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National attention has Sanford restaurant busy, ready to expand

The restaurant recently received national acclaim and is planning an expansion to a larger space. And the owner says he could open a similar concept elsewhere in N.C. in the future......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsDec 5th, 2021

Meet the next generation of luxury entrepreneurs selling millions in real estate, creating art galleries, and building fashion empires

A new crop of luxury entrepreneurs has popped up, creating the businesses they want to see taking over the sector. (L-R), Alex Assouline, Destinee Ross-Sutton, Marina Raphael, Avi Hiaeve.Emilia Brandao; Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton 2020; Marina Raphael; Avi & Co; Yuqing Liu/Business Insider Luxury spans many sectors including, fashion, travel, real estate, and nightclubs.  However, the industry is changing: People want more sustainability and faces that are more diverse. Insider regularly talks to the young people who are making their mark in luxury and challenging the market.  Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. Luxury is a pretty hard sector to tap into — and even years of notoriety doesn't necessarily mean years of financial stability or economic success. The coronavirus pandemic only heightened many of those issues, as brands and retailers throughout the world have been forced to close or declare bankruptcy. Even before the pandemic, however, there were calls for a changing of the guard in the luxury sector. People want more sustainability, leaders who are more tech-savvy, faces that are more diverse, and clothes that come with a meaning and a purpose.Rather than wait around for those currently in charge to change, a new crop of luxury entrepreneurs has popped up, creating the businesses they want to see taking over the sector. These are names and the faces that will come to define and helm the next generation of luxury spending. Insider has been speaking to the new rising faces in luxury about the future of their respective spaces, touching on topics such as the investment value in high-priced watches, and where they hope to see the world after the pandemic subsides. The interviews are being compiled here: Millennial entrepreneur Brandon Blackwood shares how $7,000 and Instagram helped him build a handbag empire that's on track to book $30 million in revenueBrandon BlackwoodBrandon BlackwoodBrandon Blackwood, 29, is the founder of his eponymous handbag line that went viral last year after making a tote that said: "End Systemic Racism." Since then, other styles of his bag have gone viral and he's launched a spring campaign featuring celebrities and influencers like Ryan Destiny, Normani, and Jaime Xie. So far, the brand booked more than $14 million in revenue this year and is on track to close 2021 with $30 million. The 24-year old jewelry designer, whose rings have been spotted on Serena Williams and Meghan Markle, uses half her profits to fund female entrepreneursShilpa YarlagaddaCourtesy of Shilpa Yarlagadda; Taken by Shoji Van KuzumiShilpa Yarlagadda, 24, is the cofounder of Shiffon, the fine jewelry brand that invests its proceeds back into female-funded businesses. For the upcoming election, the brand has partnered with Michelle Obama's When We All Vote foundation for limited-edition hoop earrings to represent the hoops women have to go through for basic rights. In an interview with Business Insider, she talks her career journey, the importance of mentorship, and her partnership with Obama. Inside the world of 'Bling Empire's' Jaime Xie, the tech heiress forging her own path as a fashion influencerJaime XieYoshi UemuraXie told Insider she had never even seen reality TV before joining the cast of Netflix's hit show "Bling Empire." Now she's one of its standout stars and is best known for her fashion and style. Born in Silicon Valley, she said tech wasn't really her thing, and she's always wanted a career in fashion. Now she's an influencer, jet-setting to Paris and Milan, sporting the hottest ready-to-wear looks. In an interview, she gives Insider a peek at her glamorous life. Real estate heiress Danielle Naftali, who is just 27, helped convince a mystery buyer to shell out $35 million for an NYC penthouse during the pandemicJonathan GrassiDanielle Naftali, 27, is expected to take over her father's real estate company Naftali Group, which develops some of New York City's most luxurious properties. But even she had to start at the reception desk. To Insider she breaks down working her way up and how she helped convince a buyer to shell out over $30 million for an apartment during a pandemic. Pajama sets are the new 2-piece suit. A millennial brand explains the wild pandemic year when sales spiked 400% .Joel Jeffery (L) and Molly Goddard (R)Desmond & DempseyHusband-wife duo Molly Goddard and Joel Jeffrey are known for their high-end pajama line Desmond & Dempsey, which also saw record growth during the pandemic as people sought to buy more comfortable clothing. To Insider, they talk about the brand's beginnings and how they hope to further capitalize on the billion-dollar markets of both wellness and comfort wear. Meet the millennial designer and CEO who wants to make comfort clothing the new power dressingMisha NonooCourtesy of Misha NonooDesigner Misha Nonoo thinks comfort clothes will also be part of the new way to power dress. To Insider, she spoke about her career beginnings, her latest collection, and what she thinks the future of sustainable fashion will be in a post-pandemic world. How fashion's 'patient zero' turned her fight with Covid into a new hygiene and wellness lineNga NguyenCourtesy of Nga NguyenAfter being diagnosed with COVID-19 last year, Nga Nguyen was deemed the fashion industry's "patient zero" as she was the first known case in the world of jet-set high fashion to catch the virus. But she's light at the end of the tunnel. To Insider she talks about her new wellness line, inspired by her run-in with the virus, and shares her expectations on what role hygiene products will play in a post-pandemic world. How a 28-year-old sold his first jewelry design for $25,000 and within 3 years built an exclusive client roster including RihannaEmmanuel Tarpin.Emmanuel TarpinCalling in from Paris, Emmanuel Tarpin spoke about his rise in the jewelry industry, how he nabbed two of the industry's top honors, and got Rihanna to fall in love with his work.How a 22-year-old heiress launched a handbag line and within 3 years landed the Netherlands' Queen Maxima as a fanMarina Raphael.marina raphaelAt just 22, Marina Raphael has already built a luxury handbag business that counts the Queen of the Netherlands as a fan. In an interview with Business Insider, she spoke about learning Italian, teaching herself design, and her plans to build the next-big-thing in luxury — as well as being a sixth-generation member of the Swarovski crystal dynasty.Swarovski crystal heiress Marina Raphael explains how she achieved record-breaking sales by selling smaller handbags, donating to charity, and using snail mail to reach customersMarina Raphael with her SS21 collection(1)Marina RaphaelRaphael caught up with Insider again in March of this year to talk about how her brand saw record growth during the pandemic. To cope with the time, she changed her marketing strategies and even reduced the size of her handbags as production took a hit due to closures. Still, the brand came out stronger than ever before. How one millennial CEO built a luxury eyewear brand that's been spotted on everyone from Jeff Bezos to Brad PittCourtesy of Garrett LeightGarrett Leight is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Garrett Leight California Optical. His father, Larry, was the founder of the sunglass brand Oliver Peoples. In an interview with Business Insider, Garrett talks about opening his own eyewear brand and keeping his family legacy alive. Pauline Ducruet isn't so different from other 26-year-old entrepreneurs — she just happens to be Grace Kelly's granddaughterPhoto by Francois Durand/Getty ImagesPauline Ducruet is the founder of the gender-neutral fashion line, Alter Designs. She also happens to be a granddaughter of Grace Kelly through her mother, Princess Stephanie of Monaco. In an interview with Business Insider, she talks about the importance of sustainability in fashion, and how the pandemic almost wiped out her business. A millennial car customizer who counts Lebron James and Kendall Jenner among his clients explains why he's expanding his business with a luxury shoe lineVik Tchalikian.Vik TchalikianVik Tchalikian is best known as the car customizer for the stars and boasts a client list that includes Kendall Jenner, LeBron James, and Billie Eilish. In an interview with Business Insider, he talks about how he used his car knowledge to start up a luxury shoe line. Two Gen Zers turned a $2,000 investment into an art gallery that sells $600K pieces. They want to usher in a new generation of art collectors.Alexis de Bernede (L) and Marius Jacob (R)Darmo ArtBased in France, Alexis de Bernede and Marius Jacob are the founders of Darmo Art gallery. Last summer, their two art shows netted six figures each, and they are now planning future exhibitions in Paris, the French Riviera, and at the Grand Hotel Heiligendamm, an exclusive report in Germany. Millennial fashion designer Alexandra O'Neill is seeing cocktail dress sales skyrocket as customers prepare for the new Roaring 20sCourtesy of Alexandra O'NeillAlexandra O'Neill is the founder of luxury brand Markarian and made headlines last year after First Lady Jill Biden wore a custom Markarian piece for Inauguration. Since then, the company has seen sales skyrocket. What's more, O'Neill held her first New York Fashion Week presentation in September, showing off a collection inspired by Lauren Bacall in the movie "How to Marry a Millionaire." Meet the Black millennial art curator who worked on a Zendaya photoshoot, had her portrait featured in Beyoncé's 'Black Is King,' and was just tapped by auction house Christie's to curate an exhibitDestinee Ross-Sutton.Courtesy the artist and Destinee Ross-Sutton 2020The art industry is notoriously white. Enter, Destinee Ross-Sutton, the 24-year-old art curator who already counts a Zendaya photoshoot and a Christie's exhibit under her name. A shining moment for her this year was when she discovered that a painting of her was featured in Beyoncé's "Black IS King." In speaking with Business Insider, Ross-Sutton talks about her mission to increase diversity and inclusion in the art world.The 28-year-old heir to a luxury publishing house explains how he creates some of the most exclusive — and expensive — private libraries in the worldAlex Assouline.Emilia BrandaoAlex Assouline is a creative library designer who helps create some of the most exclusive — and expensive — libraries in the world. The heir to his family's publishing house, Assouline also helps make stunning coffee books on subjects ranging from feminism to the palace of Versailles. In an interview with Business Insider, he talks about the art of library designing and which books he is helping to make next. Meet the 'VIPER Girls,' the female nightlife entrepreneurs who couldn't get a credit card 4 years ago and now field requests to work the Super Bowl(L) Kelsi Kitchener and (R) Celeste Durve.Courtesy of Kelsi Kitchener and Celeste DurveKelsi Kitchener, 28, and Celeste Duvre, 24, are the cofounders of the guest experience company VIPER, which works with some of the biggest celebrities and brands in the world. Known as the Viper Girls, they manage all points of the overall guest experiences at events. In an interview with Business Insider, Kitchener and Duvre talk about the founding of their company, and being young women in an industry that's long been touted as a "boys club." A 25-year-old set her eyes on taking over the high-end smoking accessories market — and it's workingCourtesy of Smoking JacketChiara di Carcaci, 25, is the founder of Smoking Jacket, a high-end cigarette accessories company that counts a Getty heiress as a fan. In an interview with Business Insider, di Carcaci talks about why she decided to start a luxury cigarette brand, and her ambitions to expand it into a full-service lifestyle company. A 28-year-old fashion brand director explains how ruthless attention to detail has landed Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lopez as clientsKyle Bryan.Courtesy of Kyle BryanIn an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Kyle Bryan, brand director at the luxury label LaQuan Smith, breaks down his plans on helping create the next big American fashion house. "A lot of women and celebrities will directly reach out to LaQuan and say, 'I would love for you to make me something,'" he said. "That's how some of our best stuff has even happened."Nisha Persaud's side hustle is creating at-home manicure boxes that are beloved by celebs and have been featured in luxury campaignsDanisha "Nisha" PersaudDanisha "Nisha" PersaudWhen the pandemic made it impossible for Nisha Persaud to get her nails done last year, she created at-home manicure kits to bring the nail salon to her. Since then, she's netted more than $100,000 in revenue and her work has been reposted on social media by Cardi B, received a shoutout by Megan Thee Stallion in a video, and gifted to the model Teyana Taylor for her baby shower. Meet the millennial cofounders of Apparis, the cult-favorite vegan coat brand that raised $3 million in funding this year and just launched a collaboration with Juicy Couture(L) Lauren Nouchi and (R) Amelie Brick.ApparisAmelie Brick, 37, and Lauren Nouchi, 29, are the cofounders of Apparis, an apparel company best known for its vegan coats. In an interview with Business Insider, they talk about why they decided to start a high-end vegan coat line, how the pandemic led them to expand into homewear, and why they decided to launch a collaboration with Juicy Couture. Meet the millennial cofounder of a jewelry brand that has partnered with the NFL and NBA and is on track to make $50 million in revenue this yearChristian Johnston.Courtesy of Christian Johnston cofounder of GLDChristian Johnston is the cofounder of the jewelry brand GLD, beloved by the likes of Justin Bieber and rapper Wiz Khalifa. The company has also done partnerships with the NFL, NBA, MLB, and Disney's Marvel. In an interview with Business Insider, Johnston talks about growing his jewelry company, which is now on track to make $50 million in revenue this year. Hogoè Kpessou worked as an Uber Eats driver before she launched her handbag brand last year. Now she's on track to net seven figures.Hogoè KpessouHogoè KpessouLuxury designer Hogoè Kpessou is best known for her backpacks emblazoned with a gold bumblebee. Before starting her eponymous company, she worked weekend shifts at a local restaurant and delivered food for Uber Eats. Today, she estimates her brand will hit seven figures in revenue in the beginning of 2022. YIMBY with a conscience: Meet the 26-year-old real-estate heir who wants to make affordable housing a reality in the Biden eraDonahue Peebles IIIPeebles CorporationDonahue Peebles III is set to one day take over his father's real estate and development empire, The Peebles Corporation. Speaking to Insider, he talks about his passion for helping make housing more affordable, gives his thoughts on gentrification, and shares his expectations for what's to come under a Biden presidency. Meet the millennial CEO who wants to redefine the ownership of men's clothing, and convinced Alexis Ohanian and Nas to investRegy PerleraCourtesy of SeasonsRegy Perlera is the co-founder of Seasons, an app that allows men to rent designer clothing. He tells Insider that renting clothing is one way to reduce your carbon footprint, and contribute to the circular economy. In 2019, Seasons raised $4.3 million in funding from investors such as Alexis Ohanian's Initialized Capital, Notation Capital, and the rapper Nas.A millennial entrepreneur who runs a high-end watch retailer explains why now is the time to invest in watches — and which timepieces are the most valuableAvi & Co.Avi Hiaeve, owner of the high-end watch retailer Avi & Co., met with Business Insider earlier this year to talk about his watch business as well as give tips for those looking to start investing in luxury watches. "The celebrities and the artists and all of them, they're not wearing watches under $100,000 anymore, everything they want is over $100,000. It's really gone through the roof," he explained to us. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 3rd, 2022

Marijuana Stocks -- What Are You Waiting For?

Marijuana is now a burgeoning $20 billion a year industry that's likely to grow to $90 billion in the next five years or sooner. And we're still in the very early days! Ben Rains outlines the various ways that you can take advantage of this seismic shift. Marijuana transformed at lightning-fast speeds from a mostly underground black market into a dynamic, booming, $20 billion a year industry full of public companies. And the best part about investing in legal marijuana right now is that we are still in the very early days.The legal tides have already changed dramatically in a short time and we are on the verge of a truly seismic shift that will only happen once. Heading into 2022, there are multiple marijuana legalization bills being debated and reworked in Washington, D.C.The U.S. is poised to introduce wide-ranging federal cannabis legalization in the near future, on the back of overwhelming bipartisan support. When this happens, the entire industry will change overnight and current projections that call for global marijuana sales reach to $90 billion by 2026 might look super conservative.¹Legalization is Gaining Steam Only a decade ago, recreational pot was totally illegal in the U.S. By the end of 2021, a total of 18 states and Washington, D.C. had legalized adult-use marijuana. Meanwhile, the number of legal medical cannabis states is fast-approaching 40.On top of that, Canada legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, becoming the first major economy to do so. Since then, Mexico has made a series of legal changes that will soon see it operate a large legal pot market. Across the Atlantic, multiple European countries are prepared to legalize nationally.The tiny European nations of Malta and Luxembourg legalized weed near the end of 2021. More importantly, Germany is reportedly ready to legalize marijuana under its new coalition government in the early months of 2022. Italy and a few other countries are showing solid potential to join the legal ranks in the near future. And with every new market, new marijuana firms are sure to emerge, as the dollars flow.Huge Bipartisan SupportGlobal marijuana sales soared roughly 50% to a whopping $31 billion in 2021, based on some recent data, and the U.S. is by far the largest legal cannabis market. The expansion was driven by continued growth in legacy states such as Colorado and California, alongside a wave of relative newbies ranging from Illinois to Arizona. And more states are set to climb on the legal cannabis train in 2022.More importantly, multiple bills are under debate in Washington to federally legalize marijuana. Furthermore, Republicans, the party traditionally opposed to weed, are in the midst of a dramatic, paradigm-shifting transformation at both the state and national level.Multiple GOP lawmakers are pushing for marijuana legalization in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. On top of that, the first major Republican-led federal legalization effort was introduced in November. The bill grabbed a huge amount of national media attention and could gain steam as more Republicans come on board.The growing number of federal legalization efforts on both sides of the aisle make sense given mounting public support. A total of 68% of U.S. adults are now in favor of legal marijuana, including 50% of Republicans. This is up from just 50% of the entire country as recently as 2013. And just think how hard it is to find any issue nearly 70% of Americans agree on these days.Continued . . .------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Time to Buy Marijuana Stocks!The floodgates are about to open. After waves of pot legalization at the state level, we’re on the verge of bipartisan legislation at the federal level. Many U.S. marijuana companies can then list on exchanges like NYSE and Nasdaq, and the money will flow.  Global sales were already $20.5 billion back in 2020, and they're expected to skyrocket to $90.4 billion by 2026.Zacks recently closed trades of +39.7%, +94.5%, even +147.0% in as little as 4½ months.² A new stock will be released Monday morning that could rival or surpass these performances.Deadline to gain access to our Marijuana Innovators recommendations is midnight Sunday, December 26.Catch Zacks’ live buys now >>------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Not Your Parents’ Pot Smoking dried marijuana has historically been the most common way to consume weed, and it’s still widely popular. Yet, as cannabis emerged from the shadows, people and companies refined existing methods and invented various novel ways to use the plant. In doing so, they greatly expanded their potential clientele, while also raising price points and margins.Marijuana scientists and industry professionals spent years figuring out how to precisely extract THC and non-psychoactive CBD from cannabis plants. These efforts birthed vaporized offerings, edibles, oils, topical creams, beverages, and other new-age marijuana products.Marijuana edibles have come a long way since the stereotypical pot brownies. Today, they come in all shapes and sizes, from gummies in every imaginable flavor to chocolates, mints, spreads such as butter, and beyond. Meanwhile, consumers can buy THC-infused sodas, teas, and much more.The non-smoking space provides consumers comfortable, effective, and extremely discreet alternatives to traditional pot that allow users to know exactly how much they are consuming. This also grants investors ample growth runway since edibles and other offerings cater to people who want THC, along with those looking for non-psychoactive CBD products, which have exploded in popularity as well.Logic suggests tons of potential recreational users might not want to smoke anything. And some recent growth numbers back that up. Edibles showcased massive expansion in 2020 (the most recent available data) in the largest U.S. recreational market, according to California-based marijuana delivery company Eaze.Edibles ended the year as the #1 category on its platform, grabbing 22% of all sales, with edibles ranked as the most popular product line in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego ahead of flower and vapes.In fact, marijuana’s evolution beyond smoking joints inspired international alcoholic beverage firms to buy pot companies because of the potential crossover, promotions, and other synergies. On the flip side, the growth of legal marijuana has propelled publicly traded Canadian marijuana growers to expand into alcohol, sports drinks, and other consumer products.Meanwhile, the expansion potential for edibles and non-smoking marijuana products on the medical front is largely untapped. Canada didn’t even legalize cannabis edibles until a year after it first rolled out recreational marijuana in 2018.One of the country’s biggest pure-play pot companies only launched its first medical cannabis edibles in August of 2021. As a whole, the edibles and non-smoking arenas are the logical endgame for the entire medical marijuana world because of the ability to consume precise amounts, while not inhaling smoke.Pure-Play Opportunities  Due to the current legal standing, only Canadian pot growers can list on major U.S. exchanges, with huge American companies left to trade over the counter, if at all. Federal legalization will transform the already-massive industry in the blink of an eye.The move will allow U.S. growers to list on the NYSE and the Nasdaq. This will then prompt billions of dollars to start flowing in from institutional investors and other large money managers who have stayed away because of the legal grey area. Legalization is also sure to spur a wave of major mergers and acquisitions, as companies aim to capture more market share through consolidation.U.S. cannabis growers will add to the already constantly-expanding number of pure-play pot stocks to invest in right now. And the Canadian companies have already completed creative deals that provide them instant access to the U.S. market upon federal legalization.Potential investors should also be excited to know that nearly all of the currently-public pure-play marijuana stocks are trading near all-time lows heading into the new year. The entire industry was beaten down in 2021, along with other former covid high-flyers and growth stocks.The downturn recalibrated countless marijuana stocks to enticing levels, especially considering many are projected to post 100% or higher revenue growth in 2022. And that’s not even taking into account the potential for U.S. legalization and beyond.There will, of course, be winners and losers because pure-play pot stocks operate in a hyper-competitive space akin to other consumer packaged goods where marketing, branding, and packaging are paramount. Luckily, the timing is ideal for investors to cash in on the companies that could become the Coca-Cola or Starbucks of marijuana.Easy Way to Pursue Big Profits At Zacks, we're monitoring political developments very closely as well as tracking individual stocks. We're on the brink of legalizing marijuana on the federal level, and this bipartisan push would open the floodgates. Many U.S. companies could then list on exchanges like NYSE and Nasdaq, and money will flow.The trend is unstoppable. Medicinal marijuana is already legal in 36 states with 18 allowing recreational use. It's already legal in Canada and there's movement in Mexico and throughout Europe.As mentioned earlier, global revenue for legal marijuana is expected to explode from $20.5 billion in 2020 to $90.4 billion by 2026.Plus, most marijuana stocks are still trading at big discounts. For investors, this presents a massive opportunity – what are you waiting for? Our approach to this fast-emerging industry is responsible and vigilant, but we look for aggressive growth. Recently, we closed gains of +39.7%, +94.5%, even +147.0% in as little as 4-1/2 months.²Right now you can follow the live buys and sells inside Marijuana Innovators, and be among the first to get in on a new buy that could surpass those performances. I’m posting it Monday morning at 11:05 am ET.Bonus Report: And speaking of industries with explosive growth potential, when you check our marijuana recommendations you are also invited to download Zacks’ new Special Report, One Semiconductor Stock Stands to Gain the Most. From 35 semiconductor stocks, you can get an early look at Zacks’ top pick during today’s chip shortage crisis.We can’t let everyone in on our marijuana portfolio, so your chance to gain access must end at midnight this Sunday, December 26. Sorry, no extensions.See Zacks' Marijuana Innovators Trades and Bonus Semiconductor Report Now >>Happy Investing,Ben RainsEditorBen Rains develops strategies that enable investors to profit from the growing legal market in the U.S. and beyond. He uses his extensive experience and concentrated industry study to direct our unique portfolio service, Zacks Marijuana Innovators.¹ Source for marijuana industry growth estimate: Research and Markets ² The results listed above are not (or may not be) representative of the performance of all selections made by Zacks Investment Research's newsletter editors and may represent the partial close of a position.  Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksDec 24th, 2021

44 cheap gifts under $25 you can still buy on Amazon that are meaningful

The Insider Reviews team compiled a list of our favorite budget gift ideas from Amazon. These are the best thoughtful gifts under $25 from Amazon. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Getty Images Amazon has wide selections and low costs, making it difficult to know what's worth buying. The Insider Reviews team shared the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25. We unearthed some interesting finds, from a cheddar cheesy powder to a vintage puzzle. Amazon has not only become a one-stop shop for its variety of products, but it's also where many shoppers go for affordable gifts. The retailer has a huge selection where you'll find household names, low prices, and the two-day (or two-hour) Prime shipping that caters well to those among us who are gluttons for instant gratification.But a huge selection can make it time-consuming to root out what's really worth spending your money on. The best loophole is to seek out recommendations from people you trust. We asked our colleagues at Insider about the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25 — most of whom spend every day researching and testing thousands of products to recommend to you. Below are the 44 best things we've bought on Amazon that cost us less than $25:A set of silk pillowcasesAmazonBedsure Satin Pillowcases Standard Set of 2$15.99 FROM AMAZONSilk pillowcases are game-changing products for your beauty sleep. They offer premium care as silk pillowcases leave skin hydrated and hair undamaged. Better yet, silk pillowcases feature a soft texture and elevate any bedroom decor toward an elegant taste.A cute tea infuserAmazonGenuine Fred Duck Drink Tea Infuser $12.59 FROM AMAZONTea time becomes a whimsical affair with this charming tea infuser. The duck-shaped infuser is a perfect gift for the tea lover looking for an additional delight.A ring that holds your nail polishAmazonTweexy Wearable Nail Polish Holder Ring$9.99 FROM AMAZONFor the manicure-obsessed friend, this nail care gift is something they'll absolutely need. The wearable nail polish holder allows you to flawlessly polish your nails without bothersome spills. —Taylor JeffriesA deck of tarot cardsLauren Savoie/InsiderDa Brigh Original Tarot Cards Deck$24.95 FROM AMAZONI'm not into the occult, but this deck of tarot cards has bought be endless hours of fun with my friends and insight for journaling. On days I don't feel inspired to write in my journal, I pull a card and reflect on whatever feelings it brings up. —Lauren SavoieA quick-drying styling brushJacqueline Saguin/InsiderWet Volume & Body Round Brush$14.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $16.98 | Save 12%Some may think a blow dryer does all the work, but a round brush makes all the difference. Replacing the $5 styling brush I've owned far past its use, the Wet Round Brush completely revived my hair routine. It grips onto large hair sections and helps dry my entire head in 10 minutes, making it a great haircare product to gift. Knowing its on Amazon, I'll definitely be gifting myself this brush more frequently. —Jacqueline SaguinA satisfying foot peel maskAmazonCÉLOR Foot Peel Mask$14.97 FROM AMAZONOk, I know these things are all over the internet, but this winter is the perfect time to gift one of these viral foot peels. It took about five days for my feet to start peeling after using it, but it was so satisfying in a really gross, but fascinating sort of way. The end result was that my feet looked and felt softer, but I have to say that the process was all part of the fun. —Lauren SavoieDelicious coffee groundsSally Kaplan/InsiderCafe Du Monde Coffee Chicory$7.60 FROM AMAZONI usually abide by a time-consuming pour-over routine that involves grinding my own beans every morning, but when I'm short on time (and honestly, even when I'm not), I've come to rely heavily on this Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee. Most pre-ground coffee is flavorless and brews a weak cup, but this stuff is strong, rich, and delicious. Ten out of ten, highly recommend gifting this to a coffee lover! —Sally KaplanA handy dough scraperAmazonLasenersm Two-Piece Dough Scraper$5.59 FROM AMAZONIf they bake a lot, do them a favor and gift a pack of these plastic bench scrapers. They're great for scraping dough out of bowls or off the counter — I can't tell you how handy they are! —Sally KaplanA two-in-one workout bra tankJacqueline Saguin/InsiderLemedy Padded Sports Bra Tank Top$18.98 FROM AMAZONOriginally $25.99 | Save 27%I've found some of my favorite workout pieces from Amazon. This two-in-one sports bra tank has a smoothing material that rivals luxury activewear fabrics that you may gift this season. Its cropped cut meets high-waisted leggings for a flattering fit. Plus, it comes in 19 fun colors. —Jacqueline SaguinA sweet-smelling scrub for sensitive skinJacqueline Saguin/InsiderBrooklyn Botany Brown Sugar Body Scrub$13.99 FROM AMAZONFace and body scrubs make me nervous because of my sensitive skin, but this brown sugar exfoliator combines natural ingredients like sweet almond oil that are nourishing and gentler than other formulas. I typically use it on my body before I shave or before I apply self-tanner. It's comforting knowing that whenever I run out I can get it in just a couple of days. —Jacqueline SaguinA convenient Bluetooth charging port for your carAmazonAnker Roav Bluetooth FM Transmitter$16.98 FROM AMAZONMy car is from 2005, long before Bluetooth connectivity in cars were standard. This little transmitter instantly brought my car up to present-day standards, letting me stream music and directions from my phone via an open radio channel. It plugs into the cigarette lighter and even has two USB ports so my husband and I can both charge our phones on long rides. It cost less than $15 and gifting this device will make your driving experience infinitely more enjoyable. —Lauren SavoieA plastic bath drain coverAmazonSlipX Solutions Bottomless Bath Overflow Drain Cover$8.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $10.99 | Save 18%Ok, I know everyone and their mother raves about this gift, but it's the only thing allowing me to take baths in my current apartment. Our claw foot tub is from the early 20th century and if I don't cover the overflow drain, my bathtub only accommodates enough water to barely reach the top of my thighs before it starts draining — not a very pleasant or relaxing bath. This little plastic overflow drain cover lets me soak deeply and comfortably in my tub. —Lauren SavoieA cheesy powder that takes popcorn to the next levelSally Kaplan/InsiderHoosier Hill Farm Cheddar Cheese Powder$11.99 FROM AMAZONI generally eat pretty healthy, but I think I'm in love with this tub of powdered cheese. It's so good on popcorn, in mac and cheese, and sprinkled on any other sort of cracker, chip, etc. It's a supremely cheesy and salty and delicious treat to gift! This is honestly one of the best Amazon purchases I've made in years. —Sally KaplanA practical but chic wine holderAmazonUrban Deco Honeycomb Wine Rack$30.99 FROM AMAZONI wanted a non-bulky wine rack to sit on my kitchen counter, and I love the bright gold of this one. This honeycomb design holds seven bottles officially, but nine if you add two on top — and if you need more storage, you can buy two and stack them. —Rachael SchultzA set of hair clipsAmazonTOCESS Big Hair Claw Clips$13.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $16.98 | Save 18%I have really long hair and most clips can't hold it all back when I'm washing my face. These oversized clips are so great, I gifted the other three in this set to friends with crazy curly hair. All four of the matte colors are very lowkey and match everything. I've dropped mine at least two dozen times, and it has yet to break. —Rachael SchultzA challenging puzzle that doubles as vintage home decorAmazonCavallini Papers & Co. Celestial 1,000 Piece Puzzle$19.98 FROM AMAZONI once gifted a Cavallini Papers & Co. puzzle to a puzzle lover, and they thought it was the perfect blend of challenging and aesthetically pleasing. They hung it up afterward, adding a sense of accomplishment as well as a nice vintage touch to their space. The company has even more fun designs like house plants and national parks map. —Jacqueline Saguin A ring light that pulls out all the stopsJacqueline Saguin/InsiderAIXPI 10-inch LED Ring Light$20.99 FROM AMAZONI took a cue from our Insider Reviews team by gifting myself its pick for the best budget ring light. It has made my job on the style and beauty reviews team much easier, drastically cutting down on my photo-taking time. When I test makeup and clothing, I can set this up anywhere and adjust it to the angle I need in order to do my products justice. I love changing between its three different light settings: white, warm yellow, and warm white, to find the perfect glow. —Jacqueline SaguinAn out-of-this-world moon lampJacqueline Saguin/InsiderUooEA Saturn Lamp$28.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $29.99 | Save 3%Earning the title of Insider Reviews' best planet moon lamp, this light offers 16 soothing hues that illuminate a Saturn shape. I love its unique look and the subtle glow it gives while I watch movies at nighttime. This gift offers four color modes, including flash, strobe, fade, and smooth. The latter is my favorite as it softly transitions through all the colors. —Jacqueline SaguinA decorative antique tray that shows off and stores your beauty productsAmazonZosenley Polyresin Ellipse Antique Decorative Mirror Tray$13.99 FROM AMAZONThis tray is an aesthetically pleasing stage that doubles as decor and a proud home for my cosmetics. I use it in my bathroom, storing the skincare products and perfume I reach for every day. I've seen people using it on TikTok as a jewelry vanity to display their favorite pieces. —Jacqueline SaguinSpiral hair ties that won't breakKitschKitsch Spiral Hair TiesFREE FROM AMAZONOriginally $7.99 | Save 100%After using elastic hair ties for so long, I got tired of pulling out my hair, getting headaches, and snapping scrunchies. I had seen spiral hair ties before but assumed they wouldn't hold well. However, these ones from Kitsch really do the trick. They keep their shape, are comfortable, and avoid long-lasting ponytail bumps. I wear these with high ponytails, low ponytails, and even braids. —Katie Decker-JacobyEspresso capsules that satisfy your coffee fixAmazonilly Coffee iperEspresso Capsule (Classico)$15.50 FROM AMAZONThe majority of my Amazon order history is made up of these illy espresso capsules, and the orders have even been way more frequent since I started working from home. You'll need one of the illy pod machines to use them (I have the X7) but the investment is 110% worth it in my opinion.I can whip up an Italian espresso in under a minute, and it tastes so much better than the coffee from the Nespresso and Keurig machines I previously owned. Being able to buy the pods off of Amazon means my caffeine supply is always well-stocked, and if I ever do run out, I know I can get more in just two days max. —Ashley PhillipsA hair mask that restores moisture to your scalpAmazonShiseido Tsubaki Premium Repair Hair Mask$16.35 FROM AMAZONI was looking for hair masks because my hair tends to get really dry in the wintertime. I bought this hair mask after doing some research on Asian hair products, and I'm so glad I did. My hair feels soft and moisturized after I use it, even if I just use it as a normal conditioner. It works even better as a leave-in deep conditioner, and I highly recommend gifting it to anyone who wants to add moisture to their hair. Bonus: It also smells amazing. Item ordered online may arrive after Christmas. —Allison JiangAn iPad case that is multi-functionalAmazonESR Rebound Pencil Case$14.99 FROM AMAZONI needed a simple case for my new iPad Air 4 but was shocked by how much Apple charges for one of its cases. This option from ESR is a fraction of Apple's Smart Cover, and while it doesn't have as nice of a build quality as the Smart Cover, the ESR case is well-made nonetheless. It has a magnetic closure to wake the iPad's screen or put it to sleep, the cover folds into a stand, and there's a convenient slot for an Apple Pencil. My only complaint is that the case makes it hard to use the Touch ID sensor, but I'm quite satisfied given the price and overall usability. —Les ShuFuzzy slippers to complete your work-from-home lookJacqueline Saguin/InsiderEhoomely Womens Fuzzy Slippers$18.98 FROM AMAZONI've been hearing about these Amazon slippers for months — from TikTok, Instagram, podcasts I listen to — so I had to give them a try. These slippers are comfy, just warm enough, and a perfect gift for working from home. The quality is also great for being under $20. An added bonus is that they come in almost any color you can imagine! —Victoria GracieA knit beanie that's stylish and comfortableAmazon/Business InsiderCarhartt Acrylic Watch Hat$16.98 FROM AMAZONI've noticed Carhartt beanies have become increasingly popular and I finally jumped on the bandwagon. This beanie is cute, comfortable, and super warm. I got it in black so it would go with almost anything and I've been wearing it nonstop since I got it. —Victoria GracieIngredients for a favorite recipeAmazonNatierra Nature's Organic Freeze-Dried Strawberries$5.79 FROM AMAZONI buy a lot of recipe ingredients, spices, and hot sauces on Amazon that I'm less likely to find in stores near me, like these freeze-dried strawberries. They are the star ingredient in my Berry Crinkle Cookies recipe; I use one whole package per batch. — Ellen Hoffman A liquid cleanser that works as a gentle hand soap for sensitive skinAmazonFree & Clear Liquid Cleanser$7.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $8.94 | Save 11%I bought this as an alternative to my household's Bath & Body Works hand soap stock. Its fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and dermatologist-tested formula pleases my sensitive skin. This straightforward cleanser gift never causes redness or irritation for frequent hand washers like me. I pour the liquid into a decorative holder so it matches my bathroom. — Jacqueline SaguinPimple patches that suck the gunk right out of your poresLeft: Mighty Patch Original. Right: Invisible+ Mighty Patch.Mara Leighton/InsiderHero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original (36-count)$12.99 FROM AMAZON$12.99 FROM HERO COSMETICSIf you look at my Amazon history, these pimple patches are the only thing I consistently order. They're super effective at drawing out fluids from pimples and helping them deflate, and as small, virtually clear stickers, they're hardly noticeable by other people. Within a few hours, you can expect them to noticeably improve the look and swelling of your pimple — they're that reliable. — Connie ChenA natural clay mask that has a cult-followingJacqueline Saguin/InsiderAztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask$14.95 FROM AMAZON$12.19 FROM TARGETThis mask, as seen on Insider, transformed my skin and is probably my most recommended product to gift this season. The best part? It's $15! — Chelsey HoffmanA milk frother for homemade treatsAmazonPowerLix MilkPro Milk Frother$15.95 FROM AMAZONThis gift is the BOMB. So easy to use and clean, and to spice up my weekend coffees/matcha drinks at home, allowing me to live my best bougie life. — Kirstie JiongcoA wash and stain bar that will keep your shirt collars looking nicer for longerAmazonThe Laundress Wash & Stain Bar$6.50 FROM AMAZONNo $6 has had a more positive impact on my effort to preserve my clothing than the $6 I spent on this bar by The Laundress. I learned about this product from editor-in-chief Ellen Hoffman and I can honestly say it's the best thing I've done for my dress shirts. One bar has lasted me well over a year, and I just need to wet my shirt collar and rub the bar back and forth a few times before washing. It gets rid of all of the grime and oil from my collars. I was able to rehab shirts that were ready to go to charity or become rags. — Breton FischettiA mini waffle-maker that gets the job done and takes up minimal countertop spaceAmazonDash Mini Waffle Maker$17.09 FROM AMAZONThis teeny-tiny waffle maker is a small but mighty gift. For those rare instances when I'm craving a waffle or two, this very small appliance easily gets the job done and stays out of the way when it's stored. It's very easy to use and clean; just plug in and wait for the light, add your batter and close the iron. To clean, wait for the iron to cool down, then wipe with a damp cloth and you're done. — Melanie Winer A pair of $15 earbuds that sound like they'd cost way moreAmazonPanasonic ErgoFit Earbuds$15.11 FROM AMAZONOriginally $19.98 | Save 24%These Panasonic earbuds were easily the best $8.25 [price at the time] I ever spent on Amazon. The sound quality is fantastic and they're incredibly comfortable. I'm not someone who would ever spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of over-the-ear headphones, so these are exactly a budget-friendly gift. — Andrew MeolaHangers that actually keep your clothes hung upJacqueline Saguin/InsiderAmazon Basics Velvet Non-Slip Suit Hangers - 30 pack$20.39 FROM AMAZONClothes falling off hangers are a thing of the past once you gift these grippy velvet hangers to upgrade their closet. — Ellen Hoffman A little 'Tub Shroom' that catches your hair before it clogs the drainAmazonTubShroom Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector$12.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $19.95 | Save 35%Between her curly red hair and my long brown hair, my roommate and I shed a lot. Our tub doesn't have a drain catch and after a particularly effortful session with a plastic drain cleaner, I decided it was finally time to try this viral hair catcher out. This small silicone tool fits into most standard tub drains and collects all the hair before it washes down and clogs your drain. Take it out, remove the hair with a piece of toilet paper, and it's ready for the next shower."  — Connie Chen Comfortable, public-friendly sweatpantsAmazonSweatyRocks Women's Drawstring Striped Joggers$17.98 FROM AMAZONOriginally $23.99 | Save 25%As work from home continues, I've been looking for more sweatpants that I can comfortably work in that are also appropriate for walks and socially distant plans. These sweats are affordable to gift, have sustained washes and all-day wear, and the rainbow stripe down the side adds a bit of fun. Item ordered online may arrive after Christmas.— Emily HeinNo-slip gel gripped socksAmazonPeds Microfiber Liner Socks$9.50 FROM AMAZONOriginally $13.00 | Save 27%These PEDS socks are the only ones I use, and I wear sneakers almost every day. The no-slip gel grips on the heel keep them from falling off and bunching up. — Sally KaplanA hairbrush that won't break after a few monthsWetWet Brush Rubberized Wet Detangle Shower Brush$8.34 FROM AMAZONMy thick hair has a long history of eating brushes, but the Wet Brush finally put a stop to that! It painlessly smooths out tangles and the bristles are tough enough that I only have to buy a new one every year or so. Before, my brushes only ever made it a few months. — Ashley PhillipsAn inexpensive, well-designed measuring cupAmazonOXO Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set $20.95 FROM AMAZONOXO is my go-to kitchen brand for cheap, well-designed tools. This measuring cup set has an angled surface that allows you to see measurement markings from above as you're pouring, so you can better measure ingredients without bending or lifting the cup to eye level. I also highly recommend gifting OXO's silicone baking mat for creating a non-stick surface that makes for easier cleanups and this cookie scoop for scooping out balls of dough that are all the same size. — Ellen Hoffman A slim wastebasket that fits almost anywhere, but also fits a lot of garbageAmazonUmbra Skinny Trash Can$7.00 FROM AMAZONLove this slim garbage can that fits into narrow spaces, but still holds a lot. — Navah MaynardAffordable jewelry that lets you save up for an investment pieceAmazonBBTO Layered Choker Necklace (9-piece)$12.59 FROM AMAZONI love chokers and layering different necklaces together, but I have a short attention span when it comes to jewelry. I tend to lean more towards affordable jewelry that I can experiment with on different looks before committing to staple pieces that I know I'll wear forever. This choker set was a great addition to my summer looks, and now I have more of an idea of what I'm looking for when I eventually take the plunge on long-wear jewelry. — Emily HeinA PopSocket to make gripping a large iPhone less strenuous on your fingersJacqueline Saguin/InsiderPopSockets PopGrip$7.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $9.99 | Save 20%$15.00 FROM POPSOCKETSWhen I got my iPhone X, I also picked up a PopSocket grip to make it easier to hold my phone without straining my fingers. I love it as a gift because it's practical, keeps one's phone secure, and lets me express my crazy cat lady side. — Malarie GokeyEditor's note: They come in a variety of colors and designs.A rapid egg cooking machine that's completely foolproofAmazonDash Rapid Egg Cooker$16.98 FROM AMAZONOriginally $19.98 | Save 15%After I read Jen Gushue's review of this under-$20 rapid egg cooking gadget, I was fully influenced to buy it. It makes hard-boiled eggs in half the time of traditional methods with absolutely no guesswork, saving me a good chunk of time during the week and ensuring I actually eat breakfast on busy mornings. — Ellen HoffmanThis handy water bottle that takes the guesswork out of hydrationAmazonCactaki 32 oz Water Bottle with Time Marker$18.95 FROM AMAZONOriginally $24.95 | Save 24%This water bottle comes with me everywhere I go. The secure lid ensures no spillage in my bag and the removable strap adds versatility in transportation. The printed tracking is the main selling point as a quick glance can let me know how I am doing with my daily water intake and if needed motivate me to ensure I am drinking at least 64oz of water per day. In a sense, this water bottle has gamified drinking water and that's fun for a gift! — Frank MassaroRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 21st, 2021

Dollar Illiquidity - The Ironic Yet Ignored Spark For The Next Crisis

Dollar Illiquidity - The Ironic Yet Ignored Spark For The Next Crisis Authored by Matthew Piepenburg via GoldSwitzerland.com, In October of 2019, I began writing/warning of the ignored yet ominous signals coming out of the repo and Eurodollar markets and what the illiquidity (i.e., lack of availability) of U.S. Dollars portended for our markets in the coming years. Well, those years have since arrived. Such dollar illiquidity may seem hard to imagine in a world otherwise awash in printed currencies and expanding money supplies. But what I warned then is no different than what is happening now: The Fed is gonna need to print a lot more dollars. In other words, today’s hawks will once again become tomorrow’s doves. Why? Because there were and are just not enough liquid dollars today to meet the fantastic array of nuanced and complex dollar demand in both U.S. and global markets. The First Tremors—2019 Repo Woes As Egon von Greyerz and I have said many times, the first overt signs of this danger in the cash-poor (i.e., illiquid) repo market which reared its “repo head” in September of 2019. This was a neon-flashing signal of long-term trouble ahead. And it had nothing to do with COVID… Informed investors in the autumn of 2019 had sifted through all the confusing minutia and noise behind the September panic in the otherwise open-fraud scheme that is the U.S. repo market (i.e., private banks levering GSE deposits for guaranteed payouts from Uncle Sam which the U.S. taxpayer funds). Despite all this noise, and despite being completely ignored (and deliberately downplayed) by an otherwise teenage-savvy mainstream financial media, the entire repo story simply boiled down to this: There weren’t enough available dollars to keep it (and the banks) going. As a result, the 2019 Fed printed more dollars and immediately dumped a $1.5 trillion rollover facility into the repo pits. Much, much more followed. After all, there’s nothing a money printer can’t temporarily solve. Unfortunately, however, this gaping wound in the repo markets was not an isolated event, but rather a symptom of a much larger and systemic problem that was equally responsible for the crisis of 2008, namely: Not enough dollars. More importantly, such dollar illiquidity will be the key factor in the next financial crisis. Second Tremor: The Misunderstood Eurodollar Market This percolating liquidity crisis has a lot to do with the Eurodollar market, an ignored little corner of the global financial cesspool which very few investors understand. This is because the Fed and the U.S. Treasury are still perceived as the official overseers of U.S. Dollar supply. Many investors still assume that these institutions know what they are doing and are “in control.” If only this were true… In reality, the Fed is becoming increasingly cornered and dysfunctional when it comes to managing U.S. Dollar liquidity. Why? Because the Fed is not in fact in control of the supply of U.S. Dollars; instead, more of the power lies in the media-ignored Eurodollar markets. THE Ticking Time Bomb Almost no one gets the Eurodollar “thing.” Almost no one sees it, yet it’s a ticking time bomb. So, what is the ticking time bomb that almost no one is publicly touching upon? What is the silent poison lurking beneath our national and global market system which no one at the Eccles Building, the White House, or the Treasury Department is discussing, let alone fully understanding? How the Eurodollar System is Quietly Killing U.S. and Global Markets In basic terms, a Eurodollar is just a U.S. Dollar held on deposit anywhere (not just in the Eurozone) outside of the U.S. Simple enough. One can therefore think of foreign banks like SocGen or Deutsche Bank making simple, clean, and direct loans to foreign companies denominated in these “Euro” dollars – i.e., U.S. Dollars held overseas. But nothing the big banks do ever stays simple, clean, or direct for very long. These bankers just can’t help themselves when it comes to leverage, short-term profits and long-term distortions. This is particularly true of what they’ve done with the Eurodollar. A Brief History of Distortion In fact, Eurodollars have been floating around the world in greater force since the mid-1950s. But banks (and bankers) always come up with clever ways to make simple Eurodollar transactions complex, as they can easily hide all kinds of greed-satisfying and wealth-generating schemes behind such deliberate Eurodollar complexity. Specifically, rather than foreign banks using U.S. Dollars overseas (i.e., Eurodollars) to make simple, direct loans to corporate borrowers that can be easily tracked and regulated on the asset and liability columns of offshore bank balance sheets, these same bankers have spent the last few decades getting more and more creative with the Eurodollar – which is to say, more and more toxic and out of control. Rather than using Eurodollars for direct loans from Bank “X” to Borrower “Y,” offshore financial groups have been busy using these Eurodollars for complex inter-bank borrowing, swap schemes, futures contracts, and levered derivative transactions. In short, and once again: More derivative-based poison (and extreme banking risk) at work. The Fed Losing Control of Its Own Dollar These mind-numbingly complex Eurodollar transactions have acted as extreme dollar multipliers entirely outside the purview or control of regulatory bodies like the Fed and now exist at what is essentially infinite leverage multiples. When U.S. banks like Bear Sterns or Lehman Brothers, for example, were leveraging U.S. Dollars in subprime derivative landmines at leverage multiples of 60:1, that was a problem. A big problem. Remember? Unfortunately, what we have been seeing (and the media ignoring) in the unregulated Eurodollar market is a leverage ratio of U.S. Dollars that is much, much, much higher – and makes the Bear Sterns of 2008 seem like child’s play by comparison today. And what this basically boils down to is that the actual amount of U.S. Dollars in overseas, shadow banking Eurodollar transactions is massively beyond the pale of what the Fed thinks it is, and, more importantly, is massively beyond the pale of anything that even the Fed can control. How Can There Be a Dollar Shortage? But wait, you’re probably asking: Matt, you just warned there’s not enough dollars, but now you’re saying that such Eurodollar schemes have dramatically increased (i.e., levered) the amount of dollars in circulation. What gives? Well, stick with me. You see, all those complex derivative schemes in Eurodollars increases their amount, but then tangles them up into so much non-liquid confusion that the end result is far fewer dollars in actual circulation.  Crazy but true. Thus, as Powell tinkers with adjusting interest rates and printing or tapering more money here in the U.S. to ostensibly “control” the amount and price of U.S. Dollars, he is effectively chasing windmills, or playing chess as Rome burns. There are now trillions in uncontrollable/unregulated U.S. Dollar liabilities floating around (and clogging up) an uber-complex international banking and Eurodollar based derivatives system. Unfortunately, this system is so interconnected and beyond the measures of complexity theory that trying to untie these Eurodollar financial knots and counter-party complexities would be akin to untying the knots of 1,000,000,000 fly-fishermen all at once. In other words, impossible. With all these U.S. Dollars (trading as “Eurodollars”) tied up in countless and unregulated banking schemes and derivative instruments, the actual amount of available U.S. Dollars is inextricably tied up in all these toxic “knots.” As a result, there are simply less dollars available for use (including emergency use) in these over-levered/risk-high markets – which is what the fancy lads call a “liquidity problem.” In fact, despite all the well-deserved attention subprime mortgages received for being the cause of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis, here’s a little secret from inside Wall Street: The subprime instruments were the “patient zero” of the 2008 disaster, but the real killer in 2008 was dollar illiquidity, much of which was tied up in these Gordian Eurodollar knots of which almost no one understands, discusses or knows how to control. In short: Today we have a similar ticking time bomb. A Eurodollar time bomb. Defusing the Eurodollar Liquidity Crisis? So how can we diffuse this ignored and misunderstood time bomb? Well, even the grandfather of debt, John Maynard Keynes, warned about this in 1944; the head of the People’s Bank of China warned about this in 2011; and in the summer of 2019, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, warned about this at the Fed’s little banker retreat in Jackson Hole. What was the suggested option from the head of England’s central bank? Simple – we need to replace the U.S. Dollar as the world’s reserve currency with a neutral, electronic currency to settle international payments with a new, floating system that replaces the dollar. That’s a big deal. And yet it never made the headlines. Big shocker, eh? The sad but hidden and otherwise undeniable truth of the matter is that the U.S. Dollar is no longer under the control of an increasingly clueless Federal Reserve. Every Crisis is a Liquidity Crisis When the supply of dollars tightens/shortens, crisis always follows, every time, for every market crisis is, at root, a liquidity crisis. Again, we saw a brief taste of this dollar shortage during the repo scare of September 2019. But that was mere child’s play compared to what prior crises of dollar illiquidity can and have done to markets, as we saw in 2008, when our markets suffered over $2 trillion (!) in U.S. Dollar shortages (aka, “funding gap”). How was this “gap” filled? You guessed it: Global money printing gone wild. Going forward, and with the recent (and completely downplayed) tremors of the cash-poor repo market still in our rear-view mirror, the insiders in D.C. and Wall Street are bracing themselves for further crises of dollar illiquidity – i.e., major market disasters driven by “funding gaps” – aka a lack of enough dollars. The Fed knows this as well – but just barely. They certainly are in no position today to simply release the U.S. Dollar from its global reserve status. That takes years, but the IMF has effectively telegraphed that it’s coming. In the interim, this means that the only current tool available to the Fed when the next dollar-liquidity crisis sends our markets and economy over yet another cliff will be more desperate and last-minute money printing, despite the fact that they are now signaling a taper for early 2022 (!). Longer term, such inevitable money printing will be good for gold. Told You So… In 2019 and 2020, I warned of this. I warned of massive, unimaginable money printing and full-on debt monetization ahead due to massive dollar illiquidity. In case you don’t believe me, just see for yourselves in this re-published, ad-hoc warning originally released in March of 2020, here. Since that warning, the Fed’s balance sheet has more than doubled. Facts really are stubborn things, no? Investing in the New Abnormal Of course, such measures have nothing at all to do with capitalism or free markets. Central and commercial banks have kissed those old values and systems goodbye. Today, we now live, invest, and trade in a centralized market in which central banks have and are losing control over the supply of the U.S. Dollar in offshore, shadow banking Eurodollar schemes who’s embedded, levered, illiquid and complex risks, dangers, and extremes are understood by only a handful of insiders and would frankly require hundreds of more pages here to fully unpack. What YOU need to take away from all of this complexity is quite simple: Normal business cycles are now extinct, replaced instead by central bank liquidity cycles which ultimately destroy currencies. Natural supply and demand forces, including for dollars, has been replaced by money printing from the central banks. More and more dollars will be printed down the road, not because we “think so,” but simply because there is literally no other way to keep this now totally rigged-to-fail system afloat. As for market volatility and the safety and growth of your money in such a toxic and complex backdrop, we admit that it is becoming increasingly hard to rely upon old predictive measures of market risk or even recession timing to fully make sense of the Twilight Zone in which we now find our capital markets. We truly are in uncharted and completely distorted waters, where risk outweighs reward at nearly every turn. This is new terrain for all of us. The Current Landscape – Hawkish Hubris Thus, if you are wondering why the USD is up (relatively, as opposed to purchasing-power) despite insane levels of mouse-clicked money creation and broad money supply expansion, it’s simple: Those dollars are tied up in a derivative-based Eurodollar ball of knots. With not enough liquid dollars available, dollar-demand is up, and hence so is the USD. Needless to say, for those nations who owe USD-denominated debts, finding and paying for the owed dollars is getting harder, which explains why the Turkish lira is tanking, dropping 30% vs. the USD in November alone… Other cracks as well as signals in this distorted, Dollar-thirsty financial landscape include more volatility now and ahead. Recent swings in the S&P 500 (worst quarter since 2011) and BTC’s 20% drop in perfect tandem with the Wall Street sell-off are obvious examples, as well as harbingers of more pain to come, despite Jim Cramer’s pathetic (December 9th) cry that the U.S. is “the strongest economy ever seen,” and a “marvel to behold.” Poor Cramer was likely referring to the Atlanta Fed’s bullish GDP estimate for Q4: But cheerleaders like Cramer are overlooking the flattening U.S. yield curve which suggests the bond market feels such strength is temporary at best. The Future Landscape—Doves (and Pain) Ahead Meanwhile, as dollar illiquidity rises, and pandemic benefits fade, the Fed stubbornly sticks to its hawkish plan to taper/tighten liquidity into 2022—thereby adding gasoline to a risk asset fire and fiscal cliff crushing just about every asset class but the USD, UST and the VIX. With the U.S. debt/GDP at a ratio of 122%, any hope for sustainable GDP growth and the delevering of US debt in such a backdrop without causing markets to tank is pure fantasy. In other words: tic toc, tic toc… In short, if the taper collides with the aforementioned yet hidden dollar illiquidity, get ready for an extremely bumpy and unpleasant 2022 and hence a sudden reversal of the Fed’s now hawkish stance. When the doves and extreme money printing (and hence currency debasement) return, gold will be waiting, as always, to get the last word. Tyler Durden Sat, 12/18/2021 - 14:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 18th, 2021

44 thoughtful and useful gifts under $25 you can buy on Amazon this holiday season

I asked my colleagues to share the best things they've bought for under $25 on Amazon. These are all of our favorite affordable finds. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Getty Images Amazon has wide selections and low costs, making it difficult to know what's worth buying. The Insider Reviews team shared the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25. We unearthed some interesting finds, from a cheddar cheesy powder to a vintage puzzle. Amazon has become the one-stop shop for an unbelievable amount of online purchases. The e-commerce kingpin has a huge selection where you'll find household names, low prices, and the two-day (or two-hour) Prime shipping that panders well to those among us who are gluttons for instant gratification.But a huge selection can make it time-consuming and ultimately expensive to root out what's really worth spending your money on. The best loophole is to seek out recommendations from people you trust. We asked our colleagues at Insider about the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25 - most of whom spend every day researching and testing thousands of products to find the few worth writing home about. Below are the 44 best things we've bought on Amazon that cost us less than $25: A ring that holds your nail polish Amazon Wearable Nail Polish Holder Ring (small)For the manicure-obsessed friend, this nail care gift is something they'll absolutely need. The wearable nail polish holder allows you to flawlessly polish your nails without bothersome spills. —Taylor Jeffries A deck of tarot cards Lauren Savoie/Insider Original Tarot Cards Deck (small)I'm not into the occult, but this deck of tarot cards has bought be endless hours of fun with my friends and insight for journaling. On days I don't feel inspired to write in my journal, I pull a card and reflect on whatever feelings it brings up. —Lauren Savoie A quick-drying styling brush Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Volume & Body Round Brush (small)Some may think a blow dryer does all the work, but a round brush makes all the difference. Replacing the $5 styling brush I've owned far past its use, the Wet Round Brush completely revived my hair routine. It grips onto large hair sections and helps dry my entire head in 10 minutes, making it a great haircare product to gift. Knowing its on Amazon, I'll definitely be gifting myself this brush more frequently. —Jacqueline Saguin A satisfying foot peel mask Amazon Foot Peel Mask (small)Ok, I know these things are all over the internet, but this winter is the perfect time to gift one of these viral foot peels. It took about five days for my feet to start peeling after using it, but it was so satisfying in a really gross, but fascinating sort of way. The end result was that my feet looked and felt softer, but I have to say that the process was all part of the fun. —Lauren Savoie A cat teaser toy that keeps interest Amazon Natural Instinct Cat Bait Morpho Teaser Toy (small)As a crazy cat mom, I'm constantly looking for new toys that my cat will like and she is very picky and loses interest pretty quickly. For whatever reason, she is obsessed with this teaser toy. I originally bought it for myself because I was tired of bird wands breaking or snapping and this looked like it had more solid construction (it does). An unexpected result is that my cat loves this gift more than any I've ever bought her and still hasn't lost interest a few months in. —Lauren Savoie Delicious coffee grounds Sally Kaplan/Insider Coffee Chicory (small)I usually abide by a time-consuming pour-over routine that involves grinding my own beans every morning, but when I'm short on time (and honestly, even when I'm not), I've come to rely heavily on this Cafe Du Monde chicory coffee. Most pre-ground coffee is flavorless and brews a weak cup, but this stuff is strong, rich, and delicious. Ten out of ten, highly recommend gifting this to a coffee lover! —Sally Kaplan A handy dough scraper Amazon Two-Piece Dough Scraper (small)If they bake a lot, do them a favor and gift a pack of these plastic bench scrapers. They're great for scraping dough out of bowls or off the counter — I can't tell you how handy they are! —Sally Kaplan A two-in-one workout bra tank Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Padded Sports Bra Tank Top (small)I've found some of my favorite workout pieces from Amazon. This two-in-one sports bra tank has a smoothing material that rivals luxury activewear fabrics that you may gift this season. Its cropped cut meets high-waisted leggings for a flattering fit. Plus, it comes in 19 fun colors. —Jacqueline Saguin A sweet-smelling scrub for sensitive skin Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Brown Sugar Body Scrub (small)Face and body scrubs make me nervous because of my sensitive skin, but this brown sugar exfoliator combines natural ingredients like sweet almond oil that are nourishing and gentler than other formulas. I typically use it on my body before I shave or before I apply self-tanner. It's comforting knowing that whenever I run out I can get it in just a couple of days. —Jacqueline Saguin A convenient Bluetooth charging port for your car Amazon Bluetooth FM Transmitter (small)My car is from 2005, long before Bluetooth connectivity in cars were standard. This little transmitter instantly brought my car up to present-day standards, letting me stream music and directions from my phone via an open radio channel. It plugs into the cigarette lighter and even has two USB ports so my husband and I can both charge our phones on long rides. It cost less than $15 and gifting this device will make your driving experience infinitely more enjoyable. —Lauren Savoie  A plastic bath drain cover Amazon Bottomless Bath Overflow Drain Cover (small)Ok, I know everyone and their mother raves about this gift, but it's the only thing allowing me to take baths in my current apartment. Our claw foot tub is from the early 20th century and if I don't cover the overflow drain, my bathtub only accommodates enough water to barely reach the top of my thighs before it starts draining — not a very pleasant or relaxing bath. This little plastic overflow drain cover lets me soak deeply and comfortably in my tub. —Lauren Savoie A cheesy powder that takes popcorn to the next level Sally Kaplan/Insider Cheddar Cheese Powder (small)I generally eat pretty healthy, but I think I'm in love with this tub of powdered cheese. It's so good on popcorn, in mac and cheese, and sprinkled on any other sort of cracker, chip, etc. It's a supremely cheesy and salty and delicious treat to gift! This is honestly one of the best Amazon purchases I've made in years. —Sally Kaplan A practical but chic wine holder Amazon Wine Rack (small)I wanted a non-bulky wine rack to sit on my kitchen counter, and I love the bright gold of this one. This honeycomb design holds seven bottles officially, but nine if you add two on top — and if you need more storage, you can buy two and stack them. —Rachael Schultz A set of hair clips Amazon Big Hair Claw Clips (small)I have really long hair and most clips can't hold it all back when I'm washing my face. These oversized clips are so great, I gifted the other three in this set to friends with crazy curly hair. All four of the matte colors are very lowkey and match everything. I've dropped mine at least two dozen times, and it has yet to break. —Rachael Schultz A challenging puzzle that doubles as vintage home decor Amazon Cats and Kittens 1,000 Piece Puzzle (small)I once gifted a Cavallini Papers & Co. puzzle to a puzzle lover, and they thought it was the perfect blend of challenging and aesthetically pleasing. They hung it up afterward, adding a sense of accomplishment as well as a nice vintage touch to their space. The company has even more fun designs like house plants and national parks map. —Jacqueline Saguin  A ring light that pulls out all the stops Jacqueline Saguin/Insider 10-inch LED Ring Light (small)I took a cue from our Insider Reviews team by gifting myself its pick for the best budget ring light. It has made my job on the style and beauty reviews team much easier, drastically cutting down on my photo-taking time. When I test makeup and clothing, I can set this up anywhere and adjust it to the angle I need in order to do my products justice. I love changing between its three different light settings: white, warm yellow, and warm white, to find the perfect glow. —Jacqueline Saguin An out-of-this-world moon lamp Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Saturn Lamp (small)Earning the title of Insider Reviews' best planet moon lamp, this light offers 16 soothing hues that illuminate a Saturn shape. I love its unique look and the subtle glow it gives while I watch movies at nighttime. This gift offers four color modes, including flash, strobe, fade, and smooth. The latter is my favorite as it softly transitions through all the colors. —Jacqueline Saguin A decorative antique tray that shows off and stores your beauty products Amazon Product CardThis tray is an aesthetically pleasing stage that doubles as decor and a proud home for my cosmetics. I use it in my bathroom, storing the skincare products and perfume I reach for every day. I've seen people using it on TikTok as a jewelry vanity to display their favorite pieces. —Jacqueline Saguin Spiral hair ties that won't break Kitsch Spiral Hair Ties (small)After using elastic hair ties for so long, I got tired of pulling out my hair, getting headaches, and snapping scrunchies. I had seen spiral hair ties before but assumed they wouldn't hold well. However, these ones from Kitsch really do the trick. They keep their shape, are comfortable, and avoid long-lasting ponytail bumps. I wear these with high ponytails, low ponytails, and even braids. —Katie Decker-Jacoby Espresso capsules that satisfy your coffee fix Amazon iperEspresso Capsule (Classico) (small)The majority of my Amazon order history is made up of these illy espresso capsules, and the orders have even been way more frequent since I started working from home. You'll need one of the illy pod machines to use them (I have the X7) but the investment is 110% worth it in my opinion.I can whip up an Italian espresso in under a minute, and it tastes so much better than the coffee from the Nespresso and Keurig machines I previously owned. Being able to buy the pods off of Amazon means my caffeine supply is always well-stocked, and if I ever do run out, I know I can get more in just two days max. —Ashley Phillips A hair mask that restores moisture to your scalp Amazon Premium Repair Hair Mask (small)I was looking for hair masks because my hair tends to get really dry in the wintertime. I bought this hair mask after doing some research on Asian hair products, and I'm so glad I did. My hair feels soft and moisturized after I use it, even if I just use it as a normal conditioner. It works even better as a leave-in deep conditioner, and I highly recommend gifting it to anyone who wants to add moisture to their hair. Bonus: It also smells amazing. —Allison Jiang An iPad case that is multi-functional Amazon Rebound Pencil Case (small)I needed a simple case for my new iPad Air 4 but was shocked by how much Apple charges for one of its cases. This option from ESR is a fraction of Apple's Smart Cover, and while it doesn't have as nice of a build quality as the Smart Cover, the ESR case is well-made nonetheless. It has a magnetic closure to wake the iPad's screen or put it to sleep, the cover folds into a stand, and there's a convenient slot for an Apple Pencil. My only complaint is that the case makes it hard to use the Touch ID sensor, but I'm quite satisfied given the price and overall usability. —Les Shu Fuzzy slippers to complete your work-from-home look Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Womens Fuzzy Slippers (small)I've been hearing about these Amazon slippers for months — from TikTok, Instagram, podcasts I listen to — so I had to give them a try. These slippers are comfy, just warm enough, and a perfect gift for working from home. The quality is also great for being under $20. An added bonus is that they come in almost any color you can imagine! —Victoria Gracie A knit beanie that's stylish and comfortable Amazon/Business Insider Acrylic Watch Hat (small)I've noticed Carhartt beanies have become increasingly popular and I finally jumped on the bandwagon. This beanie is cute, comfortable, and super warm. I got it in black so it would go with almost anything and I've been wearing it nonstop since I got it. —Victoria Gracie Ingredients for a favorite recipe Amazon Nature's Organic Freeze-Dried Strawberries (small)I buy a lot of recipe ingredients, spices, and hot sauces on Amazon that I'm less likely to find in stores near me, like these freeze-dried strawberries. They are the star ingredient in my Berry Crinkle Cookies recipe; I use one whole package per batch. — Ellen Hoffman  A liquid cleanser that works as a gentle hand soap for sensitive skin Amazon Liquid Cleanser (small)I bought this as an alternative to my household's Bath & Body Works hand soap stock. Its fragrance-free, sulfate-free, and dermatologist-tested formula pleases my sensitive skin. This straightforward cleanser gift never causes redness or irritation for frequent hand washers like me. I pour the liquid into a decorative holder so it matches my bathroom. — Jacqueline Saguin Makeup storage that fits a snug countertop Amazon Makeup and Jewelry Big Storage Case Display (small)I've always struggled with storing my makeup since I don't have a ton of space and I can never seem to find a way to keep it all organized. Most of my makeup fits nicely into these drawers and everything is now easy to find and organized. The drawers fit a ton, but aren't too large, making them the perfect gift to use on a bathroom countertop, dresser, or vanity. —Victoria Gracie Pimple patches that suck the gunk right out of your pores Left: Mighty Patch Original. Right: Invisible+ Mighty Patch. Mara Leighton/Insider Mighty Patch Original (36-count) (small, Preferred: Amazon)If you look at my Amazon history, these pimple patches are the only thing I consistently order. They're super effective at drawing out fluids from pimples and helping them deflate, and as small, virtually clear stickers, they're hardly noticeable by other people. Within a few hours, you can expect them to noticeably improve the look and swelling of your pimple — they're that reliable. — Connie Chen A natural clay mask that has a cult-following Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Indian Healing Clay Mask (small, Preferred: Amazon)This mask, as seen on Insider, transformed my skin and is probably my most recommended product to gift this season. The best part? It's $15! — Chelsey Hoffman A milk frother for homemade treats Amazon MilkPro Milk Frother (small)This gift is the BOMB. So easy to use and clean, and to spice up my weekend coffees/matcha drinks at home, allowing me to live my best bougie life. — Kirstie Jiongco A wash and stain bar that will keep your shirt collars looking nicer for longer Amazon Wash & Stain Bar (small)No $6 has had a more positive impact on my effort to preserve my clothing than the $6 I spent on this bar by The Laundress. I learned about this product from editor-in-chief Ellen Hoffman and I can honestly say it's the best thing I've done for my dress shirts. One bar has lasted me well over a year, and I just need to wet my shirt collar and rub the bar back and forth a few times before washing. It gets rid of all of the grime and oil from my collars. I was able to rehab shirts that were ready to go to charity or become rags. — Breton Fischetti A mini waffle-maker that gets the job done and takes up minimal countertop space Amazon Mini Waffle Maker (small)This teeny-tiny waffle maker is a small but mighty gift. For those rare instances when I'm craving a waffle or two, this very small appliance easily gets the job done and stays out of the way when it's stored. It's very easy to use and clean; just plug in and wait for the light, add your batter and close the iron. To clean, wait for the iron to cool down, then wipe with a damp cloth and you're done. — Melanie Winer  A pair of $15 earbuds that sound like they'd cost way more Amazon ErgoFit Earbuds (small)These Panasonic earbuds were easily the best $8.25 [price at the time] I ever spent on Amazon. The sound quality is fantastic and they're incredibly comfortable. I'm not someone who would ever spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of over-the-ear headphones, so these are exactly a budget-friendly gift. — Andrew Meola Hangers that actually keep your clothes hung up Jacqueline Saguin/Insider Velvet Non-Slip Clothes Hangers (30 Pack) (small)Clothes falling off hangers are a thing of the past once you gift these grippy velvet hangers to upgrade their closet. — Ellen Hoffman  A little 'Tub Shroom' that catches your hair before it clogs the drain Amazon Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector (small)Between her curly red hair and my long brown hair, my roommate and I shed a lot. Our tub doesn't have a drain catch and after a particularly effortful session with a plastic drain cleaner, I decided it was finally time to try this viral hair catcher out. This small silicone tool fits into most standard tub drains and collects all the hair before it washes down and clogs your drain. Take it out, remove the hair with a piece of toilet paper, and it's ready for the next shower."  — Connie Chen  Comfortable, public-friendly sweatpants Amazon Women's Drawstring Striped Joggers (small)As work from home continues, I've been looking for more sweatpants that I can comfortably work in that are also appropriate for walks and socially distant plans. These sweats are affordable to gift, have sustained washes and all-day wear, and the rainbow stripe down the side adds a bit of fun." — Emily Hein No-slip gel gripped socks Amazon Microfiber Liner Socks (small)These PEDS socks are the only ones I use, and I wear sneakers almost every day. The no-slip gel grips on the heel keep them from falling off and bunching up. — Sally Kaplan A hairbrush that won't break after a few months Wet Rubberized Wet Detangle Shower Brush (small)My thick hair has a long history of eating brushes, but the Wet Brush finally put a stop to that! It painlessly smooths out tangles and the bristles are tough enough that I only have to buy a new one every year or so. Before, my brushes only ever made it a few months. — Ashley Phillips An inexpensive, well-designed measuring cup Amazon Good Grips 3-Piece Angled Measuring Cup Set (small)OXO is my go-to kitchen brand for cheap, well-designed tools. This measuring cup set has an angled surface that allows you to see measurement markings from above as you're pouring, so you can better measure ingredients without bending or lifting the cup to eye level. I also highly recommend gifting OXO's silicone baking mat for creating a non-stick surface that makes for easier cleanups and this cookie scoop for scooping out balls of dough that are all the same size. — Ellen Hoffman  A slim wastebasket that fits almost anywhere, but also fits a lot of garbage Amazon Skinny Trash Can (small)Love this slim garbage can that fits into narrow spaces, but still holds a lot. — Navah Maynard Affordable jewelry that lets you save up for an investment piece Amazon Layered Choker Necklace (9-piece) (small)I love chokers and layering different necklaces together, but I have a short attention span when it comes to jewelry. I tend to lean more towards affordable jewelry that I can experiment with on different looks before committing to staple pieces that I know I'll wear forever. This choker set was a great addition to my summer looks, and now I have more of an idea of what I'm looking for when I eventually take the plunge on long-wear jewelry. — Emily Hein A PopSocket to make gripping a large iPhone less strenuous on your fingers Jacqueline Saguin/Insider PopGrip (small, Preferred: Amazon)When I got my iPhone X, I also picked up a PopSocket grip to make it easier to hold my phone without straining my fingers. I love it as a gift because it's practical, keeps one's phone secure, and lets me express my crazy cat lady side. — Malarie GokeyEditor's note: They come in a variety of colors and designs. A rapid egg cooking machine that's completely foolproof Amazon Rapid Egg Cooker (small, Preferred: Amazon)After I read Jen Gushue's review of this under-$20 rapid egg cooking gadget, I was fully influenced to buy it. It makes hard-boiled eggs in half the time of traditional methods with absolutely no guesswork, saving me a good chunk of time during the week and ensuring I actually eat breakfast on busy mornings. — Ellen Hoffman This handy water bottle that takes the guesswork out of hydration Amazon 32 oz Water Bottle with Time Marker (small)This water bottle comes with me everywhere I go. The secure lid ensures no spillage in my bag and the removable strap adds versatility in transportation. The printed tracking is the main selling point as a quick glance can let me know how I am doing with my daily water intake and if needed motivate me to ensure I am drinking at least 64oz of water per day. In a sense, this water bottle has gamified drinking water and that's fun for a gift! — Frank Massaro Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 11th, 2021

Babies are increasingly dying of syphilis in the US - but it"s 100% preventable

Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. A newborn baby rests at the Ana Betancourt de Mora Hospital in Camaguey, Cuba, on June 19, 2015. Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters The number of US babies born with syphilis quadrupled from 2015 to 2019. Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. Routine testing and penicillin shots for pregnant women could prevent these cases. This story was originally published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, in collaboration with NPR News. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.When Mai Yang is looking for a patient, she travels light. She dresses deliberately - not too formal, so she won't be mistaken for a police officer; not too casual, so people will look past her tiny 4-foot-10 stature and youthful face and trust her with sensitive health information. Always, she wears closed-toed shoes, "just in case I need to run."Yang carries a stack of cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show what happens when the Treponema pallidum bacteria invades a patient's body. There's a photo of an angry red sore on a penis. There's one of a tongue, marred by mucus-lined lesions. And there's one of a newborn baby, its belly, torso and thighs dotted in a rash, its mouth open, as if caught midcry.It was because of the prospect of one such baby that Yang found herself walking through a homeless encampment on a blazing July day in Huron, California, an hour's drive southwest of her office at the Fresno County Department of Public Health. She was looking for a pregnant woman named Angelica, whose visit to a community clinic had triggered a report to the health department's sexually transmitted disease program. Angelica had tested positive for syphilis. If she was not treated, her baby could end up like the one in the picture or worse - there was a 40% chance the baby would die.Yang knew, though, that if she helped Angelica get treated with three weekly shots of penicillin at least 30 days before she gave birth, it was likely that the infection would be wiped out and her baby would be born without any symptoms at all. Every case of congenital syphilis, when a baby is born with the disease, is avoidable. Each is considered a "sentinel event," a warning that the public health system is failing.The alarms are now clamoring. In the United States, more than 129,800 syphilis cases were recorded in 2019, double the case count of five years prior. In the same time period, cases of congenital syphilis quadrupled: 1,870 babies were born with the disease; 128 died. Case counts from 2020 are still being finalized, but the CDC has said that reported cases of congenital syphilis have already exceeded the prior year. Black, Hispanic, and Native American babies are disproportionately at risk.There was a time, not too long ago, when CDC officials thought they could eliminate the centuries-old scourge from the United States, for adults and babies. But the effort lost steam and cases soon crept up again. Syphilis is not an outlier. The United States goes through what former CDC director Tom Frieden calls "a deadly cycle of panic and neglect" in which emergencies propel officials to scramble and throw money at a problem - whether that's Ebola, Zika, or COVID-19. Then, as fear ebbs, so does the attention and motivation to finish the task.The last fraction of cases can be the hardest to solve, whether that's eradicating a bug or getting vaccines into arms, yet too often, that's exactly when political attention gets diverted to the next alarm. The result: The hardest to reach and most vulnerable populations are the ones left suffering, after everyone else looks away.Yang first received Angelica's lab report on June 17. The address listed was a P.O. box, and the phone number belonged to her sister, who said Angelica was living in Huron. That was a piece of luck: Huron is tiny; the city spans just 1.6 square miles. On her first visit, a worker at the Alamo Motel said she knew Angelica and directed Yang to a nearby homeless encampment. Angelica wasn't there, so Yang returned a second time, bringing one of the health department nurses who could serve as an interpreter.They made their way to the barren patch of land behind Huron Valley Foods, the local grocery store, where people took shelter in makeshift lean-tos composed of cardboard boxes, scrap wood, and scavenged furniture, draped with sheets that served as ceilings and curtains. Yang stopped outside one of the structures, calling a greeting."Hi, I'm from the health department, I'm looking for Angelica."The nurse echoed her in Spanish.Angelica emerged, squinting in the sunlight. Yang couldn't tell if she was visibly pregnant yet, as her body was obscured by an oversized shirt. The two women were about the same age: Yang 26 and Angelica 27. Yang led her away from the tent, so they could speak privately. Angelica seemed reticent, surprised by the sudden appearance of the two health officers. "You're not in trouble," Yang said, before revealing the results of her blood test.Angelica had never heard of syphilis."Have you been to prenatal care?"Angelica shook her head. The local clinic had referred her to an obstetrician in Hanford, a 30-minute drive away. She had no car. She also mentioned that she didn't intend to raise her baby; her two oldest children lived with her mother, and this one likely would, too.Yang pulled out the CDC cards, showing them to Angelica and asking if she had experienced any of the symptoms illustrated. No, Angelica said, her lips pursed with disgust."Right now you still feel healthy, but this bacteria is still in your body," Yang pressed. "You need to get the infection treated to prevent further health complications to yourself and your baby."The community clinic was just across the street. "Can we walk you over to the clinic and make sure you get seen so we can get this taken care of?"Angelica demurred. She said she hadn't showered for a week and wanted to wash up first. She said she'd go later.Yang tried once more to extract a promise: "What time do you think you'll go?""Today, for sure."The CDC tried and failed to eradicate syphilis - twiceSyphilis is called The Great Imitator: It can look like any number of diseases. In its first stage, the only evidence of infection is a painless sore at the bacteria's point of entry. Weeks later, as the bacteria multiplies, skin rashes bloom on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Other traits of this stage include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. These symptoms eventually disappear and the patient progresses into the latent phase, which betrays no external signs. But if left untreated, after a decade or more, syphilis will reemerge in up to 30% of patients, capable of wreaking horror on a wide range of organ systems. Marion Sims, president of the American Medical Association in 1876, called it a "terrible scourge, which begins with lamb-like mildness and ends with lion-like rage that ruthlessly destroys everything in its way."The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can infiltrate the nervous system at any stage of the infection. Yang is haunted by her memory of interviewing a young man whose dementia was so severe that he didn't know why he was in the hospital or how old he was. And regardless of symptoms or stage, the bacteria can penetrate the placenta to infect a fetus. Even in these cases the infection is unpredictable: Many babies are born with normal physical features, but others can have deformed bones or damaged brains, and they can struggle to hear, see, or breathe.From its earliest days, syphilis has been shrouded in stigma. The first recorded outbreak was in the late 15th century, when Charles VIII led the French army to invade Naples. Italian physicians described French soldiers covered with pustules, dying from a sexually transmitted disease. As the affliction spread, Italians called it the French Disease. The French blamed the Neopolitans. It was also called the German, Polish, or Spanish disease, depending on which neighbor one wanted to blame. Even its name bears the taint of divine judgement: It comes from a 16th-century poem that tells of a shepherd, Syphilus, who offended the god Apollo and was punished with a hideous disease.By 1937 in America, when former Surgeon General Thomas Parran wrote the book "Shadow on the Land," he estimated some 680,000 people were under treatment for syphilis; about 60,000 babies were being born annually with congenital syphilis. There was no cure, and the stigma was so strong that public-health officials feared even properly documenting cases.Thanks to Parran's ardent advocacy, Congress in 1938 passed the National Venereal Disease Control Act, which created grants for states to set up clinics and support testing and treatment. Other than a short-lived funding effort during World War I, this was the first coordinated federal push to respond to the disease.Around the same time, the Public Health Service launched an effort to record the natural history of syphilis. Situated in Tuskegee, Alabama, the infamous study recruited 600 black men. By the early 1940s, penicillin became widely available and was found to be a reliable cure, but the treatment was withheld from the study participants. Outrage over the ethical violations would cast a stain across syphilis research for decades to come and fuel generations of mistrust in the medical system among Black Americans that continues to this day. People attend a ceremony near Tuskegee, Alabama, on April 3, 2017, to commemorate the roughly 600 men who were subjects in the Tuskegee syphilis study. Jay Reeves/AP Photo With the introduction of penicillin, cases began to plummet. Twice, the CDC has announced efforts to wipe out the disease - once in the 1960s and again in 1999.In the latest effort, the CDC announced that the United States had "a unique opportunity to eliminate syphilis within its borders," thanks to historically low rates, with 80% of counties reporting zero cases. The concentration of cases in the South "identifies communities in which there is a fundamental failure of public health capacity," the agency noted, adding that elimination - which it defined as fewer than 1,000 cases a year - would "decrease one of our most glaring racial disparities in health."Two years after the campaign began, cases started climbing, first among gay men and, later, heterosexuals. Cases in women started accelerating in 2013, followed shortly by increasing numbers of babies born with syphilis. The reasons for failure are complex: People relaxed safer sex practices after the advent of potent HIV combination therapies, increased methamphetamine use drove riskier behavior, and an explosion of online dating made it hard to track and test sexual partners, according to Ina Park, medical director of the California Prevention Training Center at the University of California San Francisco.But federal and state public-health efforts were hamstrung from the get-go. In 1999, the CDC said it would need about $35 million to $39 million in new federal funds annually for at least five years to eliminate syphilis. The agency got less than half of what it asked for, according to Jo Valentine, former program coordinator of the CDC's Syphilis Elimination Effort. As cases rose, the CDC modified its goals in 2006 from 0.4 primary and secondary syphilis cases per 100,000 in population to 2.2 cases per 100,000. By 2013, as elimination seemed less and less viable, the CDC changed its focus to ending congenital syphilis only.Since then, funding has remained anemic. From 2015 to 2020, the CDC's budget for preventing sexually transmitted infections grew by 2.2%. Taking inflation into account, that's a 7.4% reduction in purchasing power. In the same period, cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia - the three STDs that have federally funded control programs - increased by nearly 30%."We have a long history of nearly eradicating something, then changing our attention, and seeing a resurgence in numbers," David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said. "We have more congenital syphilis cases today in America than we ever had pediatric AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It's heartbreaking."Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, warns that the US should not be surprised to see case counts continue to climb."The bugs don't go away," she said. "They're just waiting for the next opportunity, when you're not paying attention."Syphilis has fewer poster children than HIV or cancerYang waited until the end of the day, then called the clinic to see if Angelica had gone for her shot. She had not. Yang would have to block off another half day to visit Huron again, but she had three dozen other cases to deal with.States in the South and West have seen the highest syphilis rates in recent years. In 2017, 64 babies in Fresno County were born with syphilis at a rate of 440 babies per 100,000 live births - about 19 times the national rate. While the county had managed to lower case counts in the two years that followed, the pandemic threatened to unravel that progress, forcing STD staffers to do COVID-19 contact tracing, pausing field visits to find infected people, and scaring patients from seeking care. Yang's colleague handled three cases of stillbirth in 2020; in each, the woman was never diagnosed with syphilis because she feared catching the coronavirus and skipped prenatal care.Yang, whose caseload peaked at 70 during a COVID-19 surge, knew she would not be able handle them all as thoroughly as she'd like to."When I was being mentored by another investigator, he said: 'You're not a superhero. You can't save everybody,'" she said.She prioritizes men who have sex with men, because there's a higher prevalence of syphilis in that population, and pregnant people, because of the horrific consequences for babies.The job of a disease intervention specialist isn't for everyone: It means meeting patients whenever and wherever they are available - in the mop closet of a bus station, in a quiet parking lot - to inform them about the disease, to extract names of sex partners, and to encourage treatment. Patients are often reluctant to talk. They can get belligerent, upset that "the government" has their personal information, or shattered at the thought that a partner is likely cheating on them. Salaries typically start in the low $40,000s.Jena Adams, Yang's supervisor, has eight investigators working on HIV and syphilis. In the middle of 2020, she lost two and replaced them only recently."It's been exhausting," Adams said.She has only one specialist who is trained to take blood samples in the field, crucial for guaranteeing that the partners of those who test positive for syphilis also get tested. Adams wants to get phlebotomy training for the rest of her staff, but it's $2,000 per person. The department also doesn't have anyone who can administer penicillin injections in the field; that would have been key when Yang met Angelica. For a while, a nurse who worked in the tuberculosis program would ride along to give penicillin shots on a volunteer basis. Then he, too, left the health department.Much of the resources in public health trickle down from the CDC, which distributes money to states, which then parcel it out to counties. The CDC gets its budget from Congress, which tells the agency, by line item, exactly how much money it can spend to fight a disease or virus, in an uncommonly specific manner not seen in many other agencies. The decisions are often politically driven and can be detached from actual health needs.When the House and Senate appropriations committees meet to decide how much the CDC will get for each line item, they are barraged by lobbyists for individual disease interests. Stephanie Arnold Pang, senior director of policy and government relations at the National Coalition of STD Directors, can pick out the groups by sight: breast cancer wears pink, Alzheimer's goes in purple, multiple sclerosis comes in orange, HIV in red. STD prevention advocates, like herself, don a green ribbon, but they're far outnumbered.And unlike diseases that might already be familiar to lawmakers, or have patient and family spokespeople who can tell their own powerful stories, syphilis doesn't have many willing poster children. Breast Cancer survivors hold up a check for the amount raised at The Congressional Womens Softball Game at Watkins Recreation Center in Capitol Hill on June 20, 2018. Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call "Congressmen don't wake up one day and say, 'Oh hey, there's congenital syphilis in my jurisdiction.' You have to raise awareness," Arnold Pang said. It can be hard jockeying for a meeting. "Some offices might say, 'I don't have time for you because we've just seen HIV.' ... Sometimes, it feels like you're talking into a void."The consequences of the political nature of public-health funding have become more obvious during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2014 Ebola epidemic was seen as a "global wakeup call" that the world wasn't prepared for a major pandemic, yet in 2018, the CDC scaled back its epidemic prevention work as money ran out."If you've got to choose between Alzheimer's research and stopping an outbreak that may not happen? Stopping an outbreak that might not happen doesn't do well," Frieden, the former CDC director, said. "The CDC needs to have more money and more flexible money. Otherwise, we're going to be in this situation long term."In May 2021, President Joe Biden's administration announced it would set aside $7.4 billion over the next five years to hire and train public health workers, including $1.1 billion for more disease intervention specialists like Yang. Public health officials are thrilled to have the chance to expand their workforce, but some worry the time horizon may be too short."We've seen this movie before, right?" Frieden said. "Everyone gets concerned when there's an outbreak, and when that outbreak stops, the headlines stop, and an economic downturn happens, the budget gets cut."Fresno's STD clinic was shuttered in 2010 amid the Great Recession. Many others have vanished since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.Health leaders thought "by magically beefing up the primary care system, that we would do a better job of catching STIs and treating them," Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said.That hasn't worked out; people want access to anonymous services, and primary care doctors often don't have STDs top of mind. The coalition is lobbying Congress for funding to support STD clinical services, proposing a three-year demonstration project funded at $600 million.It's one of Adams' dreams to see Fresno's STD clinic restored as it was."You could come in for an HIV test and get other STDs checked," she said. "And if a patient is positive, you can give a first injection on the spot."'I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die'On August 12, Yang set out for Huron again, speeding past groves of almond trees and fields of grapes in the department's white Chevy Cruze. She brought along a colleague, Jorge Sevilla, who had recently transferred to the STD program from COVID-19 contact tracing. Yang was anxious to find Angelica again."She's probably in her second trimester now," she said.They found her outside of a pale yellow house a few blocks from the homeless encampment; the owner was letting her stay in a shed tucked in the corner of the dirt yard. This time, it was evident that she was pregnant. Yang noted that Angelica was wearing a wig; hair loss is a symptom of syphilis."Do you remember me?" Yang asked.Angelica nodded. She didn't seem surprised to see Yang again. (I came along, and Sevilla explained who I was and that I was writing about syphilis and the people affected by it. Angelica signed a release for me to report about her case, and she said she had no problem with me writing about her or even using her full name. ProPublica chose to only print her first name.)"How are you doing? How's the baby?""Bien.""So the last time we talked, we were going to have you go to United Healthcare Center to get treatment. Have you gone since?"Angelica shook her head."We brought some gift cards..." Sevilla started in Spanish. The department uses them as incentives for completing injections. But Angelica was already shaking her head. The nearest Walmart was the next town over.Yang turned to her partner. "Tell her: So the reason why we're coming out here again is because we really need her to go in for treatment. [...] We really are concerned for the baby's health especially since she's had the infection for quite a while."Angelica listened while Sevilla interpreted, her eyes on the ground. Then she looked up. "Orita?" she asked. Right now?"I'll walk with you," Yang offered. Angelica shook her head."She said she wants to shower first before she goes over there," Sevilla said.Yang made a face. "She said that to me last time." Yang offered to wait, but Angelica didn't want the health officers to linger by the house. She said she would meet them by the clinic in 15 minutes.Yang was reluctant to let her go but again had no other option. She and Sevilla drove to the clinic, then stood on the corner of the parking lot, staring down the road.Talk to the pediatricians, obstetricians, and families on the front lines of the congenital syphilis surge and it becomes clear why Yang and others are trying so desperately to prevent cases. J.B. Cantey, associate professor in pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, remembers a baby girl born at 25 weeks gestation who weighed a pound and a half. Syphilis had spread through her bones and lungs. She spent five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, breathing through a ventilator, and was still eating through a tube when she was discharged.Then, there are the miscarriages, the stillbirths, and the inconsolable parents. Irene Stafford, an associate professor and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UT Health in Houston, cannot forget a patient who came in at 36 weeks for a routine checkup, pregnant with her first child. Stafford realized that there was no heartbeat."She could see on my face that something was really wrong," Stafford recalled. She had to let the patient know that syphilis had killed her baby."She was hysterical, just bawling," Stafford said. "I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die." Fewer than 10% of patients who experience a stillbirth are tested for syphilis, suggesting that cases are underdiagnosed.A Texas grandmother named Solidad Odunuga offers a glimpse into what the future could hold for Angelica's mother, who may wind up raising her baby.In February of last year, Odunuga got a call from the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston. A nurse told her that her daughter was about to give birth and that child protective services had been called. Odunuga had lost contact with her daughter, who struggled with homelessness and substance abuse. She arrived in time to see her grandson delivered, premature at 30 weeks old, weighing 2.7 pounds. He tested positive for syphilis.When a child protective worker asked Odunuga to take custody of the infant, she felt a wave of dread."I was in denial," she recalled. "I did not plan to be a mom again." The baby's medical problems were daunting: "Global developmental delays [...] concerns for visual impairments [...] high risk of cerebral palsy," read a note from the doctor at the time.Still, Odunuga visited her grandson every day for three months, driving to the NICU from her job at the University of Houston. "I'd put him in my shirt to keep him warm and hold him there." She fell in love. She named him Emmanuel.Once Emmanuel was discharged, Odunuga realized she had no choice but to quit her job. While Medicaid covered the costs of Emmanuel's treatment, it was on her to care for him. From infancy, Emmanuel's life has been a whirlwind of constant therapy. Today, at 20 months old, Odunuga brings him to physical, occupational, speech, and developmental therapy, each a different appointment on a different day of the week.Emmanuel has thrived beyond what his doctors predicted, toddling so fast that Odunuga can't look away for a minute and beaming as he waves his favorite toy phone. Yet he still suffers from gagging issues, which means Odunuga can't feed him any solid foods. Liquid gets into his lungs when he aspirates; it has led to pneumonia three times. Emmanuel has a special stroller that helps keep his head in a position that won't aggravate his persistent reflux, but Odunuga said she still has to pull over on the side of the road sometimes when she hears him projectile vomiting from the backseat.The days are endless. Once she puts Emmanuel to bed, Odunuga starts planning the next day's appointments."I've had to cry alone, scream out alone," she said. "Sometimes I wake up and think, 'Is this real?' And then I hear him in the next room."There's no vaccine for syphilis A health worker tests a migrant from Haiti for HIV and syphilis to in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, on September 25, 2021. Daniel Becerril/Reuters Putting aside the challenge of eliminating syphilis entirely, everyone agrees it's both doable and necessary to prevent newborn cases."There was a crisis in perinatal HIV almost 30 years ago and people stood up and said this is not OK - it's not acceptable for babies to be born in that condition. [...We] brought it down from 1,700 babies born each year with perinatal HIV to less than 40 per year today," Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said. "Now here we are with a slightly different condition. We can also stand up and say, 'This is not acceptable.'" Belarus, Bermuda, Cuba, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are among countries recognized by the World Health Organization for eliminating congenital syphilis.Success starts with filling gaps across the health care system.For almost a century, public health experts have advocated for testing pregnant patients more than once for syphilis in order to catch the infection. But policies nationwide still don't reflect this best practice. Six states have no prenatal screening requirement at all. Even in states that require three tests, public-health officials say that many physicians aren't aware of the requirements. Stafford, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston, says she's tired of hearing her own peers in medicine tell her, "Oh, syphilis is a problem?"It costs public health departments less than 25 cents a dose to buy penicillin, but for a private practice, it's more than $1,000, according to Park of the University of California San Francisco."There's no incentive for a private physician to stock a dose that could expire before it's used, so they often don't have it," she said. "So a woman comes in, they say, 'We'll send you to the emergency department or health department to get it,' then [the patients] don't show up."A vaccine would be invaluable for preventing spread among people at high risk for reinfection. But there is none. Scientists only recently figured out how to grow the bacteria in the lab, prompting grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund research into a vaccine. Justin Radolf, a researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said he hopes his team will have a vaccine candidate by the end of its five-year grant. But it'll likely take years more to find a manufacturer and run human trials.Public-health agencies also need to recognize that many of the hurdles to getting pregnant people treated involve access to care, economic stability, safe housing, and transportation. In Fresno, Adams has been working on ways her department can collaborate with mental health services. Recently, one of her disease intervention specialists managed to get a pregnant woman treated with penicillin shots and, at the patient's request, connected her with an addiction treatment center.Gaining a patient's cooperation means seeing them as complex humans instead of just a case to solve."There may be past traumas with the healthcare system," Cynthia Deverson, project manager of the Houston Fetal Infant Morbidity Review, said. "There's the fear of being discovered if she's doing something illegal to survive. [...] She may need to be in a certain place at a certain time so she can get something to eat, or maybe it's the only time of the day that's safe for her to sleep. They're not going to tell you that. Yes, they understand there's a problem, but it's not an immediate threat, maybe they don't feel bad yet, so obviously this is not urgent.""What helps to gain trust is consistency," she added. "Literally, it's seeing that [disease specialist] constantly, daily. [...] The woman can see that you're not going to harm her, you're saying, 'I'm here at this time if you need me.'"Yang stood outside the clinic, waiting for Angelica to show up, baking in the 90-degree heat. Her feelings ranged from irritation - Why didn't she just go? I'd have more energy for other cases - to an appreciation for the parts of Angelica's story that she didn't know - She's in survival mode. I need to be more patient.Fifteen minutes ticked by, then 20."OK," Yang announced. "We're going back."She asked Sevilla if he would be OK if they drove Angelica to the clinic; they technically weren't supposed to because of coronavirus precautions, but Yang wasn't sure she could convince Angelica to walk. Sevilla gave her the thumbs up.When they pulled up, they saw Angelica sitting in the backyard, chatting with a friend. She now wore a fresh T-shirt and had shoes on her feet. Angelica sat silently in the back seat as Yang drove to the clinic. A few minutes later, they pulled up to the parking lot.Finally, Yang thought. We got her here.The clinic was packed with people waiting for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. A worker there had previously told Yang that a walk-in would be fine, but a receptionist now said they were too busy to treat Angelica. She would have to return.Yang felt a surge of frustration, sensing that her hard-fought opportunity was slipping away. She tried to talk to the nurse supervisor, but he wasn't available. She tried to leave the gift cards at the office to reward Angelica if she came, but the receptionist said she couldn't hold them. While Yang negotiated, Sevilla sat with Angelica in the car, waiting.Finally, Yang accepted this was yet another thing she couldn't control.She drove Angelica back to the yellow house. As they arrived, she tried once more to impress on her just how important it was to get treated, asking Sevilla to interpret. "We don't want it to get any more serious, because she can go blind, she could go deaf, she could lose her baby."Angelica already had the door halfway open."So on a scale from one to 10, how important is this to get treated?" Yang asked."Ten," Angelica said. Yang reminded her of the appointment that afternoon. Then Angelica stepped out and returned to the dusty yard.Yang lingered for a moment, watching Angelica go. Then she turned the car back onto the highway and set off toward Fresno, knowing, already, that she'd be back.Postscript: A reporter visited Huron twice more in the months that followed, including once independently to try to interview Angelica, but she wasn't in town. Yang has visited Huron twice more as well - six times in total thus far. In October, a couple of men at the yellow house said Angelica was still in town, still pregnant. Yang and Sevilla spent an hour driving around, talking to residents, hoping to catch Angelica. But she was nowhere to be found.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 2nd, 2021

Futures Rise Ahead Of Deluge Of Big Tech Earnings

Futures Rise Ahead Of Deluge Of Big Tech Earnings One day after Goldman doubled down on its call for a market meltup into year-end, futures on the Nasdaq 100 edged higher, while contracts on the S&P 500 were modestly higher on Monday, approaching record highs again as investors braced for a flood of earnings (164 of 500 S&P companies report this week) while weighing rising inflation concerns, Covid-19 risks and China’s deteriorating outlook (Goldman slashed China's 2022 GDP to 5.2% from 5.6% overnight). The FOMC enters quiet period ahead of next week's FOMC meeting, which means no Fed speakers as attention shifts to economic data and corporate earnings. At 745 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 3 points, or 0.01%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 4.25 points, or 0.1%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 36.25 points, or 0.25%. Bitcoin bounced back over $63,000 after sliding below $60,000 over the weekend, the 10-year US Treasury yield rose and the dollar also rose after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell flagged that inflation could stay higher for longer, fueling investor concern that sticky price increases may force policy makers to raise borrowing costs. Global markets have remained resilient despite risks from price pressures stoked by supply-chain bottlenecks and higher energy costs. On Sunday, Janet Yellen was among those counseling the inflation situation reflects temporary pain that will ease in the second half of 2022 even as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey warned hyperinflation is coming. Investors are wary that tighter monetary policy to keep inflation in check will stir volatility “Inflation concerns will continue to dominate markets this year as the price of crude oil remains elevated,” while “the pandemic remains a central concern,” said Siobhan Redford, an analyst at FirstRand Bank Ltd. in Johannesburg. “This will add further complexity to the already difficult decisions facing policy makers around the world.” All of FAAMG - Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet and Amazon.com - are set to report their results later this week. The companies shares, which collectively account for over 22% of the weighting in the S&P 500, were mixed in trading before the bell. Facebook shares fell in premarket trading, extending six weeks of declines, after Bloomberg reported that the social-media company is struggling to attract younger users and that employees are concerned over the spread of misinformation and hate speech on its platform. The company is scheduled to report quarterly results after the market closes. “After Snap got an Apple caught in its throat, markets will have an itchy trigger finger over the sell button if the social network says the same,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA. “Additionally, this week, it is a FAANG-sters paradise ... that decides whether the U.S. earnings season party continues, before the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) reasserts its dominance next week.” PayPal jumped 6.4% as the company said it wasn’t currently pursuing an acquisition of Pinterest, ending days of speculation over a potential $45 billion deal. Shares of Pinterest plunged 12.5%. Tesla gained 2.2% in premarket trading after Morgan Stanley raised its price target for the stock by a third, citing “extraordinary” sales growth. The stock then surged to new all time highs after Bloomberg reported that Hertz placed an order for 100,000 Teslas in the first step of an ambitious plan to electrify its rental-car fleet. Oil firms including Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil rose about 0.5% each, tracking Brent crude prices to three-year high. Cryptocurrency-exposed stocks gain in premarket trading as Bitcoin climbs back above the $63,000 per token level after slipping from its record high last week. Crypto-linked stocks that are climbing in premarket include Bakkt +6.6%, Hive Blockchain +3.9%, Hut 8 Mining +2.8%, Riot Blockchain +2.2%, MicroStrategy +2.3%, Marathon Digital +2.8%, Coinbase +1.9%, Silvergate +1.8%, Bit Digital +1.2% and Mogo +0.8% Strong earnings reports helped lift the S&P 500 and the Dow to record highs last week, with the benchmark index rising 5.5% so far in October to recoup all of the losses suffered last month.  However, market participants are looking beyond the impressive earnings numbers with a focus on how companies mitigate supply chain bottlenecks, labor shortages and inflationary pressures to sustain growth. Analysts expect S&P 500 earnings to grow 34.8% year-on-year for the third quarter, according to data from Refinitiv. On the economic data front, readings on U.S. third-quarter GDP - the Federal Reserve’s favored inflation gauge, the core PCE price index and consumer confidence data will be released later this week. In Europe, mining companies and banks gained but the telecommunications and industrial goods and services sectors declined, leaving the Stoxx 600 index little changed. Banks rose on HSBC’s bright outlook. Spain’s Banco de Sabadell SA jumped more than 5% after rejecting an offer for its U.K. unit. Telecoms and industrials were the biggest losers. Volvo Car slashed its initial public offering by a fifth, making it the latest in a string of European companies to pull back from equity markets roiled by soaring energy costs and persistent supply chain delay. Here are some of the biggest European movers today: Banca Monte dei Paschi slides as much as 9.5% after the Italian government and UniCredit ended talks over the sale of the lender. Exor shares gain as much as 5.6% in Milan trading to the highest level on record after a report that the Agnelli family’s holding co. revived talks with Covea for the sale of Exor’s reinsurance unit PartnerRe. Banco Sabadell jumps as much as 5.6% after it said it rejected an offer for its TSB Bank unit in the U.K. from Co-operative Bank. SSAB rises as much as 5.2% after the Swedish steelmaker posted 3Q earnings well above analysts expectations. Handelsbanken analyst Gustaf Schwerin said the figures were “very strong.” Weir Group rises as much as 3.7% after Exane BNP Paribas raised the stock to outperform. Analyst Bruno Gjani says the stock’s underperformance YTD provides a “compelling entry opportunity.” Darktrace drops as much as 26% after Peel Hunt initiated coverage of the cybersecurity firm with a sell rating and 473p price target that implies about 50% downside to Friday’s close. Nordic Semiconductor declines as much as 8.8% after ABG Sundal Collier downgraded to hold. German business morale deteriorated for the fourth month running in October as supply bottlenecks in manufacturing, a spike in energy prices and rising COVID-19 infections are slowing the pace of recovery in Europe’s largest economy from the pandemic. The Ifo institute said on Monday that its business climate index fell to 97.7 from an upwardly revised 98.9 in September. This was the lowest reading since April and undershot the 97.9 consensus forecast in a Reuters poll. “Supply problems are giving businesses headaches,” Ifo President Clemens Fuest said, adding that capacity utilisation in manufacturing was falling. “Sand in the wheels of the German economy is hampering recovery.” The weaker-than-expected business sentiment survey was followed by a grim outlook from Germany’s central bank, which said in its monthly report that economic growth was likely to slow sharply in the fourth quarter. The Bundesbank added that full-year growth was now likely to be “significantly” below its 3.7% prediction made in June. Earlier in Asia, stocks dipped in Japan and were mixed in China, where the central bank boosted a daily liquidity injection and officials expanded a property-tax trial. Signs that it would take at least five years before authorities impose any nationwide property tax bolstered some industrial metals.  Asia-Pac equities kicked off the week with a downside bias as the region adopted a similar lead from Friday’s Wall Street session, although sentiment marginally improved. The ASX 200 (+0.3%) was kept afloat by its energy sector as oil prices drifted higher, whilst index heavyweight Telstra was boosted after partnering with the Australian government to acquire Digicel Pacific in USD 1.6bln deal - for which Telstra contributed only USD 270mln. The Nikkei 225 (-0.7%) opened lower by around 1% with Softbank and Fast Retailing the biggest losers, although the index initially trimmed losses as the JPY remained on the backfoot. The Hang Seng (+0.1%) and Shanghai Comp (+0.8%) were mixed at the open, with the latter supported by a net PBoC injection of CNY 190bln, while the Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index (-2.9%) was pressured by reports China's State Council is to expand the property-tax reform trials to more areas. On the flip side, China Evergrande and Evergrande New Energy Vehicle opened higher after the chairman said the group is to complete its transition to the NEV industry from real estate within 10 years. Finally, 10yr JGBs trade subdued and in contrast to its US and German counterparts. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed after earlier inching lower to touch the weakest level since Sept. 27; the greenback was mixed against its Group-of-10 peers with commodity currencies performing best, led by the Australian dollar and Norwegian krone. The euro hovered around $1.1650 even as German business confidence took another hit in October as global supply logjams damp momentum in the manufacturing-heavy economy. Ifo business confidence fell to 97.7 in October, from 98.9 in the prior month. The pound inched up, rising alongside other risk- sensitive Group-of-10 currencies, having trailed all its peers on Friday after Brexit risks reared their head late in the London session. A quiet week for U.K. data turns focus to the upcoming government budget. The Australian dollar rose against all its Group-of-10 peers, tracking commodity gains, with market sentiment also boosted by the People’s Bank of China’s move to inject additional cash into the banking system. The yen declined after rising for three consecutive days; Economists expect the BoJ to keep its policy rate unchanged Thursday. Turkey’s lira fell to a record low as the country’s latest diplomatic spat gave traders another reason to sell the struggling currency. Day traders in Japan have started trimming their bullish wagers on the Turkish lira, with forced liquidation a growing threat as the currency tumbles. In rates, Treasuries were under pressure again, with the yield curve steeper as US trading begins Monday. They’re retracing a portion of Friday’s swift flattening, which occurred after Fed Chair Powell said rising inflation rates would draw a response from the central bank. 5s30s curve is back to ~89bp vs Friday’s low 85bp, within half a basis point of the lowest level in more than a year. Long-end yields are higher by as much as 3bp, 10-year by 2.7bp at 1.66%, widening vs most developed-market yields; yields across the curve remain inside Friday’s ranges, which included higher 2- and 5-year yields since 1Q 2020. Curve-steepening advanced after an apparent wager via futures blocks. In commodities, Brent oil rallied above $86 a barrel after Saudi Arabia urged caution in boosting supply. Gold rose for a fifth day, the longest run of gains since July, as risks around higher-for-longer inflation bolstered the metal’s appeal. Facebook will report its third quarter results after the market today, followed by Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon later in the week.  On the economic data front, readings on U.S. third-quarter GDP - the Federal Reserve’s favored inflation gauge, the core PCE price index and consumer confidence data will be released later this week. Top Overnight News from Bloomberg S&P 500 futures up 0.1% to 4,542.25 STOXX Europe 600 little changed at 472.03 MXAP little changed at 200.13 MXAPJ up 0.1% to 661.46 Nikkei down 0.7% to 28,600.41 Topix down 0.3% to 1,995.42 Hang Seng Index little changed at 26,132.03 Shanghai Composite up 0.8% to 3,609.86 Sensex up 0.4% to 61,038.76 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.3% to 7,441.00 Kospi up 0.5% to 3,020.54 Brent Futures up 0.7% to $86.14/bbl Gold spot up 0.4% to $1,800.45 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.10% to 93.55 Euro up 0.1% to $1.1655 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen defended Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s record on regulating the financial system, which has been a target of criticism from progressive Democrats arguing he shouldn’t get a new term. Yellen said she expects price increases to remain high through the first half of 2022, but rejected criticism that the U.S. risks losing control of inflation. Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the door to Democrats using a special budget tool to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without the support of Senate Republicans, whose votes would otherwise be needed to end a filibuster on the increase. President Joe Biden and fellow Democrats are racing to reach agreement on a scaled-back version of his economic agenda, with a self-imposed deadline and his departure later this week for summits in Europe intensifying pressure on negotiations. Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann’s surprise announcement last week that he will leave on Dec. 31 has hit Berlin at a sensitive time, with Chancellor Angela Merkel currently running only a caretaker administration in the aftermath of an election whose outcome is likely to remove her CDU party from power. Some holders of an Evergrande bond on which the embattled developer had missed a coupon deadline last month received the interest before the end of a grace period Saturday, according to people familiar with the matter. A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac equities kicked off the week with a downside bias as the region adopted a similar lead from Friday’s Wall Street session, although sentiment marginally improved with the region now mixed heading into the European open. US equity futures overnight opened trade with a mild negative tilt before drifting higher, with a broad-based performance experienced across the Stateside contracts, whilst European equity contracts are marginally firmer. Back to APAC, the ASX 200 (+0.3%) was kept afloat by its energy sector as oil prices drifted higher, whilst index heavyweight Telstra was boosted after partnering with the Australian government to acquire Digicel Pacific in USD 1.6bln deal - for which Telstra contributed only USD 270mln. The Nikkei 225 (-0.7%) opened lower by around 1% with Softbank and Fast Retailing the biggest losers, although the index initially trimmed losses as the JPY remained on the backfoot. The Hang Seng (+0.1%) and Shanghai Comp (+0.8%) were mixed at the open, with the latter supported by a net PBoC injection of CNY 190bln, whilst the Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index (-2.9%) was pressured by reports China's State Council is to expand the property-tax reform trials to more areas. On the flip side, China Evergrande and Evergrande New Energy Vehicle opened higher after the chairman said the group is to complete its transition to the NEV industry from real estate within 10 years. Finally, 10yr JGBs trade subdued and in contrast to its US and German counterparts. Top Asian News Xi Takes Veiled Swipe at U.S. as China Marks 50 Years at UN Hong Kong Convicts Second Person Under National Security Law Gold Extends Gain as Inflation Risks and Virus Concerns Persist Amnesty to Quit Hong Kong Citing Fears Under Security Law A tentative start to the week for European equities (Stoxx 600 U/C) as stocks struggle to find direction. On the macro front, the latest IFO report from Germany was mixed, with commentary from IFO downbeat, noting that Germany's economy faces an uncomfortable autumn as supply chain problems were causing trouble for companies, and production capacities were falling. The overnight session was a mixed bag with the Shanghai Composite (+0.8%) supported by a liquidity injection from the PBoC whilst the Hang Seng Mainland Properties Index (-2.9%) was pressured by reports China's State Council is to expand the property-tax reform trials to more areas. Stateside, US futures are marginally firmer with newsflow in the US in part, focused on events on Capitol Hill with CNN reporting that the goal among Democratic leaders is to have a vote Wednesday or Thursday on the infrastructure package. Note, the Fed is currently observing its blackout period ahead of the November meeting. From an earnings perspective, large-cap tech earnings dominate the slate for the week with the likes of Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN) all due to report. Back to Europe, sectors are somewhat mixed as Basic Resources is the marked outperformer amid upside in underlying commodity prices. It’s been a busy morning for the Banking sector as HSBC (+1%) reported a 74% increase in Q3 earnings, whilst Credit Suisse (+0.7%) is reportedly mulling the sale of its asset management unit. Less encouragingly for the sector, UniCredit (-0.5%) and BMPS (-3.2%) shares are lower after negations on a rescue plan for BMPS have ended without an agreement. Finally, Airbus (-1.2%) and Safran (-2.3%) sit at the foot of the CAC after reports suggesting that the CEO's of Avolon and AerCap have, in recent weeks, written to the Airbus CEO expressing their concerns that the market will not support Airbus' aggressive plans to increase the pace of production; subsequently, Airbus has rejected their proposal, according to sources. Top European News The Man Behind Erdogan’s Worst Spat With the West: QuickTake Weidmann Succession Suspense May Last for Weeks on Berlin Talks Cat Rock Capital Urges Just Eat Takeaway to Sell GrubHub European Gas Jumps Most in a Week as Russian Supplies Slump In FX, the Dollar is somewhat mixed vs major counterparts and the index is jobbing around 93.500 as a result in rather aimless fashion at the start of a typically quiet start to the new week awaiting fresh impetus or clearer direction that is highly unlikely to come from September’s national activity index or October’s Dallas Fed business survey. Instead, the Greenback appears to be reliant on overall risk sentiment, US Treasury yields on an outright and relative basis along with moves elsewhere and technical impulses as the DXY roams within a 93.775-483 range. TRY - Lira losses continue to stack up, and the latest swoon to circa 9.8545 against the Buck came on the back of Turkish President Erdogan’s decision to declare 10 ambassadors persona non grata status due to their countries’ support for a jailed activist, including diplomats from the US, France and Germany. However, Usd/Try has actually pared some gains irrespective of a deterioration in manufacturing confidence and this may be partly psychological given that 10.0000 is looming with little in the way of chart resistance ahead of the big round number. AUD/NZD - Iron ore prices are helping the Aussie overcome rather mixed news on the COVID-19 front, as the state of Victoria is on course to open up further from Friday, but new cases in NSW rose by almost 300 for the second consecutive day on Sunday. Nevertheless, Aud/Usd has had another look at offers around 0.7500 and Aud/Nzd is approaching 1.0500 even though Westpac sees near term downside prospects for the cross while maintaining its 1.0600 year end projection, as Nzd/Usd continues to encounter resistance and supply into 0.7200. GBP/CAD - Sterling has regrouped after losing some of its hawkish BoE momentum and perhaps the Pound is benefiting from the latest rebound in Brent prices towards Usd 86.50/br on top of reports that the first round of talks between the UK and EU on NI Protocol were constructive, while the Loonie is up alongside WTI that has been adobe Usd 84.50 and awaiting the BoC on Wednesday. Cable is around 1.3750 after fading into 1.3800, Eur/Gbp is hovering above 0.8450 and Usd/Cad is pivoting 1.2350. EUR/JPY/CHF - The Euro has bounced from the lower half of 1.1600-1.1700 parameters and looks enshrined by a key Fib just beyond the current high (1.1670 represents a 38.2% retracement of the reversal from September peak to October trough) and decent option expiry interest under the low (1 bn between 1.1615-00), with little fundamental direction coming from a very inconclusive German Ifo survey - see 9.00BST post on the Headline Feed for the main metrics and accompanying comments from the institute. Elsewhere, the Yen is hedging bets prior to the BoJ within a 113.83-42 band against the Dollar and the Franc seems to have taken heed of another rise in weekly Swiss sight deposits at domestic banks as Usd/Chf climbs from circa 0.9150 towards 0.9200 and Eur/Chf trades nearer the top of a 1.0692-65 corridor. SCANDI/EM/PM - Firm oil prices are also underpinning the Nok, Rub and Mxn to various extents, while the Zar looks content with Gold’s advance on Usd 1800/oz and the Cnh/Cny have derived traction via a firmer onshore PBoC midpoint fix, a net Yuan 190 bn 7 day liquidity injection and the fact that China’s Evergrande has restarted work on more than 10 projects having made more interest payments on bonds in time to meet 30 day grace period deadlines. In commodities, a modestly firmer start to the week for the crude complex though action has been contained and rangebound throughout the European session after a modest grinding bid was seen in APAC hours. Currently, the benchmarks post upside of circa USD 0.30/bbl amid relatively minimal newsflow. The most pertinent update to watch stems from China, where the National Health Commission spokesperson said China's current COVID outbreak covers 11 provinces and expects the number of new cases to keep rising; additionally, the number of affected provinces could increase. Separately, but on COVID, they are some reports that the UK Government is paving the wat for ‘plan B’ measures in England, while this are primarily ‘softer’ restrictions a return of work-from-home guidance could hamper the demand-side of the equation. Note, further reports indicate this is not on the cards for this week and there are some indications that we could see, if necessary, such an announcement after the COP26 summit in Scotland ends on November 12th. Elsewhere, and commentary to keep an eye on for alterations given the above factors, Goldman Sachs writes that the persistence of the global oil demand recovery being on course to hit pre-COVID levels would present an upside risk to its end-2021 USD 90/bbl Brent price target. Moving to metals, spot gold and silver are firmer but reside within tight ranges of just over USD 10/oz in gold, for instance. In a similar vein to crude, newsflow explicitly for metals has been minimal but it is of course attentive to the COVID-19 situation while coal futures were hampered overnight as China’s State Planner announced it is to increase credit supervision in the area. US Event Calendar 8:30am: Sept. Chicago Fed Nat Activity Index, est. 0.20, prior 0.29 10:30am: Oct. Dallas Fed Manf. Activity, est. 6.2, prior 4.6 DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Well I saw Frozen twice this weekend. Once in the flesh up in London in the musical version and once on TV on Sunday at the heart of Manchester United’s defence which was breached 5 (five) times by Liverpool without reply. Regular readers can guess which I enjoyed the most. Anyway I’ll let it go for now and prepare myself for a bumper week ahead for markets. This week we have decisions from the ECB and the Bank of Japan (both Thursday) even if the Fed will be on mute as they hit their blackout period ahead of the likely taper decision next week. Inflation will obviously remain in the spotlight too as we get the October flash estimate for the Euro Area (Friday) with some regional numbers like German (Thursday) before. In addition, the Q3 earnings season will ramp up further, with 165 companies in the S&P 500 reporting, including Facebook (today), Microsoft, and Alphabet (both tomorrow), and Apple and Amazon (Thursday). Elsewhere, the UK government will be announcing their latest budget and spending review (Wednesday), Covid will remain in the headlines in light of the growing number of cases in many countries, and we’ll get the first look at Q3 GDP growth in the US (Thursday) and the Euro Area (Friday). Starting with those central bank meetings, we’re about to enter a couple of important weeks with the ECB and BoJ meeting this week, before the Fed and the BoE follow the week after. Market anticipation is much higher for the latter two though. So by comparison, the ECB and the BoJ are likely to be somewhat quieter, and our European economists write in their preview (link here) that this Governing Council meeting is likely to be a staging ground ahead of wide-ranging policy decisions in December, and will therefore be about tone and expectations management. One thing to keep an eye on in particular will be what is said about the recent surge in natural gas prices, as well as if ECB President Lagarde challenges the market pricing on liftoff as inconsistent with their inflation forecasts and new rates guidance. 5yr5yr Euro inflation swaps hit 2% for the first time on Friday so if the market is to be believed the ECB has achieved long-term success in hitting its mandate. With regards to the meeting, we think there’ll be more action in December where our economists’ baseline is that there’ll be confirmation that PEPP purchases will end in March 2022. See the BoJ preview here. Inflation will remain heavily in focus for markets over the week ahead, with recent days having seen investor expectations of future inflation rise to fresh multi-year highs. See the week in review at the end for more details. This week one of the main highlights will be the flash Euro Area CPI reading for October, which is out on Friday. Last month, CPI rose to 3.4%, which is the highest inflation has been since 2008, and this time around our economists are expecting a further increase in the measure to 3.8%. However, their latest forecast update (link here) expects that we’ll see the peak of 3.9% in November, before inflation starts to head back down again. The other main data highlight will come from the Q3 GDP figures, with releases for both the US and the Euro Area. For the US on Thursday the Atlanta Fed tracker has now hit a low of only +0.53%. DB is at 2.3% with consensus at 2.8%. Earnings season really ramps up this week, with the highlights including some of the megacap tech firms, and a total of 165 companies in the S&P 500 will be reporting. Among the firms to watch out for include Facebook and HSBC today. Then tomorrow, we’ll hear from Microsoft, Alphabet, Visa, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Texas Instruments, UPS, General Electric, UBS and Twitter. On Wednesday, releases will include Thermo Fisher Scientific, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Boeing, General Motors, Santander and Ford. Thursday then sees reports from Apple, Amazon, Mastercard, Comcast, Merck, Royal Dutch Shell, Linde, Volkswagen, Starbucks, Sanofi, Caterpillar, Lloyds Banking Group and Samsung. Finally on Friday, we’ll hear from ExxonMobil, Chevron, AbbVie, Charter Communications, Daimler, BNP Paribas, Aon and NatWest Group. Here in the UK, the main highlight next week will be the government’s Autumn Budget on Wednesday, with the Office for Budget Responsibility also set to release their latest Economic and Fiscal Outlook alongside that. In addition to the budget, the government will also be outlining the latest Spending Review, which will cover public spending priorities over the next 3 years. Our UK economists have released a preview of the event (link here), where they write that 2021-22 borrowing is expected to be revised down by £60bn, and they expect day-to-day spending will follow the path set out at the Spring Budget. They’re also expecting Chancellor Sunak will outline new fiscal rules. Finally, the pandemic is gaining increasing attention from investors again, with a number of countries having moved to toughen up restrictions in light of rising cases. This week, something to look out for will be the US FDA’s advisory committee meeting tomorrow, where they’ll be discussing Pfizer’s request for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine on 5-11 year olds. The CDC’s advisory committee is then holding a meeting on November 2 and 3 the following week, and the White House have said that if it’s authorised then the vaccine would be made available at over 25,000 paediatricians’ offices and other primary care sites, as well as in pharmacies, and school and community-based clinics. The full day by day calendar is at the end as usual. Asian markets are mixed this morning so far, as the Shanghai Composite (+0.38%), Hang Seng (+0.09%) and the KOSPI (+0.30%) are edging higher, while the Nikkei (-0.85%) is down. The rise in Chinese markets comes despite the news of 38 new COVID-19 cases as well as an announcement of a lockdown affecting around 35,700 residents of a county in Inner Mongolia. As China is one of the last countries in the world to still adhere to strict containment measures, a major outbreak can deal a fresh blow to the domestic economy and further reinforce global supply chain issues. Elsewhere the Turkish Lira hit fresh record lows, and is down around -1.5% as we type after last week’s surprise interest rate cut and Saturday’s news that ambassadors from 10 countries, including the US, Germany and France, were no longer welcome in the country. S&P 500 futures (+0.06%) are around unchanged and 10yr US Treasury yields are back up c.1bp. Looking back on an eventful week now, and there was a marked increase in inflation expectations, which manifested itself in global breakevens hitting multi-year, if not all-time, highs. Starting with the all-time highs, US 5-year breakevens increased +14.9bps (-1.0bps Friday) to 2.90%, the highest level since 5-year TIPS have started trading, while 10-year breakevens increased +7.5bps (-0.7bps Friday) to 2.64%, their highest readings since 2005. 10-year breakevens in Germany increased +9.5 bps (+3.6bps Friday) to 1.91%, their highest since 2011, while in the UK 10-year breakevens increased +17.1 bps (+4.0bps Friday) to 4.19%, the highest level since 1996. Remarkable as these levels are, 5-year 5-year inflation swaps in the US, UK, and Euro Area finished the week at 2.63%, 4.00%, and 2.00%, multi-year highs for all of these measures. If you never thought you’d see the day that long term inflation expectations in Europe would hit 2% then this is a nice/nasty surprise. Overall, this suggests investors are pricing in the potential for inflation far into the future to be higher, in addition to responding to near-term stimulus and Covid reopening impacts. Crude oil prices also climbed to their highest levels since 2014, with Brent climbing +1.07% (+1.37% Friday) and WTI gaining +2.07% (+1.79% Friday). One area where there was some reprieve was in industrial metals. Copper decreased -4.81% (-1.24% Friday), but at $449.80, remains +10.10% higher month-to-date. Bitcoin also joined the all-time high club intraweek, and finished the week +2.28% higher (-3.08% Friday). It marked a seminal week for the crypto asset, which saw ETFs and options on said ETFs begin trading in the US. The inflationary sentiment coincided with market pricing of central bank rate hikes shifting earlier. 2-year yields in the US, UK, and Germany increased +5.9 bps (+0.1bps Friday), +8.0 bps (-4.7 bps Friday), and +4.0 bps (+0.9bps Friday) respectively. In fact, money markets are now placing slightly-better-than even odds that the MPC will raise Bank Rate as early as next week. Fed and ECB officials offered some push back against the aggressive policy path repricing, but BoE speakers seemed to confirm a hike next week was a legitimate possibility. Rounding out sovereign bonds, nominal 10-year yields increased +6.2 bps (-6.9bps Friday) in the US, +4.0 bps (-5.6bps Friday) in the UK, +6.2 bps (-0.3 bps Friday) in Germany, +6.0 bps (-0.1bpFriday) in France, and +8.1 bps (+0.8bps Friday) in Italy. Inflation expectations didn’t fall with the big rally in the US and U.K. but real rates rallied hard. The S&P 500 increased +1.64% over the week, but ended its 7-day winning streak after retreating on -0.11% Friday. On earnings, 117 S&P 500 companies have now reported third quarter earnings. Roughly 85% of companies have beat earnings expectations compared to the five-year average of 76%, while 74% of reporting companies have beat sales estimates. The aggregate earnings surprise is +13.05%, topping the 5-year average of +8.4%, while the sales surprise is +2.06%. Although a seemingly strong performance on the surface, our equity team, after taking a look under the hood in this note here, points out that a large part of the beats so far is due to loan-loss reserve releases by banks. Excluding those, the aggregate S&P 500 beat is running much closer to historical average, suggesting the headline beats have not been as broad based as they look at first glance. Congressional Democrats spent the week negotiating the next fiscal package, which is set to spend more than $1 trillion on social priorities key to the Biden administration. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted that 90% of the bill is agreed to and would be voted on before October was out. One of the key sticking points has been what offsetting revenue raising measures should be included in the final bill. As those details emerge, it should give us a better picture as to the ultimate additional fiscal impulse the new bill will provide. Finally, global services PMIs out last Friday expanded while manufacturing PMIs lagged. Readings across jurisdictions were consistent with supply chain issues continuing to impact activity. Tyler Durden Mon, 10/25/2021 - 08:09.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 25th, 2021

I tried Freshly, a gluten-free meal delivery service - and its ready-to-eat dishes are much tastier than your grocery store"s frozen food section

Freshly sends healthy ready-to-eat meals right to your door. They're all gluten-free and ready in three minutes or less. Here's what it's like. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Freshly Facebook Freshly delivers healthy, gluten-free, ready-to-eat meals you can heat up in three minutes. I was impressed with the sustainable packaging, healthy options, and taste. If you want to expand your culinary skills, here are the best meal kit delivery services to try. Meal Kits (12 Meals Per Week, Price Per Meal) (small)I love cooking. From chopping vegetables to experimenting with seasonings, every aspect of making a meal is a fun adventure. I even enjoy going to the grocery store to scavenge for the perfect ingredients.Even for someone who genuinely likes to cook, a busy schedule can make cooking feel more like a chore than an enjoyable activity. There's always takeout, but most delivery apps hit you with a number of fees, making ordering in an expensive pursuit, not to mention that I usually default to something less than nutritious - pizza, anyone?What is Freshly?Freshly is a meal delivery service that sends healthy, sustainable, ready-to-eat meals right to your doorstep. After seeing the branded boxes pop up everywhere around me, I was intrigued. I tried the service for a month and found it convenient and tasty. What are Freshly's weekly plans?Freshly makes good on its mission to make healthy eating easy. All of its meals are gluten-free, but you won't miss it anyway. Here's how it works: First, pick out your plan. There are four options with prices starting at $8.99: 4 meals per week: $47.16/week or $11.79/meal6 meals per week: $59.94/week or $9.99/meal8 meals per week: $75.92/week or $9.49/meal10 meals per week: $92.90/week or $9.29/meal12 meals per week: $107.88/week or $8.99/mealOnce you've picked your plan, you get to pick your desired delivery date. Rather than sending the whole week's worth of meals to you on Monday, Freshly lets you choose to receive meals any day of the week, so you can pick a date that best fits your schedule. Once you've picked your delivery date, Freshly will show you the menu for that given week, and you get to select which meals you want. (You can even double-up if you want to order one of them multiple times.) A typical week has over 50 options. The selection always includes an array of cuisines and dietary preferences, though not as many vegan or vegetarian options. This service is definitely heavier on animal proteins.With its emphasis on making healthy meals, Freshly makes it easy to find all the nutrition info you could want for each dish. Under every meal is an array of icons that tell you if the meal is paleo-friendly, dairy-free, and high protein, among other facts. If you want to do a deeper dive into a particular meal, click on it, and you can find even more information - down to every ingredient and calorie count. Choosing my meals for the week. Freshly How are the meals delivered?The meals arrive as pre-made single portions packed in one big box. Inside the box is a layer of biodegradable, recycled denim insulation, which keeps your meals fresh, and two big ice packs, which can also eventually be recycled. Actually, everything inside the box (even the box itself) can be recycled, so points to Freshly for sustainability efforts. If you're worried about ordering food when you might be out of town, these ice packs stay frozen for almost 48 hours.Meals are meant to be kept in the fridge - not frozen - and are all marked with an expiration date. In general, most meals will last a week. How long do they take to make?Freshly meals should take three minutes or less to heat up in the microwave. Freshly suggests you plate these meals rather than eat right out of the container, which I did when I had a little more time and clean dishes. For meals that you can "make" in three minutes or less, I was impressed by the flavor these meals packed.Review of FreshlyThe homestyle chicken with butternut mac and cheese was a hearty, indulgent dish that snuck in plenty of protein and veggies. While zucchini noodles are usually a sad, limp alternative to pasta, Freshly's take in their pesto turkey meatballs with zucchini noodles was zesty and flavorful - the perfect balance of protein and veggies for a midday lunch. Unfortunately, this meal is no longer available as an option.I appreciated Freshly meals most on days when I came home late, not wanting to cook. Knowing I could get a healthy, satisfying meal in minutes kept me from getting hangry. Freshly's packaging is all recyclable. Freshly Instagram Pros After trying the service, here are three things I think Freshly does well. Convenience: Coming home to a ready-to-eat meal makes life easy. Pop it in the microwave and have a full dinner in under three minutes. The packaging also makes them pretty portable, so you could bring them with you as packed lunches for work. Plus, the meals come right to your door. It doesn't get more convenient than that. Nutrition: When you order from a restaurant, you usually don't know what's really in your meal. So, you may think you're ordering a healthy dinner, but you don't know what cooking oils, sugars, or other hidden ingredients went into the preparation. Freshly, on the other hand, is transparent about health. Everything is gluten-free and follows the brand's specific health guidelines. If calories or dietary preferences are important to you, picking out your meals on Freshly and being able to see exactly what is inside is helpful. Taste: Convenience shouldn't come at the cost of taste - after all, it's still a meal. Freshly works with talented chefs to dream up and cook all of its meals. It's not just grilled chicken and broccoli; Freshly dabbles in all kinds of cuisine - from chicken tikka masala to a low-country boil, there are plenty of adventurous options.ConsHere are two things I think Freshly could do better:Vegetarian options: I'm not a vegetarian, but I wanted to try some of the vegetarian meals to get a sense of what the service is like for everyone. The vegetarian selection is pretty small. If I were vegan or vegetarian, I'd probably get bored with the selection, especially if I wanted to order six or more meals a week.Price: I don't think Freshly is noticeably more expensive than other meal delivery services, but I was surprised that four meals a week cost $11.49 each. Of course, you're paying for the convenience of not having to do anything but open your microwave. And Freshly's emphasis on sustainability makes me more apt to support them than competitors, but this isn't the most affordable option out there.The bottom lineFreshly is a great service, but I think it's better suited for some types of people than others. If you're someone who hates cooking and grocery shopping and often finds yourself too busy to even whip up pasta or scrambled eggs, this service will make your life so much easier. No thought or effort, just pop a meal in the microwave, and you're set. If you're someone who likes to cook, goes out to dinner often, or are more particular about what you eat, you may be better off trying a meal kit instead. I found six meals a week to be too much. When dinners came up as spontaneous social outings, I didn't want to refuse, but I also didn't want to waste my meals, which made me feel lukewarm about eating them. And, sometimes I didn't want to eat the meals I had chosen a week earlier. I like to eat what I feel like eating at any given moment, and pre-planning all of your meals takes that control away. I do like cooking for myself, though, and I like to treat myself to meals out when I don't. Since my schedule usually gives me enough time to do those things, I probably wouldn't commit to Freshly again. But I see why Freshly has been gaining so much traction recently. I'd recommend the service for anyone who wants quick, healthy, and convenient meals with little effort. Meal Kits (12 Meals Per Week, Price Per Meal) (small)Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 21st, 2021

Herb Greenberg: Despite A Hot IPO, Think Twice Before Rushing Into This Growth Story

Empire Financial Daily newletter in which Herb Greenberg discusses investing in Dutch Bros Inc (NYSE:BROS). Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more One of my favorite interviews – many years ago – was with Gordon Segal, founder of home décor retailer Crate & Barrel… Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more We discussed […] Empire Financial Daily newletter in which Herb Greenberg discusses investing in Dutch Bros Inc (NYSE:BROS). 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 $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more One of my favorite interviews – many years ago – was with Gordon Segal, founder of home décor retailer Crate & Barrel... if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get Our Activist Investing Case Study! Get the entire 10-part series on our in-depth study on activist investing in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or print it out to read anywhere! Sign up below! (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more We discussed why he never got tempted by the riches offered by investment bankers to take Crate & Barrel public. Segal hated, just hated, the thought of putting up stores for the sake of meeting Wall Street's growth forecasts. Instead, he preferred opening new stores when he could find the right location, then staffing them with current employees. The truth is, once a retailer or restaurant goes public, especially if it has a seemingly hot concept, the goal is fast growth. That means slapping up stores as fast as possible – and wherever possible – even if it's a terrible location. As veteran restaurant analyst John Gordon of Pacific Management Consulting put it, "This is the trouble every cool brand gets into." And with restaurants, especially, the eyes of management are often much bigger than their stomachs... Buca di Beppo A perfect example is Buca di Beppo, which had grand plans to dot the U.S. with 450 cavernous family-style Italian restaurants. As I wrote in Fortune magazine in 2001, when the company had just 68 stores in 21 states... Good luck! Says one former brokerage industry analyst who now works as a hedge fund manager: "I would be very careful of any management team that thinks it can build a 'national brand.' It just will not happen." And it didn't... Buca di Beppo's stock wound up collapsing until it was acquired in 2008 by Planet Hollywood. Even today, the company's website says it has "over 100 locations worldwide." (Translation: If it does, it's not much more than that.) The truth is that some concepts don't travel well to other geographies... or they aren't economically feasible for rapid or even broad expansion... or, if they're publicly traded, they simply can't remotely get close to the forecasted numbers they used to lure investors. Dutch Bros Enter the newly public coffee chain Dutch Bros Inc (NYSE:BROS)... With 471 drive-thru locations in 11 states – almost all west of the Rockies – the company's initial public offering ("IPO") last month caused lots of chatter. Born out of a coffee cart in Oregon, Dutch Bros rapidly created a cult-like following for its coffee – almost In-N-Out-like. The company also separated itself from competitors with mostly cold, high-octane drinks. Roughly a quarter of its sales, in fact, come from an energy drink that has no caffeine. Execution has been beyond reproach. The real sizzle in the story, though, is what the company says in its IPO filing about its future growth: That it believes it can balloon to 4,000 units. That got Wall Street's attention. But some big questions remain... Just how realistic is that number? And just as important, how long will it take to get there? After all, much like Crate & Barrel, Dutch Bros has prided itself on only opening stores staffed by existing employees. In a story, last June in Restaurant Business, Dutch Bros President Joth Ricci told the magazine's Jonathan Maze... We make sure the culture and the way we do things [are] protected. We only promote from within related to how we expand our culture and our business. That may be easier said than done now that Dutch Bros is a public company. As John Gordon says... Now they've got the burden of growing responsibly what they want to do versus the natural pressures that come with being publicly traded and pressures of quarterly earnings. But for Dutch Bros, there's something else that may give investors pause... Unlike most restaurants – or even coffee chains – Dutch Bros is drive-thru only. While that's good from the cost of the buildout and revenue per square foot, it's terrible for finding locations... especially post-pandemic and especially in crowded, well-established markets. As Gordon says... Demand for drive-thrus is great... After [the] pandemic, they became the golden property and will remain the golden property because for those afraid to get out of the car it became the ultimate convenience. Therein lies what quite possibly could be a problem for Dutch Bros... According to Gordon... Everyone realizes your fighting the likes of Starbucks (SBUX) and Dunkin' Donuts... They're all out for exactly the same kind of site – either conversion or new unit sites that Dutch Bros is. And it doesn't matter that the competition might not be as cool as Dutch Bros. This isn't about the coffee, the food, or even the product... The only thing that matters is the general lack of viable drive-thru locations, both new-builds and existing ones. Gordon put it this way... It's very difficult to get sites right now... I'm working for a huge international QSR [quick service restaurant] franchisor that has me looking for drive-thru sites. I will tell you... for one of their brands, it is beyond impossible to find drive-thrus. Given how hard it is – and to show what Dutch Bros is up against – Gordon says he and his client think it will take more than a year to find the right spots. As one friend in the coffee business put it to me... There aren't many options and Starbucks is really big on going that route. Landlords don't know much about coffee, so a lot of them would take Starbucks because of the name. Plus, Starbucks can pay more. That also doesn't bode well for part of the growth story... that Dutch Bros has yet to fully tap Southern California, especially Los Angeles and San Diego. As Gordon says... In certain dense states, California being one, it's going to be an immense challenge... [In other populated parts of California] city zoning makes it very hard to construct a new unit because of traffic and noise. There's something else to consider... Even if the company can build 4,000 units... how long will it take? In a recent report from investment bank Piper Sandler, I saw some impressive-looking stats... However, the length of time to hit 4,000 units is one thing (surprise, surprise!) that Dutch Bros doesn't say. Piper Sandler tried to take a stab at it, though... Based on "theoretical" performance, analyst Nicole Regan said her best guess is that "it may take as many as 12 years for this ultimate unit count to materialize." Twelve years? Forecasts based that far out, in my opinion, are generally meaningless. Besides, it doesn't really matter because from here to there, the only thing that matters for Dutch Bros (or any other fast-growing retailer or restaurant) is growth relative to expectations. That goes for revenue, average unit volume, and (key in the mix) the number of units. If Dutch Bros can't find enough good drive-thru locations, all bets are off. And while analyst after analyst in recent days has put a positive spin on Dutch Bros in their post-IPO initiation reports, it'll take a few quarters of earnings – especially guidance and management's commentary – for the real story to start emerging. And that doesn't even get into the question of whether Dutch Bros will play east of the Rockies. Two other points to consider... If its stock ever craters – or even if it doesn't – if Dutch Bros shows it has legs, it could wind up a potential acquisition target for a mature chain like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. That is, of course, unless it proves to be a fad. Remember what I said earlier about how nearly a quarter of Dutch Bros' sales come from one product – a non-caffeine energy drink? What's to keep the company from striking a distribution partnership with a consumer packaged goods ("CPG") firm for a canned version – much like Starbucks does... or like California Pizza Kitchen does with its pizzas? That's a long-winded way of saying that while Dutch Bros faces a massive hurdle in finding drive-thru locations, there are levers that could bail out investors. The short term could be rocky... but for investors with a time horizon of longer than "immediate gratification," it's definitely worth watching. Goodrx And Traeger In the mailbag, reader responses about Medicare, Goodrx Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:GDRX), and Traeger Inc (NYSE:COOK)... As always, feel free to reach out via e-mail at feedback@empirefinancialresearch.com. And if you're on Twitter, feel free to follow me there at @herbgreenberg. My DMs are open. I look forward to hearing from you. "When comparing the pricing of Plan D plans vs. GoodRx, don't forget to add in the amount Social Security charges you for the privilege of using a Plan D. There is also GoodRx Gold for even better pricing. I use Kroger's (KR) drug Savings plan, which is run by GoodRx. Two years ago, I quit Medicare Plan D and (was) self-insured. I can't figure out how GoodRx makes any money? Could it be that the drug store gives them a rebate for the store selling at a reduced price?" – George C. Herb comment: George, you quit Medicare Part D? That's a bold move... but I'm glad to hear the Kroger plan is working. Turning to the way GoodRx makes money, as my colleague Enrique Abeyta wrote in the May issue of his Empire Elite Growth newsletter... GoodRx pays the PBMs [pharmacy benefit managers] a fee to get access to discounted drugs. That price includes the cost to manufacturers for those drugs, as well as what they pay for the drugstore to make their margin. The markup from those inputs becomes GoodRx's revenue. (Subscribers can read the full issue here... And if you aren't a subscriber, you can click here to find out how to gain instant access.) "Herb... Don't forget to check for other discount drug prices beyond GoodRx. They are not always the least expensive. For example, I get [a] continuous glucose monitor. In my area, GoodRx has it at around $128 for two from CVS Health Corp (NYSE:CVS) with about $117 from Giant Pharmacy or $120 from my local pharmacy. A different discount card which seems to go by pharmacychecker.com has them for $92 at CVS rather than $128 (same CVS location), but in searching around, I found another card that has them for $77 at a CVS in Target (TGT)... Still CVS, but it has to be one in Target. If you get them at a regular CVS, it is more. Makes you wonder even more how much they really cost. Medicare doesn't cover them yet, but when it no doubt does it will pay more than this. Very strange and dysfunctional medical market in the USA. "Another thing that is also odd is the many drugs are lower priced for commercial insurance patients only. If you are on Medicare they are not discounted. I was taking one drug on a commercial insurance plan before my wife retired and it was a $5 co-pay each month. Under Medicare and Plan D, it was a $40 co-pay until the donut hole, then it was a $112 co-pay each month. GoodRx didn't help with this one as it was one of those advertised on TV. "And then there are the dental discount plans that you pay for rather than free that discount the dental cost by 40% or 50%. Be sure to look into those if you have to pay your own dental bills. I think GoodRx is going to expand to do that as well, but for now, I use the Aetna one." – Larry M. Herb comment: Thanks for the insightful comments, Larry. GoodRx definitely has competition, including in-store at the likes of CVS, when at point-of-sale the clerk might steer you to an even cheaper price. You know, the one that wasn't advertised but is offered because you showed a GoodRx coupon. Still, GoodRx probably has the single-best pricing platform, which is to its advantage. I think the one thing we can agree on is that when it comes to screw-ups, drug pricing in this country is at or near the top of the list! "So given what you've written, I assume you're no longer voting Republican right?" – Jack H. Herb comment: Hi Jack, I see the sarcasm there! Reality: I rarely discuss politics... But, for the record, I am and have been for years a registered independent. "Herb, your discussion regarding Traeger evoked some thoughts. We bought our first Traeger over 15 years ago when they were produced by a small company in Oregon. We have purchased seven more since then as we moved from one home to another and left ours for the lucky homebuyer. We even gave one to our parish priest for a home warming gift. We did buy one at a Costco and while the price was attractive the model was different than Traeger's own models and was 'bundled' with pellets, cover, etc., to make it seem like more of a bargain. "Why would they do this you asked. For people like you who haven't heard of Traeger and might never know of them! Costco has millions of members who shop regularly, and many of them will be introduced to the brand during their normal visits. Once someone is 'hooked on Traeger', few will move away from them. Meanwhile, Traeger sells their top-of-the-line 'Timberline' models at premium prices available only at select retailers who won't discount them. You should check out a Traeger... they're used to cook many dishes besides barbecue for which they are well known. My wife even bakes cakes in ours as well as recipes aimed at an oven! The Traeger imparts special flavors using different wood pellets, and temperatures are electronically controlled as precisely as our kitchen oven. We love our Traeger and use it several times a week! Best," – Robert O. Herb comment: Hi Robert, unfortunately, my overpriced Lynx is built-in, and everybody I know who uses a Traeger swears by it (though one friend who recently bought one was a little underwhelmed). I think the bigger issue here is why Traeger was discounting its grills at Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST). It's one thing to be at Costco, which sometimes is a "tell" that a company is having problems pushing a product. I understand the difference with Traeger and its Costco relationship. But discounting at Costco – with not only special sales but even deeper-discounted roadshows – is a red flag. Of course, so was Starbucks opening up stores across the street from one another, and you see how that turned out! Regards, Herb Greenberg Updated on Oct 18, 2021, 3:54 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 18th, 2021

8 incredible hotels at Yosemite National Park, including a retro Airstream and a majestic mountain lodge

These are the best hotels inside or near Yosemite National Park in California, from cheap picks to luxury lodges and pet-friendly places to stay. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. tiffanynguyen/Getty Images Camping isn't your only option when visiting Yosemite National Park, there are many hotels, too. From a luxury resort to a retro Airstream or a cozy cabin, there are lots of hotels near Yosemite. We found the best Yosemite hotels with tons of activities, beautiful scenery, and easy park access. Table of Contents: Masthead StickyA trip to a national park might conjure images of tents, sleeping bags, and bugs, but that doesn't have to be the case, especially when planning a visit to Yosemite National Park.Sure, you could rough it with a camping trip, but for those who yearn for a more elevated experience, there are plenty of hotels in or near Yosemite ranging from a quirky refurbished Airstream to full-on luxury.As a native San Franciscan who lives about a four-hour drive away from Yosemite, I try to visit the park as often as I can. Since I am not much of a camper, I always choose from the following hotels, which come with comfortable rooms, stunning views, loads of activities, and perhaps most importantly, easy park access.Keep reading for my picks of the best hotels in or near Yosemite's five park entrances.Browse all of the best hotels near Yosemite National Park below, or jump to a specific area:The best Yosemite National Park hotelsFAQ: Yosemite National Park hotelsHow we selected the best hotels near Yosemite National ParkMore of the best places to stay near national parksThese are the best hotels near Yosemite National Park, sorted by price from low to high. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite With loads of amenities and activities included, Tenaya is a dream for families looking for an active vacation. Trip Advisor Book Tenaya Lodge at YosemiteCategory: Mid-rangeLocation: Fish Camp, CATypical starting/peak prices: $141/$290On-site amenities: 4 pools, hot tubs, spa, fitness center, game room, sauna, restaurant, bar, Wi-Fi, archery range, bike rentals, rock climbing wall, kid's adventure course, ice skating, sledding, snowshoeingPros: With so many activities and amenities, the Tenaya Lodge is a destination in itself. There is plenty to keep the family entertained without ever having to leave.Cons: Tenaya is a popular place for families, so it can be busy and crowded.Located just two miles from Yosemite National Park's South Gate and amid the Sierra National Forest, the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite is ideally situated near the park with much to offer families, especially.Beyond the large Lodge, which has over 300 rooms, there are three outdoor swimming pools, including a kid's pool and an adults-only relaxation pool. There's also an indoor swimming pool for colder months, and tons of activities, ranging from a kid's adventure course and a rock-climbing wall to a variety of games, play areas, and ice skating and sledding in winter. There is also a tour service, at an additional charge, that guarantees entry into the national park.The AAA Four-Diamond hotel has a variety of different lodging types including Lodge rooms, suites, cottage rooms, and stand-alone cabins. Standard rooms in the Lodge are about 350 square feet and feature rustic wood furniture and pine barn doors.Cottage rooms have outdoor sitting areas and fireplaces, while the 560-square-foot, two-bedroom cabin Explorer Cabins come with a separate living room, a private deck, and the most privacy and space.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Autocamp Yosemite Choose from luxury canvas tents, tricked-out Airstream trailers, tiny homes, and other whimsical glamping choices. Booking.com Book Autocamp YosemiteCategory: BoutiqueLocation: Midpines, CATypical starting/peak prices: $149/$269On-site amenities: Restaurant, general store, seasonal pool, Wi-Fi, mountain bikes, Yosemite shuttlePros: Luxury tents and Airstream accommodations are modern and beautifully designed for a chic, hip glamping experience.Cons: Autocamp is from Yosemite, about a 40-minute drive to the Arch Rock entrance. The dining options are limited.For a stay immersed in the wilderness but with more luxury than you'll find in a sleeping bag, Autocamp Yosemite offers a fun take on glamping with sleek accommodations that include luxury tents, Airstreams, and tiny homes.Luxury canvas tents feature a King-size memory foam bed, a futon, electric blankets, a heater, mini-refrigerator, sofa, Wi-Fi,  and an outdoor fire pit, though restrooms and showers are shared.For a bit more privacy, opt for their Classic Airstream Suites, housed within polished, retro aluminum trailers that have a bedroom with a Queen bed in luxury linens, a futon for extra sleeping space, rain showers, a kitchenette, and a private patio with a fire pit and dining area.If you're coming with a large crew, you can choose the Premium BaseCamp Mini Suite, which features a 31-foot custom-designed Airstream Suite as well as a custom TeePee with two extra child-sized Twin beds.There's a cafe on-site, though offerings are limited, likely because all accommodations come with cookware, plates, and utensils for guests to prepare their own meals (just remember to arrive with all the ingredients you'll need). A general store is also available to purchase charcuterie fixings, BBQ-ready meats, as well as beer and wine.For socializing, Autocamp has a midcentury-inspired clubhouse with a fireplace, board games, and happy hour. They also offer yoga classes, live music, and wine tastings.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Wawona Hotel Wawona is one of just a few hotels located inside Yosemite National Park. Hotels.com Book Wawona HotelCategory: Mid-rangeLocation: Yosemite National Park, CATypical starting/peak prices: $157/$231On-site amenities: Restaurant, pool, golf, horse stables, tennis court, free breakfast buffetPros: The Wawona is one of a few hotels located within Yosemite itself, a location that offers one of the best home bases you can choose for exploring the park.Cons: Some rooms don't have private bathrooms and there are no TVs, telephones, or Wi-Fi in guest rooms.The Wawona is a quaint, historic hotel on the southern end of Yosemite National Park. It originally opened in 1856 and now consists of six whitewashed Victorian-style buildings with antique furnishings that make it feel as if you stepped back in time. Musical performances in the lounge add to the atmospheric ambiance.Room decor keeps with the Victorian aesthetic through faux antique white and wood furniture and floral draperies. Most open onto a large veranda with Adirondack chairs, and about half of the Wawona's guest rooms include a private bathroom Those without utilize nearby shared facilities that include showers, sinks, and toilets. Additionally, all rooms don't have TVs, telephones, or Wi-Fi, so this is a place for those looking to disconnect. This hotel is also seasonal; this year it closes on November 29 and opens again on March 25, 2022.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Rush Creek Lodge 8 incredible hotels at Yosemite National Park, including a retro Airstream and a majestic mountain lodge Tripadvisor Book Rush Creek Lodge Category: Mid-rangeLocation: Groveland, CATypical starting/peak suite prices: $165/$360On-site amenities: Restaurants, Pool bar, general store, spa, pool, bocce ball, games, daily activities, nightly s'moresPros: Lodge rooms have balconies and there is a wide range of on-site and nearby activities.Cons: The price can be steep in high season and may not feel worth it. Additionally, past guests have noted that the air conditioning in rooms can be loud.The Rush Creek Lodge is the newest addition to the Yosemite lodging scene joining its sister property, The Evergreen. Located just half a mile from Yosemite's Highway 120 West entrance, the Rush Creek Lodge consists of 143 hillside villas, lodge rooms, and suites spread throughout the 20-acre property.All rooms include private balconies overlooking the surrounding forest and have clean, modern, and simple layouts and furnishings, accented by large format photography of area nature and wildlife. Rooms do not have televisions but are supplied with a radio and a variety of games. If you don't want to miss the big game, there is a big screen TV in the resort's tavern.The Rush Creek Lodge is particularly fitting for families since they offer an eclectic array of activities for kids of all ages. There is a one-of-a-kind nature-oriented playground with a zip line, a 60-foot hillside slide, and a rope swing in addition to crafts and programming.Adults will appreciate the spa area that has a mineral hot tub, warm river rock loungers, and plenty of lounge chairs.The Lodge also offers a variety of tours and events for an extra fee, from guided hikes, yoga, an introduction to glass blowing to whitewater rafting.  COVID-19 procedures are available here. Yosemite Valley Lodge Hotel Rooms are basic and rustic but are much cheaper than other hotels within Yosemite National Park. Tripadvisor Book Yosemite Valley Lodge HotelCategory: Mid-rangeLocation: Yosemite Valley, CATypical starting/peak prices: $183/$251On-site amenities: Restaurants, bar, Starbucks, outdoor swimming pool, park shuttlePros: This hotel has a fantastic location inside of Yosemite National Park.Cons: Rooms don't have air conditioning so it can get hot in the summer, although small fans are provided.Located near Yosemite Falls, The Yosemite Valley Lodge is a popular choice for those looking for a centrally located place to stay within the national park.Yosemite Valley Lodge feels more like a motel than a lodge but is a top pick for its unbeatable location and the fact that it costs about half the price of the Ahwahnee, which is one of the other popular hotels inside of Yosemite National Park.Traditional Rooms are basic but possess a rustic flair with sturdy wood furniture and nature photography on the walls. These entry-level rooms are suitable for up to three people. If you need more room, Family Rooms and Bunk Rooms have extra space to spread out. Some rooms have balconies and patios, which are a nice perk. However, there is no air conditioning in any accommodation, which may be uncomfortable in hotter summer months.On-site dining is offered with a casual cafeteria-type vibe.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite Staying at the Evergreen Lodge is kind of like being away at a summer camp with rustic cabins and activities. Tripadvisor Book Evergreen Lodge at YosemiteCategory: Mid-rangeLocation: Groveland, CATypical starting/peak prices: $190/$310On-site amenities: Restaurants, bar, outdoor pool, hot tub, Wi-Fi, massage services, bocce ball, outdoor games, bike rental, daily activities.Pros: There is a wide range of fun activities to enjoy during your stay, which adds significant value to the rate.Cons: Most cabins are in sets of two so odds are you will have a neighbor close by. If you want more privacy, request a stand-alone cabin.Staying at the Evergreen Lodge is akin to being away at a summer camp with rustic cabins and activities galore. There are 88 cabins sprinkled across the 20-acre property located nine miles away from Yosemite's Big Oak Flat entrance.All come with private balconies, and cabins range from cozy offerings for two to family cabins that can sleep six. The standard Deluxe Cabin is 400 square feet with a King-size bed, a Queen-size pull out sofa, and a gas fireplace. The hotel can also set up tents for those who want more of a camping experience ($120 to $155 a night).During the day, sign up for nature crafts, family hikes, forest disc golf, and a variety of games, while and in the evenings, join s'mores by the fire, stargazing, and campfire sing-alongs. Live entertainment and a variety of lectures are also offered.COVID-19 procedures are available here. The Ahwahnee The Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park is the most majestic, well-located place to stay within the park itself littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com Book The AhwahneeCategory: LuxuryLocation: Yosemite Valley, CATypical starting/peak suite prices: $478/$699On-site amenities: Restaurant, bar, outdoor swimming pool, Wi-Fi, shuttle access (on hiatus due to COVID), food, wine eventsPros: Location, location, location — the Ahwahnee has the best placement of any hotel within Yosemite National Park.Cons: Even though the rooms were recently updated, they are a bit small and still don't have that luxury feel in line with the price.  The Ahwahnee is a stunning example of the National Park Service's historic hotels and lodging. This grand hotel, located within Yosemite National Park, opened in 1927 and has been a sought-after destination ever since. Presidents, royalty, and movie stars have all stayed here while visiting the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite.The striking hotel offers a luxurious oasis in the middle of the wilderness, with a unique and rustic architectural mix of steel, stone, and concrete, which protects it from the risk of fires. Due to its architectural importance and history, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.The public spaces with roaring fireplaces, murals, and tapestries are stunning, with a casual elegance evoking the 1920s Arts and Crafts Movement. The hotel has remained timeless and classic after almost 100 years. The Great Lodge is particularly lovely with high-beamed ceilings accented with stencil work inspired by Native American artwork.The hotel's location on the floor of the Yosemite Valley is also a major benefit of staying here. It's one that far outshines any other hotel in the area as you'll be well-placed to explore Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point, which are all a short stroll from the hotel.Rooms are tastefully appointed with natural hues and vintage art, though they are rather small. For more space, book one of the cottages or splurge on the Library Suite with a wood-paneled sitting room, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and a cozy fireplace. For the best views, Featured Hotel Rooms boast stunning vistas of Yosemite's waterfalls and iconic cliffs.  The Ahwahnee Dining Room is a landmark with 34-foot high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, fine dining, and special events such as their Bracebridge Dinner, Vintners' Holidays, and Chefs' Holidays.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Château du Sureau A regal exterior features manicured gardens, a sleek pool, and beautiful scenery. Chateau du Sureau Book Château du SureauCategory: LuxuryLocation: Oakhurst, CATypical starting/peak suite prices: $495/$895On-site amenities: Free breakfast, pool, sauna, yoga, outdoor games, gardensPros: Thoughtful touches such as fresh baked cookies in the afternoon and top-notch breakfasts are included in the rate.Cons: Not all rooms are created equal; make sure to research before you book so you're not disappointed. With so few rooms, they also book up quickly.Château du Sureau, a Relais & Chateaux property, is a 5-star luxury hotel possessing a European fairy tale feel with a majestic stone turret, manicured gardens, and cozy interiors. Located in the foothills of the Sierras near Yosemite, the Château du Sureau is about a 20-minute drive to the South Gate.The nine-acre property is abundant with old-world charm from the grand piano nestled with a mural-covered alcove to French furnishings that feature throughout the property. No two rooms are alike; each is named for a fragrant herb from the South of France and features unique antiques and art, canopied beds, and private balconies overlooking the gardens. Some have fireplaces.Beyond the carefully curated rooms, the hotel is home to the award-winning Elderberry House Restaurant and the Spa du Sureau, both of which are destinations themselves.Contact the hotel for more information on COVID-19 procedures at (559) 683-6860 of chateau@chateausureau.com. FAQ: Yosemite National Park hotels Are there hotels in Yosemite National Park?Yes, there are a variety of hotels within Yosemite National Park, all of which are owned by the national park system. On our list, The Ahwahnee, The Wawona, and the Yosemite Valley Lodge are all located within the park.Do these hotels guarantee entrance to Yosemite National Park?Yosemite National Park utilizes a reservation system for the spring and summer when there are the most visitors. If you stay at the Ahwahnee, the Wawona, or the Yosemite Valley Inn you don't need a reservation. Many of the other hotels on the list do offer park tours, for an extra fee, that includes park admission.Are all of these hotels open in the winter?It does snow in Yosemite National Park so although visiting in the winter is beautiful, you'll need to have chains for your car and plenty of warm clothing. Most of the hotels on the list above are open all year, except for The Wawona.Which Yosemite hotel is best for couples?Many of these hotels cater to families. For those looking for a more romantic experience, the Ahwahnee and the Château du Sureau are the best hotels for couples. Both are beautiful, relaxing, romantic, and offer fine dining.What hotels in Yosemite National Park allow dogs?Autocamp Yosemite, Château du Sureau, and the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite are the only hotels that allow dogs. In fact, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite offers pet concierge, pet beds, and an on-property kennel.Is it safe to stay in hotels?At this time, the CDC states that domestic travel is safe if you are fully vaccinated. While the vaccination rates vary by location, the unvaccinated should continue to take extra precautions.It is advisable that all travelers continue to follow CDC and local guidelines such as wearing masks, social distancing, and using hand sanitizer. All of the hotels we included have cleaning and safety protocols in place for guest rooms and public spaces to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. How we selected the best hotels near Yosemite National Park Each hotel or resort is located a short distance, at most a 40-minute drive, from one of the Yosemite National park entrances. There are also a couple of options within the park itself.The hotels boast comfortable, spacious rooms and can accommodate families as well as be a good fit for a couples getaway.Hotels are considered three-stars and up and hold a Trip Advisor rating of four or above with significant, honest recent reviews.The hotels have good on-site amenities such as pools and perks that guests will enjoy.The hotels promote stringent COVID-19 policies to prioritize the health and safety of all guests, which we've noted for each hotel below. More of the best places to stay near national parks TripAdvisor The best hotels near US national parksThe best vacation rentals near US national parksThe best campsites in the USThe best US mountain resorts for all seasons Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 27th, 2021

Operation "Go It Alone": Disenchanted Europeans May Build Their Own Army

Operation 'Go It Alone': Disenchanted Europeans May Build Their Own Army Authored by Doug Bandow via ResponsibleStatecraft.org, The chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal has renewed talk about striking out and leaning less on the U.S. But is it possible? German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen , Eric Trappier and Emmanuel Macron attend the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport and the unveiling of the French-German-Spanish New Generation Fighter (NGF) model, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/PoolPhoto by Jacques Witt/Pool/ABACAPRESS.COM Photo by Jacques Witt/pool/ABACAPRESS.COM Europeans are a moody lot. Whenever they feel neglected by America - meaning most anytime Washington is busy elsewhere - there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth. And endless demands for “reassurance,” as in additional promises to spend and do even more to defend the continent. European unease again is on the rise. President Joe Biden’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal allegedly without even the pretense of consultation hit Europe particularly hard. There were charges that Biden didn’t coordinate with European governments, which had sizable groups of military personnel and civilians in Afghanistan (The NATO chief denies the alliance wasn’t consulted).  It would seem that the continental states have more reason than usual to be upset. While brickbats tossed Washington’s way aren’t likely to have much effect, Europe’s impotence has spurred renewed interest in expanding the continent’s military capabilities, which could become the most significant consequence of Europe’s involvement in Washington’s 20-year Afghan misadventure. When European defense ministers gathered in late August, their meeting was filled with complaints of a “fiasco” and “debacle.” They were frustrated that they had no ability to act independently but had to rely on America. Of course, none of this should have been a surprise. French President Emmanuel Macron previously called NATO “brain dead,” promoted “strategic autonomy,” and advocated a “true European army,” with no result. Grandiose ideas of an independent European military force have long circulated to no end. More than two decades ago plans were actually made for a 60,000 multinational force, which never appeared. Nor did later proposals for 1500-member “battle groups.” Now Josep Borrell, the European Union’s de facto foreign minister, wants to establish an “initial entry force” of about 5,000 soldiers.  He complained: “We Europeans found ourselves — not only for the evacuations out of the Kabul airport but also more broadly — depending on American decisions.” The Afghanistan experience was particularly painful, he observed, showing “that the deficiencies in our strategic autonomy come with a price.” He advocated “new tools like this entry force,” so “The only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen our capacity and our will to act.”  With an equivalent combined economy and larger population than America, Europe has long had the resources necessary to create such a unit. However, the will was always lacking, even for what would be small ball for America. Has that finally changed? Significant barriers to action remain. Historically, Washington opposed such an independent European force. U.S. officials feared that separate units would cause penurious Europeans to reduce resources available to NATO. Moreover, past administrations worried that the continent would move toward a more independent foreign and military policy, which is anathema to Washington. The U.S. wants Europe to do more, but only under the former’s control. Nor has the continent shown any interest in doing more. Despite modest growth in military outlays by a number of European states since 2014, the continent continues to badly lag America’s effort. In a pitifully honest self-review, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer admitted that “Without America’s nuclear and conventional capabilities, Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves.” She cited estimates that “the United States currently provides 75 percent of all NATO capabilities.” Only France and the United Kingdom possess capable armed forces of serious size. Germany, Italy, and Spain have sizeable economies but minimal militaries, in theoretical and practical strength. Indeed, the poor readiness of the Bundeswehr, the heir to the once mighty Wehrmacht, would be comical if not so serious. Even countries which claim to fear Russian revanchism, most notably the three Baltic states and Poland, spend little more than 2 percent of GDP, a miserly investment on behalf of their freedom. In the field, noted Rem Korteweg of the Dutch Clingendael Institute, Bosnia and Libya demonstrated “the inability of Europeans to do anything serious without the Americans.” Although most European leaders formally assent to NATO insistence that they spend more, there is no public support for doing so. Most Europeans do not fear Russia, the only plausible security threat. Those who do expect Washington to shield them. That is why the eastern-most members of NATO want the presence of an American military tripwire, to ensure U.S. deaths (not theirs) and trigger automatic American involvement in war on their behalf if attacked by Moscow. Fear of U.S. disengagement might cause more European countries to spend more on their militaries, but so far no one expects the American military to go home. As long as Washington’s security guarantee appears secure, few European nations are likely to make an added investment in a European “initial entry force.” Indeed, Europeans do not support going to war for their neighbors even while expecting Americans to go to war for them. Last year the Pew Research Center surveyed 14 NATO members. In Poland, which constantly demands more U.S. attention, only 40 percent of respondents agreed that “our country should use military force” in response to a Russian attack on a NATO ally. Just a third in Germany, which was loaded with allied troops during the Cold War. And a quarter in Greece and Italy. Although many governments are more supportive of NATO and military outlays than their publics, at a time of economic difficulty and fiscal stringency they are more likely to curb than expand spending on the armed forces. President Biden should strongly support European efforts to create more effective militaries, however they are organized. Indeed, he should go further and encourage the continent to move toward military independence. Although advocates of staying in Afghanistan forever pointed to U.S. deployments in Europe and Asia as precedent, foreign policy scholar Mark Sheetz noted that “the purpose of America’s ‘temporary’ intervention in Western Europe was to eliminate the need for ‘permanent’ intervention.” Similarly, Dwight Eisenhower, NATO supreme commander before becoming president, warned against acting like “a modern Rome guarding the far frontiers with our legions.” Instead, he advocated helping “these people [to] regain their confidence and get on their own military feet.” Of course, establishing a 5,000-member rapid deployment force would be only a small start to Europeans getting “on their own military feet.” The Center for American Progress recently reported: “European militaries have now experienced decades of decline. Today, much of Europe’s military hardware is in a shocking state of disrepair. … European forces aren’t ready to fight with the equipment they have, and the equipment they have isn’t good enough.” However, the crushing embarrassment of Afghanistan might help change that. Paolo Gentiloni, EU commissioner and former Italian prime minister, allowed that “It’s a terrible paradox, but this debacle could be the start of Europe’s moment.” Although only if Europe chooses to spend and do more. History is not promising, but reality might finally intrude. The Europeans lack credibility in criticizing Washington’s admittedly wretched performance in Afghanistan. Their insults will merely antagonize Americans tired of European cheap-riding. And defense subsidies for Europe will inevitably be targeted as Washington’s debt explodes, heading toward the post-World War II record and ultimately well beyond. The Afghanistan imbroglio provided Europe with a long overdue wake up call. The Biden administration should reinforce that message by warning that the U.S. will not forever provide defense welfare for a continent both prosperous and populous. If European governments don’t like being treated dismissively by Washington, they need the capability and will to act independently. Tyler Durden Tue, 09/21/2021 - 05:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 21st, 2021

China Reveals AI News Anchor, Almost Indistinguishable From Real Human

China Reveals AI News Anchor, Almost Indistinguishable From Real Human By Shawn Lin of The Epoch Times, “Hello everyone, I am the artificial intelligence news anchor on National Business Daily. I am the virtual twin of the original host. I have been running—reporting the news—undetected for 70 days now,” the AI news anchor N Xiaohei revealed itself to its television viewers on Dec. 20, 2021, after 1700 hours of a continuous live news broadcast. (R) A screenshot image of the real-life news anchor on the “N Xiaohei Finance” program (L) N Xiaohei’s AI-rendered virtual twin in a blue background. On the same day, the Chinese state-controlled media National Business Daily (NBD) and the AI company Xiaoice jointly announced the official launch of their collaborative live news broadcasting TV programs run entirely by AI—the first of its kind. The TV program is named “AI Business Daily.” It will broadcast financial news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hosted by two AI news anchors—named N Xiaohei and N Xiaobai—technically supported by Xiaoice. N Xiaohei and N Xiaobai are virtual replicas of two real-life news anchors—a man and a woman. The Xiaoice Framework uses data collected from the two real-life anchors to train its AI models. Meanwhile, Xiaoice Neural Rendering (XNR) technology makes the virtual humans’ facial expressions and body movements look real and natural. AI anchors have appeared in China’s TV programs in the past, but they could be identified immediately back then. Since the test launch of AI Business Daily on Oct. 11, 2021, N Xiaohei’s Douyin account—the Chinese version of TikTok—has accumulated over 3 million fans despite the real person not appearing on air for 70 days. Xiaoice, in collaboration with NBD, has demonstrated its ability to develop virtual replicas that are almost indistinguishable from real humans through advanced AI learning and rendering technologies, according to the Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency. According to the report, Xiaoice Framework’s small-sample learning technology allowed the two virtual humans to complete their training cycle in one week. Chinese business commentator Zeng Xiangling said that long training cycles were needed to train AIs in the past, whereas short training cycles significantly reduce the high cost of developing AIs. Not only that, the Xiaoice Framework’s technical driver makes the end-to-end automation on AI possible, enabling the AI to collect, edit, and broadcast financial news all by itself. From reading financial information, generating text and graphs, and synchronizing with the pre-trained virtual anchor, the AI could broadcast a complete live video on the network without any human assistance. “The era of an unwearied, safe, and reliable AI Being has arrived,” Xiaoice CEO Li Di said. “It is going to provide a steady news output.” According to an NBD report, AI news anchors are modeled using deep learning neural network technology, enabling them to broadcast in Mandarin, English, and other languages. The advanced AI technology is now being used to upgrade and transform the Chinese media industry as well as its film industry. Since the success of the AI Business Daily program, each NBD news channel will now also fully collaborate with Xiaoice to create AI TV programs. Xiaoice, or “Microsoft Little Ice,” is an AI system developed by Microsoft Asia in 2014. The company was formerly known as the AI Xiaoice Team of Microsoft Software Technology Center Asia. It is Microsoft’s biggest independent AI R&D team. In July 2020, Microsoft spun off its Xiaoice business into a separate company, allowing it to operate as an independent entity in China and other Asian countries. The Xiaoice Framework is one of the world’s complete artificial intelligence frameworks with the largest AI interactions globally. Xiaoice CEO Li Di said in October 2021 that a large number of AI subjects were created in the past two years, and the number will rapidly expand. Li expects AIs to eventually outnumber the human population while incorporating diversity and individual customization. On Oct. 20, 2021, the ninth day after NBD’s AI TV test launch, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, released the section of the “14th Five-Year Plan” detailing its strategy for news broadcasting and audiovisual networks. The plan proposes to strengthen AI applications in its news production and broadcasting, such as promoting the widespread use of virtual anchors in TV programs and improving news production and broadcasting efficiency using AIs. AI Risks Artificial intelligence does not need to eat or sleep, nor does it get sick or need overtime pay, and now it can actively generate news content. However, many are also very concerned about the rapid development of AI. Mr. Wang, a 20-year IT industry expert in Japan, told The Epoch Times that artificial intelligence has far surpassed humans in terms of calculation methods, performance, and learning ability. But the biggest problem is that it has no ethics, morals, or personal values. If this AI technology is in the wrong person’s hands, it could be devastating to mankind. The current robotics technology is also very advanced. Some robots can even surpass humans or animals in many physical activities. Once AIs are given the ability to act physically, humans may not have the power to resist, granting the people in control of the AIs the ability to do whatever they desire, Wang added. Senior media professional Shi Shan told The Epoch Times that the Chinese regime has no bottom line for fraud. “[The CCP’s] AI technology can now produce a close-to-perfect virtual news anchor, but what is next? A fake politician? A party leader? Perhaps it has already been done,” Shi said. “The CCP is great at deceit. The international communities now have to pay close attention to the authenticity of China’s audiovisual programs and other media content.” Big Data Big data is the key to AI research and development: the more relevant data, the better the AI is trained. While rapidly developing its own artificial intelligence, the CCP deliberately limits the flow of Chinese data abroad. China uses its massive population for gathering and developing its local AI technology. Tang Bohua, a patent examiner in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, told the Chinese publication of The Epoch Times that the CCP’s lack of regard for human rights and privacy opens up a huge data set for them, while the United States’ respect for these rights keeps data sets incomplete. On Jan. 4, the CCP introduced a new version of its “Cybersecurity Review Measures.” The newly updated rules will require all Chinese network platform companies with data on more than 1 million users to undergo a security review before listing abroad. A law professor at Taiwan’s National Taipei University of Technology, Christy Jiang, told Radio Free Asia on Jan. 4 that she believes the one-million user threshold most likely included all Chinese tech companies that may be seeking listings overseas. A Strategic Priority The CCP has prioritized AI development in recent years, making it a “key national development strategy.” It has mandated AI into many aspects of ordinary life, not only to surveil and control its people but also to use its massive population to spur development. To bolster the rapid development of AI, the CCP has issued a number of supporting policies and regulations, including its “Made in China 2025” and “13th Five-Year Plan.” In 2017, China’s State Council issued the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan,” emphasizing the significance of AI in helping the government understand and control society. “Artificial intelligence technology can accurately perceive, predict, and early-warn the major trends of society. [It can] grasp people’s cognition and psychological changes and proactively decide the responses. [This technology] will significantly improve the ability and level of social governance. It is irreplaceable for effectively maintaining social stability,” according to the plan. “It will have a profound impact on government management, economic security, social stability, and global governance.” Hong Kong finance and economics columnist Alexander Liao said the CCP believes the emerging technology revolution—artificial intelligence—can bring new life to the authoritarian system, which was on the verge of collapse. In 2013, the CCP proposed the “Modernization of National Governance System and Governance Capacity” plan and adopted it five years later in its 2019 plenary. According to Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese state-run media, the project is “a series of institutional arrangements aimed to make China’s governance system increasingly complete, scientifically standardized, and operate more effectively.” In 2014, the CCP launched the “Social Credit System,” which linked the social behavior of all ordinary citizens with the large-scale monitoring system in mainland China. It adopted facial recognition and big data analysis technology to carry out large-scale social control with AI. By 2020, the system has been integrated into almost all public service fields, including employment, education, loan services, travel ticket purchases, and more. This control method has been fully popularized in the form of “health codes” during the CCP virus pandemic. “All measures of ‘modernization of governance’ are the basis for strengthening the CCP’s authoritarian rule to ultimately achieving totalitarian control, and everything is rooted in artificial intelligence,” Liao added. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/14/2022 - 21:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 14th, 2022

What do you do when your country tortures you? Syrian refugees are finding a landmark pathway to justice in German courts.

Former Syrian intelligence officers were convicted in a landmark war-crimes case in Germany. Former detainees told Insider it's just the beginning. Eyad al-Gharib, a Syrian defendant, arriving to hear his verdict in a courtroom in Koblenz, Germany, on February 24.Thomas Lohnes/ APWafa Ali Mustafa was 10 years old when her father, Ali, hoisted her onto his shoulders at her first protest in 2000.Every Thursday, when protests would flow through Damascus' jasmine-lined streets and Mustafa's school administered exams, they enjoyed a cheeky ritual. Ali would say Wafa, his eldest of three daughters, was sick, and they would drive close to three hours from their hometown, Masyaf, to the capital.Overlooking crowds, Mustafa absorbed the political education her father was instilling in her.In 2011, when Syrians took to the streets en masse to demand basic human and democratic rights and the fall of President Bashar Assad's dictatorship, Mustafa faced a choice.With her father's background as an activist in Syria, she knew those choosing to publicly defy the government faced death or disappearance. But on March 25, 2011, while studying at Damascus University, Mustafa rejected her friends' concerns and joined the protests."My dad told me, 'OK, if this is what you want to do, then do it,'" Mustafa told Insider. "At some point, I even asked my dad: 'Why aren't you just like all other fathers? I mean, aren't you scared for me?'"Mustafa spent months with other Syrians her age attending protests, calling for the end of Assad's government."I would call him, and I would say, 'I went to this wedding today,'" Mustafa said. "He would understand that the wedding is a protest. I would say: 'Yeah, it's very nice. I was very excited. We danced a lot. The music was very nice.'"As the Syrian army began to answer protests with gunfire, Mustafa stayed politically engaged by talking to her father. He had moved to Damascus to be closer to her, having himself been arrested just over 100 miles north in Hama, the province where Masyaf is located. Throughout Mustafa's youth, she said, her father had been arrested for organizing politically in Hama and was known to the country's security apparatus.Mustafa's mother remained in Masyaf with her youngest sister, and Mustafa lived in Damascus with her other sister, fearing that the entire family's presence together in the capital would bring more attention to Ali."My father told me: 'Your participation is not my decision. If you think that you want to do this, you better know the consequences, and you better take responsibility,'" Mustafa said. "So I did. He also did."In July 2013, after years apart — and as the uprising metastasized into civil war — Mustafa's parents were set for a reunion.Mustafa's mother traveled to Damascus from Masyaf with her youngest sister. The three-hour journey from their hometown had become a seven-hour ordeal with government checkpoints."She cooked his favorite food, my sisters and I were laughing at them, thinking mom and my dad are having a honeymoon again," Mustafa said. Before her mother arrived, Ali called saying everything was perfect and ready.But on that day, the worst fear held by her family and many others in Syria came true. Assad's security forces arrested Ali and his best friend before Mustafa's mother arrived in Damascus. Mustafa hasn't heard from her father in over 3,100 days.The Syrian activist Wafa Mustafa holding a picture of her father during a protest outside the trial in Koblenz in June 2020.Thomas Lohnes/Getty ImagesA 10-year civil and proxy war has raged in Syria, killing at least 350,000 people, leaving 6.7 million more internally displaced, and sending over 6.6 million Syrians abroad as refugees.At least half of the country's population is displaced.Mustafa, who was detained in Syria in 2011, is now a refugee. She lives in Berlin, where she has spent her time studying, writing, and advocating on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who, like her father, are believed to have been detained, tortured, or disappeared by forces loyal to Assad.According to the UN, as of last year, tens of thousands of people were missing in Assad's prisons.Her advocacy no longer involves protests in the streets of Syria, but her father is still at the center of her work.She is now part of a network of lawyers, advocates, European partners, and refugees in Germany, France, and Sweden pursuing a novel form of justice whose targets are outside Syria's borders — including former Syrian officials accused of working as intelligence officials in notorious prisons.A long, uncertain road to justiceIn the city of Koblenz, Germany, a roughly seven-hour drive from Berlin, two former Syrian officials stood accused of war crimes in a first-of-its-kind trial.The trial, which began in April 2020, was different from one in an American court: Two people were listed as defendants, and five judges heard evidence from more than 30 witness accounts and 17 joint plaintiffs.Anwar Raslan, one of the two men charged by German officials in October 2019, defected from Syria in 2012 and resettled in Germany in 2014 as a refugee. The other man charged, Eyad al-Gharib, was granted asylum in Germany in 2018.The effort to bring them to trial was led by a prominent Syrian human-rights lawyer named Anwar al-Bunni, whose 2014 chance encounter in a Turkish supermarket near a Berlin refugee camp may have changed the course of Syria's justice efforts.Al-Bunni told The Guardian he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Raslan at a market. Al-Bunni says he recognized Raslan because he played a part in his own imprisonment and torture in the Adra prison in Damascus. The trial first resulted in the conviction of al-Gharib, a former low-ranking intelligence official, who was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison on February 24, 2021, after being found guilty of "aiding and abetting 30 cases of crimes against humanity."On Thursday, Raslan, a former higher-ranking intelligence official, was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was found guilty of being the co-perpetrator of torture and overseeing the killings of 27 people, along with charges related to rape and sexual assault of detainees.Thursday's ruling makes him the most senior member of the Syrian government apparatus to face repercussions.The former Syrian intelligence officer Anwar Raslan on Thursday ahead of his guilty verdict.Thomas Frey/Getty ImagesProsecutors say Raslan helped run Branch 251, a notorious prison unit near Damascus also deemed the al-Khatib Branch, or "hell on Earth," where the UN Human Rights Council says thousands have been tortured, killed, and disappeared.What happened behind closed doors at Branch 251 was the focus of the evidence and testimonies from dozens of Syrian torture survivors in the trial.Raslan pleaded not guilty. His attorneys said it was "very clear" that torture was committed in Branch 251 but maintained throughout the trial that no crimes against humanity occurred under Raslan's authority or volition.Hana al Hatimi, a court reporter at the trial, explained on the podcast "Branch 251" that on December 16, during the last session for Raslan before the verdict, Raslan and his defense painted a picture that he had no personal decision-making power over any instances of torture or violence in Branch 251 — and that his defection, and attempts to expose other officials harming prisoners, were based on a principled rejection of such practices.In a prepared statement that his lawyers read to the court, Raslan wrote, "I left my job, I left 26 years in office behind, because I didn't want to be the reason that prisoners were hurt, or that their blood was spilled," adding that he "rejected being an instrument to abuse and killing."He said that without his efforts many more would have been brutalized, and he quoted a Quran verse that says "if you kill someone, it is like killing all of mankind, and if you give life to someone it is like giving life to all of mankind."Raslan argued that he and his family were also victims of terror from the Syrian state.In the verdict, the judges seemed to reject those claims. After hearing from more than 80 witnesses, many of whom had interacted with Raslan in prison, judges said Raslan was responsible for the torture of at least 4,000 people from 2011 to 2012.Reuters/ Annegret HilseThe Assad government has, to this point, largely enjoyed impunity for actions the UN describes as stamping out dissent and waging a war against its citizens that has included chemical attacks, torture, and forced disappearances.There has been no serious international effort to remove Assad from power, nor have any current members of Assad's government been prosecuted, with Russia and China using their UN Security Council vetoes to block any referral to the International Criminal Court. Russian military intervention in 2015 has served to bolster Assad's government, and varying military campaigns by Iran, the US, Israel, and Turkey have preserved the status quo of war.None of this is due to a lack of evidence that Assad's government has engaged in a campaign of indiscriminate killing against its own people; the UN has described a state policy of "extermination."A report from the Syrian Center for Human Rights detailed 72 types of torture employed in Syrian prisons, including the use of electric shocks and boiling water, as well as a method of abuse in which detainees' hands are tied behind their back and they are raised by the same rope, which itself is tied to rings fixed to the ceiling — "leaving their body suspended from the ground so the full weight is hanging from the wrists."Landmark cases, but a 3rd-best optionBarred from pursuing those at the top, legal groups like the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Syrian groups like the Violations Documentation Center and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, and open-source researchers have collaborated and built cases around a central legal premise: universal jurisdiction.Universal jurisdiction is an international legal mechanism whereby Syrians living in countries such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden can submit complaints to the state's investigative war-crimes units for crimes they say Assad loyalists, or others in Syria, committed."As one of the victims, as one of the players in this movement, we don't think or believe that this is true justice," Mazen al-Darwish, a lead lawyer in the Koblenz trial who is the head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, told Insider.Al-Darwish, formerly a journalist and lawyer in Syria, was imprisoned in 2012 and held without charge for three years. He says he was tortured. And, ultimately, he would like to see a new government in Syria."This is just an alternative" to action by the UN or the International Criminal Court, he said, welcoming the guilty verdicts as a positive first step.Following the start of the Koblenz trial, the Netherlands became the first country to take an official diplomatic position holding the Syrian government responsible for state torture. "The first best option obviously would be fair trials in Syria," Fritz Streiff, a consultant and lawyer working with al-Darwish's organization, told Insider. "People commit crimes, you put them on trial in your own country. If that's not possible, then you go for international justice. If that's not possible, then you go for national justice in foreign nations."This process of universal jurisdiction led to al-Gharib's and Raslan's convictions and a host of other criminal complaints against Syria's rulers."And now we can say that torture — it's happened not because we said that, not because of a story of the victim, this is legally by an independent court, by an professional judge, finding that, 'Yes, the security services use torture in systematic way,'" al-Darwish told Insider.Al-Darwish's group, alongside the Open Society Foundations' Justice Initiative and the Syrian Archive, has also submitted a joint criminal complaint in France charging the Syrian government with the 2013 sarin-gas attack in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, which killed 1,400 people, per the UN and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.The Syrian lawyer and human-rights activist Mazen Darwish talking to journalists on Thursday outside the courthouse where Raslan stood on trial in Koblenz.Berndt Reuter/Getty ImagesAnother criminal investigation underway in Sweden follows the French complaint, charging the government with responsibility in the 2013 attack as well as the 2017 Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has accused the Syrian army of masterminding sarin and chlorine gas attacks in 2017 and 2018, calling them the "most serious breach" possible of the Convention Weapons Convention, accusations the Syrian government denies.In one of history's most documented conflicts, preservation of evidence is keyThe legal fight against the Syrian government is detailed in the documentary "Bringing Assad to Justice." The filmmakers Ronan Tynan and Anne Daly splice harrowing footage of death (photos of 11,000 corpses were leaked by a whistleblower known only by a pseudonym, "Caesar") with the testimony of survivors of places such as Sadnaya, the military prison where thousands of others have disappeared.Firsthand testimony not only preserves the historical record, but the film shows how it's being used to seek justice, even in the face of disinformation.Since before the trial, Syria and its chief ally, Russia, have flooded social media with disinformation designed to muddle questions over who is responsible for war crimes. That made it important to gather as much authentic evidence as possible to convict the two former intel officers.The whistleblower Caesar's photos, for example, include not just dead bodies but individual detainee numbers; the branch of the security forces that arrested them; and the number assigned to their corpse. The Caesar file, which contains photographic evidence of thousands of people tortured or killed in Syrian prisons, was used as evidence at the Koblenz trial."The amount of evidence, especially the amount of documents that CIJA has collected to date, is unprecedented," Nerma Jelacic, the Commission for International Justice and Accountability's director for management and external relations, said in the documentary. "We've got a treasure of indisputable material produced by the perpetrating party itself.""The threats will increase for people like Mazen, for people like Anwar al-Bunni, for their researchers on the ground, for victim-support groups," Kristyan Benedict, a crisis-response manager for Amnesty International, told Insider."Certainly, when Eyad al-Gharib was sent to prison, you started to see an increase in intimidation of witnesses," he added. Benedict added that throughout the trial, witnesses and plaintiffs had trouble securing court-ordered witness protection for families living in Syria or outside Germany.Fear of speaking out persists, and so does the fear of inactionBenedict, advocates, and lawyers involved in the justice efforts told Insider that throughout the gathering of evidence and trials, many Syrians who have offered testimony have feared retribution, again."The Mukhabarat" — Syrian intelligence forces — "have a very, very long reach. They can reach people in Europe, in France, in Germany, certainly in Turkey," Benedict said, adding that the organization had helped many of the Syrian and victim-led groups bolster their security imprint. Amnesty has also advised al-Darwish and other groups on legal strategies and pressured countries to develop investigative war-crimes units.Al-Darwish added that the success of the trial in Koblenz against al-Gharib had been a boon in terms of being able to show victims and Syrian refugees that pathways to justice existed for Syrians.But there is a fear too among advocates that in the short term neighboring countries are normalizing relations with Syria, willing to forget the government's actions in exchange for trade and security cooperation. Interpol's move to readmit Syria in 2021 makes it easier for the Syrian government to pursue dissidents outside the country."Justice, for me — it's not tools for revenge, not political tools to support this party or that party, justice for me — it's the truth and the guarantee that this will not happen again," al-Darwish said."And to see those people sanctioned, but most importantly to see the birth of a new Syria with a sustainable peace because without justice, I believe that it will not be easy to guarantee sustainable peace," al-Darwish added.On Monday, Wassim Mukdad, a Branch 251 survivor who was a plaintiff in Raslan's case, said, "We want some proof that our suffering counted for something. I hope that me, and a lot of others, were able to give a voice to those who couldn't share their stories."Mustafa on June 4 in Koblenz.Thomas Lohnes/Getty ImagesWhile Mustafa is involved in the broader activism, the political will always be personal as she strives to achieve justice for her father. In 2020, Mustafa would sit outside the Koblenz courthouse with a portrait of her father, flanked by portraits of other missing Syrian detainees.In March 2021, Mustafa spoke with the UN General Assembly and alongside other families launched the Charter for Truth and Justice, a victim-centered list of demands calling for the immediate release of detainees, and an end to inhumane treatment and sexual-based violence in Syria."I think that all Syrians are now in a very challenging and crucial stage where for the first time we are at a stage where we are presented something that is supposed to be justice," Mustafa said. "And we have to decide for ourselves whether this is what we imagined or not."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

Yale history professor Timothy Snyder told Insider he fears American democracy may not survive another Trump campaign

Author and historian Timothy Snyder thinks the 2024 campaign could end with the loser claiming power — and that could break up the United States. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, speaks at Oslo Freedom Forum 2019 on May 27, 2019 in Oslo, Norway.Julia Reinhart/Getty Images Timothy Snyder is a history professor at Yale University and an expert on the rise of authoritarianism. Snyder is the author of "The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America," among other books. He spoke to Insider about what he sees as grave threats to democracy in the United States. Timothy Snyder does not want to be a downer, he says, but he is not feeling too optimistic about America these days. A history professor at Yale University, and the author of a series of books on authoritarianism and the road to tyranny, he looks at the United States these days and wonders if the country as we know it will still exist in a few years.In a recent article — marking one year since a former president, who lost an election, sought to thwart the peaceful transfer of power — Snyder painted a grim scenario where something like the January 6 insurrection had succeeded. How would the country, and the rest of the world, react to the installation of a leader who clearly did not win?In an interview with Insider, Snyder discussed Donald Trump, democracy, and what he fears could happen come 2024.It's been a year now since the January 6th insurrection. What do you think the state of American democracy is? Are we on firmer ground now, a year out?Well, I mean, obviously things could be worse. The January 6th insurrection a year ago could have succeeded. We could be living in a country that is wracked by civil and indeed violent conflict after Donald Trump succeeds in, at least temporarily, staying in power, thanks to some kind of conspiracy of his supporters, the Department of Justice, supporters in Congress and so on, right? So things could be worse. And I wouldn't wanna deny that.Unfortunately, that scenario is not one that is just in the rearview mirror. It's also one that is right in front of us. The problem with a failed coup, which is what January 6th, 2021, is, is that it is practice for a successful coup. So what we're looking at now is a kind of slow-motion practice for a repetition of all of that, but this time with the legal parts of it more fully prepared. What I'm afraid of is that now, in the shadow of a big lie — namely, that Trump actually won — the states are preparing the legal steps that will enable Trump to be installed as president the next time around. And that in turn will lead to a terrible sort of conflict, the kind that we haven't seen before. Some people look at January 6th and they see that — as bad as it was — it did not succeed, obviously. And, in fact, the leading players were kind of bumbling, right? I think that some have dismissed January 6th as a foolish stunt that got out of hand, but that never stood a chance of succeeding. I guess maybe you could both agree with that, but also think that's something that could be a lesson for them going forward.Let me try a comparison. If you think that democracy just succeeded on January 6th, sort of on its own strength, then you're missing the backdrop. In the course of the year 2020 there were a lot of important individuals and institutions, ranging from civil society to business, who were aware that there was some possibility that Trump would go for it, even if he lost, and were making preparations for that all year long. Without those preparations, it's very likely that Trump would have succeeded, or at least he would've come close enough to succeeding that we would be in terrible, bloody chaos for a very long time. It's like you're imagining an athlete winning a gold medal in the Olympics and thinking, 'Okay, that guy never actually practiced. He just showed up that day, in Tokyo, and won the medal'. The reason why democracy succeeded in 2021 is that a lot of people put in a lot of hard work ahead of time. And if it's going to keep succeeding, a lot of people are going to have to keep doing a lot of hard work. That attitude, that things just kind of happened because they happened — if we have that attitude, we're not going to put in the work and we're going to have this problem a second time around. The second thing to say about that is that, sure, sometimes coups fail, and when they fail the people who carry them out look foolish. But we're kind of in a strange spot in the US. Normally when you try a coup and you fail, you face some kind of consequence, right? In an authoritarian regime, your political life is terminated in some unpleasant way. In a democratic regime with a rule of law, you face legal consequences. We in the US are in this weird middle state, where you can try to carry out a coup, and pretty obviously break the law in all kinds of ways, and nevertheless, you can kind of just hang out and remain in politics. We're in a very awkward place, a strange place, where this sort of thing can repeat itself,Are you encouraged at all by the work of the January 6 committee and also the charges that the Department of Justice unveiled, where they've actually started charging people with seditious conspiracy?I hate to always be negative, and I won't be, but let me just start with a proviso. It's really too bad that, thanks to the archaic institution known as the filibuster, we don't have a bipartisan January 6th committee. We did have majorities in both the house and the Senate for something like that, but nevertheless, it doesn't exist. And that's a shame because democracy depends upon reflection and self-correction, and the January 6th committee is about reflection and self-correction, and so it's too bad that it couldn't have been done in the broadest way possible.That said, the work that it's doing is incredibly important. Democracy depends upon facts. Democracy depends upon knowing what's going on, operating in the shadow of a big lie, as a lot of us are doing — and even those of us who don't believe in the lie have to deal with it all the time — is incompatible with democracy. Myths and personality cults, and massive doses of self-deception, are incompatible with democracy. Figuring out just what happened, step by step, is compatible because it gives us that chance to reflect and to improve and to move on. So the work that the January 6th committee is doing is absolutely indispensable.I was going to ask you about the Democrats' response in January 6th, but actually your response there makes me want ask you about the Republicans' response. Because does the Democrats' response even matter if one of the major political parties is completely behind what you call 'the big lie'? There was a brief moment, after January 6th, where it seemed like the leading members of the Republican Party were going to break from Donald Trump and his claims. But it definitely seems like that's a way to get yourself kicked out of the party these days.To answer your literal question, it does of course matter what the Democrats do. It matters whether they try to figure out the truth. It matters whether they dig in and do the hard work of having to challenge their colleagues in the Senate, in the House, which of course is not that pleasant for the Democrats. That all matters very much because, without a legal and historical sense of the events of January 6th, we're not going to be able to keep going as a democracy. All of that baggage, from the Civil War forward that we don't clean up, just stands in the way of a democratic future. So it does matter what the Democrats are doing.The Republicans are facing a different kind of problem than the Democrats. Their problem is that, if they don't stand up to the big lie, and to the big liar himself, then they are doomed to become an authoritarian party. The logic of the big lie is such that, since you're claiming that the other side cheated you are then going to cheat yourself. You're basically promising your supporters that you're going to cheat. You're telling your supporters that a vote for us is not really a vote to try to win an election, a vote for us is just to kind of get us vaguely close enough that we can then fix the election, thanks to voter suppression and voter subversion and all the things that we're preparing now. So the Republicans face this very different ethical situation, which is that the longer they operate within the shadow of the big lie, the more they're gonna be remembered by posterity as a party that became authoritarian and possibly broke the system.I think, by the way, that a good number of them realized that. I think, by the way, that a good number of them are trying to find some way to get out from under this. And I hope that I hope that more of them find the courage to try to do so.Do you agree with the assessment that this is the worst crisis for democracy since the Civil War?I think we're in the same territory as the Great Depression and the Civil War. And those were moments when the United States was very lucky with its leaders. I mean, it's no coincidence that we tend to remember Lincoln and Roosevelt as the presidents that stand out. I would add the Great Depression to that because I think the Great Depression was also a moment when it could have all gone south. But yes, we're on historically dangerous territory.Obviously, when people refer to the Civil War, I mean, one response to that can be that that's, you know, hysterical, right? We don't appear to be on the verge of a violent conflict between two heavily armed sides. So how do you see that playing out? Where could this lead?First of all, I just want to say that, for the people who actually study the origins of civil wars, not just in the US, but as a class of events, America doesn't look good right now, with its high degree of polarization, with its alternative reality, with the celebration of violence — the example of Kyle Rittenhouse. Those social scientists who actually work on this topic — neutrally — see indicators in the United States, which suggests that we are on the brink of some kind of conflict.You're asking me about my scenario? My scenario is not very complicated. My scenario is that if, as is very possible, we install a president in January 2025 who has lost by a clear margin — let's say 10 million popular votes, and let's say 89 electoral votes — it's not very difficult in that situation for the loser to become the winner, thanks to just a few gimmicks. A few states just have to withhold their electoral votes; the House of Representatives then votes, according to state delegations; the Supreme Court then blesses the whole configuration; and then all of a sudden you have an installed president of the United States.I think by 2025 it's going be very hard for a lot of Americans to accept something so blatantly undemocratic, the more so since people will have known that this kind of plot was in the works for several years. So my scenario is at that point you would then have uncertainty as to who the President of the United States actually was — uncertainty among the population and also uncertainty within the institutions of government, both bureaucracy, the civil administration, but also unfortunately the armed parts of the government: the armed forces, the national guard.So that's the scenario. It's not very complicated. And unfortunately, it's the kind of thing that one has seen in other countries. And it's not really all that implausible.Speaking of other countries, what parallels can you draw, with the caveat that we know history doesn't repeat, exactly? What do you see as analogous to the situation that the United States finds itself in today?There are all kinds of comparisons. History doesn't repeat, but it does instruct. And it also instructs the people who are trying to undermine the rule of law. An easy, contemporary example is Hungary. Hungary is a place where, legalistic step by legalistic step, the spirit and reality of democracy and the rule of law were removed, such that Hungary, although it still has elections, is a country, which you can't really characterize as a functioning democracy. That is the road that we are on. And that is a model, not a historical one, but a contemporary one for a lot of Republicans right now.  Hungary's going to be more and more present — in fact, it's already been present, for example, on Tucker Carlson — as a kind of positive ideal for rule: an authoritarian regime, on the basis of a minority and kind of ritual elections.Going back a few years: Russia. Russia pioneered what's called the 'administrative resource.' That is, you have elections, but the elections are arranged in such a way that you know who's going to win. And you can't really point to exactly where things went wrong because they went wrong at a whole bunch of different levels at the same time. But nevertheless, your guy always wins. We're moving in that direction. We're moving towards the administrative resource.A more distant historical parallel: the failed democracies of the 1920s and 1930s. A similarity there is that, thanks to obstreperousness and complicated parliamentary rules, laws weren't passed and people all over Central and Eastern Europe began to think that parliament, or what we call Congress, is just not very important. It would be better to have a strong leader. Someone who at least reflects our mood. Someone who can get things done. As it becomes difficult for our Congress to pass laws, and as Republicans deliberately, of course, make it difficult for our Congress to pass laws, that kind of sentiment is also building in the US.Where do you trace the beginnings of guess what you would call the Republicans' weakening commitment to democracy? Is it the rise of Donald Trump and his personality call and his unique characteristics? Is he a product of a conservative movement that had been, for years, kind of slowly moving away from the idea of democracy as a value?You have to go way back in US history. There's always been a party which wanted to suppress the votes of all of Black people and call that democracy. For a long time, that was the Democratic Party. They switched, after civil rights in the sixties, and it became the Republican party. But this is kind of the original sin of American democracy — that we've always had a political party which wants to suppress votes and game the system.I think there are three recent developments, though. One is the surgical precision by which we now carry out gerrymandering, which means that the Republican Party, in particular, is playing only to the loudest voices in its own choir and is ever less representative of the general public. The second change is social media, within which I would include also foreign interventions in our social media. Social media is a bit like a gerrymandering of the brain. It allows voters to collect themselves into clusters and not have contact with anyone else. And that radicalizes things.And then the third is, I mean, give credit where credit is due: the personality cult of Donald Trump. The Republicans have not had a figure like this before, who is willing to call them out on their own hypocrisies, basically to expose them nakedly for the worst things that they do, as opposed to the values that some of them still would like to express in politics. They've never had a kind of cult of personality like this, where everything was out in the open. That creates a new kind of popularity. I think it'll be hard for Republicans to rally around, at this point, someone else to carry out a second coup, partly because I think no one has both the combination of a sheer indifference to ethics and the popularity that Mr. Trump has at this moment.It sounds like you're saying if in 2024 the Republican nominee were Ron DeSantis or Tucker Carlson, who seem to have the same political values — Tucker Carlson, as you mentioned, openly admires [Hungary's] Viktor Orbán — that the threat to democracy would be greatly diminished, which seems to reduce the threat to the person of Donald Trump.I wouldn't want to say it's a good situation to have a whole cast of characters who want to come to power under the cover of a big lie, using non-democratic means. That's still not a good situation that we have a DeSantis or a Carlson or a Josh Hawley or possibly a Ted Cruz — that we have a whole list of people who'd be willing to come to power that way. That's not a good situation. But, at the moment, it's Mr. Trump who captures the imagination of a lot of the American electorate. To carry out a coup of this kind, you've gotta get close enough to make it plausible. And you have to have somebody who's absolutely ruthless. And I think he remains, therefore, the best of the worst, or the worst of the worst, depending upon how you want to look at it.I want to ask you about President Biden. Obviously, he's given a couple of speeches recently that have explicitly labeled not just Donald Trump but the Republican Party as a threat to democracy. How do you grade his response to January 6th?It's a tough time right now for Mr. Biden in public opinion. I think he has been put in a very difficult situation — in a way, an historically unprecedented situation. With the exception, we just don't have presidents coming to power at a time when the existence of the republic has been challenged. And unlike Lincoln, Biden, can't begin from the position of some kind of clear victory. That is to say, the people who oppose American democracy are still out there in the field. Mr. Trump is in Florida doing his thing, every day. And there's no clear way to remove them from the picture.So he has to be president, and he has to do the normal things that a president does, which is try to get laws passed. And he has to, simultaneously, embody the values of our democratic Republic. It's a tough combination. Because he'd like to be able, I think, to stand above all of this. And then, after a year, it's become clear that he just can't. I think all of these attitudes have been correct. I just think it's unfortunate — going back to the comparison to FDR, unlike FDR he doesn't have big majorities in his first term. If he had big majorities, a lot of the stuff that we're talking about would be moot. We would have a bipartisan investigation. A lot more laws would've been passed.And above all, we'd already have electoral reform, which is the single most important thing: making it easier for Americans to vote would be good, not only for the whole system, it would also be good for the Republicans because it would force the Republican closer into the role of being a party which has to seek votes, has to care about public opinion, has to represent people, rather than the worst parts of a system. If Biden had a bigger majority, then all that stuff would've already happened. I think he's come to power at a really uninviting time. His first year has been, let's say a lot better than we think — it's been a lot better than the atmospherics would suggest.President Biden's approval rating, some polls suggest, is in the 30s and Democrats look like they're on the verge of losing their majority in the House and their 50-50 control of the Senate. Polls also suggest that a large majority of the public is concerned about the state of democracy. They do not particularly like Donald Trump. Yet they seem ready to return the Republican Party — a party that's committed to Donald Trump and his lies about the 2020 election — to power. How do you reconcile all that?I think there are several things going on there. One, just lots of people, regardless of party commitment, don't see the kind of legalistic threat building up to a second coup attempt or an installation of a president. In early 2020, and this is perfectly understandable, people don't necessarily see that the combination of voter suppression and vote subversion and a candidate who's going to break all the rules in a few years that this — that this combined with Republican victory in both the House and the Senate makes the end of democracy in the US, unfortunately, conceivable. People don't see that because it's a complicated institutional story and people would prefer to vote in 2022 on the stuff they're thinking about in 2022. That's understandable, but it's really unfortunate.The second thing, which is going on here, is that there's a kind of irony in our system, which is that Democrats tend to trust the very institutions that Republicans are corrupting. Republicans are the ones who, if you poll them, are more likely to say somebody's gonna fix the election. Democrats just aren't worried enough about this because they tend to believe the institutions are going to work, that everybody will come together, etcetera. And so I think it's hard in particular for Democrats to think, okay, it's 2022, we have to vote like hell because otherwise we're going to have Trumpland — in a worse version — two years down the line.And then the third thing that's going on is just people are sick of COVID. People are sick of living unusual lives. People are sick of all these restrictions on them, understandably. And people are going to vote their mood. That's just the way democracy is.The things that we're talking about, we should talk about and try to get them across, but there's also just this basic matter that people are unsatisfied with COVID. And Republicans know this and they're trying to keep COVID going as long as possible because they think it favors them. And they're probably right. People want to go back to normal life and until they go back to normal life, it's hard to have a normal election where the kinds of things we're talking about will get to the surface.Let's revisit this scenario where Trump and the Republican Party have claimed victory and have had some legal cloaking of this claim that has installed the loser of the election in power. You talked about competing allegiances among, perhaps, different branches of the military. It would be a very unclear situation of who, legally, different institutions in the United States should be pledging allegiance to. How do you see that playing out a year later? If Trump is in there as a minority, loser-president, seen as illegitimate by 55% of the American public, what's that look like for him and for the rest of the country?I mean, look, god forbid, I don't want all this to happen. And I think there's time to prevent it from happening. But I don't think the scenario that you're talking about is the one that we have to worry about. I think the scenario we have to worry about is that there isn't a US at that point. The kind of conflict that begins January 20, 2025, isn't the kind of conflict that ends with one president being just unpopular, or even seen as illegitimate. It's a kind of conflict that ends with governors seeking some kind of safe haven for their states. It's a kind of conflict that ends with Americans moving from one part of the country to another to be with people with whom they feel safer. It's the kind of conflict that ends with some kind of basic political reconstruction, where the US as we know it doesn't have to exist.That's the thing I think that people have the hardest time getting through their minds. Like the US, as we know it, doesn't have to exist. It's built upon these constitutional foundations, which are very flawed and which are now being intensely abused. If those constitutional foundations lead to something which is broadly unacceptable, we're going to be in unknown territory, which can go to unknown places. But it's very often the thing that you take for granted the most, like the existence of your own country, which is the thing that you should be paying the most attention to.That's a lesson which the Soviets learned in 1991, right? It's 30 years since the Soviet Union came to an end. We can look back at that and say, 'aha, it came to an end because it was a flawed communist system.' And sure, that's true. But we didn't expect it to come to an end, and they didn't expect it to come to an end. The fundamental lesson there is that big, powerful systems that you don't think can come to an end can come to an end if you don't get a hold of the internal problems — what they used to call the internal contradictions. We have some internal contradictions. We say we're a democracy, but we're becoming ever less so in practice. And if we don't get a hold of that, the system as we know it may not continue at all.That's what I'm worried about, sincerely. And I like to think — maybe I'm naive — that if folks on both sides of the aisle, Republicans, Democrats, and others, could imagine themselves into a 2025 where the existence of the country is actually in doubt, if we could think ourselves forward to that, and then think back to where we are now, it might moderate things that we're doing.My basic feeling is that the Republicans are right to think they can game their way to power. But by the time they game their way to power, it's not clear that there will be anything to have power over. And I don't think they've thought their way through to the end of that. And I think they need to, and everyone needs to, so that we can, you know, so that we can operate in such a way where at least our republic is still around a few years from now,To clarify that: you're thinking less that scenario where it's a shooting war between the army and the navy or competing factions in the military, and more like what we've kind of seen with blue states and climate change, for example, under Trump, where they kind of announce we have our own foreign policy, and we're actually going to band together and pursue our own policies. Speak directly to us, not Washington, DC. That's not America.I think some combination of that is what we're talking about. The more you get into details, the more you're going to be wrong, because the details won't be exactly what we think. In that scenario, I think Trump is president of something, but I'm not sure he governs from Washington, DC, and I'm not sure the thing that he runs is called the United States of America.In that scenario, he and the Supreme Court get to get to run something, but I'm not sure it's most of the country at that point. The military, you know, is subordinate to civilian command, which is a proud tradition that we have, but it's not clear who the civilian commander actually is, that's a real problem. And if there are conflicting orders coming down, or if different commanders within our armed forces are giving conflicting orders, then you have a situation where either you're going to have a literal civil war or people are going say, 'Hey, the way to prevent violent conflict is to have some kind of peaceful separation along some kind of lines.' That will suggest itself. The model that I have in mind now is Yugoslavia.It all seems wild and science-fictiony at this point, but if you reason your way through to 2025 with an installed president, and you don't see some scenario like this, you must be thinking, 'Okay, Trump can get installed and nobody will care.' And I just don't think that's plausible. I just don't think the combination of Trump himself — who's wildly unpopular along among a lot of people and who has already effectively announced that his policies next time around will be still more radical — and installation will be accepted by Americans and American institutions. That's a step that I can't make mentally. I don't see how installing Trump won't lead to a major challenge to the existence of the republic.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 14th, 2022

America"s Attila The Hun Moment

America's Attila The Hun Moment Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com, In the year 435 AD, after several years of endless menacing from the nomadic Hun tribe, the Roman Empire was ready to make a deal. The Huns were fairly new on the continent; they had originally come from central Eurasia as recently as 370 AD. Yet in the span of a few short decades, they quickly established themselves as the dominant tribe in Eastern Europe, conquering vast territories and threatening the Roman Empire. The Empire was a pitiful shell of its former self at that point. So Emperor Theodosius II sent one of his generals to meet with the Huns in the city of Margus, now called Pozarevac in modern day Serbia. The leader of the Huns was a short, flat-nosed warrior in his mid 30s named Attila who famously remained on his horse during the entire meeting with the Roman envoys. Attila was cunning, and he knew the Romans were weak. So he intentionally made ridiculous demands. Among them, he told the Romans he would leave them alone if they paid a tribute of 700 pounds of gold per year (worth about $13.3 million in today’s money). This was a significant sum back then, especially given that the Roman Empire had lost its most productive gold mines in Hispania to the Visigoths and Vandals in the early 400s. (The region of Andalusia in modern Spain is actually named for the Vandal tribe, derived from the Arabic word al-Andalus.) In addition to the money, though, Attila also demanded that the Romans could not enter into any alliance with any other tribes if the Huns deemed them to be a threat. In making this demand, Attila was essentially giving himself control of Rome’s foreign policy and military affairs. But the Romans were not in a position to negotiate. They were weak… and terrified of what Attila might do. So they agreed. And Roman Consul Flavius Plinta signed the Treaty of Margus with Attila the Hun in 435 AD. The peace didn’t last long. In 440, just five years later, Attila massed his forces on the Roman border once again and declared that the Empire had violated the Treaty of Margus. Emperor Theodosius initially refused Attila’s demands, believing he could defeat the Huns. But at the same time he was busy fighting off other barbarian tribes, including the Vandals that had just conquered Roman provinces in North Africa, which happened to be the Empire’s main source of food. Theodosius put up a fight, and he tried to negotiate. But after a few years he capitulated to Attila once again, and signed a new treaty in 443 AD. This new treaty was nothing short of absurd. Attila required that his annual tribute– already a debilitating cost for Rome– be TRIPLED to 2,100 pounds of gold per year. Plus he demanded an astonishing 6,000 pounds of gold, up front. That was an unimaginable sum of money, and a humiliating embarrassment for the empire. Theodosius and his bureaucrats tried to save face by hiding the payments, or having the imperial accountants write off the money as “services rendered” by the Huns. But everyone knew the truth– Rome was a shattered shell of its former greatness, and only signed the deal because they were too weak to stand up to Attila. This is a simple point that doesn’t require a PhD in International Relations: dominant superpowers don’t need to grovel to their enemies. Dominant superpowers don’t get humiliated in front of the world. And most importantly, when you’re forced to negotiate and make huge concessions– especially military concessions– you cease being a dominant superpower. We’ve seen this now several times with the United States. Some have been major events, like the disgraceful, shameful debacle in Afghanistan several months ago. (And similar to Theodosius, Hunter Biden’s dad acted like the humiliation in Afghanistan didn’t actually happen; his people even tried to dress it up as a logistical success!) Other incidents have been more subtle, like the US submitting to China’s demands and reaffirming America’s commitment to the “one China” policy, i.e. pretending that Taiwan doesn’t exist. (It’s also noteworthy that Hunter Biden’s dad was the one who was inconvenienced and stayed up until midnight talking to his Chinese counterpart during a recent call, due to the time zone differences between Washington and Beijing…) Earlier this year, Hunter Biden’s dad also referred to the Chinese government’s genocide against its Uighur ethnic minority as “different cultural norms”. These are all clear signs of waning dominance. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t leave behind $83 billion worth of military equipment to its sworn enemy in Afghanistan. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t refer to genocide as “different cultural norms”. The world’s premier superpower doesn’t sit up at midnight, smiling politely to the people who have routinely cyberattacked some of your most critical national security infrastructure. But if this point weren’t already completely obvious, just look at what’s happening with Russia right now. Officials from the US State Department are meeting with Russian representatives this week to request that Russia withdraw its troops from the Ukrainian border. Personally I think the whole thing is a joke; from a military tactics perspective, if Putin were going to invade Ukraine, he most likely would have done it already. The fact that he still has troops massed on the border is nothing more than an attempt to make the West look weak. And job well done. While they’re not quite as ridiculous as the Huns… yet… Russia is making all sorts of wild demands, many of which the US has already indicated it is willing to accept. One of those demands is that the US limit joint military exercises with its European allies. And this one actually is quite similar to what Attila required of the Roman Empire in 435 AD. And just like Rome, once you start groveling to your adversary and allowing them to dictate your foreign policy and military affairs, it seems clear that you’re no longer the dominant superpower. *  *  * We think gold could DOUBLE and silver could increase by up to 5 TIMES in the next few years. That's why we published a new, 50-page long Ultimate Guide on Gold & Silver that you can download here. Tyler Durden Fri, 01/14/2022 - 13:50.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 14th, 2022

Is The Real Estate Market Ready For Tech?

Switching Lanes Traditionally, asset managers and property agents offer advice based on industrial expertise, yet the winds have begun to change. We now live in the digital age where technology and data have become necessary components for thriving in the competitive market.  Unfortunately, technological adoption poses a significant challenge for... The post Is The Real Estate Market Ready For Tech? appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Switching Lanes Traditionally, asset managers and property agents offer advice based on industrial expertise, yet the winds have begun to change. We now live in the digital age where technology and data have become necessary components for thriving in the competitive market.  Unfortunately, technological adoption poses a significant challenge for many real estate firms, putting them at a severe disadvantage. Confident and successful portfolio management goes beyond placing a finger on the pulse of market movements.  The modern asset manager needs to recognize the essential nature of data and convey exclusive information to the most valuable investors. It is a necessary trust-building exercise where technology serves as the prized vehicle.  The big question remains: is the real estate market ready for tech?  Bar Mor, CEO and Co-Founder of Agora Why Some Firms Are Out of Touch Historically, firms faced the issue of tech adoption for one primary reason—prioritization. Asset managers handle tons of paperwork (though now mostly digitized) and manual tasks that occupy most of their professional lives.  Additionally, as with many other industries, real estate professionals have grown comfortable with their default workflow. More traditional firm managers might sell themselves short by declaring that AI cannot match their team’s knowledge and expertise.  It becomes almost disruptive to initiate a digital/tech transition that requires reorganizing tasks into new systems. Some firms would rather wait it out before a given tech becomes an industry standard. Yet, a reactive business strategy restricts portfolio optimization and compromises investors’ trust.  With some research, it is easy for savvy investors to discover a firm’s shortsightedness and jump ship to a better-equipped competitor. Therefore, the best way forward is to implement a tech-driven system that empowers real estate investments.  How Tech Changes the Real Estate Landscape Fundraising is one of the biggest challenges in the real estate industry: getting from point to point and chasing investors for a close is a familiar notion. The disruptions from the earlier pandemic phases proved that asset managers needed to take their operations online with greater efficiency.   Modern firms can benefit from maintaining client relations on a reliable investor management platform. Specifically, the program should offer automated capabilities that guide managers through various stages of the investor pipeline.  Through a tech-assisted platform, professionals can spend less time sifting through investor portfolios and avoid subscription lapses.   Detailed Reporting and Assessments  While investors usually trust that asset managers have their best interest at heart, it is necessary to present the relevant data for a fact check. Well-documented reports should outline the latest local, national and market insights to provide investors with a comprehensive breakdown of potential risks and returns.  Aside from optimized report generation, firms need a reliable means of assessing investor response and behavior to tailor the best recommendations. Therefore, it is integral to ask questions such as:  What are the priorities of my investors?How can I present relevant information most clearly? Are investors engaged with the reports? A real estate CRM makes it possible to address and resolve these questions, providing investors with the confidence they need to maintain and expand a portfolio.   Optimized Communication  Real estate asset management is ultimately a people-first process. A conventional approach to investor communications involved juggling various contact points resulting in undelivered emails and poor data management.  Advanced technology fixes the problem by enabling asset managers to communicate with investors through a one-source channel. Consider it as firms running their discussions from an online HQ, where they can quickly blast emails, retrieve investor details and enhance investor-firm relationships.  The Future of Real Estate Asset Management  The real estate market remains one of the most popular and practical investment avenues. Research projects a market growth from $2687.35 billion in 2020 to $2774.45 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.2 percent. For the most part, there is a constant opportunity to accrue a consistent income—with the right level of research and understanding of the market. That is where an asset management firm comes in to tabulate the risks and opportunities for investors, to help them secure the best outcomes through the most volatile scenarios.  While real estate professionals may overlook the importance of tech, now is the time to be ready for it. 78 percent of respondents in the joint survey, Emerging Trends in Real Estate Europe, believe that there will be an uptrend in tech use within the next three to five years.  Author: Bar Mor is the CEO and Co-Founder of Agora, a fintech/SaaS company that has developed advanced real estate investment management software. They help companies raise and preserve more capital by automating their back-office operations, increase their investors’ satisfaction, and provide them with advanced tools. Bar is 27 years-old and lives in Tel Aviv. He was recently recognized as an Emerging Real Estate Leader.   The post Is The Real Estate Market Ready For Tech? appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyJan 13th, 2022

The Progressive Logic Of "Build Back Better"... And Its Dangers

The Progressive Logic Of 'Build Back Better'... And Its Dangers Authored by Charles Lipson via RealClearPolitics.com, “Build Back Better” is far more consequential than the earlier COVID relief packages. That’s why Democrats are so angry at those who blocked its passage and so determined to push it forward. Why is BBB more important than the COVID legislation? Because pandemic relief was essentially a massive stimulus program, with the usual smorgasbord of treats for favored groups, but little more than that. Although BBB is also a massive stimulus, its real importance lies in the permanent entitlement programs it would launch, everything from universal pre-K and Medicare expansion to mandated paid leave from private employers. Those are major building blocks in the Democrats’ long-term plan to construct a full-fledged social-welfare state along European lines. Achieving that ambitious, transformational goal — while making irreversible changes in how America governs itself — is why the party is fighting so hard and why the left is so furious about the Senate stalemate, personified by West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, a Democrat who refuses to go along, either to pass the bill or eliminate the filibuster to pass President Biden’s non-budget initiatives. Enacting these massive, new entitlements is one reason the House bill is rightly called “progressive.” The second, equally important reason is that nearly all Democrats, except Manchin and his Arizona colleague Kyrsten Sinema, are willing to break the Senate’s longstanding rules and procedures to achieve their desired outcome. This determination to override traditional governing procedures and the institutions that embody them has been a hallmark of capital-P Progressivism since Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette came roaring into the Senate in 1906. By 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was running for president as the Progressive Party nominee. Woodrow Wilson, the man who gained the Oval Office by TR’s third-party candidacy, had embraced progressivism while a professor (and later college president) at Princeton. Wilson and progressive public intellectuals such as Herbert Croly explained their rationale far more candidly than their political descendants do. The Constitution, they rightly noted, encumbered our national government with its enumerated powers, decentralized federalism, multiple veto points for any new policies, and strong protections for private property, contracts, and minority-party rights. Progressives argued that those restraints may have been fine for the 18th and 19th centuries but not for the 20th, which needed a far more active state. Although 21st century progressives are uncomfortably standing in Woodrow Wilson’s shadow on account of his racial policies, their basic contention is the same: The “old” Constitution is outmoded. Its restrictions stand in the way of a more powerful, activist, centralized government. Creating that government is what progressive legal scholars mean when they advocate for  a “living Constitution,” which achieves desired outcomes by ignoring restraints in the “old Constitution.” They have largely succeeded. Progressives have gradually remodeled America’s government, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. During FDR’s first term in the White House, the Supreme Court ruled that most of those programs violated the Constitution. Roosevelt found that intolerable and on the heels of his 1936 landslide reelection, threatened to expand the court and pack it with pro-New Deal justices. The blowback caused FDR to retreat, but the mere threat helped achieved his desired results. Sitting justices began approving his programs or retiring, replaced by FDR’s nominees. It proved to be an inflection point for the high court and for American government. Since then, the Supreme Court has successively loosened the old Constitutional restrictions and approved major accretions to centralized power, much of it located in Washington bureaucracies. Whether the current court, with its conservative majority, will continue to do so is one reason nominations are now so hotly contested. The fight is over fundamental issues. Washington’s centralized power, substantially engorged by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, is how America is governed today, less by statutes and more by executive diktat and bureaucratic rules, which are enforced and adjudicated mainly by the very agencies that promulgate them. Congress now sees its role mainly as overseeing those agencies. It’s not very good at it. This centralized administrative state with its expansive powers is why Washington bureaucracies presume they have the authority to require private businesses with over 100 employees to fire workers who refuse COVID vaccinations. It is why the Department of Education can demand private universities comply with a vast range of federal rules and regulations if any of their students or faculty receive federal loans or grants (as all universities do, except Hillsdale). It is why Washington bureaucrats can tell K-12 schools what kind of lunches to serve, a task once handled solely by local school boards and seized from them without any congressional debate. Washington money means Washington rules. Those regulations go well beyond statutory laws or constitutional protections against discrimination. They have suppressed the Constitution’s basic federal structure and gradually erased the line between “public” and “private” enterprises. This web of centralized control and bureaucratic rules has “progressively” usurped control over most aspects of American public and private life, making civil society subordinate to the administrative state. Expanding this centralized state and endowing it with still more cradle-to-grave programs is the main aim of Build Back Better. Achieving that won’t be easy because the Democrats didn’t run on that platform and didn’t win enough votes to enact it. Joe Biden won mainly because he wasn’t Donald Trump, because he promised to return the country to normality after four turbulent years and outlined a vague center-left agenda to do it. Those promises went out the window after Biden took office. The window opened wider when Democrats captured Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections. Those victories in early January cost the Republicans control of the upper chamber. Since Democrats already controlled the House, just barely, they now held both branches of Congress, as well as the White House. Only the Supreme Court was beyond their grasp, and they are threatening to take it, too, by going where even Franklin Roosevelt dared not tread. Nonetheless, the Georgia victories gave the incoming Biden team an opportunity, and they seized it. They opted, in their words, to “fundamentally transform America.” What they failed to acknowledge was that Biden was in a far weaker position to do that than Roosevelt in 1936 or Johnson in 1964. Those presidents carried overwhelming majorities into the White House and Congress. Biden did not. His position was weak at the beginning and has gone downhill ever since. It’s not surprising, then, that the White House has such trouble passing Build Back Better. What’s seems odd is that Biden has refused to change course. He is still hellbent on passing an ambitious, left-wing agenda. The budgetary elements can pass the Senate with a simple majority under budget reconciliation rules. But that requires the support of all 50 Democrats since Republicans are united in opposition. Vice President Kamala Harris could then break the 50-50 tie and pass the gargantuan bill. But Joe Manchin has proved an immovable object, objecting to the legislation’s accounting tricks, the massive deficit it creates, and the fuel it pours onto an overheated economy. Since Biden won less than 30% of the West Virginia vote while losing every single county in the state, he has no leverage over the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. Budget reconciliation rules don’t cover all of Biden’s proposals. These additional proposals could be blocked by filibuster, unless the filibuster itself were eliminated. That could be done by a simple majority vote, but it would fundamentally change the Senate by ending its traditional protections for the minority party. That’s why then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused President Trump’s demand to do it. That’s why Democratic Sens. Manchin and Sinema refuse to change the rules now, despite pressure from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The debate over the filibuster rule has received a lot of attention, and properly so. So has the flip-flop by Democrats who stoutly defended the rule when they were in the minority. But the real issue here is not Schumer’s blatant hypocrisy. The deeper issue — one that has largely been missed — is how the effort to overturn Senate rules and pass BBB fits so neatly into the larger sweep of progressive politics. That’s not just because Democrats want to permanently expand the social-welfare state and “fundamentally transform America.” It’s also because they are willing to smash venerable institutions and procedural safeguards to do it. The same logic applies to their effort to nationalize election laws. That, too, is probably doomed because of the filibuster. If it did pass, it’s also likely that the Supreme Court would strike it down because the Constitution specifically delegates election lawmaking to state legislatures, with national courts stepping in only to protect individual rights. The latest initiatives by Biden, Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi may fail, but they won’t be the progressives’ last hurrah. They’ve been winning for over eight decades and came within two Senate votes of winning this time. They’ll keep trying until voters send them a clear message that the administrative state is already too big, too intrusive, too far removed from control by citizens’ elected representatives. Its continued growth and unchecked power threatens our oldest institutions, our freedoms, and our liberty under law. The voters’ message must be unambiguous: Stop trying to fundamentally transform America. We never asked for it, we don’t want it, and we never gave you permission. Tyler Durden Wed, 01/12/2022 - 19:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 13th, 2022

The Cloud Kitchen Industry: Revolutionizing Traditional Restaurants for Evolving, New-Age Consumer Needs

Businesses, particularly dine-in restaurants, are struggling worldwide, and this now seems to be the new normal. It is a fact that unprecedented challenges trigger innovation; cloud kitchens are one such innovation, revolutionizing how traditional kitchens adapt to meet the increasing demand for online food delivery. In the current situation, when people are hesitant to visit […] Businesses, particularly dine-in restaurants, are struggling worldwide, and this now seems to be the new normal. It is a fact that unprecedented challenges trigger innovation; cloud kitchens are one such innovation, revolutionizing how traditional kitchens adapt to meet the increasing demand for online food delivery. In the current situation, when people are hesitant to visit crowded restaurants to enjoy their favorite meals, your stagnant business could not just survive but scale new heights with cloud kitchen technology. .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 Ray Dalio Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Ray Dalio 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); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more What Is A Cloud Kitchen? The world is heading towards virtualization faster than expected; blame the pandemic or simple operational inefficiency, but the demand for door-step food is at an all-time high and is expected to grow even further. Whether you call it a cloud kitchen, ghost kitchen, shared kitchen, or virtual kitchen, it is where foods are prepared for delivery and take-out only. Food delivery isn’t new, as the pizza industry has relied on it for years. However, thanks to the technological advancements made in recent years, and consumer habits, anyone with a small space or even no space can start a new food delivery business or transform an existing restaurant into a roaring success with a cloud kitchen. Since cost is a big challenge, cloud kitchens allow you to start, scale, and explore innovative concepts and new markets without the stress of the hefty cost involved in building new kitchens. It is all about improving operational efficiency by optimizing resources, ordering, inventory, and delivery and minimizing additional costs. One option is to use a shared cloud kitchen, having your staff prepare and produce food for delivery using space and equipment owned by a third party. Here you will be sharing a common area with other similar businesses, so you save money to build dedicated kitchens in specific target markets. Alternatively, you could opt for a dedicated-space cloud kitchen - a rented space used exclusively by your brand. This way, you have the liberty of using the area to experiment with different concepts. In addition, if you want to test some new ideas, you can use already established kitchens without the need for heavy investment in a new kitchen. Cloud Kitchen vs. Ghost kitchens Virtualization is the key here, so call it a ghost, virtual, commissary, dark, or cloud kitchen. Ultimately it is a kitchen conceptualized for delivery or take-away only, with no dine-in food. Instead, you take orders online or via call and prepare food in a cloud kitchen to be delivered to the doorstep quickly. Both offer you the benefits of space optimization, and you remain focused on delivering quality food and exploring new markets. Technically, cloud kitchens give you a kitchen-as-service for rent, complete with all necessary services, including delivery solutions. As a result, you can launch a new delivery-only digital restaurant or expand your existing business with minimal risk and low capital. How Does A Cloud Kitchen Operate? “In simple words, you don’t invest your money in building a state-of-art fully equipped kitchen, but use a fully maintained kitchen to prepare foods and deliver at doorsteps. All your customers come via your website or from food-booking and delivery apps,” says Per Tannenberg, founder of Nivito, who has supplied kitchen equipment to various cloud kitchens. Thanks to the tech advancements, your operational processes can be streamlined for easy monitoring and management. You can focus solely on building and positioning your digital restaurant brand, exploring new markets, and experimenting with new concepts without the stress of additional rent and labor costs. In addition, cloud kitchens allow you to maximize orders at a minimum price. In recent years, the success of cloud kitchen enterprises suggests that restaurants are successfully leveraging the potential and expanding their businesses. You are free of the burden of investing money in creating an exclusive dine-in experience to attract and retain customers. In addition, unlike traditional restaurants, your margin improves significantly as you save money that goes to waste in high rental costs, maintenance, and waitstaff. Cloud kitchens work on the concept of “economy of scale.” Hence, these ghost kitchens are state-of-the-art, full-service facilities with complete operational control using the most up-to-date technology, which is difficult for small and medium-sized restaurants. As a result, you get access to a world-class, highly advanced kitchen with highly trained staff to prepare quality foods and, most importantly, a highly-efficient food delivery system. Advantages Of Cloud Kitchens Using a cloud kitchen for your digital-only restaurant brand gives you the advantage of speed and scale at a  low cost. With minimal paperwork and capital, you can start your food delivery business almost instantly. In addition, if you want to test your concept, a cloud kitchen could be the best possible option before launching your full-fledged brick-and-mortar restaurant in the location of your choice. Some of the benefits that cloud kitchens offer are: Low Capital: Restaurants are capital-intensive businesses, especially when launching in a busy market. You can avoid the exorbitantly high rent of an active marketplace using a cloud or ghost kitchen. Also, unlike traditional businesses, delivery-only digital restaurants don’t need to worry about the costs involved in maintenance, staffing, and creating a pleasant dine-in experience. Highly Efficient: Besides cost-efficiency, cloud kitchens also offer you the benefit of operational efficiency, as you are using a highly-advanced, custom-built, state-of-the-art kitchen to prepare and deliver quality foods. Depending on your business model, you can use a cloud kitchen to operate several brands and menus from a single location. Flexible Menu: The digital identity of your restaurant brand gives you the freedom to change the menu according to demand without any additional cost. You know your demand cycle, be it daily or seasonal, so you change the menu and ingredients and make them more cost-friendly for the target market. Freedom to Experiment: No matter what, people’s tastes change, so you need to keep on experimenting without affecting your brand’s value. Cloud kitchens allow you to experiment with new concepts at a very minimal cost and make changes on the go. Smooth Customer Relationship: Unlike traditional restaurants, cloud restaurants are fully digitalized to capture all relevant data from start to finish. So, you get high-quality customer data with feedback, allowing you to improve food quality accordingly. You can further optimize the process and staffing based on consumer data insights to make business more profitable. Easy Marketing: You can leverage the potential of highly user-friendly third-party food delivery apps, who invest heavily in attracting customers. These apps offer you several features to get more exposure with several deals. You don’t have to waste money in blind marketing; invest wisely to reach the need-driven target audience. Disadvantages Of Cloud Kitchens Easy access to need-driven customers and maximum exposure to food-delivery apps is a great advantage. Still, competition can be fierce as several players vie to acquire the same customer. So, of course, you have to be intelligent and efficient in building a brand of trust to remain ahead of the competition both in terms of quality and efficiency. The extraordinary dine-in ambiance of a walk-in establishment might be a tempting model, and it will remain an excellent option for many, at least on weekends. But when it comes to business and profitability, cloud kitchens give you the cost advantage to beat even the best-decorated local restaurants. Modern food delivery is all about speed. Cloud kitchens located away from your target market could be a challenge if your target market is highly diversified and spread out. You might be preparing the finest food using the finest ingredients, but when it goes out for delivery, anything can happen; there’s no telling how the food quality might be affected on the journey, so your reputation is at stake if delivery isn’t perfect. Packaging your food is a big challenge, as sub-standard materials fail to offer the temperature maintenance required for quality food delivery. A slight delay and your customer will be flooding social media with feedback, and you won’t want your prospective customers to see that. Cloud Kitchen In Here, But How To Choose Right Technology Your digital restaurant brand will get orders from digital platforms, so your cloud kitchen technology must offer smooth streamlining of orders, payment processing, and seamless kitchen management. Cloud kitchens cut your rent and labor costs, but a highly-effective, integrated point-of-sale system is of the utmost importance. Your cloud kitchen must offer easy capture and display of customer data and any other relevant data so that you can use them effectively to improve profitability. The choice depends on the stage and goal of your business, so you should check suitability and options to scale. Speed is the key; the interface should be straightforward so that kitchen staff, delivery boy, and inventory manager can execute tasks effortlessly without a glitch. In just a week or so, you will notice a significant improvement in operational efficiency, reflected in your bottom line. Updated on Jan 6, 2022, 1:42 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: valuewalkJan 6th, 2022

5 Bank Stocks to Buy as Fed Signals Faster Rate Hikes

The Fed is signaling a more hawkish stance, leading to a faster-than-expected hike in interest rates. Banks including Comerica (CMA), Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB), Wells Fargo (WFC), East West Bancorp (EWBC) and Western Alliance (WAL) are set to gain. Yesterday, the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting were released. It showed that the Fed officials are highly concerned about the “elevated levels of inflation” and the tighter job market. The officials are ready to get more aggressive in dialing back the ultra-easy monetary policies, which were introduced in March 2020 to support the U.S. economy from COVID-19 related slowdown.This will mean a faster-than-previously expected increase in interest rates and a reduction in the balance sheet size “soon after beginning to raise the federal funds rate.” Per the CME FedWatch Tool data, at present, there is almost 70% chance that the Fed will raise the interest rates by 25 basis points in March.Thriving in a higher interest rate environment, banks are likely to remain in the spotlight. Hence, we have chosen — Comerica Incorporated CMA, Fifth Third Bancorp FITB, Wells Fargo & Company WFC, East West Bancorp, Inc. EWBC and Western Alliance Bancorporation WAL — as these will benefit from the Fed’s hawkish stance.Following the indications that the Fed will be reducing its presence in the long-term bond markets the 10-year Treasury yield rose to its highest level since April 2021. The central bank has approximately $8.8 trillion on its balance sheet. The majority of this was amassed during the pandemic in order to keep financial markets stable and hold down long-term interest rates.Additionally, prospects of a hike in rates drove yields on the 2-year Treasury note, which are extremely sensitive to Fed policy changes, jumped to its highest level since March 2020.These factors, along with the Fed’s plan to fast-track the speed of taper its bond purchases, clearly indicate that the U.S. economy is out of the woods from the pandemic era slowdown and is expected to continue expanding this year and beyond despite several concerns like supply-chain bottlenecks and emergence of new COVID-19 variants.Here’s How Banks Stand to GainSince March 2020, banks have been witnessing contraction of the net interest margin (NIM) due to the Fed's accommodative monetary policy and near-zero interest rates. So, the faster-than-expected interest rate hikes will come as a breather for banks and improve margins and net interest income (NII), which constitutes a major portion of the revenues.Also, the steepening of the yield curve (the difference between short and long-term interest rates), robust economic growth and a gradual rise in loan demand are set to drive margins and NII. Banks are taking initiatives to restructure operations to diversify their footprint and revenue base. Efforts to focus more on non-interest income are likely to bolster banks’ top-line growth.Our Top Five PicksBased on these favorable developments, investing in bank stocks will be highly profitable, going forward. Short-listed banks have witnessed positive earnings estimate revision of at least 1% for 2022 over the past four weeks. Also, these banks have rallied more than 50% last year.All five banks have a market cap of not less than $10 billion and currently carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here. Performance in 2021 Image Source: Zacks Investment ResearchHeadquartered in Dallas, TX, Comerica delivers banking and financial services in three primary geographic markets — Texas, California, Michigan, Arizona and Florida. The company, which has a market cap of $12.1 billion, has operations in numerous other U.S. states, and Canada and Mexico.Comerica’s focus on improving operational efficiency led to the introduction of GEAR Up initiatives in mid-2016. Since the implementation of this initiative, the bank has consolidated several banking centers, significantly lowered retirement plan expenses and retrenched a number of employees. These efforts have resulted in an improvement in efficiency ratio and return on equity over time.Comerica remains focused on revenue growth strategy. With gradually recovering loan commitments, robust loan pipeline and solid economic growth, the company’s loans balance is expected to continue improving, thereby stoking NII growth.A manageable debt level, investment-grade long-term credit ratings, solid balance sheet position and impressive credit quality are other catalysts supporting Comerica. Additionally, the company’s capital deployment activities are encouraging and sustainable.In 2021, CMA gained 55.7%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2022 earnings has been revised upward by 6.1% over the past 30 days.With assets of $208 billion, Cincinnati, HO-based Fifth Third Bancorp has 1,110 full-service banking centers across 11 states throughout the Midwestern and Southeastern regions of the United States.FITB’s efforts to expand the non-interest income base over the years with the help of strategic partnerships and acquisitions in different industries such as healthcare (including the acquisition of Coker Capital in 2020 and buyout of Provide in August 2021) will support commercial verticals and result in revenue growth, expense savings as well as operational excellence.The company remains focused on branch optimization to enhance its presence in high-growth markets. Fifth Third Bancorp is re-allocating its branch network to enhance its footprint in the Southeast and lower its presence in the Midwest. In sync with this, nearly 25 branch openings are targeted annually through 2025. It is also on track to close 42 additional branches in the first quarter of 2022 (primarily in the Midwest).A strong balance sheet and investment-grade long-term credit ratings from leading credit rating agencies are likely to continue supporting the company’s growth. Also, Fifth Third Bancorp’s sustainable capital deployments reflect a solid liquidity position and will keep enhancing shareholder value.Shares of FITB, which has a market cap of $31.8 billion, rose 58% in 2021. The company’s earnings estimates for 2022 have moved north by 1.2% over the past four weeks.San Francisco-based Wells Fargo is one of the largest financial services companies in the United States. WFC had more than $1.9 trillion in assets and $1.4 trillion in deposits as of Sep 30, 2021.Wells Fargo continues to build on its deposits base, which witnessed a five-year CAGR of (2016-2020) of nearly 2%, with the trend sustaining in the first nine months of 2021. With the solid economic recovery and resumption of business activities, the deposit balance is likely to keep improving. This is likely to support WFC’s liquidity position.Wells Fargo’s prudent expense management initiatives support its financials. The company is focused on reducing its expense base by streamlining organizational structure, closing branches and reducing headcount by optimizing operations and other back-office teams.Normalizing credit quality, healthy balance sheet and investment-grade credit ratings are other tailwinds, which will continue supporting Wells Fargo’s financials. The company’s impressive capital deployment plans are sustainable, driven by earnings strength.The stock, which has a market cap of $214.7 billion, increased 59% last year. Over the past month, WFC’s 2022 earnings estimates have been revised upward by 4.7%.Headquartered in Pasadena, CA, East West Bancorp serves as a financial bridge between the United States and China by providing various consumer and commercial banking services to the Asian-American community. EWBC operates through more than 120 locations in the United States and China.East West Bancorp is focused on its organic growth strategy. Though the company’s NII, which is the primary source of its revenues, declined in 2020, the same witnessed a CAGR of 5.1% over the last four years (2017-2020). The momentum persisted in the first nine months of 2021 as well. Improvement in loans and deposits is expected to further support NII.East West Bancorp’s capital deployment activities seem impressive. In January 2021, the company hiked its quarterly dividend by 20% to 33 cents per share. EWBC has a share repurchase plan in place. As of Sep 30, 2021, $354.1 million worth of shares were left to be repurchased under the buyback plan.Growth in loans and deposits and a strong balance sheet position and investment-grade credit ratings are likely to keep supporting East West Bancorp’s financials. The stock, with a market cap of $11.7 billion, jumped 55.1% in 2021. EWBC’s earnings estimates for 2022 have moved upward by 1% over the past 30 days.Western Alliance, based in Phoenix, AZ, provides a wide range of deposit, lending, treasury management, international banking and online banking products and services. As of Sep 30, 2021, WAL had $48.3 billion in total assets, $34.6 billion in net loans held for investments and $45.3 million in total deposits.Western Alliance has been witnessing a steady improvement in revenues. Over the last five years, the top line recorded a CAGR of 15.3%, with the uptrend continuing in the first three quarters of 2021. Rising loans and deposit balance, efforts to strengthen fee income sources and an improving economy will drive revenues in the upcoming quarters.The company has been growing through strategic buyouts too. In April, Western Alliance closed the previously announced acquisition of Aris Mortgage Holding Company, LLC for nearly $1.22 billion. The acquisition complements the company’s national commercial businesses and expands its mortgage-related offerings. This diversifies WAL’s revenue mix by expanding sources of non-interest income.WAL’s capital deployment activities seem impressive. During the third quarter of 2021, the company hiked its quarterly dividend by 40% to 35 cents per share. This was the first dividend hike by the company since it started paying the same from August 2019.The stock, which has a market cap of $12.1 billion, surged 79.6% last year. WAL’s 2022 earnings estimates have been revised upward by 1.8% over the past month. Zacks Top 10 Stocks for 2022 In addition to the investment ideas discussed above, would you like to know about our 10 top picks for the entirety of 2022? From inception in 2012 through November, the Zacks Top 10 Stocks gained an impressive +962.5% versus the S&P 500’s +329.4%. Now our Director of Research is combing through 4,000 companies covered by the Zacks Rank to handpick the best 10 tickers to buy and hold. Don’t miss your chance to get in on these stocks when they’re released on January 3.Be First to New Top 10 Stocks >>Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report Wells Fargo & Company (WFC): Free Stock Analysis Report Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB): Free Stock Analysis Report Comerica Incorporated (CMA): Free Stock Analysis Report Western Alliance Bancorporation (WAL): Free Stock Analysis Report East West Bancorp, Inc. (EWBC): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksJan 6th, 2022

What Ever Happened To The Prosecution Of Donald Trump For Incitement?

What Ever Happened To The Prosecution Of Donald Trump For Incitement? Authored by Jonathan Turley, This is the one year anniversary of the disgraceful rioting in the Capitol building. The scenes of that day are seared in the memory of many of us. I publicly condemned Trump’s speech while it was being given and I called for a bipartisan vote of censure over his responsibility in the riots. However, I have long maintained that there was no evidence to support a criminal charge against Trump for incitement. Yet, a year ago, various legal experts declared that Trump should be charged based on his speech and his delay in calling for protesters to leave Capitol Hill. District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced that he was considering arresting Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks with inciting the violent invasion of the U.S. Capitol.  So, a year later, what ever happened to the prosecution of Donald Trump? Racine and others were not restrained by Republicans in Congress and clearly were eager to make the “clear” case for prosecution. The fact is that they were restrained by the Constitution and the media attention over their dubious claims quietly faded away like so many other “slam dunk” charges highlighted on cable news programs. Democratic politicians and commentators are still demanding that Trump be criminally charged. Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, now an MSNBC analyst, recently declared that Attorney General Merrick Garland would “go down in infamy as one of the worst attorney generals in this country’s history” if former President Trump is not charged. Garland seemed to respond to the pressure this week by pledging that his department would charge any responsible “at any level.” Those three words revived the hopes many on CNN and MSNBC, which spent four years trafficking in often unfounded theories of criminality against Trump and his family. Indeed, many of the same legal experts reappeared to offer assurances that Trump can be still frog marched to the hoosegow. It is all too familiar. Just a year ago, cable networks were riding high on ratings by offering a steady diet of blockbuster stories establishing clear criminal conduct by Trump or his family. Former House counsel Norman Eisen was assuring viewers that Trump was “colluding in plain sight” and the criminal case against Trump for obstruction of justice was overwhelming. Professor Richard Painter was explaining the clear case of treason against Trump. Professor Laurence Tribe declared the dictation of a misleading statement about the Trump Tower meeting constituted witness tampering. Trump further claimed strong cases for obstruction of justice, criminal election violations, Logan Act violations, and extortion by Trump or his family.  Others explained that Trump could be charged with negligent homicide over the Covid-19 crisis. The same figures were back on Jan. 6th to declare that the Trump speech to be sufficient for prosecution. Legal analyst Elie Honig said he would “gladly show a jury” his inflammatory remarks and “argue they cross the line to criminality.” Professor Richard Ashby Wilson said, “Trump crossed the Rubicon and incited a mob to attack the Capitol as Congress was in the process of tallying the Electoral College vote results. Trump should be criminally indicted for inciting insurrection against our democracy.” Laurence Tribe declared, “This guy was inciting not just imminent lawless action, but the violent decapitation of a coordinate branch of the government, preventing this peaceful transition of power and putting a violent mob into the Capitol while he cheered them on.” So what happened?  Even if you assume that Trump was protected by his own Justice Department, it was only a matter of days before the Biden Administration was in place and ready for new prosecutions. Moreover, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced that week that he was investigating Trump for a possible incitement charge. He was heralded in the media with global coverage. Then nothing happened. The reason is that the speech itself was not a crime. Indeed, it was protected free speech. They knew that a court would throw out such an indictment and, even if they could find a willing judge, any conviction would be thrown out on appeal. In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the Supreme Court ruled in 1969 that even calling for violence is protected under the First Amendment unless there is a threat of “imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” It is common for political leaders to call for protests at the federal or state capitols when controversial legislation or actions are being taken. Indeed, in past elections, Democratic members also protested elections and challenged electoral votes in Congress. The fact is that Trump never actually called for violence or a riot. Rather, he urged his supporters to march on the Capitol to express opposition to the certification of electoral votes and to support the challenges being made by some members of Congress. He expressly told his followers “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Trump also stated: “Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy…And after this, we’re going to walk down – and I’ll be there with you – we’re going to walk down … to the Capitol and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women.” He ended his speech by saying a protest at the Capitol was meant to “try and give our Republicans, the weak ones … the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue.” Such marches are common — on both federal and state capitols — to protest or to support actions occurring inside. Notably, the Ku Klux Klan leader Clarence Brandenburg referred to a planned march on Congress after declaring that “revengeance” could be taken for the betrayal of the president and Congress. The Supreme Court nevertheless overturned the conviction. Likewise, in Hess v. Indiana, the court rejected the prosecution of a protester declaring an intention to take over the streets, holding that “at worst, (the words) amounted to nothing more than advocacy of illegal action at some indefinite future time.” In NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., the court overturned a judgment against the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People after one official declared, “If we catch any of you going in any of them racist stores, we’re gonna break your damn neck.” That was ruled as the hyperbolic language of advocacy. That is why Racine did not arrest Trump, even after he left office shortly after the riot. The House is still trying to generate new evidence not found by the Justice Department. Despite arresting hundreds and investigating thousands, the Justice Department never found an “insurrection” or “rebellion” to be charged. Instead, most people were charged with crimes like trespass or unlawful entry. A few faced more serious charges of assaulting officers.  This remains a protest that became a riot due to the reckless rhetoric of the rally and the lack of preparation by the Capitol. None of that belittles the responsibility of those who rioted or excuses their conduct. These individuals are being rightfully prosecuted and have been given severe sentences given these charges. Moreover, the House could still find that “smoking gun” evidence that supports a criminal charge against Trump. Yet, the media is hyping “bombshell” disclosures that do little to move that needle. For example, Vice Chair Rep. Lynne Cheney recently announced that they had proof that Ivanka Trump asked her father to issue a statement to encourage protesters to leave the Hill but President Trump still delayed in making such a statement. That is not a crime. Being callous or slow in making public statements may make you a bad person or bad president but it does not make you an actual criminal. This is not some form of nonfeasance in failing to take an action required by law. Such a prosecution would allow the prosecution of politicians for a wide array of statements not made in times of political discord. It would gut the First Amendment. Such analysis is hardly popular with images of rioters smashing windows in the Capitol being replayed on cable networks. In an age of rage, one must be unequivocal and amplified in your outrage to avoid suspicion. I recently told the Washington Post that a viable case against Trump would need to show that he took concrete steps in enabling, anticipating, or coordinating in the riot. In response, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin (who has called for burning down the Republican party and expulsion of Republican members) declared “I have no idea what Turley is talking about. You don’t need to prove Trump intended the riot. He intended to obstruct Congress. This is what @RepLizCheney was explaining last week.” That reference is to the crime of “corruptly obstructing an official proceeding,” a charge against some rioters. However, Trump was not among them. Swapping out “incitement” or “insurrection” for obstruction does little to address the fundamental constitutional barrier. It would still criminalize free speech and run counter to controlling case law. Democrats have in the past challenged electoral votes and have participated in protests over certification. In January 2005, Boxer joined former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones to challenge George W. Bush’s victory over Democratic challenger John Kerry in the state of Ohio. Boxer argued that Republicans had engaged in voter suppression. Many who are condemning the challenge today heaped praise on Boxer in 2004. That is not itself an obstruction of Congress. For Trump to call for the same opposition, it not itself obstruction. Moreover, if Trump is not legally responsible for the riot, he is not legally responsible for waiting to call for the rioters to stop.  What the Committee would need is evidence that Trump actively withheld resources or obstructed efforts to quell the riot. Thus far, the record shows that refusal of a large national guard deployment was refused on Capitol Hill and not at the White House. From the D.C. Attorney General to the current U.S. Attorney General, there has been no paucity of time or lack of investigation over the last year. They certainly know where to find Trump who is hiding in plain view at Mar-o-Lago. Indeed, Rubin (who praised Garland’s nomination, as did I) recently declared him to be a mistake for failing to arrest Trump. The other possibility is that there was a will but not a crime. Tyler Durden Thu, 01/06/2022 - 13:10.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 6th, 2022