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6 ways to get free stuff on Amazon

You can get free Amazon products through reviewer programs, Amazon product websites, and freebie programs offered by Amazon itself. There are a few ways to access free stuff on Amazon. Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images You can get free stuff on Amazon in a variety of ways, even if you don't subscribe to Amazon Prime. It's possible to get free products in exchange for writing honest Amazon reviews. Third-party websites and Facebook groups can also connect you with free and highly discounted Amazon products. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. You probably don't need much encouragement to shop at Amazon, but the promise of free stuff certainly doesn't hurt. In fact, there are a lot of ways to collect freebies from the world's largest retailer, both from Amazon directly and from its countless merchants. 1. Qualify for the Amazon Vine Program If you've never heard of Amazon Vine, don't worry - most people haven't. But if you like to write product reviews on Amazon, you should be aware of Vine, which awards free products to members in exchange for honest and accurate reviews. Amazon describes Vine as a program in which trusted reviewers are invited to write reviews of new and pre-release products to help other customers make informed decisions. Amazon supplies Vine members with free products and doesn't influence - or allow Amazon sellers to influence - the reviews.Amazon Vine is by invitation only; you can't even apply for consideration. But Amazon keeps an eye on prolific reviewers, and sometimes reaches out to offer them an opportunity to join the Vine program. Quick tip: You can read what Amazon has to say about the Vine program, and learn ways to improve your reputation as a reviewer in hopes of being invited to the program.2. Participate in the Early Reviewer ProgramAmazon maintains an Early Reviewer Program designed to seed relatively new products with reviews so other customers can make a more informed purchase decision. Unlike Vine, in which select customers are invited to join a program and are then sent products to review, the Early Reviewer Program asks people who have already bought a participating product to write a review about it. The program is designed to help generate honest and unbiased reviews for products that have few or no reviews. Amazon selects customers who have recently purchased the product at random, filtering out anyone who has previously published reviews that Amazon deems abusive or dishonest. Moreover, potentially biased customers such as sellers and their friends and family are ineligible. Early Reviewers are rewarded with gift cards (usually bearing a small value, such as $1-$3) after the review is published. Like the Vine program, you can't apply to participate - Amazon will reach out to you if it wants to offer you the opportunity. Note: You can read more about the Early Reviewer Program for additional details. 3. Join Facebook groupsYou can learn a lot about free (and highly discounted deals) outside of Amazon. There are several active Facebook groups, for example - some public, while others are private and require approval to join - that post a steady stream of stories about free and cheap products as well as other money-saving shopping tips. These Facebook groups are a mixed bag, so tread carefully. Facebook considers them a source of fake reviews, and it's likely that many sellers who post here are not entirely reputable. If you want to explore, though, here are some Facebook groups focusing on Amazon deals:Glitches, Freebies, Codes, and Amazing Deals OnlineReal Time DealsKickass Deals Amazon Deals & Free GiveawayPersonal Shopper 4 Deals, Giveaways, and Codes Amazon Deals & Free Giveaways is one of several Facebook groups that connects customers with free and discounted products. Dave Johnson 4. Become a professional reviewerIf you're a prolific reviewer, or enjoy sharing your opinions about products with the world, you can take the route of many other social media influencers and become a pro reviewer, sharing your opinion on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. There are already many reputable, informative reviewers online, and as your reputation (and follower count) rises, sellers may offer you free products in exchange for reviews on social media. This route is by no means guaranteed; you'll need a strong social media presence, the time to invest in your channel, and the patience to work for free until you start to get the attention of sellers. As an added bonus, you can earn a small commission on any products bought through your social media channel using Amazon's affiliate sales program. 5. Find products that are free to anyoneIn addition to the various review and giveaway programs, there's a more conventional route to getting free stuff on Amazon: The retailer's own freebies, given away to everyone as a way to encourage you to become a loyal customer. Kindle books. Amazon makes thousands of Kindle books available for free to everyone. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can download one free Kindle book per month in the Amazon First Reads program. But even if you're not a Prime member, just go to the Kindle store, search for "free," and then use the genre browsing tools on the left side of the page to sort for free books you might like.Free Audible audiobooks. While Audible is a subscription program that costs $15 per month, you can sign up for a 30-day trial that gives you access to everything for free, along with a credit for a title you can keep forever, even after the trial is over. Free music. If you're a Prime subscriber, you get access to Amazon Prime Music, which includes 2 million tracks. But even if you're not a Prime member, you can download and listen to thousands of free songs at Amazon Music.Free cloud storage. Every Amazon customer gets 5GB of free cloud storage via Amazon Drive, where you can keep photos, videos, and any other sort of file. Amazon Prime free trial. Amazon Prime isn't inexpensive - it's currently $119 per year, with somewhat discounted versions for students and other groups. But if you haven't had a subscription in over a year, you can get 30 days for free. That includes all the Prime benefits, including free shipping and access to Prime Reading, Music, Video, Amazon Photos, and more. A lot of Kindle titles are available for free. Dave Johnson 6. Try third-party review sitesLike Facebook groups that connect Amazon customers with freebies and deals (discussed earlier in this article), there are a handful of third-party websites dedicated to helping you find free Amazon products. Most rely on the same general principle - sending you products in exchange for writing Amazon reviews. And just like the Facebook groups, we recommend trying these with caution, as some Amazon sellers may unscrupulously want to trade products for exclusively positive reviews. But if you want to explore this world, here are some popular options:AmZDiscover connects Amazon sellers and customers who regularly review products. If you're interested in becoming a reviewer, you can apply by filling out a form. Then, if you're selected, expect to receive products in exchange for writing reviews.Cashbackbase offers both highly discounted and free products. Unlike other sites, there's no requirement to review the products acquired through Cashbackbase. Tomoson is a clearinghouse for social media influencers. After registering with Tomoson, Amazon sellers can choose to send you free products for review and promotion. You'll need a relatively strong social media presence to successfully get products through Tomoson. What is Amazon Prime? The benefits of Amazon's popular membership program, and whether it's worth the costHow to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription if you no longer need the serviceHow to cancel an Amazon order or item, before it's been shippedWhat is Amazon Locker? How to use the free and convenient delivery pick-up systemRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 13th, 2021

Gary Gensler: Vast Majority Of Retail Market Orders Go To Dark Pool

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with SEC Chair Gary Gensler on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET) today, Tuesday, October 19th.  Following is a link to video on CNBC.com: Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Vast Majority Of Retail Market Orders Go To Dark Pool: SEC Chair […] Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with SEC Chair Gary Gensler on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” (M-F, 9AM-11AM ET) today, Tuesday, October 19th.  Following is a link to video on CNBC.com: .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 Vast Majority Of Retail Market Orders Go To Dark Pool: SEC Chair All references must be sourced to CNBC. BOB PISANI: Hey guys. Lot to talk about today. We’ve got a Bitcoin futures ETF trading, we’ve got the GameStop report out. What do they all have in common? Well they’re all regulated by the SEC. Let's talk to the man in charge, SEC Chair Gary Gensler joins us right now. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us. GARY GENSLER: Good to be seeing, good to be with you, Bob. PISANI: So, I want to talk about your GameStop report but I have to start with Bitcoin. We've got a raft of cheering people down here from ProShares, ProShares Bitcoin ETF. The futures ETF is starting trading just started a few moments ago. I have to ask you can you, can you explain to our viewers why you chose to allow a Bitcoin futures ETF to begin trading but have not yet approved a regular Bitcoin ETF? GENSLER: Bob, thank you for that question. Just to give you a little context. I think that we in the official sector should be technology neutral but not policy neutral and so what we’re trying to do is ensure to the best we can within our authorities to bring projects into the investor protection perimeter. And so, what you just mentioned, Bitcoin futures have been overseen by our sibling agency the Commodity Futures Trading Commission which I was once honored and proud to serve there and that's been four years and some of these applications came in and when effective, as you said one of them went effective with regard to those products over at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that our sibling agency oversees. PISANI: I think the important thing here is you've made it clear in the past that this does not have the some of the concerns that approving a full Bitcoin ETF would have. You don't have people breaking into exchanges for example, you don't have problems with fraud or manipulation. Was that a factor, it seems that that was a factor in the fact that you went ahead and allowed the Bitcoin futures ETF. You don't have those particular problems here. GENSLER: Oh, well I'm not going to get into any one application or project. I think what you have here is a product that’s been overseen for four years by a US federal regulator and CFTC, and that's being wrapped inside of something that within our jurisdiction called the Investment Company Act of 1940. So, we have some ability to bring it inside of investor protection. It's still a highly speculative asset class and listeners should understand that underneath this, it still has that same aspect of volatility and speculation but there's our sister agency is overseeing this for four years and then it brings it inside, as I said, an 80 year old law here at the SEC. PISANI: I move on to the GameStop report usual thorough report from your staff. I think this will be the historical record of what happened but I'm curious about the recommendations. You have been talking for many months about payment for order flow and gamification and the potential deleterious effects of both of these on the US trading system and yet there was no discussion about how this might have impacted the trading for GameStop. I'm wondering if there is some kind of connection? Was payment for order flow and gamification factoring what happened with GameStop or not? The report doesn't say. GENSLER: So, I think that the events of January revealed a number of things and as the staff suggested for additional consideration these two topics plus two others that we look out for the investing public when brokerage jobs, when robo advisors are using new data analytics and, and marketing to us using behavioral prompts to possibly get us to trade in a way that benefits them, benefits the application and the, and the program in conflict potentially with what benefits asked the investing public. Also imbedded in some of those issues are the structure of the stock markets itself. It's so much of the market now is, is evidenced in the report in January and these ones are about half of the market is not going to a transparent sort of market that fully lit market that you earlier showed, but it's going to dark holes and wholesalers so those issues the staff suggested up. What, we're going to take a closer look at in terms of what policies can help the public. JIM CRAMER: Chairman Gensler, it's great to have you on the show again. I know that your position on trying to invest. Well, I read a great book that you wrote about no free lunch, that’s why we have diversification. And then I read this report and I absolutely understand, it's very thorough it's got great stuff and talks about how options didn't really affect things, what did impact. And then on page, the last, number two, there's this sentence, “payment for order flow in the incentives it creates may cause broker dealers to find novel ways to increase customer trading including through the use of digital engagement practices.” I read this and it felt like a bit of a lamentation. I felt that right before that you talked about, don't forget, companies underneath the memes are actual employees, customers plans to invest, and then you get to this and I wanted you to be able to say, it may be this is unfortunate because I know that people want, they want to open as much engineering, but this is not Chairman Gensler. Chairman Gensler’s against any idea that we should be doing these digital engagement practices that might hurt investors. GENSLER: So, let me sort of address that. I think that we’ve found on platform after platform whether it's in, in, in streaming apps or retail apps, a very social media, that we're in a transformative time. The 2020s is rapidly changing on top of the invention of the internet, internet many decades ago, we have data analytics, artificial intelligence that markets to each of us a little differently. I mean you might type something in a text and then all of a sudden find you're being advertised something you typed to a personal friend in the text. So those features are all around. What we're raising the question is, is in finance, what does that mean for finance? These digital engagement practices, the underlying separating you from me and from all of us and then if the applications marketing for their revenues and payment for order flow does have an inherent conflict that the brokerage application is increasing their revenues if we trade more. And so are they using these behavioral prompts to get us to trade more or to move to different products, options trading or trading on margin which inherently have more risk in them, and where do we, the SEC, help the investing public out to help them do well when there's these inherent conflicts inside the, kind of inside the box. CRAMER: Right, but I guess what I struggle with is, you've got this great moment here. There are one million of these accounts belonging to investors with an average age of 19. I think these investors if they're focusing on, let's say, trying to put together a fantasy team, I think they’re spending a lot more time on fantasy trying to figure out who the, who's on tonight. How to be able to make it so what's the line, what's the over, they’re spending more time Chairman Gensler on their fantasy lineup than they are trading. They are trading like banshees. Don’t we want to encourage them to spend as much time as they do on their fantasy lineup. GENSLER: Well I think that that investing for the long term tends to have higher returns than day trading or even hourly trading and sometimes, not always, but sometimes these applications encourage individuals to have high trading volumes or trade on margin or options that have inherently higher risks. And so that's where, there’s, there's a worthwhile public debate and I think, I thank the staff of the SEC to serve up this report. I think yes, as you said earlier, now it's the job of the commission to sort through what we do with these additional considerations. PISANI: Mr. Chairman, the staff determined that a short selling squeeze was a factor, but it wasn't the primary reason for the big sell, price run up in GameStop. It was positive sentiment I'm reading from the report here that sustained the week's low-price appreciation, positive sentiment, not the short squeeze, short covering was a small fraction of the overall buying volume. I guess I'm wondering though despite that you've been talking about potential changes in short selling rules. Do we need to make any changes? Do we need more, for example, disclosure about short selling? GENSLER: I think that the markets could benefit from greater transparency, not only on short selling, but a related activity in the markets which is called stock loan when you borrow a stock to sell it short. Congress actually, our US Congress actually about 11 years ago passed two provisions that mandated, directed the SEC to do greater transparency in short selling, and this related activity stock loan. So I have asked staff for recommendations on this to promote, meaning that on a regular basis the market would benefit from seeing the volumes and activity in the lending market, meaning lending securities, and also this short selling activity. PISANI: Just to follow up on payment for order flow. Most, most viewers of the trading activity in the last 30, 40 years agree that the American investor has never gotten a better deal not only have commissions essentially go to zero but even trading costs are much lower, execution quality has improved dramatically in the last 30 years. I know there's a little bit of debate about it exactly how much but the average investor seems to be getting a very good deal, can you, do you feel you're going to be actually able to demonstrate a real harm from payment for order flow? Number one and number two, can you tell us what comes next here you've got the commission with your staff with a very excellent report on the facts, but not a lot of direction about where it should be going. Is the commission then going to meet and make recommendations or make rule changes from here? What's the path here forward after this commission staff report? GENSLER: Well, let me say this, you're, you're right that our markets have gotten more, have moved to zero commission but it doesn't mean it's free. There's still payment underneath these applications. It also doesn't mean that it's always best execution and we've had, we've had cases where we've announced in the last 18 months where there has been this conflict between the broker on the one hand and this payment for order flow on the other. And let me just remind your viewer that if you place a retail market order, as shown in this report, the vast majority of those don't go to the transparent lit markets, they go to the dark market with these, these pools that are not competing and so I’ve asked staffing, can we achieve this simple concept that your order when you place it competes with other orders and buyers if you're selling will compete to get, and to pay you hopefully, the best execution for that price order by order by order. That's what I've asked staff and I think that that's an important concept of competition that helps the investors on one side, helps the companies on the other side that are raising money in our markets. CRAMER: Well, Mr. Chairman, again I want to praise the staff because those who read this will know there was not a vast conspiracy against them which was really the topic that I know a lot of us felt we were really razzed by because we're all in on some sort of Citadel conspiracy. I think that's completely busted but there was something on page 12 that disturbed me, you talk about some of the marketplace may possess superior information about underlying assets. That sir I think is illegal. Did we discover that some of that superior information should be in front of the commission to find out what's going on? GENSLER: Well I think that you chose the words carefully maybe there but when, when order flow when, when trading is being purchased and sent to one wholesaler or another wholesaler then they have information that the rest of the market may not have at least for a short period of time, and, and even milliseconds matter in these markets. And so, that's what we're also looking at. You're absolutely right that we, I think from a policy perspective want to look at that and how we instill greater competition in essence for that data as well as for that order flow. DAVID FABER: Chair Gensler, Chair Gensler, David Faber here. You know we had you on not that long ago, obviously long ranging interview. I wanted to come back to SPACs if I might just for a moment. Haven't really heard that much from the SEC yet and I wonder where you are because it does appear that the market has been making its voice heard when it comes to SPACs. We are seeing the sponsors changing their compensation arrangements, we've seen the pipe market really frees up, and so is the market doing its job, and the SEC therefore perhaps doesn't have to take significant action in any way in terms of regulation for SPACs? GENSLER: I think that there is, is a need here for greater transparency, greater disclosure. These are, these are innovations that have happened in our markets, special purpose acquisition companies, but they're costly, and they may also have inherent conflicts between a promoter or sponsors who is taking generally about 20% of the offering that if you raise a billion dollars, that's $200 million. Can I repeat the number? $200 million to basically raise money and a blank check type of shell company and then you have two years to go out and try to buy something. And there's also this conflict that if you don't buy something, you don't get the promoter, or the sponsor doesn't get that 20%. So there's an incentive to buy something even if it's not the best purchase in the world particularly as the clock is ticking and you get to the end of the two years so I know I've said this a lot about staff working on recommendations. These, these rules are highly detailed. We need to work on the economic analysis which is so critical to good decision making. You're five commissioners, and so the process does take a number of months and sometimes the public says, where's that document or where's that rule proposal but I would envision that staff will put something up to our five-member commission and if, if there's the support of the commission, we'll put it out to public comment with regard to SPACs with regard to a number of these other topics we've talked about as well. PISANI: Just a follow up to my question. The second part you didn't quite answer. What's next here? What happens after this report? Does the commission, meet your five commissioners discuss what you want to do? Are you going to make proposed rule changes? I know you have a request for comment on digital engagement practices that are out there. What will become of that? I guess I'm looking for a roadmap for what you're trying to accomplish here. GENSLER: So, the five of us generally meet bilaterally and then sometimes we meet as a, as a group and as a group when we do that often that leads to what's called a public meeting and the cameras are on and the like. In terms of what's next is staff recommendations on the plumbing, this is called the clearing and settling side. There seems to be broad support in market participants to shorten the settlement cycle. We are secondly assessing the comments that came in on digital engagement. I’ve asked staff to consider whether there's some recommendations we have on those potential conflicts and also better protecting the public. And then the third area that was highlighted was market structure, the entire equity market structure. We haven't updated it in 16 years since 2005 and I think technology's changed so dramatically that it's worthwhile taking a very close look and seeing if we propose something now. In all of these areas as well as short selling, which I talked about earlier that I would anticipate we, we propose things because Congress has told us, mandated that we need to and these four areas I'd envision his staff is debating it, commissioners will weigh in, and then if we think so, we'll put it out to public comment. I, my, my hope is that we put it out and have a lively public debate and see what's best for the markets, and for the investing public. CRAMER: Mr. Chairman, on page 12, page 6, “In order for a customer to trade options, broker dealers must conduct due diligence that option trading is appropriate for the individual customer.” Sir, Robinhood has millions of customers and there's no way they're doing that. I mean, isn't it time we examine that process? GENSLER: Well, so it's, this is the, this is one of the challenges to get greater access, our user interfaces one our mobile phones have made it very efficient but then the question that you've just raised is also appropriate, is somebody on the other side looking as to whether, doing the due diligence as you say about that customer opening a higher risk account, an options trading account for instance or a margin trading account, and I think the staff appropriately flagged this issue. PISANI: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for coming on and giving us your thoughts and we very much appreciate the work of your staff and laying out the facts and obviously this is a very important historical document in terms of what happened and we look forward to having you on again soon to let us know what the next steps are. Gary Gensler, Chairman of the SEC Thank you very much for joining us. GENSLER: Thank you. Updated on Oct 19, 2021, 12:24 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 19th, 2021

Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money

“We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world” At the Black Blockchain Summit, there is almost no conversation about making money that does not carry with it the possibility of liberation. This is not simply a gathering for those who would like to ride whatever bumps and shocks, gains and losses come with cryptocurrency. It is a space for discussing the relationship between money and man, the powers that be and what they have done with power. Online and in person, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., an estimated 1,500 mostly Black people have gathered to talk about crypto—decentralized digital money backed not by governments but by blockchain technology, a secure means of recording transactions—as a way to make money while disrupting centuries-long patterns of oppression. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “What we really need to be doing is to now utilize the technology behind blockchain to enhance the quality of life for our people,” says Christopher Mapondera, a Zimbabwean American and the first official speaker. As a white-haired engineer with the air of a lecturing statesman, Mapondera’s conviction feels very on-brand at a conference themed “Reparations and Revolutions.” Along with summit organizer Sinclair Skinner, Mapondera co-founded BillMari, a service that aims to make it easier to transmit cryptocurrency to wherever the sons and daughters of Africa have been scattered. So, not exactly your stereotypical “Bitcoin bro.” Contrary to the image associated with cryptocurrency since it entered mainstream awareness, almost no one at the summit is a fleece-vest-wearing finance guy or an Elon Musk type with a grudge against regulators. What they are is a cross section of the world of Black crypto traders, educators, marketers and market makers—a world that seemingly mushroomed during the pandemic, rallying around the idea that this is the boon that Black America needs. In fact, surveys indicate that people of color are investing in cryptocurrency in ways that outpace or equal other groups—something that can’t be said about most financial products. About 44% of those who own crypto are people of color, according to a June survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. In April, a Harris Poll reported that while just 16% of U.S. adults overall own cryptocurrency, 18% of Black Americans have gotten in on it. (For Latino Americans, the figure is 20%.) The actor Hill Harper of The Good Doctor, a Harvard Law School friend of former President Barack Obama, is a pitchman for Black Wall Street, a digital wallet and crypto trading service developed with Najah Roberts, a Black crypto expert. And this summer, when the popular money-transfer service Cash App added the option to purchase Bitcoin, its choice to explain the move was the MC Megan Thee Stallion. “With my knowledge and your hustle, you’ll have your own empire in no time,” she says in an ad titled “Bitcoin for Hotties.” Read more: Americans Have Learned to Talk About Racial Inequality. But They’ve Done Little to Solve It But, as even Megan Thee Stallion acknowledges in that ad, pinning one’s economic hopes on crypto is inherently risky. Many economic experts have described crypto as little better than a bubble, mere fool’s gold. The rapid pace of innovation—it’s been little more than a decade since Bitcoin was created by the enigmatic, pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto—has left consumers with few protections. Whether the potential is worth those risks is the stuff of constant, and some would say, infernal debate. Jared Soares for TIMECleve Mesidor, who founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain What looms in the backdrop is clear. In the U.S., the median white family’s wealth—reflecting not just assets minus debt, but also the ability to weather a financial setback—sat around $188,200, per the Federal Reserve’s most recent measure in 2019. That’s about eight times the median wealth of Black families. (For Latino families, it’s five times greater; the wealth of Asian, Pacific Island and other families sits between that of white and Latino families, according to the report.) Other estimates paint an even grimmer picture. If trends continue, the median Black household will have zero wealth by 2053. The summit attendees seem certain that crypto represents keys to a car bound for somewhere better. “Our digital selves are more important in some ways than our real-world selves,” Tony Perkins, a Black MIT-trained computer scientist, says during a summit session on “Enabling Black Land and Asset Ownership Using Blockchain.” The possibilities he rattles off—including fractional ownership of space stations—will, to many, sound fantastical. To others, they sound like hope. “We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world,” he says. The next night, when in-person attendees gather at Barcode, a Black-owned downtown D.C. establishment, for drinks and conversation, there’s a small rush on black T-shirts with white lettering: SATOSHI, they proclaim, IS BLACK. That’s an intriguing idea when your ancestors’ bodies form much of the foundation of U.S. prosperity. At the nation’s beginnings, land theft from Native Americans seeded the agricultural operations where enslaved Africans would labor and die, making others rich. By 1860, the cotton-friendly ground of Mississippi was so productive that it was home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. Government-supported pathways to wealth, from homesteading to homeownership, have been reliably accessible to white Americans only. So Black Bitcoiners’ embrace of decentralized currencies—and a degree of doubt about government regulators, as well as those who have done well in the traditional system—makes sense. Skinner, the conference organizer, believes there’s racial subtext in the caution from the financial mainstream regarding Bitcoin—a pervasive idea that Black people just don’t understand finance. “I’m skeptical of all of those [warnings], based on the history,” Skinner, who is Black American, says. Even a drop in the value of Bitcoin this year, which later went back up, has not made him reticent. “They have petrol shortages in England right now. They’ll blame the weather or Brexit, but they’ll never have to say they’re dumb. Something don’t work in Detroit or some city with a Black mayor, we get a collective shame on us.” Read more: America’s Interstate Slave Trade Once Trafficked Nearly 30,000 People a Year—And Reshaped the Country’s Economy The first time I speak to Skinner, the summit is still two weeks away. I’d asked him to talk through some of the logistics, but our conversation ranges from what gives money value to the impact of ride-share services on cabbies refusing Black passengers. Tech often promises to solve social problems, he says. The Internet was supposed to democratize all sorts of things. In many cases, it defaulted to old patterns. (As Black crypto policy expert Cleve Mesidor put it to me, “The Internet was supposed to be decentralized, and today it’s owned by four white men.”) But with the right people involved from the start of the next wave of change—crypto—the possibilities are endless, Skinner says. Skinner, a Howard grad and engineer by training, first turned to crypto when he and Mapondera were trying to find ways to do ethanol business in Zimbabwe. Traditional international transactions were slow or came with exorbitant fees. In Africa, consumers pay some of the world’s highest remittance, cell phone and Internet data fees in the world, a damaging continuation of centuries-long wealth transfers off the continent to others, Skinner says. Hearing about cryptocurrency, he was intrigued—particularly having seen, during the recession, the same banking industry that had profited from slavery getting bailed out as hundreds of thousands of people of color lost their homes. So in 2013, he invested “probably less than $3,000,” mostly in Bitcoin. Encouraged by his friend Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for trading crypto, he grew his stake. In 2014, when Skinner went to a crypto conference in Amsterdam, only about eight Black people were there, five of them caterers, but he felt he had come home ideologically. He saw he didn’t need a Rockefeller inheritance to change the world. “I don’t have to build a bank where they literally used my ancestors to build the capital,” says Skinner, who today runs a site called I Love Black People, which operates like a global anti-racist Yelp. “I can unseat that thing by not trying to be like them.” Eventually, he and Mapondera founded BillMari and became the first crypto company to partner with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to lower fees on remittances, the flow of money from immigrants overseas back home to less-developed nations—an economy valued by the World Bank and its offshoot KNOMAD at $702 billion in 2020. (Some of the duo’s business plans later evaporated, after Zimbabwe’s central bank revoked approval for some cryptocurrency activities.) Skinner’s feelings about the economic overlords make it a bit surprising that he can attract people like Charlene Fadirepo, a banker by trade and former government regulator, to speak at the summit. On the first day, she offers attendees a report on why 2021 was a “breakout year for Bitcoin,” pointing out that major banks have begun helping high-net-worth clients invest in it, and that some corporations have bought crypto with their cash on hand, holding it as an asset. Fadirepo, who worked in the Fed’s inspector general’s office monitoring Federal Reserve banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is not a person who hates central banks or regulation. A Black American, she believes strongly in both, and in their importance for protecting investors and improving the economic position of Black people. Today she operates Guidefi, a financial education and advising company geared toward helping Black women connect with traditional financial advisers. It just launched, for a fee, direct education in cryptocurrency. Crypto is a relatively new part of Fadirepo’s life. She and her Nigerian-American doctor husband earn good salaries and follow all the responsible middle-class financial advice. But the pandemic showed her they still didn’t have what some of his white colleagues did: the freedom to walk away from high-risk work. As the stock market shuddered and storefronts shuttered, she decided a sea change was coming. A family member had mentioned Bitcoin at a funeral in 2017, but it sounded risky. Now, her research kept bringing her back to it. Last year, she and her husband bought $6,000 worth. No investment has ever generated the kinds of returns for them that Bitcoin has. “It has transformed people’s relationship with money,” she says. “Folks are just more intentional … and honestly feeling like they had access to a world that was previously walled off.” Read more: El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip She knows frauds exists. In May, a federal watchdog revealed that since October 2020, nearly 7,000 people have reported losses of more than $80 million on crypto scams—12 times more scam reports than the same period the previous year. The median individual loss: $1,900. For Fadirepo, it’s worrying. That’s part of why she helps moderate recurring free learning and discussion options like the Black Bitcoin Billionaires chat room on Clubhouse, which has grown from about 2,000 to 130,000 club members this year. Jared Soares for TIMECharlene Fadirepo, a banker and former government regulator, near the National Museum of African American History and Culture There’s a reason Black investors might prefer their own spaces for that kind of education. Fadirepo says it’s not unheard-of in general crypto spaces—theoretically open to all, but not so much in practice—to hear that relying on the U.S. dollar is slavery. “To me, a descendant of enslaved people in America, that was painful,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk about sovereignty, freedom from the U.S. dollar, freedom from inflation, inflation is slavery, blah blah blah. The historical context has been sucked out of these conversations about traditional financial systems. I don’t know how I can talk about banking without also talking about history.” Back in January, I found myself in a convenience store in a low-income and predominantly Black neighborhood in Dallas, an area still living the impact of segregation decades after its official end. I was there to report on efforts to register Black residents for COVID-19 shots after an Internet-only sign-up system—and wealthier people gaming the system—created an early racial disparity in vaccinations. I stepped away to buy a bottle of water. Inside the store, a Black man wondered aloud where the lottery machine had gone. He’d come to spend his usual $2 on tickets and had found a Bitcoin machine sitting in its place. A second Black man standing nearby, surveying chip options, explained that Bitcoin was a form of money, an investment right there for the same $2. After just a few questions, the first man put his money in the machine and walked away with a receipt describing the fraction of one bitcoin he now owned. Read more: When a Texas County Tried to Ensure Racial Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations, It Didn’t Go as Planned I was both worried and intrigued. What kind of arrangement had prompted the store’s owner to replace the lottery machine? That month, a single bitcoin reached the $40,000 mark. “That’s very revealing, if someone chooses to put a cryptocurrency machine in the same place where a lottery [machine] was,” says Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, when I tell him that story. Frankel has described cryptocurrencies as similar to gambling, more often than not attracting those who can least afford to lose, whether they are in El Salvador or Texas. Frankel ranks among the economists who have been critical of El Salvador’s decision to begin recognizing Bitcoin last month as an official currency, in part because of the reality that few in the county have access to the internet, as well as the cryptocurrency’s price instability and its lack of backing by hard assets, he says. At the same time that critics have pointed to the shambolic Bitcoin rollout in El Salvador, Bitcoin has become a major economic force in Nigeria, one of the world’s larger players in cryptocurrency trading. In fact, some have argued that it has helped people in that country weather food inflation. But, to Frankel, crypto does not contain promise for lasting economic transformation. To him, disdain for experts drives interest in cryptocurrency in much the same way it can fuel vaccine hesitancy. Frankel can see the potential to reduce remittance costs, and he does not doubt that some people have made money. Still, he’s concerned that the low cost and click-here ease of buying crypto may draw people to far riskier crypto assets, he says. Then he tells me he’d put the word assets here in a hard set of air quotes. And Frankel, who is white, is not alone. Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who is Black, says Bitcoin should be seen in the same framework as other low-cost, high-risk, big-payoff options. “In the end, it’s a casino,” he says. To people with less wealth, it can feel like one of the few moneymaking methods open to them, but it’s not a source of group uplift. “Like any speculation, those that can arbitrage the market will be fine,” he says. “There’s a whole lot of people that benefited right before the Great Recession, but if they didn’t get out soon enough, they lost their shirts too.” To buyers like Jiri Sampson, a Black cryptocurrency investor who works in real estate and lives outside Washington, D.C., that perspective doesn’t register as quite right. The U.S.-born son of Guyanese immigrants wasn’t thinking about exploitation when he invested his first $20 in cryptocurrency in 2017. But the groundwork was there. Sampson homeschools his kids, due in part to his lack of faith that public schools equip Black children with the skills to determine their own fates. He is drawn to the capacity of this technology to create greater agency for Black people worldwide. The blockchain, for example, could be a way to establish ownership for people who don’t hold standard documents—an important issue in Guyana and many other parts of the world, where individuals who have lived on the land for generations are vulnerable to having their property co-opted if they lack formal deeds. Sampson even pitched a project using the blockchain and GPS technology to establish digital ownership records to the Guyanese government, which did not bite. “I don’t want to downplay the volatility of Bitcoin,” Sampson says. But that’s only a significant concern, he believes, if one intends to sell quickly. To him, Bitcoin represents a “harder” asset than the dollar, which he compares to a ship with a hole in it. Bitcoin has a limited supply, while the Fed can decide to print more dollars anytime. That, to Sampson, makes some cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, good to buy and hold, to pass along wealth from one generation to another. Economists and crypto buyers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve have indicated that they will move toward official assessments or regulation soon. At least 10 federal agencies are interested in or already regulating crypto in some way, and there’s now a Congressional Blockchain Caucus. Representatives from the Federal Reserve and the SEC declined to comment, but SEC Chairman Gary Gensler assured a Senate subcommittee in September that his agency is working to develop regulation that will apply to cryptocurrency markets and trading activity. Enter Cleve Mesidor, of the quip about the Internet being owned by four white men. When we meet during the summit, she introduces herself: “Cleve Mesidor, I’m in crypto.” She’s the first person I’ve ever heard describe herself that way, but not that long ago, “influencer” wasn’t a career either. A former Obama appointee who worked inside the Commerce Department on issues related to entrepreneurship and economic development, Mesidor learned about cryptocurrency during that time. But she didn’t get involved in it personally until 2013, when she purchased $200 in Bitcoin. After leaving government, she founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and is now the public policy adviser for the industry group the Blockchain Association. There are more men than women in Black crypto spaces, she tells me, but the gender imbalance tends to be less pronounced than in white-dominated crypto communities. Mesidor, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and uses her crypto investments to fund her professional “wanderlust,” has also lived crypto’s downsides. She’s been hacked and the victim of an attempted ransomware attack. But she still believes cryptocurrency and related technology can solve real-world problems, and she’s trying, she says, to make sure that necessary consumer protections are not structured in a way that chokes the life out of small businesses or investors. “D.C. is like Vegas; the house always wins,” says Mesidor, whose independently published book is called The Clevolution: My Quest for Justice in Politics & Crypto. “The crypto community doesn’t get that.” Passion, she says, is not enough. The community needs to be involved in the regulatory discussions that first intensified after the price of a bitcoin went to $20,000 in 2017. A few days after the summit, when Mesidor and I spoke by phone, Bitcoin had climbed to nearly $60,000. At Barcode, the Washington lounge, Isaiah Jackson is holding court. A man with a toothpaste-commercial smile, he’s the author of the independently published Bitcoin & Black America, has appeared on CNBC and is half of the streaming show The Gentleman of Crypto, which bills itself as the one of the longest-running cryptocurrency shows on the Internet. When he was building websites as a sideline, he convinced a large black church in Charlotte, N.C., to, for a time, accept Bitcoin donations. He helped establish Black Bitcoin Billionaires on Clubhouse and, like Fadirepo, helps moderate some of its rooms and events. He’s also a former teacher, descended from a line of teachers, and is using those skills to develop (for a fee) online education for those who want to become crypto investors. Now, there’s a small group standing near him, talking, but mostly listening. Jackson was living in North Carolina when one of his roommates, a white man who worked for a money-management firm, told him he had just heard a presentation about crypto and thought he might want to suggest it to his wealthy parents. The concept blew Jackson’s mind. He soon started his own research. “Being in the Black community and seeing the actions of banks, with redlining and other things, it just appealed to me,” Jackson tells me. “You free the money, you free everything else.” Read more: Beyond Tulsa: The Historic Legacies and Overlooked Stories of America’s ‘Black Wall Streets’ He took his $400 savings and bought two bitcoins in October 2013. That December, the price of a single bitcoin topped $1,100. He started thinking about what kind of new car he’d buy. And he stuck with it, even seeing prices fluctuate and scams proliferate. When the Gentlemen of Bitcoin started putting together seminars, one of the early venues was at a college fair connected to an annual HBCU basketball tournament attended by thousands of mostly Black people. Bitcoin eventually became more than an investment. He believed there was great value in spreading the word. But that was then. “I’m done convincing people. There’s no point battling going back and forth,” he says. “Even if they don’t realize it, what [investors] are doing if they are keeping their bitcoin long term, they are moving money out of the current system into another one. And that is basically the best form of peaceful protest.”   —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

Taibbi: Konstantin Kilimnik, Russiagate"s Last Fall Guy, Speaks Out

Taibbi: Konstantin Kilimnik, Russiagate's Last Fall Guy, Speaks Out Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News, On Real Time With Bill Maher two Fridays ago, I fumbled and deflected politely over a Russiagate question, instead of going full cage match. The segment went off the rails beginning with this exchange: MAHER: You compared it to WMDs. You said, the Russia connection with Trump is this generation’s WMD. I don’t think that’s an accurate analogy, because there were no WMDs. But there was collusion with Russia. TAIBBI: Really? Where? MAHER: Where? The Senate Intelligence Committee, run by Republicans, who are if anything slavish to Trump, their report said, “The Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election posed a ‘grave’ counterintelligence threat.” First of all, that quote isn’t from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report from last August. It’s actually a paraphrase of the report from an Associated Press article, “Trump campaign’s Russia contacts ‘grave’ threat, Senate says,” which reads: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump campaign’s interactions with Russian intelligence services during the 2016 presidential election posed a “grave” counterintelligence threat, a Senate panel concluded Tuesday… The real SSCI quote is a little different: Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat. By all rights, Russiagate should be dead as a serious news story. But as the Real Time episode showed, “collusion” is still alive for some, and the bulk of the case essentially rests now upon the characterization of one person from the above passage as a Russian agent: a former aide to Paul Manafort named Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik is a Ukrainian-American who’d served in the army and was hired to work as a translator at the American-funded International Republican Institute in Moscow beginning in the mid-nineties. In 2005, he left the IRI to go work for Paul Manafort, who was advising future president Viktor Yanukovich and the “Party of Regions” in Ukraine. As it happens, Kilimnik worked at the IRI in Moscow during the same time I lived in that city in the nineties and early 2000s. In fact, he was well-known enough in that small expatriate community that in the space of a day last week I was able to reach, through mutual acquaintances, five of Kilimnik’s former colleagues, including three from the IRI and one from the U.S. State Department, to whom he was a regular and valuable contact (the Senate investigators left that fact out). I also called Kilimnik and had two lengthy interviews with him. Why bring this up? Because in that little flurry of calls, I did more actual work on Konstantin Kilimnik than either the Special Counsel or SSCI researchers, who ostensibly spent thousands of man-hours investigating him. Kilimnik being a spy wouldn’t just mean that the Trump campaign had been penetrated. It would mean the same thing for the IRI, which was chaired by late Senator and leading proponent of the Russiagate theory John McCain at the time. More to the point, it would also be disastrous for the State Department, and particularly for the U.S. embassy in Ukraine, whose staffers placed great trust in “KK” as a regular source. The FBI’s own declassified reports show Kilimnik met with the head of the Kiev embassy’s political section “at least biweekly” during his time working with Manafort and Yanukovitch, adding that he “displayed good knowledge and seemed to know what was going on,” and came across as “less slanted” than other sources, among many other things. This fits with what I was told by multiple former colleagues of Kilimnik’s, that staffers in the Kiev embassy valued his analyses above those of some Americans in Yanukovitch’s orbit. (A third former co-worker was a little more blunt about what he heard, saying the Kiev embassy was “sucking his dick”). They also show the embassy was so intent on protecting Kilimnik’s identity as a State Department source that they pulled his name out of diplomatic cables sent home: Kilimnik says he “played a certain role in communication with the Western embassies in Kiev” both before and after the “Euromaidan” Revolution in 2014. “I tried to draw attention to facts about thugs attacking TV channels and opposition politicians, and things like [an arson attack against “InterTV” in 2016],” he says, adding that he “naively thought the West would stand for media freedom and protecting rules for fair play in politics, like it has for many years.” The only reason nobody’s asked the Senate Committee why Kilimnik’s alleged spy status doesn’t also represent a “grave” embarrassment to, say, the U.S. State Department is because our press corps is the most dogshit on earth (more on that in a moment). Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed the FBI spoke to an IRI employee who said Kilimnik was “fired from his post because his links to Russian intelligence were too strong.” Though not all the IRI staffers I reached liked Kilimnik, each found the idea that he might be a spy alternately ridiculous and baffling. Multiple ex-colleagues said they believed he was fired for “moonlighting,” i.e. because he’d already started working for Manafort. “I was actually moonlighting. It was a funny story,” Kilimnik says (for a more complete explanation, see the Q&A below). As to the idea that it was known around the IRI office that Kilimnik had intelligence ties, one former senior IRI official said, “I think whoever said that, that’s someone trying to feel more important in retrospect,” adding that the idea that he was “some GRU plant from years gone by” was questionable because the Russians “didn’t know their right from their left back then, and the IRI could not described as a high-value target.” The official concluded: “I find the notion that Kilimnik is now this big figure remarkable.” None of former employees of the Moscow IRI office I spoke with had been contacted by any American investigator, including Mueller. Then there’s the matter of the suspect himself. Question to Kilimnik: how many times was he questioned by American authorities, with whom he was so familiar — remember he met with American officials “at least biweekly” at one point pre-Trump — during the entire Russiagate period? “Not a single person from the U.S. Government ever reached out to me,” Kilimnik says. Nobody from the Office of the Special Counsel, the FBI, or the Senate Intelligence Committee ever contacted him? “Not once,” Kilimnik says. “Nobody from Mueller’s team reached out to me, literally nobody.” In reaching Kilimnik last week I also became just the second American reporter, after Aaron Maté of RealClear Investigations and Grayzone, to call Kilimnik for comment on the Senate report. Virtually every American news organization or TV commentary program has in the last year repeated accusations against Kilimnik made by either the Senate Intelligence Committee or the U.S. Treasury Department, which earlier this year called him a “Russian Intelligence Services agent” in an announcement of sanctions against Russia. It was once normal practice in American media to give people a chance to respond to serious allegations, but no longer, apparently. “Zero. Zero,” says Kilimnik, when asked how many American media outlets called him after the release of the Senate report. Incidentally, Kilimnik isn’t hiding under a snow-covered trap door at a secret FSB installation outside Izhievsk. He’s in an apartment in Northwest Moscow, where anyone could find him. “Everybody knows my phone number. It was in Mueller’s reports,” he says. “But I got no questions. I mean, a lot of people know how to find me. I guess they just didn’t care.” Kilimnik was even on the list of 16 entities and 16 individuals the Treasury just this year said “attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government.” That’s the 2020 election, not the 2016 election, meaning the one that came after the Senate report. “The US actually sanctioned me for interference in 2020 elections,” Kilimnik says. “I would not be able to say why. I’d love to know. I’ve been sitting in fucking Moscow, in my backyard, and feeding squirrels. Must have been some sort of interference.” The aforementioned Maté published photos of Kilimnik’s passport that appear to show he entered the U.S. on a visa stamped in a regular Russian passport on October 28, 1997. This is the same date the Senate committee said he was entering the United States on a diplomatic passport. The Senate also said Kilimnik met with Manafort in Spain in 2017, which he denies. “I’ve never been to Spain,” Kilimnik laughs. “I haven’t been there. Let them prove I’ve been there.” Another thing that came up on Real Time was the idea that we shouldn’t dismiss the monetarily tiny Russian Facebook campaign — featuring classics that ironically read like Real Time bits, with images of Jesus pleading with American voters, “Struggling with addiction to masturbation? Reach out to me and we’ll beat it together” — because “9/11 didn’t cost much either”: I oversold things on the air, talking about how the Internet Research Agency only spent $100,000, as only $44,000 of that was before the campaign. More importantly, only a tiny percentage of ads qualified as coherent propaganda. I’d wager few Americans have actually read through all these ads, which have messages like, “Tell me once again that there’s no such thing as white privilege,” “Stop Trump and his bigoted agenda!”, and “Share the experience and the challenges of the black hair industry.” Overall, for 2016, they read like a creepy, overambitious parody of woke culture, with a tinge of Charlie Manson’s “Helter Skelter” plan thrown in. Whatever it is/was, it’s pretty far from 9/11: Kilimnik stands accused of helping Evil Von Putin aim this high-tech weapon. How? Senate investigators said, “Manafort briefed Kilimnik on sensitive Campaign polling data and the Campaign’s strategy for beating Hillary Clinton.” What was sensitive about it? “That’s bullshit. There was nothing that resembled ‘sensitive’ polling data,” Kilimnik says. “I would get two figures maybe once a month, not every day, not every week.” Two figures — meaning two pages? “Two digits,” he says. “Like, ‘Trump 40, Hillary 45.’ That’s all I would get, nothing more. So I don’t understand how this is sensitive data.” Kilimnik was getting his information from former Trump deputy campaign chief Rick Gates, who was directed to send the data to Kilimnik by Manafort. None other than Rachel Maddow once called Gates “Mueller’s star cooperating witness.” I called Gates last week and asked: what was he passing to Kilimnik? “Top-line data, and I want people to understand what that means,” he says. “It was like, ‘Ohio, Clinton 48, Trump 50,’ Or, ‘Wisconsin, Trump 50, Clinton 42.’ The sources were a combination of things like RealClear Politics and occasionally some numbers from [Republican pollster] Tony Fabrizio. But it was all just top-line stuff.” Gates’s story is that Manafort was passing this data back to people like his longtime sponsors, the Ukrainian barons Rinat Akhmetov and Sergei Lyvochkin, because “Paul was just trying to show that Trump was doing well,” as “Paul was just trying to do what he’s always done,” i.e. trying to show how valuable he could be. For those disinclined to believing the Gates or Kilimnik version of events, remember that neither Mueller nor the Senate Intelligence Committee could come up with a different one. Apart from adding “sensitive” to their description (Mueller just called it “internal polling data”), the Senate never offered evidence that Kilimnik was getting more than those few numbers. As to why Kilimnik was sent this information, this is what the Senate had to say: The Committee was unable to reliably determine why Manafort shared sensitive internal polling data or Campaign strategy with Kilimnik. Manafort and Gates both claimed that it was part of an effort to resolve past business disputes and obtain new work with their past Russian and Ukrainian clients by showcasing Manafort's success. Why “sensitive?” The Committee was “unable to reliably determine” why, having no idea what Kilimnik did with those numbers. But they were sure enough it was bad to conclude it represented a “grave counterintelligence threat.” Kilimnik is roughly the twentieth suspect in a long list of alleged secret conduits that across five years have already been tried out and discarded by pundits and investigators alike as “smoking gun” links between Trump and Putin. An abbreviated list: There was a Maltese professor named Josef Mifsud and a young Trump aide named George Papadopoulos, former Trump adviser Carter Page, an alleged “secret server” supposedly pinging between Trump and Alfa Bank, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser J.D. Gordon, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, real estate developer Felix Sater, another Russian who approached Trump people claiming to have dirt on Hillary Clinton named Henry Oknyansky, a Russian firm called Concord Consulting, plus Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, and many others. The pattern with all of these “smoking gun” cases was the same. At first, there would be a great press hullaballoo, complete with front-page media profiles and heated straight-to-camera monologues at the tops of cable commentary shows over “Breaking News” chyrons: Freakouts would be long, but months or years later, narratives would collapse. Ambassador Sergei Kislyak was everyone’s favorite suspect in the summer of 2016 for having done everything from rig the Republican convention platform to turning Sessions into a spy, but then Mueller quietly said Kisylak’s interactions with Trump officials in those months were “brief, public, and non-substantive.” Reporters howled that Christopher Steele was right about Cohen meeting Russian hackers in Prague to help rig the 2016 race, and even claimed (see above) that Mueller was about to release evidence of it any minute, until Mueller said flatly, “Cohen… never traveled to Prague.” The saddest case involved Carter Page. Steele’s Dossier identified Page — not Vladimir Putin, Julian Assange, or even Donald Trump — as the mastermind of the Wikileaks leak: The aim of leaking the DNC e-mails to WikiLeaks during the Democratic Convention had been to swing supporters of Bernie SANDERS away from Hillary CLINTON and across to TRUMP… This objective had been conceived and promoted, inter alia, by TRUMP’s foreign policy adviser Carter PAGE… Steele also had Page negotiating a massive bribe via the oil company Rosneft in exchange for the dropping of sanctions, and acting as the personal intermediary between Paul Manafort and the Kremlin. Page, not knowing he was being spied upon, told an FBI informant that August that he had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort, even going so far as to complain that Manafort never answered his emails. The FBI sat on this information, and wrote up a secret surveillance warrant application that read: Sub-Source reported that the conspiracy was being managed by Candidate’s then campaign manager, who was using, among others, foreign policy advisor Carter Page as an intermediary… It wasn’t until the report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz came out in December of 2019 that the world found out that the FBI not only “did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page,” but had covered up Page’s history as an informant for the CIA, very much like the Senate and the Treasury are now covering up Kilimnik’s status as a U.S. State Department source. Kilimnik is just the last person on the list, and he’s conveniently in Moscow, unlikely to ever come back here to defend himself. As such, he’s the perfect fall guy for the marooned-Japanese-soldier-type holdouts on Russiagate who think the collusion narrative is still viable. More from Kilimnik: TK: You were described by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a “Russian Intelligence Officer.” Are you one? Konstantin Kilimnik: I have not had any relationship with any intelligence agency. Not with U.S. intelligence, not the Ukrainian, Russian, Zimbabwean, whatever. I’m a consultant who has worked for many years running elections in Ukraine. I just haven’t had any relationship with any intelligence, and haven’t seen any facts proving otherwise. I think the investigation was so politically charged from the beginning, that they just needed to find a Russian body that they could just put as much dirt as possible on. Ultimately, nobody is going to care, because all the Russians are considered to be bad anyhow, they’re all spies. TK: The intelligence community in the U.S. seems unanimous in their conclusion that Russians interfered in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Did they not? Konstantin Kilimnik: I don’t think Russians interfered… I know that runs counter to all the conclusions of the intelligence community and all that country to all the intelligence and press and all that. And maybe there were other efforts, as well. But, I was not involved in any of that. There was a lot of misinformation, just because the public wanted someone, and I just happened to be that person thrown into the mix. If I had Hungarian citizenship or any other citizenship, of course, people would not have given my name. They just needed the Russian connection, and I happened to be that unfortunate Russian connection. TK: The Mueller report claims an IRI employee believed you were “fired from his post because his links to Russian intelligence were too strong.” Others say you were “moonlighting.” Why did you leave the IRI? Konstantin Kilimnik: I was actually moonlighting. It was a funny story. I was looking for ways to move on, because by 2005 I had been at IRI for 10 years. Some time in mid-2004 an old IRI pal, Phil Griffin, reemerged and proposed a well-paying job of going to Ukraine and writing analyses of what was going on during the Orange Revolution, for Manafort. So, I went there after not having been to Ukraine for over 10 years. I was ecstatic about Kiev and got seriously interested in what was going on politically… Manafort, Griffin and I (as a translator) went to Donetsk in, I think, November 2004 to meet some guy I had no previous knowledge of (who turned out to be Rinat Akhmetov’s closest confidant, Borys Kolesnikov). Manafort and he spoke for several days and got convinced that the “Donetsk guys” were not even close to being thugs they had been portrayed by the Western media to be. I went back a couple of times to translate for these meetings, which I thought were not in any conflict with my work at IRI Moscow. Then, the government in Ukraine changed. [Viktor] Yuschenko became the President, Manafort was in negotiations about the contract, and I almost forgot about my short translation jobs. In April 2005, we were at an IRI retreat, and my boss, director of Europe and Eurasia programs Steve Nix got a tip from the new President’s office that “Donetsk thugs” were looking to hire an American consultant, and that a guy who seemed to work at IRI was helping in the process. Steve, who was very pro-Yuschenko, completely freaked out, and accused me of working for criminals. I said that a) I was doing this in my free time, 2) this did not conflict in any way with my job at IRI Russia, and 3) maybe things are not so straightforward in Ukrainian politics, and there are no guys in black and white hats, but mostly gray hats. He disagreed and demanded I resign, which I did. TK: The Senate claims you met Manafort in Spain in 2017. Did you? Konstantin Kilimnik: I have never been to Spain. (laughter)...I have not been there. They can’t prove that. And yet they’ve inserted that. And yet, that’s central to what they’re saying. Europe is specific place in terms of passports and immigration. To cross the border, you have to give your fingerprints, and upon any re-entry too. If I went to Spain, I can guarantee that, first of all, Europe keeps a record of that. They would say that I have crossed the border at a certain time in a certain place. And that would be okay because, again, it’s all tied to the fingerprints. You cannot get into the EU without this. You can’t fake it. So let them prove it. TK: You’ve been accused of obtaining that “sensitive polling data” for Oleg Deripaska. Was that right? Konstantin Kilimnik: No, Deripaska was a Russian businessman. I actually didn’t have any contact with him. There were Ukrainian businessmen and Ukrainian politicians in 2016 who were in opposition, and who were actually under pressure from Petro Poroshenko’s government. Naturally, for them, any change, opening a channel into the U.S. Government, that for them would have been a great thing. So that’s why they were interested in the outcome of the elections. There was no Russian connection whatsoever. If there were, they would have a record of me talking to Deripaska or visiting him.TK: You never had any contact with Deripaska? Konstantin Kilimnik: No, I haven’t met him since, I’m afraid to be exact, but like 2006, I think was the last time I saw him. I was translating for Manafort. But after that, Manafort spoke to him himself, because Deripaska spoke the language by then. And there was no need for me. Part 2 of my interview with Konstantin Kilimnik is coming later this week. Tyler Durden Wed, 10/13/2021 - 21:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 13th, 2021

6 ways to get free stuff on Amazon

You can get free Amazon products through reviewer programs, Amazon product websites, and freebie programs offered by Amazon itself. There are a few ways to access free stuff on Amazon. Sebastian Kahnert/picture alliance via Getty Images You can get free stuff on Amazon in a variety of ways, even if you don't subscribe to Amazon Prime. It's possible to get free products in exchange for writing honest Amazon reviews. Third-party websites and Facebook groups can also connect you with free and highly discounted Amazon products. Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories. You probably don't need much encouragement to shop at Amazon, but the promise of free stuff certainly doesn't hurt. In fact, there are a lot of ways to collect freebies from the world's largest retailer, both from Amazon directly and from its countless merchants. 1. Qualify for the Amazon Vine Program If you've never heard of Amazon Vine, don't worry - most people haven't. But if you like to write product reviews on Amazon, you should be aware of Vine, which awards free products to members in exchange for honest and accurate reviews. Amazon describes Vine as a program in which trusted reviewers are invited to write reviews of new and pre-release products to help other customers make informed decisions. Amazon supplies Vine members with free products and doesn't influence - or allow Amazon sellers to influence - the reviews.Amazon Vine is by invitation only; you can't even apply for consideration. But Amazon keeps an eye on prolific reviewers, and sometimes reaches out to offer them an opportunity to join the Vine program. Quick tip: You can read what Amazon has to say about the Vine program, and learn ways to improve your reputation as a reviewer in hopes of being invited to the program.2. Participate in the Early Reviewer ProgramAmazon maintains an Early Reviewer Program designed to seed relatively new products with reviews so other customers can make a more informed purchase decision. Unlike Vine, in which select customers are invited to join a program and are then sent products to review, the Early Reviewer Program asks people who have already bought a participating product to write a review about it. The program is designed to help generate honest and unbiased reviews for products that have few or no reviews. Amazon selects customers who have recently purchased the product at random, filtering out anyone who has previously published reviews that Amazon deems abusive or dishonest. Moreover, potentially biased customers such as sellers and their friends and family are ineligible. Early Reviewers are rewarded with gift cards (usually bearing a small value, such as $1-$3) after the review is published. Like the Vine program, you can't apply to participate - Amazon will reach out to you if it wants to offer you the opportunity. Note: You can read more about the Early Reviewer Program for additional details. 3. Join Facebook groupsYou can learn a lot about free (and highly discounted deals) outside of Amazon. There are several active Facebook groups, for example - some public, while others are private and require approval to join - that post a steady stream of stories about free and cheap products as well as other money-saving shopping tips. These Facebook groups are a mixed bag, so tread carefully. Facebook considers them a source of fake reviews, and it's likely that many sellers who post here are not entirely reputable. If you want to explore, though, here are some Facebook groups focusing on Amazon deals:Glitches, Freebies, Codes, and Amazing Deals OnlineReal Time DealsKickass Deals Amazon Deals & Free GiveawayPersonal Shopper 4 Deals, Giveaways, and Codes Amazon Deals & Free Giveaways is one of several Facebook groups that connects customers with free and discounted products. Dave Johnson 4. Become a professional reviewerIf you're a prolific reviewer, or enjoy sharing your opinions about products with the world, you can take the route of many other social media influencers and become a pro reviewer, sharing your opinion on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. There are already many reputable, informative reviewers online, and as your reputation (and follower count) rises, sellers may offer you free products in exchange for reviews on social media. This route is by no means guaranteed; you'll need a strong social media presence, the time to invest in your channel, and the patience to work for free until you start to get the attention of sellers. As an added bonus, you can earn a small commission on any products bought through your social media channel using Amazon's affiliate sales program. 5. Find products that are free to anyoneIn addition to the various review and giveaway programs, there's a more conventional route to getting free stuff on Amazon: The retailer's own freebies, given away to everyone as a way to encourage you to become a loyal customer. Kindle books. Amazon makes thousands of Kindle books available for free to everyone. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can download one free Kindle book per month in the Amazon First Reads program. But even if you're not a Prime member, just go to the Kindle store, search for "free," and then use the genre browsing tools on the left side of the page to sort for free books you might like.Free Audible audiobooks. While Audible is a subscription program that costs $15 per month, you can sign up for a 30-day trial that gives you access to everything for free, along with a credit for a title you can keep forever, even after the trial is over. Free music. If you're a Prime subscriber, you get access to Amazon Prime Music, which includes 2 million tracks. But even if you're not a Prime member, you can download and listen to thousands of free songs at Amazon Music.Free cloud storage. Every Amazon customer gets 5GB of free cloud storage via Amazon Drive, where you can keep photos, videos, and any other sort of file. Amazon Prime free trial. Amazon Prime isn't inexpensive - it's currently $119 per year, with somewhat discounted versions for students and other groups. But if you haven't had a subscription in over a year, you can get 30 days for free. That includes all the Prime benefits, including free shipping and access to Prime Reading, Music, Video, Amazon Photos, and more. A lot of Kindle titles are available for free. Dave Johnson 6. Try third-party review sitesLike Facebook groups that connect Amazon customers with freebies and deals (discussed earlier in this article), there are a handful of third-party websites dedicated to helping you find free Amazon products. Most rely on the same general principle - sending you products in exchange for writing Amazon reviews. And just like the Facebook groups, we recommend trying these with caution, as some Amazon sellers may unscrupulously want to trade products for exclusively positive reviews. But if you want to explore this world, here are some popular options:AmZDiscover connects Amazon sellers and customers who regularly review products. If you're interested in becoming a reviewer, you can apply by filling out a form. Then, if you're selected, expect to receive products in exchange for writing reviews.Cashbackbase offers both highly discounted and free products. Unlike other sites, there's no requirement to review the products acquired through Cashbackbase. Tomoson is a clearinghouse for social media influencers. After registering with Tomoson, Amazon sellers can choose to send you free products for review and promotion. You'll need a relatively strong social media presence to successfully get products through Tomoson. What is Amazon Prime? The benefits of Amazon's popular membership program, and whether it's worth the costHow to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription if you no longer need the serviceHow to cancel an Amazon order or item, before it's been shippedWhat is Amazon Locker? How to use the free and convenient delivery pick-up systemRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 13th, 2021

The 24 best gifts for your in-laws, whether you"re meeting them for the first time or have known them for years

A thoughtful gift can go a long way in impressing your partner's family. You can't go wrong with any of these great gift ideas for your in-laws. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Gilaxia/Getty Images Gifts for in-laws can be tricky, whether it's your first meeting or you've known them for years. We rounded up 25 of the best gift ideas for your in-laws, from small thank yous to grander gestures. For more gift ideas, check out all of our gift guides here. Still looking for a gift? Check out our list of the All-Time Best products we've ever tested. Depending on your relationship, their tastes, and a host of other factors, getting a thoughtful gift for in-laws can be pretty high pressure. Whether you're meeting them for the first time or have known them for years and just want to show some appreciation, the right gift can go a long way. You don't have to go overboard, and there are plenty of unique gift ideas for in-laws that show you care about them. To ease your mind, we curated some great gifts that are sure to please any mother-in-law and father-in-law. We picked gifts that cover a wide range of prices, tastes and functions. Whether it's a small gift like a lotus-shaped serving board or a bigger one like a tech gadget, what these all have in common is that your in-laws will love them.Here are 24 of the best gifts for in-laws: A salt block that'll up their grilling game Wayfair Himalayan Salt Plate, available at Wayfair, $7.53This is more than just a pretty pink plate, it's actually a block of Himalayan salt. Not only can it be used to serve food, but it can actually be used to cook food too. Cooking and serving with a salt slab will up the ante on plenty of their family-favorite meals. Amazon Audible Membership, available at Amazon, from $15The amazon audible is great for entertaining the in-law who loves absorbing new information wherever they go. They can listen to anything they want from thousands of audiobooks, podcasts, documentaries, sleep programs, and more. A coffee table book for book lovers Amazon "Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany," available at Amazon, $15.19If your in-laws love to read, they'll enjoy this book from illustrator Jane Mount, who is known for the colorful book spines of notable works. Inside, they'll find tours of the world's best bookstores, quizzes to test book knowledge, and samplings of famous fictional meals — all illustrated in Mount's fun and whimsical style. You can find more coffee table books for gifting here. A photo book of fond memories with your in-laws Artifact Uprising/Business Insider Large Format Prints, available at Artifact Uprising, from $17If you've spent holidays or vacations in the past with your in-laws, a sweet photo book to bring back good memories can be a great gift and way to show you appreciate family time with them. Artifact Uprising makes it easy with custom options at affordable prices. Or you can customize thoughtful cards for as little as $1 per card. You can also create a set of prints for $9. A new cookbook to add to their repertoire Amazon "Cook Like a Pro" by Ina Garten, available at Amazon, $17.21Ina Garten's latest release is a great addition to any home chef's cookbook collection. They'll learn plenty of new recipes and cooking techniques — and you might even get to taste the fruits of their labor one day.  A coffee subscription box for trying new beans Blue Bottle Coffee Whole Bean Subscription, available at Blue Bottle Coffee, from $22/monthIf they love coffee, they'll love getting the chance to try a bunch of new brews every month. Blue Bottle's beans are high quality, packaged at peak flavor, and come in a range of unique blends. A smart speaker to help them get started on a smart home Best Buy Google Nest Mini, available at Best Buy, $24.99If your in-laws are not really the techie types, start them out with this small smart speaker. Nest Mini is a subtle introduction to smart technology — plus they'll get a kick out of communicating with Google Assistant. Read our full review of the Google Nest Mini here. A charging hub so they don’t have to fight for the open outlet Amazon elago 3-in-1 Charging Hub, available at Amazon, from $24.99If they're always fighting for the last free outlet to charge their Apple products, or if they're both big Apple fans, this hub will charge all their devices at once. A fun way to show off their cork collection Uncommon Goods State Map Wine Cork Trap, available at Uncommon Goods, $35For the bunch with a bunch of state pride, give them a fun way to use their leftover wine corks and show off their favorite place. This birch-wood display makes a nice piece of wall art that's sure to start a conversation.  A modern vase to brighten up any space West Elm Barro Vases, available at West Elm, from $36These cute vases look great in any space and come in subtle but fun yellows and blues to add a pop of color.  If you want to go that extra mile, you could put some florals or dried plants in it too. A monthly sampling of some of the tastiest products from around the country Mouth Best of Mouth Subscription, available at Mouth, from $47.75/monthFoodies will love the chance to test small-batch, locally made products from around the country. Mouth sources and curates subscription boxes of their favorites, which they'll receive each month. An elevated serving board for your in-laws next dinner party Uncommon Goods Bamboo Lotus Serving Board, available at Uncommon Goods, $48If your in-laws like to do a lot of hosting, this lotus-shaped serving tray will elevate their next dinner party. It has built-in spots for dips, crackers, cheese, veggies, and more. A cozy gift for your mother-in-law to keep her feet warm Uncommon Goods Ballerina Herbal Warming Slippers, available at Uncommon Goods, $48Pamper your mother-in-law with these fuzzy slippers featuring removable insoles filled with aromatic lavender buds and thermally conductive flax seeds. In the winter she can heat them up in the microwave for extra warmth, and in the summer she can throw them in the fridge for a refreshing cool down. A leather catchall for their keys Mark & Graham Rustic Leather Catchall Tray, available at Mark & Graham, from $49Your in-laws will love this chic catchall tray for staying organized. Place on a desk, nightstand, or entryway table to hold keys, wallets, headphones, and more. You can even get it monogrammed for an extra personal touch. Choose from small, medium, large, or opt for a set of all three. A trio of unique condiments to spice up their meals Bloomingdale's Bushwick Kitchen Threes Knees Trio, available at Bushwick Kitchen, $49.99Adventurous eaters and hot sauce lovers will definitely enjoy using this trio of spicy condiments. A spicy honey, spicy maple, and gochujang sriracha give them all sorts of new ways to spice up their favorite foods.  Gifts under $100 Winc Winc Gift Card, available at Winc, from $60A wine subscription service makes their favorite pastime easier for them as they can handpick wine from around the world. They can spend time wine tasting at home with exclusive choices that match their unique palate. We also ranked it as the best wine subscription overall. A nice candle with a reusable vessel Lafco Lafco Library Candle, available at Bluemercury, $65A nice candle is always a welcomed gift. These ones are made to embody the scents of common places, including rooms in the house. The best part of these candles, though, is that they'll be able to reuse the hand-blown glass vessel once the candle has burned down. All they have to do is put it in the freezer when the wax runs down, pop it out with a knife, and run it through the dishwasher. Our editor uses hers for everything from cotton swabs to serving snacks. An e-reader for their love of books Amazon Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $94.99E-readers make flipping pages easier than ever. If your in-laws inhabit the library and bookstore pretty much all the time, get them this Kindle. It's water-resistant, can be read in the sunlight, and has a long battery life. Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite here.  An indoor garden for urban dwellers and herb lovers Amazon Click & Grow Smart Garden, available at Amazon, $99.95Anyone who spends time in the kitchen or garden knows how much fresh herbs can upgrade a dish. While not all climates or spaces can sustain a full herb garden, this little indoor gardening kit can, so they can top every last dish with their favorite fresh herbs. An Airbnb gift card for in-laws who love to travel Airbnb Instagram Airbnb Gift Card, available at Zola, from $100A tangible gift is great, but so is the gift of an unforgettable experience. For the jet-setting duo, bring them one step closer to their next vacation (as soon as vacations are safe again) with an Airbnb gift card so they can explore someplace new together. You can find more hotel and Airbnb gift card options here. A decanter and matching glasses with a personal touch Mark & Graham Etched Windowpane Decanter and Glasses, available at Mark and Graham, $139Show them you mean business with this sophisticated decanter and set of four double old fashioned glasses. You can even add a monogram if you're looking for a more personal touch. A digital picture frame for all their favorite memories Aura Aura Carver Digital Picture Frame, available at Aura, $179In-laws can be sentinmental people, so there's no better personal gift than a digital photo frame. They can view loads of family memories from a single device. As long as the frame is hooked up to WiFi, your in-laws can enjoy the photos you've carefully curated, all day long. You can hear about our experience with another Aura frame, here. A pizza maker for home cooks and pizza aficionados Williams Sonoma Breville Crispy Crust Pizza Maker, available at Williams Sonoma, $179.95Some might call this one life-changing. If they love cooking together, gift them a countertop pizza maker so they can enjoy homemade pies with the toppings of their choice in less than 10 minutes.  A gift for the father-in-law who's a major baseball fan Uncommon Goods Baseball Stadium Blueprints, available at Uncommon Goods, $185A little bit of history, a little bit of architecture, and a whole lot of team spirit — whether you support their favorite team or not, they'll appreciate this thoughtful print that'll quickly find a home on one of their walls. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 12th, 2021

Transcript: Chamath Palihapitiya

     The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Chamath Palihapitiya on Venture Investing, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This week on the… Read More The post Transcript: Chamath Palihapitiya appeared first on The Big Picture.      The transcript from this week’s, MiB: Chamath Palihapitiya on Venture Investing, is below. You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunes, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here. ~~~ RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast, man, strap yourself in. This is really one of the old-time greats. Chamath Palihapitiya, Founder of Social Capital, very successful venture capitalist, part-owner of the Golden State Warriors, and all-around insightful investor social critic, and tech wonk. If you’re interested in anything from technology to social media, to venture investing, startups, entrepreneurship, I don’t know what else to say other than strap yourself in. This is a great one. With no further ado, my conversation with Chamath Palihapitiya. VOICE-OVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio. RITHOLTZ: I’m Barry Ritholtz. You’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio. My extra special guest this week is Chamath Palihapitiya. He is the Founder of Social Capital, one of the more interesting and successful venture capitalist out in Palo Alto. He is also an Engineer and Team Leader working at places like AOL, Facebook, and Slack. He has been known as the SPAC King for his numerous successful deals in that space. And he is also a 10 percent owner of the Golden State Warriors. Chamath Palihapitiya, welcome to Bloomberg. PALIHAPITIYA: Barry, thanks. RITHOLTZ: I’ve been looking forward to having this conversation for a while. Let’s — normally, I start with people’s backgrounds and we go chronologically, but you have some quotes that I love, and I want to ask you about them and let you run wild with them, “Starting with venture capital properly deployed can solve the biggest problems filling the void left by the shrinking scientific ambitions of governments, foundations, and international organizations. Explain. PALIHAPITIYA: Well, if you look at what’s happening in California or what’s happening at the federal level of the United States currently, there’s a really interesting thing that’s happened, which is we have effectively single-party rule. You have a, you know, elected leader that’s of one party. You have a Senate that’s of that same party, a House and then, you know, in the case of California, mayors as well, all democratic in this case. And what’s interesting is it also happens to be a moment in time where the societal problems that we’ve been facing are the worst they’ve ever been. Climate change is worse than it’s ever been. We have a water crisis. We have an impending food crisis, homelessness, crime. And you have to ask yourself, well, if a single party like — you know, when you have a typical normal, you know, political set-up, you have these two opposing forces and you have to find common ground. And each party says the exact thing, which is, well, if we had complete control, this would all be fixed. And it turns out that two examples where you have complete control, in fact, nothing gets fixed, even less gets fixed than what got fixed before. So why is that? It’s that the toolkit of policy and the toolkit of societies has changed. It’s no longer as much about laws necessarily, but it’s about technology. It’s about code. It’s about very specific inventions of science. And the problem with that then, well, then you would say, “Well, great. Well, that’s the solution to all of our problems. If we go in and figure out how to actually, you know, just have more of all of that stuff, everything will be solved.” OK, well, then — then you go in and you decompose that problem to first principles. And what you find is, for example, in places like core scientific research, people care more about citations, and papers, and research, and it’s also highly politicized and infested with all kinds of infighting. And so, foundations can’t fund the work that they used to. Universities aren’t nearly as good and actually promoting massive breakthroughs. So more and more of this responsibility gets put on for-profit enterprises, but to be very specific, they have to be for profit and they have to be technical. And when you see it that way, the venture capitalist all of a sudden has this critical role in society that they didn’t have before because they are a translator. They are, you know, in a technical meeting the smartest business person, but in a business meeting the smartest technical person. And they’re able to put these things together to solve problems. And so, that’s what I was trying to get across, which is we need more people building for-profit technical businesses, organizing resources against problems. RITHOLTZ: So — so let’s stay with the concept of — of venture capital being organized to solve problem and talk a little bit about Social Capital. Tell us about your first couple of venture investments and who were your first limited partners. PALIHAPITIYA: So, I was a Facebook at the time, and I had been doing a bunch of angel investing. And this is maybe 2008 or ’09, but I was the first solo G.P., I think, in many ways. I was putting some money to work of my own money, small checks, Barry, $10,000, $15,000. RITHOLTZ: Early seed round, right? PALIHAPITIYA: Early seed rounds in, you know, 2007 and ’08, basically all the money that I had. And I had to win. I met a guy named Rick Thompson, an amazing entrepreneur, who started a gaming company. And I jumped in with two feet. I invested my money. I spent a little bit of time there helping him, you know, sort of — I mean, as a — as a part-timer, obviously, because I was working at Facebook at the time. And the company gets bought by Disney for like 750 million bucks and I made a few million bucks. And I thought, “This is it.” I have my — I have my escape velocity. And at the time at Facebook, they were all these people that were trying to invest in the company. And Zuck basically said to me, “Hey, can you help sort out whose money we should take?” I mean, I was running Facebook platform, I was building Facebook Mobile, I was doing all of these products so — but I was like, “Yeah, sure, I guess.” And I met the guys at Tiger Global, Chase Coleman specifically, and we built a relationship and then, you know, Tiger ended up investing in the business. And along the way, you know, I said, “Hey, I’m thinking of, you know, investing a little bit of capital on the side.” And he goes, “Well, if you organize a little LLC, you know, I’m happy to kick in a, you know, a few shovels.” And so, all of a sudden, I had this little group of me and my friends, and I just organized about 11 million bucks, you know, and I was like three or four of it and like, you know, other couple of folks jumped in for 50K there, 500K there, a million there, whatever. And so, while I was a full-time employee at Facebook, I was a part-time investor. And that’s how I started and so those are my first LPs, wonderful guys, Reid Hoffman, you know, a whole list of kind of like … RITHOLTZ: Who — who’s the rest of that list because already I am loving this group? PALIHAPITIYA: The list was pretty impressive. I want to say it was like Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Chase Coleman. I’d have to look at the slides, I can’t … RITHOLTZ: But it’s a murderous row pretty much. PALIHAPITIYA: Yeah, Dave Goldberg, you know, Zander Lurie who is the CEO of Momentum A.I., so a bunch of really great entrepreneurs, and CEOs, and investors. Anyways, I put the money to work and, you know, it was non-obvious that that fund was good. I was learning. And most of the investments I made were way too ambitious, and I was deeply undercapitalized, right? So, you — in 2008 and ’09, in hindsight, it was really dumb to make a bunch of deep tech investments. Now, some of them have come home to roost, and that fund has now (inaudible), but we got very lucky and it did very well, but it took an enormously long period of time. So, I put the money to work and I learned. I learned, hey, portfolio construction is important. I didn’t get that right. I was way undercapitalized, like, hey, wait a minute, like I needed way more reserves to defend these companies. And I had to think about duration, meaning I can’t solve 20 of your problems in a 10-year fund. I need to solve five of your problems in a 10-year fund if I want to be in the fund business. And, you know, that obviously changed in 2016 and ’17 when I just basically consolidated with my own money. But so – then I left Facebook in 2011 and I went back to these same folks. And I said, “Guys, let’s go much bigger. I think I know what I’m doing.” And we created — my first fund was 250 or 60 million bucks. I put up 60, and then it was really like, you know, John Doerr, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, Li Ka-shing, you know, just — I ran the table of Jorge Paulo Lemann like incredible people. And a handful of really great institutions, Mayo Clinic, you know, folks that I was really proud to make money for. And I said, “This is like a great intersection of entrepreneurs and, you know, investors, and philanthropists, and foundations.” And, you know, I’m going to go and try to find great businesses, and that’s how it started. RITHOLTZ: So, from there, what was the subsequent funds that came out of that because that, you know, funds that run a seven or a 10-year lifespan. And some companies, some VCs will just do Fund 2, Fund 3, Fund 4, you didn’t exactly go in that direction. PALIHAPITIYA: You know, I can tell you — so like the returns as of this last quarter because I just — I had a — I had a little advisory board meeting, you know, I put about a billion one in the ground. That is worth today just a little under $5 billion. RITHOLTZ: And this was the 2016? PALIHAPITIYA: No. So, yeah, this was … RITHOLTZ: Or 2011? PALIHAPITIYA: I — I raised about $1 billion over four funds — over five funds, sorry, in the first five years basically, so a $260 million fund, another $260 million, a $500 million, and then I had a small $100 million fund and then a $30 million opportunities fund kind of — so about $1.1 billion. And, you know, so far, we’ve returned a little — almost a little under 2X of capital, so cash-on-cash, we’ve returned about two some odd billion. The curing value is a little under $5 billion. And I think that, you know, when I look in the next — in the next few years that will turn one more time. So basically, you know, one billion will turn into $10 billion and the returns are, you know, probably — well, right now they’re in the high 20’s nets. RITHOLTZ: That’s great. PALIHAPITIYA: And it’ll be in the — probably the low 30’s. That’s when it’s all … RITHOLTZ: So, as all that comes up, are you just going to roll that over into another fund or … PALIHAPITIYA: So … RITHOLTZ: … are you looking to spread this into different spaces because I am aware you are a man of many interests. You’re not just — I — I find the world … PALIHAPITIYA: Right. RITHOLTZ: … really fascinating and curious. And — and looking at what you invest in, I can tell you approach the universe the same way. PALIHAPITIYA: Right. So, along the way, I think in 2016 what I realized was running funds doesn’t accomplish my goal. And it took me some number of years to figure that out. I loved working inside of these companies. I loved trying to make some of these businesses work. I loved taking really big moon shots on technical problems that I wanted to solve. I didn’t like the constraints of a fund. I didn’t like managing L.P. relations because by that point, you know, as you know, Barry, when you’re in the fund to business, then it’s all about quantity of LPs. And so, the LPs had grown beyond my cohort of people, right, because it’s not as if their money is infinite either. RITHOLTZ: Right. PALIHAPITIYA: Right? And so, then we have fund of funds and other organizations who are in the business of, you know, being investors in these organizations. And it became very administrative. And a lot of my time was spent fundraising and managing those relationships as opposed to investing or starting companies. And so, that was one big error of judgment that I felt I needed to fix. The other one was I was looking at myself thinking like, well, am I going to be able to defend the ownership of these best companies? And think about what happens in a fund. If you make an investment and it’s working, you have all this pressure to double down. But when there’s something smaller and more technical where there’s way more asymmetric risk, it’s much harder to convince others that you should continue to invest in that as well. RITHOLTZ: So, let’s stay with that a second because that’s — there’s some really interesting things. When I hear someone like you say double down, what I’m usually thinking of is, hey, we made a small investment in the seed round and now it’s the A or the B round, and we’re going to have to step-up. And $500,000 is now a $50 million or $2 million becomes $100 million. Is that what you mean by double down versus … PALIHAPITIYA: No, I mean, the following decision, which is very hard. So, let’s just say — and — and we use explicit examples because it’s easier. So, let’s just say we invested in the crypto business and the software-as-a-service start up on the same day. $10 million in each. The SaaS business has a much higher probability of short-term progress. I sold, you know, X amount of software, here’s my bookings, here’s my revenue. RITHOLTZ: High probability of modest success. PALIHAPITIYA: High probability of modest success. Most people are, you know, enraptured with that. RITHOLTZ: That’s what — well, that’s what the S&P 500 is for. If you want a high probability amount of success, go by the spiders. But I … PALIHAPITIYA: Sure. RITHOLTZ: … imagine people come to venture because — hey, I have all my … PALIHAPITIYA: No. RITHOLTZ: … conservative stuffs. PALIHAPITIYA: No, not true. RITHOLTZ: I’m looking for you to … PALIHAPITIYA: Not true. RITHOLTZ: … hit me the 100X. PALIHAPITIYA: It’s not true. It … RITHOLTZ: Really? PALIHAPITIYA: … it may be — listen. So there — there are two conundrums here. The conundrum number one is if you’re a limited partner. If you’re a limited partner right now sitting inside of a foundation or a pension fund and you have to return capital, and you have to get over your hurdle, you need an allocation into venture, but those allocations are minuscule. Nobody is getting, you know, huge allocations into Sequoia, right? RITHOLTZ: Because the capacity is that’s limited as it is. PALIHAPITIYA: Nobody — nobody is getting huge allocations in the benchmark. You know, these are $500 million funds, you know. And I — you know, in my example, I was 30 percent of all the capital, so there’s just not a lot of room for other. RITHOLTZ: Right. PALIHAPITIYA: Number one. And then the more insidious problem is actually the human capital inside the funds themselves. And what I mean by that is not that they’re bad people, they are wonderful people, but they are products of a very specific and very rigid hierarchy. You know, they typically went to a handful of schools. RITHOLTZ: Right. PALIHAPITIYA: They typically are educated in exactly the same way. They typically, you know, have the exact same kind of risk tolerance as a result of all those things. And so, when the rubber meets the road, this Harvard MBA or the Stanford MBA, they want to treat the venture capital organization as their version of the S&P 500. Very predictable, Steady Eddie. Let me make, you know, a good salary. Don’t rock the boat. So, what happens? Crypto stuff gets underfunded until it’s obvious. You know, hard tech and — and, you know, life sciences get underfunded until it’s obvious. SaaS gets overfunded until it’s obvious. And that’s the whipsaw that you face now. Now, there are a handful of organizations that have fought against that and have done it brilliantly. So, when you look, for example, like Founders Fund, I’ll pick an example. Incredible set of investors who are iconoclasts to the one. Atypical in every dimension. There’s not a single drop of real pedigree amongst them, except they are all incredible entrepreneurs. If you look at Coastal Ventures, same situation. Incredibly atypical in their intellectual makeup, and the way they think, and what they value. And to a one, they’re generally great entrepreneurs, so you see this recurring theme. So, you know, for me, what I’ve tried to do is recalibrate my time around that realization. I have a fixed amount of capital. If I surround myself with these good — they’re good people, it will lead me astray because I will get risk off. And the whole goal of this business, as you exactly well put it, is to be 100 percent massively risk on. And so, that’s how I live my life. I have a small allocation of capital in case all of this goes to zero, but otherwise 99 percent of my net worth and wealth is massive risk on. RITHOLTZ: That’s quite, quite fascinating. I — I keep wanting to go to some of my questions, but you keep saying things that make me have to respond. I’m still kind of struck by your LPs, meaning management. And what I mean by that is someone runs a successful fund. There’s a very limited amount of slots for money to come in. I just imagine it’s like here’s the deal. I have a slot for 100 for you. I’ll send you the annual updates, we’ll have an annual meeting, and I don’t want to hear from you the rest of the year. PALIHAPITIYA: You can’t take — it’s not … RITHOLTZ: It’s the approach. It doesn’t work that way? PALIHAPITIYA: … it’s not that — well, it’s not that easy even for the best organizations. You know, when you’re dealing with these large pools of capital, they are large bureaucracies. And in fairness to these bureaucracies, there’s — there’s really important guardrails of risk management, right, and legal and operational due diligence that they have to do because again, it’s the fireman’s pension, it’s the teachers’ pension, it’s the … RITHOLTZ: Right. PALIHAPITIYA: … you know, it’s the foundation. It’s the — they’re all doing good work, right? So, it’s not like, you know, they have a right to be cavalier, but it creates an infrastructure of folks that approach their job in a very specific way that, for me, didn’t make sense. For others, I think it does make a ton of sense because, you know, they — look, there’s a tradeoff. Today, that tradeoff, by the way, has rewarded them more than me. And what is the tradeoff? When you’re a successful investor, you’ll get to a fork in the road at a certain level of assets where you have to go on the path well-traveled or the path less traveled. The path less traveled is what I’ve taken. You’re alone … RITHOLTZ: Meaning …by yourself, more risk … PALIHAPITIYA:  you’re by yourself … all your own money, all risk gone. The path well-traveled says syndicate the risk, let the — let the returns decay, build an AUM machine, monetize the fee income, sell a percentage to dial or to whomever, and then eventually sell the G.P. to somebody and you’re done. And, you know, if you have enough capital at some point, you’re like, well, what do I need any more money? This is a safer route to take. RITHOLTZ: Right. PALIHAPITIYA: I am of this different view, which is I want very specific kinds of progress that will not happen unless I am a tip of the spear on a bunch of things that I want to change. And I’m using my money as a mechanism of showing the change that I want to see in the world with the idea that if free markets are ultimately efficient, other money will follow. And it will unlock and create change. SPACs are a perfect example. RITHOLTZ: We’re going to talk about SPACs in a little bit. I’m fascinated by the path less traveled. And I — I’m kind of reminded of an old joke a friend used to say, what’s the difference between having $1 billion or having $2 billion? And the answer is really nothing. PALIHAPITIYA: Nothing. RITHOLTZ: Right, there’s not — what is the difference? PALIHAPITIYA: Nothing. RITHOLTZ: So — so once you wrap your head around that, why build an AUM machine? Why take a G.P. and do all the things you don’t want to do just so you can sell it in the road? PALIHAPITIYA: Well, look, I mean — I think there’s something very valiant in building a company of any kind. I don’t care what it is because you end up hiring people, you end up creating your own little economy. You know, by hiring good people and paying them, you’re giving them a path. You’re giving them, you know, some amount of purpose in their lives. So, you know, any form of company building, I think, is heroic, the person that uses to build a company. I don’t care what it is. It could be a garbage business, an AUM business. You know, they’re all to me where I look at the founders of those things like you, and you’re in a class of hero for me. Everybody may not be with the same, you know, sometimes now founders, unfortunately, sometimes can get vilified for being an entrepreneur. But in general, I think they’re heroic. But again, that’s not what I was trying to do. My returns in society, I wanted to be expressed by a different kind of change and a different kind of purpose, which was a practical problem solved. You know, I want reforestation to be, you know, done differently. I want a gene editing solution to be so cheap and so fast the available we can eradicate, you know, the 32,000 inherited Mendelian diseases. You know, I want to figure out how to get, you know, sub $100 solar on everybody’s roof and to build a massive distributed energy utility in America. It turns out I’m doing all those things. Now, I can do that with my capital and that’s really great. That capital may go to zero … RITHOLTZ: But you’re saying … PALIHAPITIYA: … but it may not … RITHOLTZ: … you couldn’t do that if you had these institutional endowments and other … PALIHAPITIYA: Maybe not. RITHOLTZ: … large more conservative investors who are more concerned about IRR than moving the needle. PALIHAPITIYA: Short-term IRR because, you know, again they have a job to do. They have pension obligations to make. They have, you know, other things that they’re funding. They have the lifestyle they want to pay for. They have their own annual reviews and bonuses and things. So, you know, it’s not to debate the validity of it, it just exists, and I’m not willing to sign up for that because duration. And, by the way, you can see that certain funds have realized that that durational limitation doesn’t work in tech anymore, right, so now you’re seeing these 15-year funds, right? Some of these climate funds are really long-dated so that they can take huge long risk with very sticky money. I think that’s moving.....»»

Category: blogSource: TheBigPictureOct 12th, 2021

18 bestselling books that help guide you toward successful careers and relationships

Whether you want to improve your career or relationships, these bestselling nonfiction books and memoirs will help you be more successful. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Some of the best books to help you become more successful include "Atomic Habits," "Lead From the Outside," and "Radical Candor." Amazon; Alyssa Powell/Insider Reading books can be a great way to help you achieve more success in life. From self-help to memoirs, we rounded up the top bestselling books that can change your life. These books can help you form better habits, improve your relationships, and learn to lead. Whether you're looking for guidance in navigating your 20s, learning how to invest, or advancing in your career, books are a highly accessible way to continue your education in any subject.Naturally, "success" is a topic that readers tend to seek out a lot. The self-help genre is full of bestsellers that cover everything from forming good habits to learning how to lead, written by everyone from well-known politicians and CEOs to psychologists who've dedicated their careers to studying a subject.Below, we outlined some of the most popular self-help and personal development books and memoirs that can help you be more successful in life, from managing your money to tweaking how you approach problems. We also included reviews from Amazon customers who found the books helpful in making big changes in their lives.18 bestselling books that will help you be more successful in life: "The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit" Amazon "The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit" by Mel Robbins What it teaches you: How to form a simple, science-backed habit to deal with self-doubt and self-criticism to boost your confidence and happiness.Positive Amazon review: "I don't want to give anything away but Mel shares 2 really powerful stories that illustrate what happens when you use these habits, and especially the one with the painting had me in tears. It was such a beautiful ending and somehow the book combines what you expect from this kind of book, motivational self help inspirational stuff, with memoir, really deep spiritual insights, a big pep talk, and it's still really easy and entertaining to read." — A. "Feeding the Soul (Because It's My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom" Amazon "Feeding the Soul (Because It's My Business): Finding Our Way to Joy, Love, and Freedom" by Tabitha BrownWhat it teaches you: How to find ways to listen to your body and soul to live a more loving, kind life.Positive Amazon review: "Absolutely phenomenal so far! I had been looking for books specifically from those affected by autoimmune disorders, like myself, and when I read the description a few months ago, I knew I had to preorder it. Halfway through the first chapter, I immediately ordered it for a dear friend." — C "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones" Amazon "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones" by James ClearWhat it teaches you: How to form small, meaningful habits that add up to produce significant life changes. It also provides tips on reducing bad habits, such as procrastination.Positive Amazon review: "It's possible this might become your most highlighted personal improvement book because every page is so chocked full of memorable and quotable gems of advice." — Tom Venuto "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts." Target "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts." by Brené BrownWhat it teaches you: How to use vulnerability, compassion, and empathy to improve your leadership skills and connect with your teammates.Positive Amazon review: "What I loved best about this book is that it showed me in a hundred different ways where my thinking was flawed and what I could do to fix it. It did it in a way that was not shame inducing but empowering." — Randy Bell "Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life" Amazon "Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life" by Bill Burnett and Dave EvansWhat it teaches you: How to outline and figure out the day-to-day tasks you actually like doing (instead of focusing on a "dream career"). You can read a full review of the online course based on the book here.Positive Amazon review: "I spent an immense amount of time in my life in my late 20s reflecting, researching, reading, and stressing about what I wanted to do with my life. I wish I had had this book then." — Amazon Customer "Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole" Amazon "Get Good with Money: Ten Simple Steps to Becoming Financially Whole" by Tiffany AlicheWhat it teaches you: How to take a deep look at your spending habits and learn to realistically budget and save your money, no matter what your current financial situation is.Positive Amazon review: "If someone shaming you into austerity hasn't helped you get your financial life in order (weird how that doesn't work long-term), then I highly recommend this as an alternative. "Get Good with Money" is a fabulous tool to help you develop skills and introspection on your way to creating sustainable change in your life." — Frankie Yap "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" Amazon "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" by Eckhart TolleWhat it teaches you: How to use meditation and relaxation techniques to find your "true" self and live in the present moment.Positive Amazon review: "There's much more to this book than just 'living in the moment' — although that's the basic premise. But it's flushed out in a way that is profound." — Daniel S. "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know" Amazon "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know" by Adam GrantWhat it teaches you: How to be more open-minded and prioritize mental flexibility, which can help you negotiate and compromise better as well as generally improve your relationships.Positive Amazon review: "This is an utterly original book on a topic that not only bears directly upon our success, but also our long-term happiness." — Dr Ali Binazir "Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It" Amazon "Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It" by Chris VossWhat it teaches you: How to be more persuasive in your personal and professional life using nine core negotiation principles.Positive Amazon review: "I went into the dealership the next day, and bought the car for $900 less than their original 'Out the door' price that they 'just couldn't go down on.' I used all the tactics in the few pages I had read." — pamela doxey "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" Amazon "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan CainWhat it teaches you: How to embrace your introverted side and use your strengths to succeed in a world built for extroverts. You can read our full review of the book here.Positive Amazon review: "The wealth of information and insights in this book cannot be overstated — especially if you are an introverted type of person who has always felt there was something not quite right about you, or that you somehow needed to change to fit in or succeed." — Karen Hall "Thinking, Fast and Slow" Amazon "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel KahnemanWhat it teaches you: How to "slow down" your thinking and make more logical, thought-out decisions.Positive Amazon review: "'Thinking, Fast and Slow' is a book for anyone who is interested in how thinking works and why they think the things they do." — T.L. Cooper "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity" Amazon "Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity" by Kim ScottWhat it teaches you: How to give honest, effective feedback as a boss without being insincere or needlessly harsh.Positive Amazon review: "'Radical Candor' is one of the most helpful books on management I have read. Not only is the theoretical model (caring personally while providing critical feedback) incredibly helpful, but there are dozens of practical suggestions and tips on everything from 1-1 meetings to successfully managing large projects." — c.bright "Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change" Amazon "Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change" by Stacey AbramsWhat it teaches you: How to lead and innovate when the odds are stacked against you or you feel like an outsider.Positive Amazon review: "This book illustrates what it's like to come from humble beginnings and constantly have to learn the rules along the way." — saga72 "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World" Amazon "Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World" by William H. McRavenWhat it teaches you: How to really commit to small habits (like making your bed every day) that accumulate over time, and embody other life principles that can help build resilience.Positive Amazon review: "A respectful, thought-provoking book which should be required reading for all adults, and maybe reread a couple of times at different stages in a person's life. It gives purpose and direction." — Kindle Customer "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" Amazon "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" by Marie KondoWhat it teaches you: How to clean up and organize your home — and feel mentally better and more in control of your life as a result.Positive Amazon review: "Nearly all the things Kondo says have come true. We know our likes and dislikes. Our house is cleaner and easier to clean. Our house better reflects our personalities." — Paige Turner "The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life." Amazon "The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life." by Robin SharmaWhat it teaches you: How to get into the habit of waking up earlier to get distraction-free time to yourself.Positive Amazon review: "I've been an off again and on again early riser for years, but I could never make it stick. While I've only started implementing the frameworks of the 5am Club, I can already see that this new approach will have much more staying power for me." — Jason Billows from Ottawa "Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds" Amazon "Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind Defy the Odds" by David GogginsWhat it teaches you: How to be aware of what Goggins calls "The 40% Rule" (where we only tap into about 40% of our potential) and work to reach higher self-actualization through resilience. Positive Amazon review: "With this book he doesn't just offer short term motivation but rather a deep shift in your mindset that will help you achieve your fullest potential, as long as you're willing to put in the work." — silviu "How to Win Friends & Influence People" Amazon "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale CarnegieWhat it teaches you: How to more effectively communicate and deal with people who don't agree with you and handle conflict, especially when you're in a leadership position.Positive Amazon review: "Even if you do not think you need any advice...this book is priceless. It not only provides you insight into your own actions, but gives you a window into the actions and choices of those you work with/for." — MISS MARIE Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 4th, 2021

Brazil"s tragic ivermectin frenzy is a warning to the US, experts say

One ICU doctor said the US should take note: "We Brazilians had to learn in the hardest way that ivermectin didn't work." A supporter of President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro holds a large box of box of Ivermectin at Esplanada dos Ministérios on May 15, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images In Brazil, ivermectin is a commonly prescribed anti parasitic drug. Early on in the pandemic, Brazilians thought that ivermectin might also help treat and prevent COVID-19. But, as one ICU doctor put it: "We Brazilians had to learn in the hardest way that ivermectin didn't work." See more stories on Insider's business page. Brazilians used to spend around $30 a head on what they called the "kit COVID."It was a mix of vitamins and other pills that President Jair Bolsonaro touted as early treatments for COVID-19, well before vaccines became widely available to prevent and minimize coronavirus infections. Among the "kit" drugs were the malaria pill hydroxychloroquine and the antiparasitic tablet ivermectin. Brazilian authorities even at one point launched an app, called TrateCov, ("TreatCov[id]" in English) which recommended the same seven "kit" drugs to all its users. (The evidence base for that protocol leaned heavily on data from Dr. Flávio Cadegiani, who's now a member of the FLCCC, a US-based ivermectin propaganda machine.)But Brazilians quickly discovered - through heart-wrenching personal experience - the limits of treating COVID-19 with ivermectin. Brazil suffered some of its worst death rates yet in late 2020 and early 2021, even in heavily ivermectin-dosed areas, as the more transmissible P1 variant spread quickly across the country."Look at what happened in Brazil," Natália Taschner, a Brazilian microbiologist and research scholar at Columbia University in New York City, said. "Then wonder: if this drug worked, would Brazil be in such bad shape?"Entire cities took ivermectin - it didn't work A COVID-19 cemetery in Manaus, Brazil, on November 21, 2020. Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images The ivermectin strategy was once so popular in Brazil that entire towns tried it out. (Ivermectin is cheap and available in pharmacies across the country.)In July of 2020, ivermectin was available for free to all residents of Itajai, to the tune of around $826,000 USD in government spending. The Mayor of Itajai, physician Volnei Morastoni, said at that time that ivermectin was but "one more weapon in our war against the coronavirus." As infection rates soared, some people were taking excessively high doses of the medicine every day, hoping to stave off COVID-19, but in a few rare cases that move prompted liver failure.Other patients were unknowingly given the "kit" drugs by doctors in private hospitals instead of more standard treatments - and some of them died. "The [ivermectin] prescription practices didn't upend the tragedy of COVID here in Brazil in terms of preventing infections, preventing hospitalizations, and then preventing deaths," Dr. Kevan Akrami, an infectious disease and critical care physician working in the northeastern city of Salvador, said. "Whether somebody was taking it or not didn't seem to have any impact on whether or not they got hospitalized or ended up dying from their COVID infection." The use of ivermectin might have contributed to COVID deaths in other ways, researchers suspect, as some people who assumed they were well protected from infection by ivermectin tossed aside their masks. "There was a political promotion behind it, to make people feel safe, so that they would continue with their regular life," Taschner said.Hospitals in Manaus ran out of oxygen in January, as the area recorded one of the highest death rates in the world. 'I have cared for many patients who took ivermectin and were still in the ICU' ICU Dr. Ana Carolina Antonio at work in Porto Alegre, Brazil, July 2021. Courtesy of Ana Antonio. Dr. Ana Carolina Antonio, who works at a government hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, told Insider many of her ICU patients took ivermectin in the spring - some trying to prevent COVID-19, others "to early treat their first symptoms." Their strategy didn't work. In fact, Antonio estimated roughly 70% of her ICU patients admitted during the country's deadly second wave (in late 2020 and early 2021) had taken ivermectin, and "I regret to say most of those patients have died," she said.About half of all her critically ill patients died, and 80% of ventilated patients didn't make it, regardless of whether they'd tried ivermectin. She called the heartbreak of the situation "indescribable.""I've never seen so many young and previously healthy patients dying," she said. "I have already cared for many patients who took ivermectin and were still in the ICU for COVID-19."Antonio was telling the wives of patients "my husband's age," with "children like mine," that their spouse was dead.She worried about getting her own family sick, including her husband who wasn't a health care worker, and therefore was ineligible for vaccination at the time. (He's now vaccinated, she said.)Brazilians now want vaccines, not more ivermectin Brazilians protest against their president, Jair Bolsonaro, demanding vaccines and calling attention to the more than 200,000 people killed by the coronavirus in Brazil, on January 8, 2021 in Brasilia. (The current death toll from COVID-19 in the country is near 600,000). Sergio Lima/AFP via Getty Images Attitudes about ivermectin have quickly changed in the months since then."In the absence of evidence, we'll try certain things," Akrami said. "But at this point in the pandemic, we really don't have any reason to continue prescribing ineffective medications for prophylaxis or treatment."The "kit" which was once widely prescribed (and self-dosed) in Cuiaba, Macapá, Natal, and Manaus, is now being thrown out by the government. Brazil has a new health minister - a cardiologist who replaced a military general - and vaccines are more widely available."We've seen a huge decrease in the number of cases and the number of hospital admissions," Antonio said of the period since vaccinations began. "We Brazilians had to learn in the hardest way that ivermectin didn't work." More than 9 in 10 Brazilians say they've been vaccinated, or intend to get their shots, according to a May 2021 poll. "Across political divides, most people still are being rational and saying, 'I should get vaccinated to protect myself,'" Akrami said. "There's a pretty proud tradition of getting vaccinated here. It's kind of seen as like your civic duty."Itajai Mayor Morastoni's Facebook page is peppered with celebrations of vaccine milestones in his city, and information on how and where to get vaccinated. (He hasn't mentioned ivermectin once on his page since vaccinations started being administered to health care workers in his city in January.)"People are tired of all the lies, and the manipulation, and the promotion of miracle cures that they realize don't work," Taschner said. It's possible ivermectin could one day play a small role in COVID-19 treatment, but it's not looking terribly promising Indigenous Kaimbe, Vanusa Costa Santos is inoculated with the CoronaVac Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on January 17, 2021. Nelson Almeida/AFP via Getty Images Major health agencies (including the World Health Organization and US National Institutes of Health) have yet to weigh in definitively on whether ivermectin works to prevent or treat COVID-19. More conclusive studies are on the way, but the most recent rigorous research of ivermectin for COVID-19 doesn't look promising. The Brazilian government has issued new protocols for COVID-19 treatment, which recommend against using ivermectin in hospitalized patients, because they say there isn't good evidence it does anything. "It might look interesting," Antonio said, referencing studies showing that ivermectin can kill COVID-19 in a petri dish, "but in humans, you have plenty of complex pathways competing for the virus in your body."It is still possible that, in combination with other drugs, the antiparasitic could be one item used in a multi-layered system of treatment for COVID, perhaps to speed recovery in the early stages of disease. But other early treatment options, like Merck's new pill, appear far more promising in human trials.Take note, US and UK Ivermectin is used to treat animals and people. Usually, it's for deworming. AP Photo/Mike Stewart, AP Photo/Ted Warren It is "to my surprise," Antonio said, that countries including the US and UK are "becoming crazy for" ivermectin now, with weekly prescriptions for the drug surging more than 2,300% across the US since before the pandemic, according to August data from the CDC."I really thought it was exclusive Brazilian stuff," she said.When fear and frustration abound, it's tempting to put one's faith in a simple pill or a kit that promises to erase all suffering.But "we're not snake oil salesman anymore," Akrami said.Instead, the best medical care today is informed by rigorous research that examines which treatments actually work to improve a patient's status. "'What's the harm?' is usually the argument," Taschner said of the common refrains given for using unproven treatments like ivermectin. "The harm is it gives people a false impression of security. It makes them feel safe when they are not safe. It drives people away from what really makes them safe, and that's vaccination.""Take a hard look at Brazil, realistically," she said, "and then come to your own conclusions."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 4th, 2021

After rewatching the surreal and bizarre 1993 "Super Mario Bros." movie where Yoshi gets stabbed and Goombas are humanoid dinosaurs, I can"t suggest it enough

The 1993 film "Super Mario Bros." is definitely part of the "so bad it's good" canon of film history, and serves as a horrific time capsule of the era. Throw away whatever you thought you knew about Goombas. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney In 1993, the first-ever major film adaptation of a video game hit theaters: "Super Mario Bros." In 2022, a new "Super Mario Bros." movie starring Chris Pratt as Mario is scheduled to arrive. Rewatching the original for the first time in decades is a stunning reminder of how bizarre the film was. Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories. As a 36-year-old and a lifelong video game fan, I saw the original "Super Mario Bros." movie when it came out in 1993. I haven't sat down to watch it in full in literal decades. Nintendo The most current "Super Mario" game in 1990 was "Super Mario World" for the Super Nintendo, which launched in 1990. If you've never seen it or, like me, had simply forgotten, the "Super Mario Bros." movie is the story of two plumber brothers named "Mario Mario" and "Luigi Mario." But these are almost nothing like the Mario brothers you know from the games. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney At no point in the film does Bob Hoskins say, "It's-a me, Mario!" They live in a version of early '90s Brooklyn where Italian-American red sauce restaurants littered the streets of Williamsburg. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Yes, there is an accordion player and a violin player serenading Mario and his girlfriend. Early in the film, Mario and his girlfriend go on a double date with Luigi and Princess Daisy. Together, they operate the "Mario Bros. Plumbing Service." Though the concept of Mario and Luigi as plumbers was rapidly fading by 1993, the "Super Mario Bros." movie took the concept of Mario and Luigi as plumbers and ran with it. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney The brothers' plumbing acumen is a central plot point for the film, and repeatedly enables them to overcome conflict. Rather than focusing on Mario, "Super Mario Bros." largely focuses on Luigi's budding relationship with a woman named Daisy. Daisy is played by Samantha Mathis. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Notably, Princess Daisy is the princess featured in "Super Mario Land" for the Nintendo Game Boy. The central thesis of the "Super Mario Bros." movie is that a meteorite hit Brooklyn 65 million years ago and, instead of vaporizing the dinosaurs, it actually caused a dimensional rift. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Here's the first look of the alternate dimension where Mario and Luigi travel to in the "Super Mario Bros." movie. It's a sort of Mario-themed cyberpunk version of Manhattan's Greenwich Village. On one side of the rift is Earth, where human beings descended from apes. On the other side is where Mario and Luigi end up - a world that's unsurprisingly ruled by President Koopa, played by Dennis Hopper. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Unlike our reality, where human connection to our ape ancestors is tenuous at best, the Koopa world's connection to dinosaurs is far more intimate - to the point where Dennis Hopper even stands like a dinosaur, with his arms perched, throughout the film. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney There are also dinosaurs throughout the film, naturally. You might be wondering what the connection to the dinosaur stuff is. Given that the most recent "Super Mario Bros." game before the film was "Super Mario World" for the Super Nintendo, it appears that the theme was pulled from that game's setting: Dinosaur Land. SNES "Super Mario World" was the first Super Mario game to feature Yoshi, an especially important inhabitant of Dinosaur Land. "We knew the game ['Super Mario World'] and we knew one of its areas was Dino World," one of the film's directors, Rocky Morton, reportedly told Dinosaur Magazine. "So we thought that it would be a great place to go into." The alternate dimension of the film is known by fans as "Dinohattan." Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Little references to the game series are littered throughout the world of the film, including "Thwomp Stompers," seen here. The dinosaur theme gets stretched to some truly bizarre places, especially as the film attempts to integrate references to the video games. Goombas, for instance, become a de-evolved humanoid dinosaur creature. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney And Yoshi, everyone's favorite adorable little green creature, looks like something ripped from "Jurassic Park": There's a good reason that this dinosaur looks like those in "Jurassic Park" - they came out the same year! Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Beyond the foundational issues of the film's relationship to the games, the movie is all over the place. Dialog and plot logic are a mess from scene to scene, and much of it feels like disconnected moments. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney Why do Mario and Luigi put on these overalls, other than to reference the outfits of the characters in the game? The fact that "Super Mario Bros." is such a mess, though, is what makes it so enjoyable to watch. It's a movie full of so many incomprehensible, baffling moments that you'll start to wonder if it's actually an elaborate social test. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney You can tell this Goomba apart from the others because of his harmonica. Before he was turned into a Goomba, his name was "Toad" and he was a street musician singing about how bad President Koopa is. And yes, that is a reference to the character Toad from the game series. Are there elaborate dance numbers? Yes. Does an adult woman stab Yoshi with a knife meant for stabbing? Yes. Is the bad guy's main weapon a modified version of the Super Scope light gun peripheral for the Super Nintendo? You bet! Frankly, I can't suggest it enough. Buena Vista Pictures/Disney There's even a lengthy chase scene where Mario and a group of women from Brooklyn ride a mattress down a pipe as a mattress of Goombas chases close behind. Note the woman still holding onto her cigarette. Unfortunately, there are no easy ways to stream the film, and the only available copies are on DVD and Blu-ray. There is a fan-made "director's cut" of the film available on the Internet Archive for free, and it's got more scenes than the theatrical release. If you really want to own a copy of the film, it's available on DVD for around $4. Amazon You can find the "director's cut" of the film on Internet Archive. This isn't the official director's cut, but rather a fan-made cut of the film with found footage.Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 3rd, 2021

The Streets Of Major US Cities Are Being Flooded With Far More Drugs Than Ever Before

The Streets Of Major US Cities Are Being Flooded With Far More Drugs Than Ever Before Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog, An endless tsunami of illegal drugs is turning the streets of our major cities into desolate wastelands, and yet our politicians seem powerless to do anything about it.  In fact, in some of our biggest cities the politicians actually don’t seem interested in doing anything about it.  As I will discuss below, open air drug markets are operating freely right in the heart of New York City at this moment.  Dealers and addicts go about their business without the slightest fear that the police will do anything.  Meanwhile, the national death toll just continues to rise.  An all-time record 93,000 Americans died as a result of a drug overdose last year.  That was an increase of nearly 30 percent from the year before, and authorities are already warning that there will be another huge jump when the final numbers for 2021 come in. Federal law enforcement authorities are trying to do what they can, but they know that they are fighting a losing battle.  On Thursday, they announced that they just seized 1.8 million counterfeit pills, but in the big picture that is only a drop in the bucket. Right now, federal officials are warning that more fake medications are circulating on our streets than we have ever seen before, and a very large proportion of them contain fentanyl.  According to the DEA, the number of fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills that they have been able to intercept has risen by almost 430 percent since 2019… Counterfeit pills are more lethal than ever before. The number of DEA-seized counterfeit pills with fentanyl has jumped nearly 430 percent since 2019. DEA lab testing reveals that 2 out of every 5 pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. This is one of the biggest reasons why vast hordes of mindless addicts now endlessly roam the streets of our major cities like zombies. For these addicts, their primary goal in life is always the next fix, and what most Americans don’t realize is that “most of the counterfeit pills coming into the United States are produced in Mexico and China”… “Drug traffickers, both here and abroad, are increasingly using counterfeit pills to package and distribute the poison that illicit fentanyl is,” said Thomas Hodnett, acting special agent in charge of the DEA’s Philadelphia Division. Law enforcement officials say most of the counterfeit pills coming into the United States are produced in Mexico and China. You see, the truth is that the drug war never actually ended, and it is being won by the Mexican drug cartels and the Chinese. And thanks to social media, counterfeit pills are now easier to distribute than ever before… The DEA said the counterfeit pills — made to look like real opioid medications such as oxycodone, Percocet or Adderall — are sold on the street by dealers or online, including through social media platforms. “If you have a smartphone and you’re sitting on the sofa at home … your drug dealer is right there in your hands,” DEA spokesperson Anne Edgecomb said in an interview with NPR. Of course dealers are constantly having to search for new customers because so many of their existing customers end up dying. Fentanyl is extremely potent, and it only takes a couple of milligrams to kill you… Mexican drug cartels increasingly are manufacturing the pills with fentanyl, which is at least 30 times more potent than heroin and is fatal in doses of as little as two milligrams. “It’s everywhere,” says Robert Bell, head of the DEA’s Chicago field division. “They’re available in street deals, for purchase online, in schools. It’s very scary.” This is a major national security crisis, because it is absolutely devastating communities all across the nation. But as I stated at the top of the article, many of our politicians don’t even seem interested in finding a solution. In New York City, the Garment District has become a horrifying drug-infested cesspool… The block bordered by 35th and 36th streets, and Seventh and Eighth Avenues, is “littered with used needles, broken glass crack pipes, trash, urine, and feces” as junkies shoot up and dealers brazenly sell drugs, lamented one neighbor on social media. “I’ve personally seen dozens of deals go down. I’ve seen a person OD and nearly die.” During a single walk around the block last week, The Post witnessed three different people injecting needles in their wrists or fingers in the middle of the afternoon. Each addict sat on the sidewalk or in empty storefronts. Dozens of other junkies sat or lay nearly comatose, many of the men shirtless, on the same block. But instead of doing something about it, the politicians in New York have apparently told the police “to let junkies roam free”… The NYPD appears to have only a token presence. Two cops stood on Eighth Avenue between 35th and 36th, leaning up against a police van while staring into their phones, as illicit activities swirled around them. But cops have been “effectively ordered” by city and state leaders to let junkies roam free, said Manny Gomez, a former NYPD sergeant and FBI special agent who now heads MG Security Services. Of course whenever you have large numbers of addicts concentrated in one location you are going to see a spike in crime, and that is precisely what we are witnessing in the Garment District… Crime in the Midtown South Precinct, which includes the Garment District, is up 41 percent this year through Sept. 19 compared to the same period in 2020, according to NYPD crime data. The most eye-popping spikes are in the number of robberies – which increased 189 percent from 97 to 280 – and felony assaults – which increased 151 percent from 131 to 329. Sadly, New York is far from alone.  For a very long time I have been warning that major cities all over America were being transformed into crime-ridden, drug-infested hellholes, and it is getting worse with each passing year. It has been estimated that approximately 23 million Americans are addicted to drugs, but nobody knows the real number.  It isn’t as if there is any sort of a “drug census” that would give us a more accurate count. But what we do know is that the problem is bigger than it has ever been in our entire history. We have raised entire generations of Americans to believe that their only purpose in life is to serve our soulless, corrupt system.  Of course millions of people do eagerly get on the hamster wheel and try to grab as much money and stuff as they can because they think that they will eventually achieve fulfillment that way.  But millions of others quickly realize that the game is meaningless and they search out other ways to make themselves happy.  A lot of drug addicts didn’t start out as bad people, but their search for happiness ended up taking them down some paths that they never should have gone down. If you are searching for meaning in life, our society doesn’t have any answers for you.  Those that run things just want to control and manipulate you as they make themselves even richer and more powerful. It is imperative that we all learn to think for ourselves, because many of those that don’t learn to think for themselves end up being stuck in their little game for their entire lives. *  *  * It is finally here! Michael’s new book entitled “7 Year Apocalypse” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/01/2021 - 21:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 1st, 2021

I spent 13 years studying the fine art of haggling: here is what I learned

How to haggle for a bargain: Be friendly, develop a rapport with the seller, buy in bulk, don't take it personally, and be prepared to walk away. A rug salesman shows off a rug at The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey. Tim Graham/Getty Images Why do people from different cultures haggle and what are the best tricks? Collin Abroadcast, who posts his shopping exploits on YouTube, calls it "really rapid negotiation. Where you think on your feet." "I wanna talk with them...I wanna have a certain vibe," travel blogger Sassy Funke says of bargain shopping in her native Nigeria. See more stories on Insider's business page. Funke Ogunkoya-Futi - aka Sassy Funke, travel blogger, vlogger, and the author of the Lagos Travel Guide - was ambling through the alleys of Nigeria's Lekki Arts and Crafts Market early one morning last July, just before the rush of shoppers. Her goal: attain ready-made African clothing for her Canadian in-laws.She browsed the closet-sized shops spilling out with jewelry and gems, furniture and tribal masks, woven baskets and wax print bags. Paintings stacked on paintings stacked on paintings. As she peeked into stores, shopkeepers called out, "Come, mama. I have it. I have what you're looking for."She was comparing prices at multiple shops when she spotted a dress she loved. The shopkeeper asked for 2000 naira (about $4.87). Normally, no matter the price asked, Ogunkoya-Futi shoots shopkeepers a look of utter shock and then offers to pay something "ridiculous," she told me. If something is 100 naira, she offers 5.But the dress was good quality; 2000 naira was already a great price. She offered 1000 naira.Ogunkoya-Futi performed masterful schmoozing, talking the seller up and calling herself his daughter. She offered to make multiple purchases and refer him to her friends. Twenty minutes of back and forth later, she secured the deal.Then, Ogunkoya-Futi asked him to throw in three headbands. Adenike Akinlosose, an African textiles dealer, shows her fabrics at Balogun market in Lagos in 2011. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images "This'll cost you nothing to make," Ogunkoya-Futi said, holding the headbands aloft.He gave them to her for free.Ogunkoya-Futi beams when sharing the story with me during an interview over Zoom, claiming it was her best haggling experience because she and the shopkeeper sparked a connection, both had a pleasant experience, and she brought three friends back that week to support his shop. Ogunkoya-Futi had scored a great deal - and helped a kind businessman. "I love the interaction," she told me. "I wanna talk with them. I wanna gist with them. I wanna have a certain vibe, and they enjoy that, they get that."There's also the rush of adrenaline. Collin Abroadcast, a YouTuber who gets millions of views when he posts his shopping exploits, defines haggling as "really rapid negotiation. Where you think on your feet. It's a game, and the more you play, the more you gain speed and learn to read people's body language."A good deal between friendsI also love a good haggle. I haggled for my wife's engagement ring, and before our wedding, I haggled for catering, a DJ, and a photographer. Soon after, I haggled for our house, and when we started our family, I haggled for a minivan. I honed my skills during my time living in Jerusalem for nine months in the mid-aughts when I was 27. I was interning at a Jewish-Arab equality NGO and making little money.In Israel, haggling is hardcore. Sellers go from telling you that you look like a celebrity to cursing you out. I perfected the interest-indifference ratio, always walking out of a store with a salesperson trailing me, hollering deals. I would get into cabs, then immediately back out, if they didn't knock the price down. Italian craftsman Antonio Ignomeriello in his shop at Las Dalias night market in San Carlos, on Ibiza Island in 2021. JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images My grandfather was a haggler. He escaped the antisemitism and pogroms of Poland for America in 1917 and desperately drove his roots into upstate New York's soil, peddling scrap metal, haggling over prices, and eventually saving enough to start a tailored suit shop/dry cleaners, which soon became a suit shop/paint store, and finally Deitcher's Wallpaper and Design Center in Cohoes, New York, established in 1926.Born in 1937, my father was heir to the business. Over lunches at Smith's Tavern, he haggled deals with distributors, loading up on stock in exchange for a bigger discount. In return, customers asked for discounts, too, and if they purchased enough, of course he hooked them up.When my father grew up it was easier for independent businesses to thrive. Store owners were from the community. Customers trusted them because they were neighbors and family. Clerks could make deals, usually cutting into their commission. Shop owners haggled with other shop owners who then haggled deals back. Supporting each other was supporting friends. Today, the only things you can haggle for in the United States are cars, houses, fine jewelry, large appliances, home repairs, event services, and graphic novels at Comic Con. There's little hope for small businesses cutting deals with distributors when Walmart goes directly to manufacturers to demand the lowest wholesale rates. Rugs for sale at the Jaffa Flea Market in Tel Aviv in 2018. Michael Jacobs/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images In the 80s, Deitcher's Wallpaper grew to the point that my father couldn't order wallpaper fast enough, so he bought a warehouse. In the 90s, he moved the family into his custom-built dream house: 5,600 square feet in Slingerlands, New York-the country-where we were one of a handful of Jewish families in the school district and barely knew our neighbors. Then the business faltered. For years, my father tried running new promotions, but the store bled money and most of his income was from investments. In the early aughts, he held a final sale, donated his stock to Habitat for Humanity, and became an appointment-only interior decorator.Even my father shops on Amazon now."Never, never, take it personally. Never get angry."But while America becomes less able to negotiate, people fiend to watch the art of haggling. Abroadcast, the haggling YouTuber, has 1.42 million followers on the platform. His comments sections are filled with fans peeping into a world they will never experience.Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Abroadcast started his channel making "typical travel Vlog type stuff," he told me via Zoom. "Here I am as a foreigner living in China." He had never haggled in his life before he visited the fake markets in Shanghai five years ago. He envisioned back-alley hustlers, but found a five-story mall in the middle of the city. He caught on immediately, bargaining over a pair of Nikes he knew were bootleg. He felt the rush of adrenaline. The connection with sellers. His schtick became hopping from country to country-India, Morocco, Kenya, 20 countries overall-rocking two days of stubble, a t-shirt or a hoodie, and a backpack. His videos run 20 minutes to over an hour, with scene after scene of him haggling and chatting with sellers. Sometimes the haggles get tense, frustration sparking between both the seller and Abroadcast. To some viewers, I'm sure he can come off as a white American trying to acquire goods for peanuts, but often you see him taking his time to learn about a seller's art and family. He can be genuine, both calling out fake goods and complimenting what he likes."I know straight off the bat, especially me being a foreigner in these markets, they expect me to have money because I'm on vacation," he said. "So obviously, they're going to take their chance and try to overcharge me."His favorite story, he told me, took place in Beijing's Silk Market, a massive modern mall known as a destination for buying knock-offs. In a shop lined with shoes, a seller rejected his offer of 200 yuan (about $32) for a pair of Jordans. He told her, "I'm good, I'm good," and headed for the exit. The seller reeled him back in, reminding him he was being unreasonable because she was selling him Jordans, "not lady shoes, not baby shoes, not socks." She fed him tons of snark, which he met with laughter. She finally lowered her price to 250 because he was "very handsome," but he left empty handed, holding firm at his offer of 200."My best haggling situation isn't where I get the best price, it's where I have the most fun. And the seller has the most fun as well," he said. "Those are always the best times because it's like, 'Alright, let's put my skills to the test.' The worst ones are when the sellers don't really care to sell to you.""Never, never, take it personally. Never get angry," Abroadcast said. "As humans, we all want the same thing. Everybody just wants to have good health. They want to be loved and be able to support their family at the end of the day.""Just pay the dollar and go"My mom-in-law, who grew up in Jamaica in the '60s, didn't feel a connection with the buyers she haggled with. She did it because that's how her family got by.Once a week, she, her mom, and her sisters went shopping in the bend-down markets of Saint Elizabeth, a parish in the south of Jamaica, known for having the reddest dirt and the Appleton rum estate. Sellers spread their goods on blankets, and often, my mom-in-law and her family came with their own crop to sell-thyme, scallions, and coffee beans from their farm-while their mom used profits to haggle for soup meat, liver, and kidney.Many of my mom-in-law's family members loved chatting with buyers, but she hated it. "It kind of made me feel a little…" her voice trailed off while she told me about it from across the kitchen table. She remembered feeling ashamed as she watched school friends wandering by, purchasing things, while she fought over small sums of money. "You know how children are. They would say, 'hey, I saw her in the market selling.' It was down-grading."Once her secondary school finished, she left the farm and eventually made her way to America, where she attained her dream job at New York City's Waldorf Astoria, a stark contrast to the markets. To this day, she is one of the worst hagglers I've seen. "She gets embarrassed. Has too much pride," my wife told me. "She worries haggling makes her seem less-than." A basket seller in Jamaica. Emmanuel VALENTIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images) "I can't do it," my mom-in-law said, stirring her tea. "If they say this thing is for a dollar, I just pay the dollar and go. It's up to them and their conscience. I don't lose."She loves chatting with the sales people, whether it be in Macy's or a market in Ocho Rios. She will even leave sellers tips. "I remember my days when I didn't have it," she said. "I know how it's hard.""You don't leave money on the table."Last February, my wife and I took my mom-in-law and my son to visit Jerusalem, and we strolled through the shuk, my mom-in-law paying what she pleased while I went to work.I was in my element.Roni Peled, senior tour guide and Director of Guide Activities at the Israel Museum, told me that since the Crusades, the streets of Jerusalem's Old City have been named for different goods and services. "If I open a shop of spices, right away, on my right side and my left side, there would be open another shop of spices," he said. The Ottoman Empire divided the wide, slippery limestone streets into alleys, a half or quarter their original size, creating the maze of vibrant markets of today. Growing up refugees in the 50s, Peled's family couldn't afford plays and movies, so going to the markets was how they entertained themselves. Everyone met in the markets.Arabs shopped from Jewish shops and Jews frequented Arab shops, but Peled worries the bonds created in Jerusalem's markets are becoming a thing of the past. In 2008, right before I left Jerusalem, the Mamilla Mall opened, just outside the Old City, leading to Jaffa Gate. It's a massive open-air shopping center featuring haggle-free high-end international chain stores built around and into historical buildings. I enjoy shopping there the same way I love my local mall, but the experience feels very impersonal.Haggling is changing in Nigeria, too, at least for more financially comfortable Nigerians in cities like Lagos.Back when Ogunkoya-Futi was growing up in the 90s, going to a proper grocery store was a trip, but it's becoming more the norm. "They're becoming formal entities," she told me, "with a PNL, with projections." Nigerians can get most anything delivered through Jumia, known as the Amazon of Africa. There are hundreds of dispatch services-delivering food, clothing, and TVs.She sees merchants struggling and understands why many Nigerian businesses are becoming more formal. "I can take a random vendor in the market that people haggle with on a day-to-day basis. He sells his products one day for 15. The next day, 100. The fundamental issue is that he can't plan. The fundamental issue is that he has constant bills that are fixed or even growing that he might not be able to live up to." Yet because other vendors are haggling, he can't afford to stop."I love the haggling culture," Ogunkoya-Futi said. "But I think it's unpredictability of revenue is a big issue in the market." It's one of the reasons, she told me, many Nigerians are dependent on diaspora money to survive.Stelios Michalopoulos, an economics professor at Brown University, tells me that societies where haggling is a big part of commercial interactions often share a way of valuing time. "If time is expensive, then you would not do it," he said. "When labor cost is low, then your time is cheap." A stall selling antiques, at El Rastro, Madrid's iconic flea market, in 2021. Gustavo Valiente/Europa Press via Getty Images It's also more common where a higher value is placed on social interactions, there is a joy in haggling. "Both the buyer and the seller want the other to be happy," so they can "invite for further interactions," Michalopoulos said. Of course, that makes less sense when it comes to tourists, who are unlikely to return consistently.He told me that he believes haggling and formalized trade systems can work together. He used donation-based alumni organizations as a parallel example. Donors set the value of being involved with organizations-giving $50 or $100 or whatever they want based on their interest-and the organizations run fine.He called haggling "the optimal way to sell" because the buyer pays "according to his marginal willingness to pay, which will be higher than the cost to the supplier." The possibility for price differentiation leaves no unexploited opportunities for trade."If you have one single price economy," he said, and something costs the seller $8 and the market price goes for $10, "there are actually trades that could have taken place at eight-and-a-half bucks, nine bucks, nine-and-a-half bucks.""The single price law kills those possibilities," he said.If a buyer is willing to pay anything above the seller's cost, "You don't lose. You don't leave money on the table."Today, Ogunkoya-Futi travels the world, documenting her journey to over 35 countries, but she often finds herself haggling with favorite food sellers back home over 10 naira (about $.024).And she says bringing the haggling mentality into other aspects of your life "can open doors that you don't even know." It's about ingenuity. "Don't be discouraged by the hard print," she said. If a job says you need to apply by the first of the month but it's the second, "find the right person in that company. They'll put your application through." If a job can't meet your salary demands, ask if they can bundle it with other benefits, stock options, or travel credits. "Don't be so fixed on one point, look for other creative ways to make a deal better for you.""If you're personable," Ogunkoya-Futi said, "you just never know."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 30th, 2021

Reusable Packaging Is the Latest Eco-Friendly Trend. But Does It Actually Make a Difference?

When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. And because of complexities in the recycling process, huge amounts of single-use plastic (as well as… When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. And because of complexities in the recycling process, huge amounts of single-use plastic (as well as glass and cardboard) that consumers try to recycle ultimately end up getting burned or tossed into landfills anyway. If recyclable materials are contaminated by food waste, or if consumers misunderstand what can be recycled and where—to cite two common examples—their garbage may not end up being repurposed after all. A 2017 study in Science Advances estimated that, of all the plastic waste generated globally up to 2015, just 9% had been recycled, while 12% was incinerated and the rest ended up in landfills or scattered around the natural environment. Some plastic waste is burned to create fuel or energy, but this process is itself energy-intensive and emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Given that broken system, it’s clear that “recycling our way out of [the climate crisis] will not work,” says Sander Defruyt, who runs plastic innovation initiatives at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), a sustainability-focused nonprofit. “Reuse, as well as plain elimination of a lot of packaging we don’t need, will also have to be a crucial part of the solution.” Recycling is, at its core, about reuse. But Defruyt is talking about something slightly different than that broad definition. Proponents of what’s known as a “circular economy” argue that, instead of feeding into the convoluted recycling process, companies should replace single-use containers with those that can be used over and over again—often a durable metal or glass vessel that can be refilled either in a store, by a company or in a consumer’s own home. These systems have a clear appeal. They’re intuitive, for one thing: it’s easy to understand the concept of refilling a bottle, whereas it’s hard to know where the plastic container you toss in a bin actually goes, or what happens to it when it gets there. And rather than dealing with waste after the fact, circular systems reduce it at the source. Using the same containers, in the same form, over and over again ideally eases demand for virgin materials, reduces energy needed to spit out thousands of new plastic bottles or cardboard boxes, and prevents heaps of trash from ending up in landfills or oceans. But such programs are not perfect. They rely heavily on consumers following directions and actually reusing packages as intended, and often involve upcharges that exclude consumers without disposable income. Perhaps more importantly, the environmental benefits of these initiatives may not be as great as they appear. The idea of reusing containers is hardly new. If you’ve ever bought a vat of hand soap and used it to refill various dispensers around your house, or brought your own cup to Starbucks, you’ve taken part in this system. But in recent years, companies have experimented with new ways of doing it. The startup Loop, an offshoot of the recycling company TerraCycle (which critics say does not recycle as much as it promises), launched in the U.S. in 2019 as an e-commerce platform selling food, beauty products and household essentials, all in reusable packaging. Consumers could order quinoa in a metal canister or face wash in a glass jar, then send back the empty packaging for cleaning and refilling and repeat the cycle. On Sept. 22, Loop announced that it would also begin offering products in a limited number of brick-and-mortar Walgreens/Duane Reade and Kroger stores nationwide. It’s also working with retailers in the U.K., Japan, France and Australia. Global corporations including Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble have also piloted reusable packaging programs within the last few years. Unilever, for example, set up refill stations for select hair care products in some Walmart locations in Mexico and Target locations in the U.S.; in Chile, it works with a startup that delivers laundry detergent and cleaning product refills to customers’ homes by electric tricycle. Major beauty brands like the Body Shop are also experimenting with in-store refill stations. Then there are startups like CleanPath and Blueland, whose entire business model is designed around selling concentrated detergents and cleaning products that people can mix with water in reusable containers at home. Read more: Fossil Fuel Companies Say Hydrogen Made From Natural Gas Is a Climate Solution. But the Tech May Not Be Very Green Right now, reuse programs like these are small potatoes in the scheme of global manufacturing. Dozens of major companies, including Unilever, Walmart and Johnson & Johnson, share data on their use of both recycled and reusable materials with EMF. Cumulatively, less than 2% of their plastic packaging was reusable as of 2019, Defruyt says. Still, over the past few years, the circular economy movement has gained steam. In the U.S. alone, according to market-research firm Mintel, the reusable packaging market for beauty and personal care products grew by about 65% from June 2020 to May 2021. Unilever and Procter & Gamble have pledged to halve their use of virgin plastics by 2025 and 2030, respectively. While the particulars of reuse programs vary from brand to brand, two questions apply across the board. One, will customers buy into the system? And two, is the program actually environmentally friendly? The answer to the second question depends heavily on the answer to the first. Shelie Miller, a professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability, says there’s a “payback” period associated with any reusable item—a number of times it must be reused before it’s actually better for the environment than the single-use alternative. Something like reusable sandwich wrap may never break even, according to Miller’s research, because the energy and resources required to make and wash it far exceed what goes into making flimsy disposable bags. (Ditto for many cotton tote bags, as explored recently by the New York Times.) Refillable replacements for containers that use rigid plastics, like shampoo bottles, are a better bet, Miller says. Making a reusable version of that bottle likely takes only a little more energy than the plastic one, so each time it gets reused, it moves a little closer to paying off its environmental debt—assuming, of course, that buyers refill as directed. Consumer interest in reuse programs is there: In a 2021 survey run by Trivium Packaging and Boston Consulting Group, about 70% of respondents said they would be willing to pay more for a product that comes in sustainable packaging. But there aren’t many studies on how often consumers actually refill multi-use packages. If someone buys a metal shampoo bottle, gets lazy and tosses it in the garbage instead of refilling it, that may end up being worse for the environment than simply buying a single-use bottle, because more energy went into making the durable metal version. The mechanics behind reuse programs matter too, says Daniel Johnson, chair of the department of packaging science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “For the right product category and the right supply chain, the effect [of reusable packaging] can be huge,” Johnson says. “But it comes down to, what methods are you going to use to try to recover the packaging…and what does it take to get more product to the consumer?” For example, if someone has to mail back an empty metal bottle for refilling, there will be an environmental burden associated with transporting it back and forth and cleaning it—one which may eclipse the environmental impact of a single-use plastic bottle that actually gets recycled, Johnson says. Direct-to-consumer companies that give people all the tools they need to refill at home—like shampoo capsules or detergent concentrates—are a good option because they don’t require return shipping and are convenient, he says. For a reuse program to work, “the simpler, the better,” agrees David Luttenberger, who heads the department that researches packaging at Mintel. Convenience is key—but since refilling containers is never going to be easier than buying from Amazon, brands should also make it “more of an experience for consumers,” Luttenberger says, with well-designed refill stations or discounts on repeat purchases. For Lush, a Canada-based cosmetics company, reusable packaging is something of a fallback option. Plan A is selling goods without any packaging at all, as Lush does with about 65% of its permanent products, says Katrina Shum, Lush’s sustainability manager—in these cases, the brand sells solids like bath bombs and shampoo bars loose. Liquid products that require packaging, like lotions and shower gels, are sold in pots made from post-consumer-recycled plastic. If customers return five pots to the store, they get a free face mask. Even with the promise of free stuff, Lush has only about a 17% return rate in North America, Shum says. And because it’s so difficult to adequately clean the returned pots, Lush instead breaks them down and uses them to make new ones. Doing so reduces the brand’s need to buy recycled plastic from other sources, but Shum admits she’s “not too sure if it’s really too much different,” from an environmental perspective, than simply making new pots from recycled material. TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky says Loop has a return rate of more than 80%, largely because of the financial incentives it offers: customers must pay a deposit of up to $10 (for a pack of Clorox cleaning wipes) for each container they purchase, and it’s only refunded when they return it for refilling. That concept is well-established. A 2019 report from researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology found that, compared to the rest of the country, glass-bottle recycling rates are 40% higher in the 10 U.S. states that bake in a refundable deposit to the cost of items that come in such containers. But while Loop’s return rate is high, its denominator is low—only about 20,000 people worldwide have used Loop’s pilot programs since they launched two years ago. Szaky is frank about the model’s shortcomings: ordering from the website is expensive (on top of the deposits, round-trip shipping costs at least $20 in the U.S.) and somewhat inconvenient (items come in bulky tote bags best suited for large orders). But, he says, those flaws might be overcome once Loop can move its offerings from e-commerce to retail stores, as will happen soon in the U.S. That was always the end game, Szaky says, because it eliminates some of these costs and hassles. ”If you’re already going to walk to a Duane Reade, what’s the big deal in taking some empties?” Read more: Thinking of Investing in a Green Fund? Many Don’t Live Up to Their Promises, a New Report Claims By the beginning of 2022, Loop will enable U.S. customers to buy dozens of brand-name products in refillable containers at select Kroger and Walgreens/Duane Reade stores across the country, then return them at any participating location. (The website will be phased out as the retail program expands, Szaky says.) Loop is also working with fast food restaurants including Burger King to offer reusable food and beverage containers that can also be returned at any participating Loop retailer. At a September reusability forum hosted by Loop, the World Economic Forum and the World Wildlife Fund, Kate Daly of the think tank Closed Loop Partners pitched an even bigger idea: cities could someday put reusable container dropoff stations on the street, as they currently do with trash and recycling bins. There are obviously logistical challenges around collecting, sorting and returning reusable packages from multiple makers, but Daly said this kind of widespread adoption is crucial for the concept to ever make a significant impact. “You want to have every citizen within a city have access to this new system,” she said. But are the payoffs really worth the logistical headaches? Though packaging is perhaps the aspect of consumer goods that is most visibly wasteful, “It’s often the product itself that is more environmentally intensive than the package,” Miller says, when you factor in the water, materials and energy required to grow, make and ship it. For the average food product, she says, packaging accounts for only about 10% of its total environmental burden—so while it makes sense for companies to experiment with reusable packaging, it’s also something of a baby step on the path to actual eco-friendliness. In other words, reusing a bottle is great, but it doesn’t counteract the water and energy required to make and transport the thing in that bottle. As long as we want a fridge full of sodas and a bathroom full of shampoos, there will be environmental prices to pay. Packaging is just the tax on top......»»

Category: topSource: timeSep 28th, 2021

Before They Were An Inconvenience, But Now The Shortages Are Really Beginning To Sting

Before They Were An Inconvenience, But Now The Shortages Are Really Beginning To Sting Authored by Michael Snyder via TheMostImportantNews.com, Have you noticed that store shelves are starting to get emptier and emptier?  During the panic shopping that was sparked by the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, there were very intense shortages of certain items, but those shortages did not last very long at all.  But now there are widespread shortages in just about every sector of our economy, and they are starting to become quite painful.  Unfortunately, we are being told to expect the shortages to intensify as we head into the holiday season.  That is extremely alarming, because in many areas the shortages are already quite severe. I had been away from the news for a couple of days, and when I came back there were lots more stories about our ongoing shortages.  For example, the following comes from an excellent piece by Matt Stoller… There are shortages in everything from ocean shipping containers to chlorine tablets to railroad capacity to black pipe (the piping that houses wires inside buildings) to spicy chicken breasts to specialized plastic bags necessary for making vaccines. Moreover, prices for all sorts of items, from housing to food, are changing in weird ways. Beef, for instance, is at near record highs for consumers, but cattle ranchers are getting paid much less than they used to for their cows. In my entire life, I have never seen anything like this. Even the Federal Reserve is admitting that we have a major problem at this point.  In fact, in the latest Beige Book the Fed referred to the shortages a whopping 80 times. In certain parts of the country, these shortages are really beginning to sting.  A reader just emailed me about what is going on in his section of Connecticut, and he said that I could share this with all of you… I am just a regular guy in Connecticut, who has been watching things very closely, especially from a Biblical perspective. I wanted to quickly share with you an experience my wife and I had about two weeks ago at a medium-size, family run grocery store near Waterbury, CT. Seemingly overnight, we noticed there were little yellow signs on the shelves, where certain SKUs used to be. Not entire lines, but individual SKUs. For example, a flavor of oatmeal, certain cereals, etc. The signs said something to the effect of: “This item is no longer available due to supply chain constraints”. I would say there were a few hundred signs in total throughout the store. It wasn’t until we got to the juice/water aisle that we noticed the larger problem: there was no Gatorade (?) and no bottled water (gallon jugs). I have befriended the manager over the years, so I asked him where the water is, and he told me “…they only will give us so many bottles”. I asked who ‘they’ is, and he said the manufacturer: they were being rationed. As he said this, a truck driver happened to walk by and joined in on the conversation. He told us that he just got back from Maine, after a three-day trip- a trip that normally takes him a few hours. He said he, and all of the other truck drivers, sit at the warehouses for days, waiting for their trucks to be filled. To be clear, I asked him how long it normally takes, and he said a few hours at the most. On our way out, I remembered that we needed dog food, so we went to the pet aisle, and there was no cat litter, and no dog food, save a few little bags of the cheapest stuff. All of the things Steve Quayle has been saying about food and water shortages suddenly became reality. I always believed him, but now I was seeing it, at the very local level. We then decided to go to PetSmart to get the dog food. Empty. The entire dog food shelf was empty except for a few bags! Are similar things happening in your part of the country? If so, please feel free to email me and let me know. We need to share intel with one another, because the mainstream media is not telling us the truth. Of course the shortages would not be as severe if we could actually unload all of the container ships that are backlogged at our ports.  Right now, dozens of container ships are sitting along the west coast waiting to be unloaded… The number of container ships at anchor or drifting in San Pedro Bay off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has blown through all previous records. The latest peak: There were an all-time-high 73 container ships in the queue in San Pedro Bay on Sunday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California (the tally inched back to 69 on Tuesday). Of the ships offshore Sunday, 36 were forced to drift because anchorages were full. Theoretically, the numbers — already surreally high — could go even higher than this. While designated anchorages are limited, the space for ships to safely drift offshore is not. This is the same problem that I talked about the other day. At one time we had more able-bodied workers than we knew what to do with, but now there is an extreme shortage of workers all over the globe. Sadly, it has gotten to a point where we don’t even have enough people to drive our kids to school… School districts around the country are struggling to fill thousands of bus driver positions as worker shortages lead to late arrivals and last-minute scrambles to bring retired workers back onto payrolls. The shortages are so bad in some places that districts are taking extraordinary steps to get kids to school as students return to in-person classes this fall. Philadelphia’s school district will pay families $300 a month, or $3,000 for the year, to opt out of transportation services and get their kids to school on their own. Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia is offering a $2,500 bonus to new drivers — $100 more than the school district in the county seat, Charlottesville, is offering. This is the worst labor shortage that the U.S. has ever faced, and it just keeps getting worse. So where did all the people go? Without enough able-bodied workers, our economy is experiencing a whole host of difficulties right now.  And when you consider everything else that has been going on, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Joe Biden’s approval rating just sunk to a new record low… Eight months after President Joe Biden’s inauguration, his job approval rating has fallen six percentage points to 43%, the lowest of his presidency. For the first time, a majority, 53%, now disapproves of Biden’s performance. These findings are from a Sept. 1-17 Gallup poll that was conducted after the U.S. military evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan. The United States’ exit from the nation’s longest war was marred by the Taliban’s quick takeover of most of the country and a suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, which killed 13 U.S. service members. Over the same period, COVID-19 infection rates, nationally, were surging, leading to hospital overflows in some regions. And there are some parts of the nation where his approval rating is absolutely disastrous.  Just check out the latest numbers from Iowa… Just 31% of Iowans approved of how Joe Biden is handling his duties as president while a whopping 62% disapprove. Biden’s disapproval number is below the lowest ever measured by ace pollster J. Ann Selzer for former presidents Donald Trump (35%) and Barack Obama (36%). “This is a bad poll for Joe Biden, and it’s playing out in everything that he touches right now,” Selzer told the Des Moines Register. Less than a year ago, a lot of Americans were viewing Biden as some sort of a “savior” figure. That didn’t exactly work out, did it? Many of us have been warning that shortages and high levels of inflation were coming for a very long time, but of course most of the population is not interested in such warnings. They just want to be told that everything is going to be okay. But the truth is that everything is not going to be okay, and the pain that we have experienced so far is just the beginning. *  *  * It is finally here! Michael’s new book entitled “7 Year Apocalypse” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon. Tyler Durden Fri, 09/24/2021 - 15:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 24th, 2021

Who’s Afraid of Peter Thiel? A New Biography Suggests We All Should Be

Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel is famous for destroying media outlets, not paying taxes, and being a conservative tech billionaire. A new biography, The Contrarian, suggests that he is after more than riches. TIME chatted with its author, journalist Max Chafkin. Why should we care about Peter Thiel, apart from the fact that he is another… Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel is famous for destroying media outlets, not paying taxes, and being a conservative tech billionaire. A new biography, The Contrarian, suggests that he is after more than riches. TIME chatted with its author, journalist Max Chafkin. Why should we care about Peter Thiel, apart from the fact that he is another rich tech billionaire and they’re all weirdly fascinating? I think that Peter Thiel is secretly the most important person in Silicon Valley. He’s this behind the scenes player, who is behind so many of the really important things that have happened over the last two decades. Obviously Facebook is one of the world’s largest companies; a lot of people think it’s uniquely bad for the world. And a lot of people are super skeptical of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. And of course, Thiel is behind Facebook. He was the first outside money in the company. He is also the person who basically set up Mark Zuckerberg to be Mark Zuckerberg and turned him into this imperial CEO, who is now, arguably more powerful than a lot of world leaders. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] A lot of people are really excited about cryptocurrency and you can connect it back to to PayPal, which is the company that Thiel co-founded in the late 1990s with an explicitly libertarian ethos. There’s this aspect of crypto-world now, where people are really excited about the idea of taking power away from institutions and governments and that’s something that Thiel and his libertarian brethren that were starting that company were really interested in. It’s not something that happens accidentally. Read More: The U.S. Is Losing the Global Race to Decide the Future of Money—and It Could Doom the Almighty Dollar Do you see Thiel as dangerous? It’s really important that we understand the ideology of Silicon Valley. Five of the top 10 companies in the world are tech companies. They exert an enormous cultural and economic influence over our lives. Those companies have been really successful at telling a story about the world and their place in the world: we’re just trying to make the world a better place. Thiel comes with a very different perspective. He comes out of activist conservative media. I think it’s really important that we explore the ideology of what somebody like Peter Thiel believes. When you start peeling back the layers, what you find is this very out-there political and economic philosophy that I think is a little bit scary. What do you find scary about his economic and political philosophy? It’s bordering on fascism. Thiel taught this class at Stanford and then turned it into a book called Zero to One. He talks about how companies are better run than governments because they have a single decision maker—a dictator, basically. He is hostile to the idea of democracy. That’s pretty scary when you consider the role the companies that he’s been involved in play. Facebook, I’d say is the most influential media entity in the history of humanity, but he also has a major stake in several defense contractors, including SpaceX. He would explain it as belief in efficiency and results, right? He would not say, ‘I don’t think everybody has the right to vote.’ There would be some rationale and in fact, at various times he’s walked back things he said. His whole thing is being slippery, but I think when you look at the body of what he’s done and the things he’s been involved with, that’s the picture that emerges. A lot of people were very surprised that this nerdy, gay, Californian son of immigrants techpreneur decided to support Donald Trump’s presidency. Was it just the pure I’m going to shut down government aspect of Trump’s policies that he liked? If you look at his convention speech—which I think was a really good speech—he talks about Trump as this guy who’s gonna shake things up, who’s going to remake government, so I think that’s one part of it. The other part of it is, Thiel is very committed to the idea of being able to say the unpopular thing. That’s a core part of what Trump was. I also think that Thiel is a really savvy investor and he correctly diagnosed that Trump had a pretty good chance of winning and that there wasn’t a lot of downside to betting on him. He didn’t formally endorse Trump during the 2020 election, but if you look at the candidates he’s [now] supporting, they’re Trumpers: J.D. Vance, who’s running for Senate in Ohio was an employee of Peter Thiel’s and an investor in his fund. Before announcing that he was gonna run for Senate, Vance said that he was wrong in 2016 to oppose Trump, and around the same time, he got this $10 million dollar donation from Thiel to his super PAC. Another candidate that Thiel is supporting in the coming cycle is Blake Masters, who is literally an employee. He runs Thiel’s foundation. Read More: How Donald Trump Courted Gay Voters at the Convention Did Thiel get blowback about the January 6th attack on Congress? I think certainly his reputation in certain corners of the establishment has suffered. But I don’t think he really cares about the blowback; he seems to really take pleasure in that. Do you have a guess at his net worth? There’s an estimate of $6 billion, but I have talked to people who think actually quite a bit higher than that. One reason is that he has been incredibly adept at finding clever ways to limit his tax exposure; those investments in Facebook, in Palantir, and some others were made through this investing vehicle known as a Roth IRA that was originally intended for middle class taxpayers. Through some very clever tax planning, Thiel has managed to stash up billions of dollars in this tax-free account. When that story [that he used Roth IRAs to massively lower his taxes] broke, there was an outrage that somebody who had made so much money in America was not contributing to the national purse. Do you think he cared? Some of the ideology that motivated PayPal, and that motivates a lot of this crypto stuff that has happened since, is all about going beyond nations. It’s about this idea that individuals should have more power than nations and should be able to basically do whatever they want. It’s about undermining the national interest and making sure they don’t contribute to it. Do you see Thiel as an outlier among his tech brethren, or as an exemplar? The conventional wisdom is Thiel is an outlier; he’s like the one conservative guy in this relatively liberal industry. I think that is basically wrong. Many of the things that he believes are reflected in the actions and behavior of many of his peers. Yes, they may have some disagreements. Many of his peers may vote for Democrats. But the idea that companies should basically be able to do whatever they want, that democracy isn’t the most important value, these things are reflected in the decisions and actions that many Silicon Valley companies are making, even Silicon Valley companies that are run by ostensibly liberal progressives. In the beginning of the book, you paint a portrait of Thiel as a bullied child. Other kids put For Sale signs in his yard and then asked when he was leaving and so on. Was that the cradle of his reactionariness? I think he was bullied as a child. And I think that it’s not surprising that somebody who maybe had a tough time navigating a place like Stanford would develop a strong revulsion to the idea of universities like Stanford and would undertake a project to replace or critique these universities. Thiel famously funds a fellowship where he encourages promising young people to start companies instead of going to college and he’s been a prominent critic of colleges. But he’s only a halfway critic. He says in a thousand different ways that Stanford is worthless, but he keeps teaching classes at Stanford. He keeps hiring Ivy League graduates. Most of your sources are anonymous. Why do you think people who spoke to you spoke to you? Thiel’s pretty unique in that he was involved in this elaborate and secretive litigation campaign that resulted in the destruction of a pretty substantial media outlet when he secretly funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, which resulted in this roughly $100 million dollar judgment. So I would talk to people and they would be like, ‘I’m a little afraid of him.’ I wouldn’t really know what to say because I think there’s actual reason for people to be afraid of Peter Thiel. Read More: Peter Thiel Made an Offer to Buy Gawker, the Website He Helped Close Are you personally worried? I’d be lying if I said that Thiel’s litigation against Gawker didn’t weigh on me and I think you’d be foolish to not think about that. That said, it’s not productive to be afraid. Thiel has been right a lot. I wonder if there’s a bit of you thinking, ‘If he’s been right about these things, what should I be looking for now?’ Recently, he gave a speech where he dissed bitcoin, which was a weird thing. If somebody who played a big role in the beginning of digital money is suddenly saying that maybe crypto is bad for the interests of the United States, we should pay attention. There’s an extent to which he’s a great prognosticator, a great futurist. But he’s also a marketer of himself and he’s been very good at accentuating the calls that have been right and and playing down the calls that have been wrong. You note that he has funded two senators—Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley—and is now funding two more candidates. Do you worry he’ll wield outsized power over government? I have to say I worry less about the grandstanding of a handful of senators connected to Thiel than I do about the effect of Thiel-ism on the culture. When you combine the hostility to democracy and institutional norms with the bankroll of a billionaire you can potentially do some damage. This conversation has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity......»»

Category: topSource: timeSep 21st, 2021

Strong Tech Rebound Ends Three Days of Sharp Losses

Strong Tech Rebound Ends Three Days of Sharp Losses SPECIAL ALERT: Remember, we need your input to make next week’s new Zacks Ultimate Strategy Session episode the best it can be. There are two ways you can participate: 1) Zacks Mailbag: In this regular segment, Kevin Matras answers your questions ranging from current market conditions, general investing wisdom, usage of the Zacks Rank or any resources of Zacks.com and more. Pretty much anything goes. 2) Portfolio Makeover: Sheraz Mian and Dan Laboe review a customer portfolio to give feedback for improvement. No need to send us personal information such as dollar value of holdings. Simply email us with all of the tickers you own. Just make sure to email your submissions for either one, or both, by Thursday morning, September 10. Email now to mailbag@zacks.com. You can’t keep tech down for long! After three days of stiff declines that cut 10% out of the NASDAQ, the space finally rebounded on Wednesday and gave the market its first positive session since last Wednesday. The index jumped 2.71% (or about 293 points) today to 11,141.56. That pales in comparison to the recent losses, but we wouldn’t want this market to heat up too quickly again after finally cooling down. Most importantly, the advance broke one of the sharpest selloffs we’ve seen in a while. You know who else saw a double-digit plunge in the past three days? Apple (AAPL)! But the iPhone maker also managed to snap the downward trajectory and get 4% back on Wednesday. Amazon (AMZN, +3.77%) and Alphabet (GOOG, +1.6%) also had nice bounce-back sessions, as the FAANGs returned to the plus side… except for Netflix (NFLX, -1.35). The S&P rose 2.01% to 3398.96, while the Dow improved 1.6% (or about 439 points) to 27,940.47. These indices shed 7.1% and 5.6%, respectively, in the pullback. The losing streak may be over, but the volatility most likely is not. We’re still significantly higher over the past several months in an environment that remains uncertain and in the grips of a  serious pandemic. Further downside is quite possible, and may even be welcomed by investors who were finding it difficult to operate with valuations through the roof and in a market poised for a significant pullback. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see what the jobless claims report has to say tomorrow. Last week’s number was very solid (all things considered) with claims dipping to 881K and easily beating expectations. You may not remember the report because it got overshadowed last Thursday by the first day (and WORST day) of that three-session pullback.   If the report comes under 1 million again, it would mark the first time that happened in back-to-back weeks since the pandemic began.  Today's Portfolio Highlights: Home Run Investor: The portfolio saw an opportunity for some much-needed diversification on Wednesday by adding Brown and Brown (BRO). This insurance brokerage has beaten earnings estimates for three straight quarters. The most recent surprise was more than 17%. Furthermore, rising earnings estimates have made the stock a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy), while increasing margins bode well for future earnings growth. Despite all this good stuff, shares of BRO sold off after the report. Brian doesn’t think it deserved such a shellacking, so he picked up the stock at a great price today. Read the full write-up for more on this new addition.  TAZR Trader: Late last month, Elastic (ESTC) reported a “beat and raise” quarter, which is rather rare at the moment. This Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) “little Google” of data search/analytics enjoyed raised price targets from several brokerages to a Street average over $125. Observing technical strength as yesterday’s low was higher than Friday’s low, Kevin figured that this was a good time to add ESTC with a 7% allocation. Read the full write-up for a lot more on those firms and their raised targets. Blockchain Innovators: It's not unheard of for one portfolio to have three of the top five winners in one day. However, it is very rare if all three of those stocks rose by double digits! Well, that's what this service did on Wednesday with solid performances by eGain Corp. (EGAN, +18.76%), PFSweb (PFSW, +14.18%) and Exp World Holdings (EXPI, +10.55%). Have a Good Evening, Jim Giaquinto Recommendations from Zacks' Private Portfolios: Believe it or not, this article is not available on the Zacks.com website. The commentary is a partial overview of the daily activity from Zacks' private recommendation services. If you would like to follow our Buy and Sell signals in real time, we've made a special arrangement for readers of this website. Starting today you can see all the recommendations from all of Zacks' portfolios absolutely free for 7 days. Our services cover everything from value stocks and momentum trades to insider buying and positive earnings surprises (which we've predicted with an astonishing 80%+ accuracy). Click here to "test drive" Zacks Ultimate for FREE >>  Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksSep 21st, 2021

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

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

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 4th, 2021

Alumni Are Now Withholding Donations Over Too Much Censorship On Campus

Alumni Are Now Withholding Donations Over Too Much Censorship On Campus The censorship on college campuses is getting to such a fever pitch that alumni are now withholding donations in an attempt to get colleges to "enforce free speech". For example, the Wall Street Journal reports that when Cornell reached out to alumnus Carl Neuss for a seven-figure check, he responded by saying he was "worried about what he saw as liberal indoctrination on campus and declining tolerance toward competing viewpoints." So, it turns out it isn't the snowflakes that head out into the real world and make the millions, we guess? When the school put Neuss in touch with their "moderate" political staff, the staff complained that they were "humiliated" by the diversity training that the school mandates. “If you say the wrong words, you could lose your position or be shunned,” Neuss told the WSJ. Joel Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, told the paper that “robust debate and a discussion of all views remain hallmarks of the Cornell experience both in and out of the classroom.” Instead of donating, Neuss then helped start the Cornell Free Speech Alliance - described by the WSJ as "one of about 20 such dissident alumni organizations that have taken root on college campuses over the last couple of years." Neuss isn't the only alumnus concerned. And Cornell isn't the only campus where this is playing out. Neuss/WSJ John Craig, who is head of a group at Davidson College in North Carolina called Davidsonians for Freedom of Thought and Discourse, commented: “This is a battle for our culture and, in many ways, for Western civilization.” Some of these organizations have “watch lists” for liberal professors who groups believe advocate their own ideologies in place of encouraging debate.  An organization called the Generals Redoubt started by alumni at Washington and Lee University in Virginia sent out 10,000 emails asking alumnus to "suspend contributions to the university until this situation is rectified.” Washington and Lee President Will Dudley responded: "We’re living in an environment where people on both sides, right and left, are engaged in a culture war and they want to use universities. I don’t find that beneficial to our mission and I’m not interested in being a participant in it.” Claudia Leon, a junior at Cornell University from San Juan, Puerto Rico, defended the campus, stating that bigots should "think twice" before speaking. She argued: "Just because you can’t go around calling someone an [ethnic slur] anymore, doesn’t mean your free-speech rights are being stifled." Even about 80% of students have said they "self-censor" at times due to rules on campuses, according to a survey this year by RealClearEducation, College Pulse and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The same survey found that 66% of students think it is "acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent him or her from speaking on campus". 23% of students polled even said it was acceptable to use violence to stop a campus speech.  Tyler Durden Fri, 12/03/2021 - 22:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 4th, 2021

The 4 best resistance bands for building strength and muscle rehabilitation

Whether you're building muscle or rehabbing an injury, these are our top tested picks for resistance bands with handles, resistance loop bands & more. Prices are accurate at the time of publication. Resistance bands are as effective as free weights at building muscle and strength. The best resistance bands won't snap, roll, or irritate your skin, and come as a set for more choices. Our top pick, TheraBands, are latex-free, highly versatile, and won't snap over time. Resistance bands are an incredibly diverse and affordable addition to your home gym set-up. They can be used therapeutically for muscle rehab and stability training, or in lieu of dumbbells for serious strength building."There are literally thousands of exercises you can do with a resistance band, with the band placed in numerous patterns around the body," Keaton Ray, PT, DPT, CSCS, physical therapist and co-founder of MovementX, Inc in Portland, OR tells Insider. As a certified barre and mat pilates instructor myself, I've tested a lot of resistance bands to help challenge and build muscle. And studies show they really do work for building strength and mass (more in that in our FAQ section, below). Different types play toward specific goals and movements — looped bands and fabric bands provide resistance for more restrictive movements (clam shells, glute bridges), while the more versatile resistance bands with handles rival the work dumbbells do for compound movements (bicep curls, rows, lunges). We also prefer a resistance band set for more versatility.At the end of this guide, I lay out what types of resistance bands there are, how to use resistance bands, and everything you should consider when buying one. Until then, here are our top picks among the many resistance bands I've tested.The best resistance bands:Best resistance bands overall: TheraBandBest resistance loop bands: Fluidity Best fabric resistance band: Sweat The TechniqueBest resistance bands with handles: SPRI Total Body Resistance KitBest resistance bands overallTheraBand resistance band set is ideal for both rehabilitation and strength building.KBYC photography/ShutterstockTheraBand Non-Latex Resistance Bands are super versatile for both therapeutic use as well as strength training, and they're thin and lightweight enough to take anywhere.Pros: Latex-free, lightweight, extremely versatile in function, inexpensive, resistance band setCons: Not super heavy resistanceTheraBands were my first experience with resistance bands and I've never looked back. Incredibly thin and lightweight while somehow maintaining their strength and durability, this resistance band set does an excellent job helping you develop muscle strength.I've used them around my thighs during squats and between my arms while working my triceps, but the possibilities (and potential muscle groups) are virtually endless.Rather than being permanently looped, TheraBands are one straight piece of latex-free rubber, which makes them highly versatile. You can still tie the band together to make it a looped band, or grip it or wrap it around your hands to use it like a resistance band with handles. There are also eight levels of resistance to choose from, and this set comes with the three mid-level weights, which offers you a range of lighter therapeutic work to strength building. Whether you're making your barre workout just a bit harder or using them for some quick HIIT moves, TheraBands do the trick. That said, if you're looking for serious resistance, you may need something a bit heftier.They're also highly durable — while they look as though they'll snap at any moment, I've had mine for years and they're only just starting to show small tears. My old gym also used these, and despite constant usage by hundreds of clients, the TheraBands withstood the test. They're also latex-free, which is great for folks with allergies or sensitivities. They're highly portable and fit in a small, included carrying case, making them great for travel. --Lulu Chang$17.39 FROM AMAZON$17.39 FROM WALMARTBest resistance loop bandsFluidity resistance loop bands are ideal for short ranges of motion.FluidityFluidity bands are durably looped for building strength on small range-of-motion movements, and made with natural latex, which is gentle on the skin and eco-friendly.Pros: Eco-friendly, non-toxic, durableCons: Individually sold, only three levels of resistance available, no travel bagResistance loop bands are ideal to provide strength-building or rehabilitation-level resistance on smaller ranges of motion, like looping them around your quads to build strength during clamshells or during squats to keep your knees tracking outward. They're also a great addition to your warm-up routine as they help provide low-weight activation to your muscles during moves like with lat pulls and crab walks.Fluidity resistance loop bands are one of the most durable resistance bands I've found. They're made of 100% natural rubber latex, which is a non-toxic and eco-friendly material. As a certified Barre instructor, I have encountered several scenarios where students reacted to the synthetic latex in most bands, but natural latex is much more sensitive on the skin. The bands are also 60 inches by 6 inches, which makes it a great option for any rehab or stretching exercises you may want to perform. These resistance loop bands are sold individually and you have three resistance levels to choose from. This is nice if you have a separate pack you're looking for a single addition to, but I do wish Fluidity sold a pack of all three for more versatile use. That being said, the resistance levels are well-balanced; when I tested this out on the lightest Fluidity flat band, I estimated the resistance to be anywhere between 8-10lbs. $12.00 FROM FLUIDITYBest fabric resistance bandsSweat The Technique makes durable, reliable fabric resistance bands great for glute exercises.Sweat The TechniqueThe Sweat The Technique Ultimate Booty Band Set is made of fabric so they won't stretch over time and fit a wide range of body sizes, and I loved the strength of these bands and the fun colors.Pros: Washable, durable, fit a range of bodies, resistance band setCons: Limited range of motion making them not ideal for all workouts, contain latex, no washing/care instructionsFabric resistance bands are great as they take much longer to stretch out over time compared to rubber bands, and they won't snap in half. Fabric resistance bands are also washable so they're easy to clean, they don't curl up like rubber resistance bands, and they fit a wide range of body types comfortably.Since fabric bands are stronger than latex bands, they also offer more resistance. That means they're less ideal for warm-ups or therapeutic use, but they're an excellent option for shorter ranges of movement like squats or hydrants. I like Sweat The Technique's fabric bands in particular because, for starters, they're a female- and Black-owned company. What's more, when I tested these over bare legs and over workout pants, I was pleasantly surprised the bands didn't move at all during the workout. Unlike with other bands, I didn't have to fidget with or adjust them. But made from a spandex, polyester and latex blend, they still have enough give to make them easy to get on and off.You can buy just a single band or a full resistance band set. I like the Ultimate Booty Band Set, which comes with a medium and heavy option in a sleek travel bag; however, I do wish this set came with a light and an extra heavy option to better accommodate progression over time. The brand does offer the Long Power Band Set, which has more resistance options. However, these are longer and more ideal for stretching, powerlifting, or pull-ups, and less ideal for glute work, which is what most people want a highly-resistant fabric band for.  Best resistance bands with handlesSPRI Total Body is one of our favorite resistance band sets and the best resistance bands with handles we’ve found.SPRIThe SPRI Total Body Resistance Kit comes with five levels of resistance up to ultra heavy, and includes accessories like ankle straps and door attachments, making it an incredible value for about the price of a single dumbbell.Pros: Super versatile, comes with multiple attachments, durable productCons: Handled resistance bands can be a bit confusing if you are a beginner Working out with resistance bands can build similar strength gains to resistance training with free weights, reports a 2019 study in SAGE Open Medicine The SPRI Total Resistance Band Kit includes five bands that range from very light to ultra heavy. I found this spectrum to be incredibly diverse and helpful when I used them to workout, and a great deal for the price. The set also comes with two handles, one ankle strap, and one door attachment, adding to the diversity of what moves you can do with this equipment.Obviously, it can be a little annoying to stop the flow of your workout to swap the handles onto a new resistance band, so you do have to be a little more strategic about pairing exercises that require similar weights. But considering all this kit comes with, it has great value. That's especially true if you want to add some strength training to your current workout regime but don't want to invest in a pricey set of dumbbells.$29.98 FROM SPRI$29.98 FROM AMAZONWhat else we consideredAlyssa Powell/Business InsiderWhat else we recommendPure Energy Fitness Kit ($68): Although I did like this kit, it was too expensive for me to recommend to the average reader. However, it does come with ankle weights (which probably contributes to the higher price), and it's made with natural latex and free of other problematic materials like PVC, BPA, and lead phthalates. What we don't recommendGymbandit ($14): I love the colors of these bands and the variety of resistance strengths, but they curled up during my workouts and the lighter resistance bands started to tear after a few sessions with clients.How I testedAs a certified barre and mat pilates instructor, I tested out several resistance bands during my weekly barre and workout sessions with clients. I also incorporated these bands into my own at home workouts. Specifically, I looked at: Durability of the band: The best resistance band won't snap or tear with time and will offer the same amount of resistance, use after use. Scalability with your training: A resistance band set should progress with you and your workouts, so it's smart to look for bands that offer a variety of resistance levels. Comfort during a workout: A lot of flimsy resistance bands will curl around your legs or ankles during a workout, which can be annoying. I prioritize bands that stayed flat and in place, and those that didn't irritate my skin or rubbed against it too much with movement.Affordability: At the end of the day, we're looking to make an investment and to avoid having to replace bands several times during the year.What to look for in a resistance band setWhen shopping for bands you are going to have a couple of options depending on the style of workout you are looking to perform. You will first need to consider if you want a latex or fabric band, these options typically come as a loop band. Latex bands can be beneficial if you are looking to perform a variety of moves because they are less restrictive. You can get a wider range of motion with these bands. For example tricep extensions should be performed with a latex band instead of a fabric band. If you are looking to do shorter ranges of motion like squats or squat tap outs a loop band is more ideal. Another thing to consider is if you prefer bands with interchangeable handles or fixed handles. Interchangeable handles allow you to change the resistance so you can tack on additional weight either by adding more resistance or switching your handles to a band that offers more resistance. Bands with interchangeable handles can become complicated especially when you are crunched for time and looking to squeeze a quick workout. If more time permits this is an excellent option for adding to your cardio routine or working out at home. Bands with handles also allow you to mimic some moves that are performed on weight machines at the gym like a lat pull down.Take into consideration the level of resistance for either rehabilitation, muscle activation, or strength building. Rehabilitation centers around stability training. For this, you want bands that are light enough, don't cause any pain, and let you control your movement, Dr. Ray explains. If a band provides too much resistance, you won't be able to achieve a full range of motion in the exercise you are performing, she adds.If you're looking to build mass or strength though, you'll want heavier resistance and a few different options so you can progress resistance levels. While going too heavy too soon can cause injuries and muscle imbalances, not using enough resistance also won't build muscle effectively. For weightlifters, Dr. Ray suggests incorporating light-to-medium bands into your warm up and cool down. This will help to activate stabilizing muscles which in return will provide a safer and more productive weightlifting session. The thickness of a band is also an important consideration especially if you are looking to build strength in your workout routine. I have noticed the thicker the band, the higher the resistance. I have also discovered that many bands that are marketed as heavy or extra heavy are actually not very thick, and that nearly always translates to poorer resistance. Lastly, is the price point. If you are looking to stay within a specific price range, opting for a single durable band with more versatility (like a band with handles or a flat band) might be a better choice in comparison to one single loop band. FAQsDo resistance bands really work?Yes, resistance bands work to both build strength back slowly after an injury, and, for weight lifters, to build strength as effectively as dumbbells. Dr. Ray adds resistance bands help add load to movements (aka, weight beyond just body weight), which research shows helps build muscle. "For example, a squat with a theraband around your knees is much more effective at building muscle and stability than a side-lying clamshell or leg lift," she explains.Dr. Ray also points out that because resistance bands are so low impact, they're a great way to start strength training for the first time. This is also what makes them ideal for rehabilitating from an injury or specifically targeting deep stabilizing muscles on a recovery day. Of course, for the most well-rounded functional fitness, you want to challenge your muscles in different ways, so you should also use dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, to build strength in addition to band exercises. What types of resistance bands are there?There are several types of resistance bands that include:Figure 8 bands: Ideal for strengthening your arms, chest, shoulders, and back with either single arm and double arm workouts. It can also be used for a total body workout as well as focusing on your lower body with leg and glute exercises. Loop bands: These bands are great for activating muscle groups which help to improve muscle balance, control, and stability by simply waking up under-active muscles. Therapy bands: Therapy bands are good for rehabilitating muscles and offering a lighter resistance when dealing with an injury. Mini Resistance bands: These are smaller loop bands ideal for traveling, keeping in your gym or a set at the office. Also a great option for those that like to workout when far away from home. Ring bands: Can be used for stretching and/or intensifying a workout by utilizing the rings in the band. Lateral bands: Padded ankle cuffs connected to a resistance tube provides additional resistance when doing lateral conditioning exercises. Fabric bands: These bands are made from fabric and often include a strip of non-slip material which helps keep them in place. Excellent for short ranges of movement.Pull up bands: This type of band can help you achieve a pull-up. How do beginners use resistance bands?Resistance bands are ideal for building strength in beginners to resistance training since they tend to be much safer than free weights. Start by using a lighter band and work your way up to heavier resistances over time. If the resistance starts to get too comfortable, it's time to increase the resistance. Aim to switch your bands every month or sooner. As your strength increases, opt for a heavier band or add more repetitions to an exercise. Dr. Ray suggests starting with 3 sets of 10 repetitions of any exercise. If these are too hard, you need a lighter resistance band. If they're easy, grab a heavier one.A few moves you can try to get you started include a high plank with leg lift (modification come down to your knees and perform the leg lift one side at a time), modified side plank with leg lifts and fire hydrants. Where should resistance bands be placed? This depends on what muscle groups you are working. If you want to target your glutes, for example, place the band around your legs just above your knees; then, perform squats or lateral tap outs. This helps provide control and resistance when you lower into the squat. You can also loop the bands around your forearms or above your elbows to provide resistance to your upper body, or around your ankles for lower body exercises."You can get creative with where you place the band on your body, or you can anchor it to the wall," Dr. Ray adds. Looping a band around an anchored bar or handle, like a door handle at home or a squat rig at the gym, is another way to provide resistance.Are resistance bands good for therapy?One of the most common use for resistance bands is for rehabilitation or muscle therapy. During rehab, you need to start contracting muscle tissue and moving your joints through gentle ranges of motion. This helps to lower inflammation, increase blood flow, and stimulate healing, Dr. Ray explains.Light resistance bands are very helpful here, since they're very gentle on your body but allow your muscle fubers to work against gentle force and begin the slow process of regrowing muscle fibers.By the end stage of tissue recovery, you'll start to progress away from resistance bands and begin loading tissues with heavier weights that more closely mimic activities such as carrying heavy groceries or lifting your children. This should always be done under the direction of a physical therapist so you don't damage your tissue, muscles, and joints further.How often should you use resistance bands? Use resistance bands at the same frequency you would dumbbells or any other form of weight. Like with any workout, it's a good idea to allow your body to rest in between each session if you are working the entire body.Another option is alternating between the upper and lower body a few times a week. This allows the muscle fibers to rebuild and become stronger without causing harm. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytDec 3rd, 2021

Stockman: A (Bad) Tale Of Two Inflations

Stockman: A (Bad) Tale Of Two Inflations Authored by David Stockman via Contra Corner blog, Our paint by the numbers central bankers have given the notion of being literalistic a bad name. For years they pumped money like mad all the while insisting that the bogus “lowflation” numbers were making them do it. Now with the lagging measures of inflation north of 5% and the leading edge above 10%, they have insisted loudly that it’s all “transitory”. Well, until today when Powell pulled a U-turn that would have made even Tricky Dick envious. That is, he simply declared “transitory” to be “inoperative”. Or in the context of the Watergate scandal of the time, “This is the operative statement. The others are inoperative.” This 1973 announcement by Richard Nixon’s press secretary, Ron Ziegler, effectively admitted to the mendacity of all previous statements issued by the White House on the Watergate scandal. Still, we won’t believe the Fed heads have given up their lying ways until we see the whites of their eyes. What Powell actually said is they might move forward their taper end from June by a few month, implying that interest rates might then be let up off the mat thereafter. But in the meanwhile, there is at least six month for the Fed to come up with excuses to keep on pumping money at insane rates still longer, while defaulting to one of the stupidest rationalizations for inflation to ever come down the Keynesian pike: Namely, that since the American economy was purportedly harmed badly, and presumably consumers too, with the lowflation between 2012 and 2019, current elevated readings are perforce a “catch-up” boon. That is, more inflation is good for one and all out there on the highways and byways of main street America! You literally can’t make up such rank humbug. Even then, what the hell are they talking about? The shortest inflation measuring stick in town is the Fed’s (naturally) preferred PCE deflator, but here it is since the year 2000. The 21 years gain is 1.93% per annum; and the 9-year gain since inflation targeting became official in January 2012 is 1.73%. Given that the PCE deflator is not a true fixed basket inflation index and that these reading are close enough to target for government work anyway, even the “catch-up” canard fails. That’s especially true because given the virtual certainty of another year or two of 4-6% CPI inflation, even the cumulative measures of inflation will register well above the Fed’s sacrosanct 2.00% target. Moreover, importantly, pray tell what did this really accomplish for the main street economy? On the one hand, savers and fixed income retirees have seen their purchasing power drop by 39% since 2000 and 18% since 2012. At the same time, wage workers in the tradable goods and services sectors got modest wage gains with uniformly bad spill-over effects. To wit, millions lost their jobs to China, India and Mexico etc. because their nominal wages were no longer competitive in the global supply base, while those that hung on to their domestic jobs often lost purchasing ground to domestic inflation. Consequently, the chart below is an unequivocal bad. It is the smoking gun that proves the Fed’s pro-inflation policies and idiotic 2.00% target is wreaking havoc on the main street economy and middle class living standards. Loss of Consumer Purchasing Power, 2000-2021 In short. the group-think intoxicated Fed heads, and their Wall Street and Washington acolytes, are hair-splitting inherently unreliable and misleading numbers as if the BLS inflation data was handed down on stone tablets from financial heaven itself. At the same time, the rampant speculative manias in the financial markets that their oceans of liquidity have actually generated is assiduously ignored or denied. We call this a tale of two inflations because the disaster of today’s rampant financial asset bubbles is rooted in pro-inflation monetary policies which are belied by both theoretical and empirical realities, which we address below. First, however, consider still another aspect of the inflationary asset bubble which is utterly ignored by the Fed. In this case, the group think scribes of the Wall Street Journal inadvertently hit the nail on the head, albeit without the slightest recognition of the financial metastasis they have exposed. We are referring to a recent piece heralding that private-equity firms have announced a record $944.4 billion worth of buyouts in the U.S. so far this year. That 250% of last year’s volume and more than double that of the previous peak in 2007, according to Dealogic. As the WSJ further observed, Driving the urge to go big are the billions of dollars flowing into private-equity coffers as institutions such as pension funds seek higher returns in an era of low interest rates. Buyout firms have raised $314.8 billion in capital to invest in North America so far in 2021, pushing available cash earmarked for the region to a record $755.6 billion, according to data from Preqin. As the end of the year approaches, big buyouts are coming fast and furious. A week ago , private-equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman LLC agreed to buy healthcare-technology company Athenahealth Inc. for $17 billion including debt. A week earlier, KKR and Global Infrastructure Partners LLC said they would buy data-center operator CyrusOne Inc. for nearly $12 billion. And the week before that, Advent International Corp. and Permira signed an $11.8 billion deal for cybersecurity-software firm McAfee Corp. The recent string of big LBOs followed the $30 billion-plus deal for medicalsupply company Medline Industries Inc. that H&F, Blackstone Inc. and Carlyle struck in June in the largest buyout since the 2007-08 financial crisis. Needless to say, these LBOs were not done on the cheap, as was the case, oh, 40 years ago. In the case of AthenaHealth, in fact, you have a typical instance of over-the-top “sloppy seconds”. That is, it was taken private by Veritas Capital and Elliott Management three years ago at a fulsome price of $5.7 billion, which is now being topped way up by Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman LLC in the form of an LBO of an LBO. According to Fitch, AthenaHealth had EBITDA of about $800 million in 2020, which was offset by about $200 million of CapEx or more.That means that at the $17 billion deal value (total enterprise value or TEV), the transaction was being priced at 28X free cash flow to TEV. That’s insane under any circumstances, but when more than half of the purchase price consists of junk debt ($10 billion out of $17 billion), it’s flat out absurd. The reason it is happening is the Fed’s massive financial market distortion: Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman are so flush with capital that it is burning a hole in their pocket, while the junk debt is notionally so “cheap” that it makes a Hail Mary plausible. But here’s the thing. This is a generic case: the Fed’s radical low interest rate policy is systematically driving the allocation of capital to less and less productive uses. And clearly private equity sponsored LBOs are the poster boy, owing to the inherent double whammy of misallocation described by the WSJ above. On the one hand, capital that should be going to corporate blue chip bonds is ending up on the margin in private equity pools as pension funds, insurance companies and other asset managers struggle to boost returns toward exaggerated benchmarks inherent in their liabilities. At the same time, private equity operators are engaged primarily in the systematic swap of equity for debt in LBO capital structures, such debt taking the form of soaring amounts of junk bonds and loans. The higher coupons on junk debt, in turn, attract more misallocation of capital in the debt markets, while at the same time grinding down the productivity and efficiency of the LBO issuers. That because the hidden truth of LBOs is that on the margin they are nothing more than a financial engineering device that strip-mines cash flows that would ordinarily go into CapEx, R&D, work-force training, marketing, customer development and operational efficiency investments and reallocates these flows to interest payments on onerous levels of the junk debt, instead. That’s the essence of private equity. The underlying false proposition is that 29-year old spread-sheet jockeys at private equity shops tweaking budgets downward for all of these “reinvestment” items—whether on the CapEx or OpEx side of the ledger—know more about these matters than the industry lifetime veterans who typically man either public companies, divested divisions or pre-buyout private companies—before they are treated to the alleged magic of being “LBO’d.” In fact, there is no magic to it, notwithstanding that some LBO’s generate fulsome returns to their private equity owners. But more often than not that’s a function of: Short-term EBITDA gains that are hiding severe underling competitive erosion owing to systematic under-investment; The steady rise of market PE multiples fueled by Fed policies, which policies have drastically inflated LBO “exit” values in the SPAC and IPO markets. So at the end of the day, the Fed’s egregious money-pumping is fueling a massively bloated LBO/junk bond complex that is systematically curtailing productive main street investment and therefore longer-term productivity and economic growth. And, of course, the proceeds of buyouts and junk bonds end up inflating the risk assets, which are mostly held at the tippy top of the economic ladder. And that’s a condition which has gotten far worse since the on-set of Greenspanian “wealth effects” policy in the late 1980s. As shown below, between Q4 1989 and Q2 2021: Top 1%: Share of financial assets rose from 21.0% to 29.2%; Bottom 50%: Share of financial assets fell from 7.2% to 5.6% Meanwhile, the good folks are WSJ saw fit to provide a parallel analysis that further knocks the Fed’s lowflation thesis into a cocked hat. In this case, the authors looked at the average domestic airline ticket price and found that it is about the same today as 25 years ago, $260 today versus $284 in 1996. And that’s before adjusting for cost inflation. So the question recurs: How is it possible that the airline industry hasn’t increased ticket prices in over two decades while its fuel and labor costs, among others, have been marching steadily higher? As the WSJ noted, It isn’t possible really. Most of us are paying a lot more to fly today, thanks to a combination of three covert price increases. First, airlines have unbundled services so that fliers pay extra for checking luggage, boarding early, selecting a seat, having a meal and so on. The charges for these services don’t show up on the ticket price, but they are substantial. Second, the airplane seat’s quality, as measured by its pitch, width, seat material and heft, has declined considerably, meaning customers are getting far less value for the ticket price. And third, many airlines have steadily eroded the value of frequentflier miles, increasing costs for today’s heavy fliers relative to those in 1996. Now, did the hedonics mavens at the BLS capture all these negative quality adjustment in airline ticket prices? They most decidedly did not. As shown below, the BLS says ticket prices have only risen by 5.6% during the same 24 year period or 0.23% per annum. But you wonder with jet fuel costs up by 294% during that period and airline wages higher by 75%—why aren’t they all bankrupt and liquidated? The answer, of course, is that the BLS numbers are a bunch of tommy rot. Adjusted for all the qualitative factors listed above, airline tickets are up by a hell of a lot more than 0.23% per year. Yet the fools in the Eccles Building keep pumping pro-inflation money— so that the private equity game of scalping main street cash flows thrives and middle class living standards continue to fall. CPI for Airline Fares, 1996-2021 Moreover, the backdoor prices increase embedded in airline fares are not unique. These practices are also common in other industries, whether it’s resort fees in hotels, cheaper raw materials in garments and appliances, or more-stringent restaurant and credit-card rewards programs. As the WSJ further queried, Consider the following comparison: Which one is cheaper, a 64-ounce container of mayonnaise at a warehouse club that costs $7.99, or a 48-ounce bottle of the same brand at a supermarket for $5.94? Most people will guess the warehouse club because of its low-price image. If you do the math, the price per ounce is roughly the same. But if you consider that the warehouse club requires a separate mandatory membership fee, the customer is actually paying more per ounce at the warehouse club. Known as two-part pricing, the membership fee camouflages the actual price paid by customers—and is behind the success of Costco,Amazon and likely your neighborhood gym. (A gym’s initiation fee, a landlord’s application or administrative fee, and an online ticket seller’s per-transaction processing fee all serve the same purpose.) Yet this is just a tiny sampling of the complexity of providing apples-to-apples pricing trends at the item level over time—to saying nothing of proper weighting of all the items that go into the index market basket. The implication is crystal clear. As per Powell’s belated recant on the “transitory” matter, the Fed doesn’t know where true inflation has been or have the slightest idea of where it is going. So the idea of inflation targeting against an arbitrary basket of goods and services embodied in the PCE deflator, much of which consists of “imputations” and wildly arbitrary hedonic adjustments, is just plan nuts. They only “inflation” measure that is in the proper remit of the Fed is monetary inflation—-something at least crudely measured by its own balance sheet. On that score the Fed is a infernal inflation machine like no other. And for want of doubt that the resulting massive asset inflation and rampant financial engineering on Wall Street that flows from Fed policies is wreaking havoc on the main street economy, note this insight from the always perceptive Bill Cohan: AT&T bought TimeWarner for a total of $108 billion, including debt assumed, and three years later agreed to spin it off it to Discovery for—what?— $43 billion in stock, cash and assumed debt. By my calculation, that’s a $65 billion destruction of value in three years. That’s not easy to do. He got that right. At the end of the day these massive accounting write-offs are just a proxy for the underlying economic destruction. As we said, a tale of two inflations. And neither of them imply anything good. Tyler Durden Fri, 12/03/2021 - 14:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 3rd, 2021

Amazon"s (AMZN) 18 Projects to Bolster Net-Zero Carbon Efforts

Amazon (AMZN) announces 18 utility-scale wind and solar energy projects, which will be located in the United States, Finland, Italy, Spain and Ireland. Amazon AMZN has revealed 18 utility-scale wind and solar energy projects in a bid to fuel its carbon emission-free drive.Notably, out of these projects, eight will be based in the United States. Further, four will be located in Finland, four in Spain, one in Italy and another one in Ireland.The renewable energy produced by the new projects will be utilized in supplying energy to the AWS data centers, Amazon’s fulfillment centers and corporate offices.We believe that the latest move bodes well for the company’s goal of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.The move makes the company the biggest corporate investor in renewable energy by bringing its total count of renewable energy projects to 274 on a global basis.Notably, growing investments in these projects have accelerated the pace of Amazon’s journey toward powering its infrastructure with 100% renewable energy. The goal was initially targeted to be met by 2030, which is now expected to be achieved by 2025.Amazon.com, Inc. Price and Consensus  Amazon.com, Inc. price-consensus-chart | Amazon.com, Inc. QuoteAmazon’s Growing EffortsAmazon has been shifting its focus from fossil fuels to clean energy for quite some time now. The shift to clean energy sources is anticipated to reduce costs in the near term, which is a major positive. Additionally, the company can generate healthy returns from strengthening solar and wind investments as there are several associated tax incentives.Apart from the latest move, the company’s climate-friendly program, which focuses on environment-friendly products, remains a major positive. Under the new program, customers can view the Climate Pledge Friendly label, while purchasing more than 25,000 products.Amazon recently revealed 14 wind and solar energy projects, out of which 11 will be based in the United States, one will be located in Canada, one in Finland, and another one in Spain.    All the endeavors reflect Amazon’s Climate Pledge commitment.However, mounting expenses, owing to growing such endeavors, remain major concerns for the margin expansion of Amazon, which currently carries a Zacks Rank #5 (Strong Sell).You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.Zero-Carbon Mission Gaining SteamThe carbon-free push is gaining strong traction across the technology sector.Not only Amazon but companies like Apple AAPL, Alphabet GOOGL and Microsoft MSFT are also taking initiatives to lower overall carbon footprints and cut energy bills substantially.Apple is looking for ways to develop a carbon-free project soon. AAPL committed to being carbon-neutral across its manufacturing supply chain, product life cycle and overall business by 2030. Further, it was recently announced that 175 Apple suppliers have agreed to transition to using renewable energy.Alphabet’s aggressive three-fold strategy, which includes energy efficiency, renewable energy procurement and carbon offsets, remains noteworthy. Notably, the company’s division Google has been carbon neutral since 2007. GOOGL is aiming to be carbon-free by 2030.Microsoft is gathering steam to become carbon negative by 2030. Additionally, MSFT aims to remove all the emissions, which it has released since its founding year, by 2050. Zacks' Top Picks to Cash in on Artificial Intelligence In 2021, this world-changing technology is projected to generate $327.5 billion in revenue. Now Shark Tank star and billionaire investor Mark Cuban says AI will create "the world's first trillionaires." Zacks' urgent special report reveals 3 AI picks investors need to know about today.See 3 Artificial Intelligence Stocks With Extreme Upside Potential>>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 Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN): Free Stock Analysis Report Apple Inc. (AAPL): Free Stock Analysis Report Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): Free Stock Analysis Report Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL): Free Stock Analysis Report To read this article on Zacks.com click here. Zacks Investment Research.....»»

Category: topSource: zacksDec 3rd, 2021