labor market data, therefore, remains a key part of the eventual rate hike debate. SLACK: Taking an aggregate of the headline since March 2020, there are still some 4.44mln nonfarm payrolls to be recouped to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Goldman Sachs explains that it has been childcare constraints and elevated fiscal transfers which have likely weighed on participation, but these factors should have only a small effect going forward, but it may still take some time for some people to feel comfortable in returning to work, leaving some potential for longer-lasting drags. "We continue to expect that the labor force participation rate will increase in the nearterm, but we have nudged down our participation rate forecast to 1ppt below trend at end-2021 (61.9%) and 0.5ppts below trend at end-2022 (62.1%)," the bank says, "but because jobs are abundant and residual weakness in participation in mid-2022 will likely be due to changes in fiscal policy, wealth, and worker preferences, we expect that the FOMC will judge any participation shortfall that remains at that point to be structural or voluntary and will update their maximum employment goal accordingly." JOBLESS CLAIMS: In the week that traditionally coincides with the BLS survey window for the jobs report, initial jobless claims were little changed at 270k from the prior week's 269k; but since the October jobs report survey window, claims have eased from 351k. Continuing claims, meanwhile, printed 2.049mln in the survey week, down from 2.11mln in the prior week, and lower than the 2.81mln in the October survey period. Pantheon Macroeconomics said that the trend in initial jobless claims remains firmly downward, but the read may not be clear in the holiday season: "Unfortunately the numbers will be volatile over the holidays, as usual, and the next clean read on the data will be in mid-January," and by then, "we think claims will be close to the lows seen in the pre-COVID cycle, about 210K." ADP: The ADP's national employment gauge saw 534k job additions to the US economy in November, more or less in line with the 525k forecast; the prior was revised down trivially by 1k to 570k. ADP's economists noted that the labor market recovery continued to "power through" its challenges last month. "Job gains have eclipsed 15 million since the recovery began, though 5 million jobs short of pre-pandemic levels," ADP said, "service providers, which are more vulnerable to the pandemic, have dominated job gains this year." On the pandemic, ADP's economists said it was too early to tell if the Omicron variant could potentially slow the jobs recovery in coming months. BUSINESS SURVEYS: Within the ISM manufacturing report, the employment index rose by 1.3 points to 53.3, remaining in expansion for a third month, with the report noting some indications that the ability to hire is improving, though this is being partially offset by the challenges of turnover and backfilling. "Survey panellists’ companies are still struggling to meet labour-management plans, but there were modest signs of progress," ISM said, "an increasing share of comments noted improvements regarding employment," where "an overwhelming majority of panellists indicate their companies are hiring or attempting to hire." 51% of those surveyed were expressing difficulties in filling positions, with the situation becoming more acute in the month. Meanwhile, the services ISM is released after this month's jobs data, but using the IHS Markit flash November PMIs as a proxy, similar themes have been seen. IHS Markit said that pressure on capacity persisted amid labour shortages, with backlogs of work rising at the second-fastest pace on record. "Firms sought to expand their workforce numbers, but employment growth was held back by challenges finding suitablecandidates." JOB CUTS: Challenger's November report said that announced job cuts had dropped to 14,875 from the 22,822 in October, the lowest monthly total since May 1993. Year-to-date, employers have announced plans to cut 302,918 jobs from their payrolls, the lowest January-November total on record, and vs 2,227,725 vs the same period in 2020. Challenger said that "with the Omicron variant emerging and the unknowns that come with its spread, coupled with the ongoing difficulty hiring and retaining workers, it’s no surprise job cuts are at record lows," adding that "employers are spread thin, planning best- and worst-case scenarios in terms of COVID, while also contending with staff shortages and high demand." Speaking of Goldman, the bank is more optimistic than consensus and estimates nonfarm payrolls rose 575k in November, above the 531k gain in October and higher than the bank's initial forecast of +550k (which is in line with consensus). The bank expects no change in government payrolls, and thus private payrolls will also rise +575k in November (vs. consensus +525k).  According to the bank, the summer expiration of federal unemployment insurance benefits in some states boosted job-finding rates there, and the programs expired in the remaining states on September 5th. Over 4.6mn people have dropped off the unemployment benefit rolls since early September, and we assume 300-400k found new jobs during the November payroll month. Goldman also believes upward revisions to prior-month nonfarm payrolls are fairly likely in tomorrow’s report. The chart below reveals a trend of increasingly large upward revisions over the course of the year, with prior-month job growth revised up on net in each of the last six reports (including +235k with last month’s release). There are two potential explanations, both of which could potentially lead to upward revisions in tomorrow’s report as well. First, some reopening establishments may respond to the BLS survey with a lag (e.g. 1-2 months after reopening). This would result in positive revisions to the not-seasonally-adjusted data that occurred in May, July, August, and September (dark blue bars below). Second, the seasonal factors may be overfitting to the advance releases, mistakenly attributing some of the strong job creation to an evolution of seasonality (light blue lines below). ARGUING FOR A STRONGER REPORT: End of federal enhanced unemployment benefits. The expiration of federal benefits in some states boosted job-finding rates over the summer, and all remaining such programs expired on September 5. The 239k pickup in job growth in October relative to September is consistent with a boost from improved labor supply, and with 4.6 mn individuals no longer receiving benefits versus in early September, this tailwind is expected to continue in tomorrow’s report and beyond. Public health. The Delta wave coincided with a late-summer slowdown in job growth, with leisure and hospitality employment growth slowing sharply in September and October (see Exhibit 1). With covid infection rates falling since September, restaurant seatings on OpenTable have rebounded,and economists expect strong gains in leisure and hospitality and in other services. Job availability. The Conference Board labor differential—the difference between nthe percent of respondents saying jobs are plentiful and those saying jobs are hard to get—increased to a record-high of 46.9. JOLTS job openings decreased by 191kin September to 10.4mn but remained significantly higher than the pre-pandemic record. Jobless claims. Initial jobless claims fell during the November payroll month, averaging 257k per week vs. 320k in October. Continuing claims in regular state programs decreased 283k from survey week to survey week. Education seasonality. Education payrolls weighed on the previous two reports, declining 170k cumulatively in September and October (public and private). This reflects some janitors and support staff declining to return for the fall school year. While schools will eventually fill these open positions, the start-of-year catalyst for a large rise in education jobs has passed, and we are assuming only second derivative improvement in tomorrow’s report, such as a flat reading or a modest gain (mom sa). Employer surveys. The employment components of business surveys generally increased in November. Goldman's services survey employment tracker increased 0.5pt to 55.1 and its manufacturing survey employment tracker increased 0.7pt to 59.6. The Goldman Sachs Analyst Index (GSAI) increased 4.3pt to 77.2 in November, and the employment component rose 1.6pt to a record-high of 75.6. Job cuts. Announced layoffs reported by Challenger, Gray & Christmas declined by 10% month-over-month in November after increasing by 18% in October (SA by GS),and remain near their three-decade low. ARGUING FOR A WEAKER REPORT: Supply constraints in retail. Labor supply constraints may have weighed on pre-holiday hiring in the retail industry, for which the BLS seasonal factors anticipate net hiring of around 350k. If so, retail payroll could fall on a seasonally adjusted basis. Vaccine mandates. The vaccine mandates announced by the Biden administration nin September apply to roughly 25mn unvaccinated workers, and may have weighed on November job growth in healthcare and government. While the federal deadline for compliance is generally not until early January and faces an uncertain future in the court system, early adoption in some states may have reduced job growth at the margin in tomorrow’s report. NEUTRAL FACTORS Big Data. High-frequency data on the labor market were mixed. Three of the four measures available this month indicate another sizeable gain. However, the Homebase data that directionally flagged the September payroll missindicates an outright decline ADP. Private sector employment in the ADP report increased by 534k in November, in line with consensus expectations for a 525k gain and consistent with strong growth in the ADP panel. Tyler Durden Thu, 12/02/2021 - 21:40.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 3rd, 2021

The Philippines" presidential election heats up with boxer Manny Pacquiao and the former dictator"s son among 5 surprising candidates duking it out for control

As President Rodrigo Duterte's six-year term comes to an end, here are five front-runners who have emerged in a bid to replace him. From left: Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Panfilo Lacson, Francisco Domagoso, and Leni Robredo.L to R: Gregorio B. Dantes Jr./Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images, TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images, NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images, Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Ezra Acayan/Getty Images The Philippines' presidential election is set for May, and all candidates have filed for the race. The candidates include boxer Manny Pacquiao, the son of a reviled dictator, and a former teen actor. President Rodrigo Duterte has already stirred the pot, saying one of the front-runners uses cocaine. With the deadline for candidacy elapsing on November 15, we compiled a list of the front-runners who have emerged in the lead-up to the Philippines' May presidential election.Perhaps the most notable among them are the son of a former dictator, a teen actor turned senator, the senator and champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, and an ex-police general once on Interpol's most-wanted list.Campaigning isn't set to start until February, but the theatrics have already begun. President Rodrigo Duterte has joined in, saying in a recent speech that a candidate "who might win hands down" used cocaine. When reporters asked him whom he was referring to, he demurred.The country's constitution blocks Duterte from running for president again. As his six-year term — characterized by his hardhanded style and controversial war on drugs — comes to an end next year, the nation is watching keenly for who will replace him.The Philippines has long struggled with political corruption and instability in the wake of a 1986 revolution that deposed the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It ranked 115th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Corruption Perception Index run by Transparency International and has for decades consistently charted well below the World Bank's median for political stability.And unlike in the US, Philippine political parties are generally weak, and politicians can switch sides with little consequence, experts told Insider.Here are five notable and leading candidates for the May election in the Philippines.The dictator's son: Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr.Marcos, a former senator and son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos on October 5, 2017.Noel Celis/AFP via Getty ImagesFerdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is the son of the dictator Marcos Sr., who ruled the Philippines for 25 years until he was ousted by an uprising in 1986. After years of torturing, killing, and displacing thousands of Filipinos under martial law, Marcos Sr. went into exile in Hawaii with his family, where he died three years later.After his father died, Marcos was permitted to return to the Philippines, where he later served as a governor and a senator. He ran for vice president in 2016 — endorsed by his mother, Imelda — but was beaten by the lawyer Leni Robredo, who's also running for president in the upcoming election."His family has spent quite a lot in rehabilitating their image and promoting revisionist versions of Philippine history and the legacy of the late dictator," professor Maria Ela Atienza, the chair of the department of political science at the University of the Philippines, told Insider.He commands a cultlike following in the Philippines, especially among younger voters who may not have had as much direct contact with his father's government, professor Jorge Tigno, who also teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said.Tigno considers him one of the race's strongest candidates."He may not get a majority, but he can, at least, at this point, get a plurality to win," the professor said.Sara Duterte-Carpio, the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, announced that she would be Marcos' running mate.Manman Dejeto / AFP via Getty ImagesMarcos has benefited from one of the biggest twists so far in the race: Sara Duterte-Carpio, the current president's daughter, who was thought to be a powerhouse candidate for the presidency, announced on November 16 that she would be Marcos' running mate as vice president.The vice president and president are elected separately in the Philippines, but the alliance allows both sides to tap each other's voter bases — Marcos is popular in the northern part of the country, while the Dutertes are favored in the south.Human-rights groups decried Marcos' candidacy and filed a petition to stop him from running, but there has been no result. As to how he got his nickname, Atienza said: "Bongbong" is a common name given to people named after their fathers.The boxing champion: Manny 'PacMan' PacquiaoPacquiao.Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIn September, the world-champion boxer Pacquiao put down his gloves for good, announcing his retirement in a YouTube video that transitions into a hip-hop music video.Pacquiao lived on the streets and worked construction as a young teenager but is now worth $26 million, according to Forbes. His rag-to-riches story has earned him folk-hero status among Filipinos, but Tigno said he lacked a serious political network and largely relied on giving out cash to sway voters."I don't even think his own supporters are that serious in making sure he wins," he said. "They just want a slice of his boxing winnings."And Pacquiao has a poor political track record. He was the most absent member of the Senate."Beyond populist promises like jailing corrupt officials, he lacks concrete programs and policies," Atienza said. Duterte once saw Pacquiao as a prospective successor and close friend, but the pair had a falling out after the latter criticized Duterte's pandemic response and relationship with China. That led the president to publicly scold the boxing champ.Overall, Tigno and Atienza said the boxing icon didn't stand much of a chance at winning the election.The teen actor: Francisco Domagoso, aka Isko MorenoDomagoso, Manila City's mayor, delivers his state of the city address at Manila City Hall on July 15.Ezra Acayan/Getty ImagesFrancisco Domagoso is serving his first term as the mayor of Manila, the Philippines' capital. But Domagoso, who goes by the stage name Isko Moreno, was also a teen actor who came from humble beginnings, growing up in the slums like Pacquiao did. As a teen, Domagoso hosted the popular Filipino variety show "That's Entertainment" and appeared in several films. During the 1990s, Domagoso starred in what Filipinos called "titillating films," a "mature" genre popular at the time. He moved into politics in '98 and got his start as a city councilor. He was elected as Manila's mayor in 2019.As mayor, he has focused on reviving Manila's tourism industry and image, which has earned him the favor of the capital's residents, Atienza said.He's been branded as a "Duterte-lite" figure because he employed the same campaign team as Duterte and is campaigning off his record as a mayor, while aligning with populist ideologies, she added.But Tigno said he believed running may be a mistake. With only one mayoral term under his belt, Domagoso's reputation isn't as well-established as it could be."He could have run for another two terms and solidify his hold on the city, as well as on the national psyche, but he instead chose to run for a national position," Tigno said.He added: "His popularity at this time is simply no match to the cult status enjoyed by Marcos Jr. And while he may be able to command a significant portion of his Manila constituents, I don't think it would be enough."The police general: Panfilo 'Ping' LacsonLacson during a press conference at the Senate in Manila on March 28, 2011.NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty ImagesPanfilo "Ping" Lacson has been serving on and off in the Philippines Senate since 2001. Before that, he served as the director general of the police from 1998 to 2001.Hailed as an enforcer who spurned bribes and cracked down on corruption, Lacson gained a celebritylike status for his reforms, such as requiring cops to trim their waistlines to 86 centimeters and posting corrupt officers to dangerous areas with high levels of rebel presence.A movie was even made about him in 2000, titled "Ping Lacson: Super Cop." After he retired from police work and was elected to the Senate in 2001, Lacson was accused by the military-intelligence chief Victor Corpus of laundering $700 million for then-President Joseph Estrada. He has denied the allegations and since been outspoken for stricter laws against money laundering.Lacson was also accused of involvement in the killings of 11 gang members in 1995, as well as the slaying of a well-known publicist and his driver, with the latter allegation putting him on Interpol's "red-notice" wanted list in 2010.But in 2013, the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed the gang-killing case against Lacson with finality. He was also taken off the red-notice list in 2011 after the Philippines dropped charges for the publicist's killing because it found that the main witness against Lacson was "unreliable."Lacson, having one failed a presidential bid from 2004, now hopes to win the race with promises of curbing illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption, which mirrors Duterte's 2016 campaign.Once an outspoken proponent of bringing the death penalty back to the Philippines, he's now changed his mind and wants to build a prison for criminals like the one on Alcatraz Island. He said that "prevention, rehabilitation, and correction" were a better route for combating criminal behavior, according to the local outlet Inquirer.netRecent polls indicate Lacson hasn't generated the popularity he needs to contest Marcos or other front-runners, said Tigno. The vice president and Duterte's nemesis: Leni RobredoRobredo with her daughters after filing her candidacy to join the 2022 presidential race on October 7.Ezra Acayan/Getty ImagesLeni Robredo is the vice president of the Philippines, serving alongside Duterte. But she's also been a fierce critic of his, regularly slamming his war on drugs and his pandemic response. In return, Duterte tried to exclude her from Cabinet meetings and pressured her to resign.The daughter of a regional-court judge, Robredo passed the bar in 1997 and worked in the public attorney's office before being elected to Congress in 2013. She supported antidiscrimination and anti-poverty movements and a Freedom of Information Act that increased public transparency of government funding and transactions.The presidential hopeful has been the target of several fake-news campaigns by other politicians and social-media influencers.One such incident was a doctored photo of politicians having dinner while appearing to laugh at her as she was on TV. Agence France-Presse has since debunked the image. And a fake viral video claimed she had been disqualified from the presidential race after she broke election rules."Robredo's numbers at the moment are not that high, but they are rising," Tigno said. "With a constant campaign movement behind her, she may end up matching, if not outrunning, Marcos Jr."Robredo has experience as a politician and vice president, but whether voters will appreciate those achievements is another thing altogether, he added."People want immediate positive results, and I don't think Robredo is able to make that kind of promise to people," he added. "She is too sincere with herself to allow herself to lie and twist the truth to people. That can be a problem for her in the end if she loses."But if she wins, it can mean a new lease on life for Philippine democracy."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 2nd, 2021