King Drive BID"s Raynetta Hill keeps community top of mind

As the new executive director of the Historic King Drive Business Improvement District No. 8 in Milwaukee, Raynetta Hill says she feels honored to be in a space to create ideas and execute them......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsNov 25th, 2021

Moderna CEO: Could Take Weeks For More Clarity On Omicron Covid Variant

Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) CEO Stephane Bancel on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Monday, November 29th. Following is a link to video on Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel: Could Take Weeks For More Clarity On Omicron […] Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) CEO Stephane Bancel on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F, 6AM-9AM ET) today, Monday, November 29th. Following is a link to video on if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles 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 Walter Schloss Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Walter Schloss 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 Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel: Could Take Weeks For More Clarity On Omicron Covid Variant MEG TIRRELL: Hey Joe, Stephane Bancel joins us now. Stephane, thanks for being with us this morning. I think the whole world wants to hear from you and what you're doing on Omicron. But let's start first with the level of alarm or concern that you feel about this variant given what we know about it right now. STEPHANE BANCEL: Good morning, Meg. Thank you so much for having us. So, let me maybe start to tell you what I think we know about the virus. Clearly, it has been reported a lot of mutations, mutation in the spike protein, the one that is important for the vaccine. Just to remind people, there were very few mutations on the spike of the Beta or the Delta virus variants and I think it was a big surprise to the science community. I don't believe many people could have predicted such a big jump in evolution in one variant. What we also know is that it's taking over Delta in South Africa very quickly. It took around four months for Delta to take over Beta. It seems that in just a couple of weeks for this new variant to take over Delta so that's something to keep in mind. And we also know that it's in many countries already. What I think we should move on is what do we believe? We believe this virus is highly infectious. We need to get more data to confirm this, but it seems to be much more infectious than Delta which of course is problematic. And we also believe that it's only present in most countries. I think what happened with the planes coming from South Africa to Poland over the weekend is a good example. I believe that most countries that have direct flights from South Africa in the last seven to 10 days have already cases in that country that they might not be aware of. And then the last piece is what we not know yet, but we don't know. There are two key things that we don't know yet and we're gonna find out in the coming weeks. One is vaccine efficacy, what is the impact all these new variants on the vaccine efficacy, and we should know that in around two weeks. Given the large number of mutation, it is highly possible that the efficacy of the vaccine, all of them, is going down but we need to wait for the data to know if this is true and how much is it going down. The second piece that we don't know that we need to keep probably an open mind is the virulence of the virus, how much disease of the people. I believe this will take two to six weeks to really know and I think we need to be cautious that it could be more virulent, it could be as virulent, or it could be less virulent and I think today it's really impossible to know. I think the piece we should be cautious is I don't believe that what's going to happen in the coming week or two in South Africa will be predicting the true virulence of the variant and I think that's because if you think about it in South Africa, you have less than 5% of population over 60 years of age, and you don't have a lot of comorbidity and so it's not because it's going to look not very virulent in South Africa, that it will not be virulent in Europe or in America or in the north. TIRRELL: Well, going back to that question of course about the vaccines. You know, what we saw from the Beta variant which also arose in South Africa is that there was in what Dr. Fauci likes to call a diminution of the protection from the vaccines, but it still seemed like the vaccines could provide protection against severe disease. What's your expectation for that dynamic with Omicron? What diminution we might see based on the mutations that are understood and the effect that there will still be on severe disease from the vaccines? BANCEL: Yes, I think this really is the big question, Meg, is if you look at the new virus it does with Delta mutation, it does with Beta mutation, and many more on the spike up to 32 mutations. So we anticipate that there will be a loss of vaccine efficacy to prevent disease. What is important for people to remember is that unlike an antibody treatment, the vaccines provide you not one or two antibodies, but a soup of antibodies and so some antibodies will still be protective neutralizing antibodies even if you have a mutation and that's a piece that’s really hard to handicap what we did in the last few days to analyze the virus, you know, on computers and doing, you know, 3D modeling and so on. It’s tough to know how we going to lose no 5x, are we going to lose 8x of the antibody levels. These grids will be patient and see the data scientists have been working since middle of next week before Thanksgiving weekend and working through the whole weekend. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, nonstop because we know it really matters. What is important I think to know is that Moderna we have a free line of defense strategy and I'm not aware of any company that has so many tools to help and respond if vaccine efficacy drops and the virulence is, is higher or same. One is as we know, we've lowered the dose of a booster of our current vaccine and so we have a lot of safety data showing that we could go back to 100 microgram dose and to double the dose of the current vaccine, which should provide better protection than the third dose booster of 50 micrograms. So that's first line of defense actionable right away. The second line of defense— JOE KERNEN: Yeah, sorry, we've been just kicking around a couple of the things that maybe you can clear up for us. When you're designing your messenger RNA vaccine it, are surface proteins the only target you could use the spike protein because they do seem to mutate a lot. Is there any way you could use messenger RNA to I don't know to code for some other part of the virus, something that's more conserved, or does it have to be something that that the antibody sees right on the surface of the virus right away? Is that the only target you can use for a messenger RNA vaccine? BANCEL: It’s a great question, Joe. In the past, we looked at several targets on the, on the surface of the virus and really the spike is the one that has always given us the best response in terms of efficacy of a vaccine and protection against disease. It is true that it is mutating but we really believe it is still the best target to provide protection. KERNEN: Is the, the other question that I had was in terms of safety. You get these small changes random it appears in the spike protein and maybe it makes it more infectious, maybe it doesn't, I don't know. But is there a risk in just assuming that since we've been through the safety trials for the original messenger RNA vaccine, if there's slight changes in the base pairs that that you're talking about in the spike protein, could it make it much more dangerous to the immune system in terms of long-term side effects, or can we assume from the safety studies that we already did that you change a few things to adapt to these new variants and it's going to be the same or do we have to go all the way back through all those safety regimen again? BANCEL: So, I think there's two sides to your question, what we believe from a science standpoint and what the regulator needs to see. From a science standpoint, we believe that changing a few builds won't change the safety of a product, we use the same chemical to bond, the same liquid around it, in the same machine. So, it'd be very comfortable having my loved ones getting a vaccine modified by just changing a few base builds in the spike in clinical studies. That's what I believe. Now, what a regulator will require in terms of change or not, I think we depend on what's happening in the community and the risk. I could see a world where if a virulence is less, the regulator asked us to do a full study of a new construct. But if the virulence is very bad, it's a massive public health from a risk benefit trader, the regulator might be comfortable allowing us to go straight to when you construct. BECKY QUICK: Stephane, very quickly, I just wanna go back to something you said. You said that you think countries that have had flights that came from South Africa and I'm guessing you mean any of those eight countries in South Africa, not the official South Africa country, that you think any country having flights coming from the last seven to 10 days from those countries very likely already has this new variant there, even if they haven't detected it yet. If that's the case, how effective are these lockdowns or these potential moves at this point to try and stop it? BANCEL: Yeah, so exactly Becky, I believe that any country that had direct flights from South Africa in the last seven to 10 days, you're now quickly that new variant to cover locally from the data we have seen, as that case exported to that country or imported of the virus. I think the, the measures that are being taken in a lot of countries can slow down the progress of the virus when we figure out the efficacy of the vaccine impact, when we figure out virulence and I think those actions can save a lot of lives down the road. ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Hey Stephane, I’m— QUICK: So just a follow up real quickly, Andrew I'm sorry, I'll get out of the way in just a second. But just a follow up if you have a lockdown, you've got Israel and Japan that are doing total lockdown, other countries that are saying you can't come unless you're a citizen of that country. Does it matter? Does COVID check your passport to see if you're a citizen of that country? BANCEL: Of course it does not. So, I think the piece is testing, testing, testing. I think what Holland did by testing all the people who landed on that plane was the right thing to do. And as you can see, between people who took the plane with a negative COVID test and people who’ve arrived, you had around 10% of the plane that was COVID positive and that's happening everywhere on most flights. That’s why we need to be very cautious. SORKIN: Stephane, as you know, one of the, the great critiques of the world of pharmaceuticals right now and those making vaccines is that, is that we're not getting enough of them to folks as quickly as we should. Part of the issue in South Africa was there wasn't enough uptake. But I wanted to understand from you if you were king for the day, and you had unlimited funds, if the US government were to say we will, we will send you a check for $100 billion right this second, how quickly if a new version of the vaccine needs to be produced, manufactured and distributed, how you would do it and how you would do it differently? BANCEL: So, the challenge is that the manufacturing capacity is what takes times to change drastically. I think today if you look at just the two amounted players, we are on track together to make around 7 billion doses of vaccine for 2022. We could of course increase that if required but if you look at just the number of people who don't want the vaccine around the planet, I think with 7 billion doses, we covering most people who want a vaccine with, with a single dose booster. In terms of timelines, I think as we've said there are 60 to 90 days to get a new virus vaccines already made and actually approved by the regulators. The question is how quickly can manufacturing and when do you decide to switch because today we're making the current vaccine because many countries still want it because that's the only protection available and when do you make that decision so we are getting ready to make the decision as soon as we have the data in the next week or two. TIRRELL: And Stephane, just going back to all the different things that you're looking at as potential solutions for Omicron. I mean, you mentioned looking at the 100-microgram dose booster, that's the full dose rather than the half, seeing if that potentially provides enough protection on its own and then presumably, you've got that ready to go. You also have multi variant booster candidates that target parts of Beta and Delta that you say may potentially work and then you're also working that Omicron specific potential update to the vaccine. When do you think you'll know which one of those is the right solution? Are you working on all of them in parallel? When will we know what the right way to treat this is? BANCEL: So first Meg, yes, we are working on the three solutions at the same time because those have different timelines of when they could be actionable. The higher dose could be done right away but it will be months before the Omicron specific variant is ready to ship in massive quantities. And I think the big pivot is going to be the vaccine efficacy impact when we learn that in a week or two, depending on how much it drop, we might decide on the one hand to start getting a higher dose of a current vaccine around the world to better protect people, maybe people at very high risk the elderly, immunocompromised should need a fourth dose, question mark. And then in the meantime, rolling them into balance. So, I think those are just different timelines and just depending how bad the vaccine efficacy is impacted, we'll have to use one or the other strategy or maybe the three of them because they might just come one after the other. KERNEN: Hey Stephane, I wonder what your thinking is on, on people that have seen the entire virus. In other words, people that had COVID and so they got their antibodies were generated, the antigen was the entire virus itself, not just the spike protein. Would they have an advantage in terms of Omicron? Or because it's a different spike protein, would it be like that like their bodies seeing something entirely new as well and then they'd be defenseless, not defenseless, but maybe that the Omicron can get around the, the natural immunity a person had from, from getting COVID the first time around? Do you know? BANCEL: We don't know. I think it's a really interesting question, Joe. I think the question depends on when were they infected naturally because what we've seen so far is people who get vaccinated get higher level of antibody than people who get naturally infected. But as you say, people who get naturally infected get a much broader repertoire of antibodies, and that tradeoff between diminishing antibodies and the breadth of the antibodies is really hard to not even if it's a new variant, but it's highly possible but we don't know. TIRRELL: And Stephane, just thinking about the, the solutions to this, this issue. There have been calls from scientists in South Africa for, you know, if vaccines are needed to be updated or we need a higher booster dose or any of those solutions, there've been calls to prioritize that region of the world to try to stem the problem at its source. Is that possible to do? And of course, we've heard from Dr. Scott Gottlieb yesterday on “Face the Nation” saying that there is a resistance to accepting more vaccines in some of those countries because it's difficult to distribute them. The uptake in some places is, is low. What issues are you seeing there? BANCEL: Well actually, it’s exactly the same issues that Dr. Scott Gottlieb described. We have right now between 50 and 70 million doses of a vaccine in our warehouse unfortunately, ready to ship that are either custom issues or people in some countries have too many vaccines right now, and not enough people who want to get vaccinated or not enough medical workers to inject those. So, I think the world has changed drastically from what it was at three months ago, where there was not enough vaccine. Now already believe there is there's too much vaccine, which is a good thing for a planet but the issue is really the last mile. TIRRELL: Stephane Bancel, we really appreciate you being with us to help us understand how you're thinking through all of this and we hope to stay in touch with you as you learn more. Thanks again. BANCEL: Thank you. Updated on Nov 29, 2021, 11:57 am (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//"; 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: valuewalkNov 29th, 2021

The wild life of billionaire Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who eats one meal a day, evangelizes about bitcoin, and had to defend his company in front of Congress

Jack Dorsey is expected to announce he is stepping down as CEO of Twitter, unnamed sources told CNBC. Jack Dorsey onstage at a bitcoin convention on June 4, 2021 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty Images Jack Dorsey cofounded Twitter in 2006, and the company has made him a billionaire. He is famous for his unusual life of luxury, including a daily fasting routine and regular ice baths. CNBC reported on Monday that Dorsey is expected to step down as CEO of Twitter, citing unnamed sources. Visit Business Insider's home page for more stories. From fighting armies of bots to quashing rumors about sending his beard hair to rapper Azealia Banks, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leads an unusual life of luxury.Dorsey has had a turbulent career in Silicon Valley. After cofounding Twitter on March 21 2006, he was booted as the company's CEO two years later, but returned in 2015 having set up his second company, Square.Since then, he has led the company through the techlash that has engulfed social media companies, testifying before Congress multiple times.CNBC reported Monday that Dorsey is expected to announce he's stepping down as CEO, citing unnamed sources.Dorsey has provoked his fair share of controversy and criticism, extolling fasting and ice baths as part of his daily routine. His existence is not entirely spartan, however. Like some other billionaires, he owns a stunning house, dates models, and drives fast cars.Scroll on to read more about the fabulous life of Jack Dorsey.Rebecca Borison and Madeline Stone contributed reporting to an earlier version of this story.Dorsey began programming while attending Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis.VineAt age 15, Dorsey wrote dispatch software that is still used by some taxi companies.Source: Bio. When he wasn't checking out specialty electronics stores or running a fantasy football league for his friends, Dorsey frequently attended punk-rock concerts. @jackThese days Dorsey doesn't favour the spiky hairdo.Source: The Wall Street JournalLike many of his fellow tech billionaires, Dorsey never graduated college.edyson / FlickrHe briefly attended the Missouri University of Science and Technology and transferred to New York University before calling it quits.Source: Bio.In 2000, Dorsey built a simple prototype that let him update his friends on his life via BlackBerry and email messaging.joi / FlickrNobody else really seemed interested, so he put away the idea for a bit.Source: The Unofficial Stanford BlogFun fact: Jack Dorsey is also a licensed masseur.Getty Images/Bill PuglianoHe got his license in about 2002, before exploding onto the tech scene.Sources: The Wall Street JournalHe got a job at a podcasting company called Odeo, where he met his future Twitter cofounders.Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams took home the prize in the blogging category at SXSW in 2007.Flickr via Scott Beale/LaughingSquidOdeo went out of business in 2006, so Dorsey returned to his messaging idea, and Twitter was born.On March 21, 2006, Dorsey posted the first tweet.Jack Dorsey's first tweet.Twitter/@jackDorsey kept his Twitter handle simple, "@jack."Dorsey and his cofounders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, bought the Twitter domain name for roughly $7,000.Khalid Mohammed / AP ImagesDorsey took out his nose ring to look the part of a CEO. He was 30 years old.A year later, Dorsey was already less hands-on at Twitter. Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey.Wikimedia CommonsBy 2008, Williams had taken over as CEO, and Dorsey transitioned to chairman of Twitter's board. Dorsey immediately got started on new projects. He invested in Foursquare and launched a payments startup called Square that lets small-business owners accept credit card payments through a smartphone attachment.Sources: Twitter and Bio.In 2011, Dorsey got the chance to interview US President Barack Obama in the first Twitter Town Hall.President Obama talks to the audience next to Jack Dorsey during his first ever Twitter Town Hall.ReutersDorsey had to remind Obama to keep his replies under 140 characters, Twitter's limit at the time.Source: TwitterTwitter went public in November 2013, and within hours Dorsey was a billionaire.APIn 2014 Forbes pegged Dorsey's net worth at $2.2 billion. On the day it was reported he was expected to resign, Bloomberg's Billionaires Index calculated his net worth at $12.3 billion.Source: Bio. and ForbesIt was revealed in a 2019 filing that Dorsey earned just $1.40 for his job as Twitter CEO the previous year.Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who doesn't earn anything from his primary day job.David Becker / GettyThe $1.40 salary actually represented a pay rise for Dorsey, who in previous years had refused any payment at all.He's far from the only Silicon Valley mogul to take a measly salary - Mark Zuckerberg makes $1 a year as CEO of Facebook.Source: Business Insider He might have been worth more had he not given back 10% of his stock to Square.Jack Dorsey with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, Veronica Smiley, and Kate Greer at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort in 2013.ReutersThis helped Square employees, giving them more equity and stock options. It was also helpful in acquiring online food-delivery startup Caviar.Sources: Business Insider and CaviarWith his newfound wealth, he bought a BMW 3 Series, but reportedly didn't drive it often.Alex Davies / Business Insider"Now he's able to say, like, 'The BMW is the only car I drive, because it's the best automotive engineering on the planet,' or whatever," Twitter cofounder Biz Stone told The New Yorker in 2013.Source: The New YorkerHe also reportedly paid $9.9 million for this seaside house on El Camino Del Mar in the exclusive Seacliff neighborhood of San Francisco.The Real Estalker via Sotheby'sThe house has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which Dorsey views as a marvel of design.Source: Business InsiderBefore the pandemic, Dorsey said he worked from home one day a week.Jack Dorsey's home setup.Twitter/@jackIn an interview with journalist Kara Swisher conducted over Twitter, Dorsey said he worked every Tuesday out of his kitchen.He also told Kara Swisher that Elon Musk is his favorite Twitter user.Elon Musk is a prolific tweeter.PewDiePie/YouTubeDorsey said Musk's tweets are, "focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly."He added that he enjoys all the "ups and downs" that come with Musk's sometimes unpredictable use of the site. Musk himself replied, tweeting his thanks and "Twitter rocks!" followed by a string of random emojis.Source: Business InsiderFacebook CEO and rival Mark Zuckerberg once served Jack Dorsey a goat he killed himself.Gene KimDorsey told Rolling Stone about the meal, which took place in 2011. Dorsey said the goat was served cold, and that he personally stuck to salad.Source: Rolling StoneHis eating habits have raised eyebrows.Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25Appearing on a podcast run by a health guru who previously said that vaccines caused autism, Dorsey said he eats one meal a day and fasts all weekend. He said the first time he tried fasting it made him feel like he was hallucinating."It was a weird state to be in. But as I did it the next two times, it just became so apparent to me how much of our days are centered around meals and how — the experience I had was when I was fasting for much longer, how time really slowed down," he said.The comments drew fierce criticism from many who said Dorsey was normalizing eating disorders.In a later interview with Wired, Dorsey said he eats seven meals a week, "just dinner."Sources: Business Insider, The New StatesmanIn the early days of Twitter, Dorsey aspired to be a fashion designer.Cindy Ord / Getty Images, Franck MichelDorsey would regularly don leather jackets and slim suits by Prada and Hermès, as well as Dior Homme reverse-collar dress shirts, a sort of stylish take on the popped collar.More recently he favors edgier outfits, including the classic black turtleneck favored by Silicon Valley luminaries like Steve Jobs.Sources: CBS News and The Wall Street JournalHe also re-introduced the nose-ring and grew a beard.GettyDorsey seems to care less about looking the part of a traditional CEO these days.Singer Azealia Banks claimed to have been sent clippings of Dorsey's beard hair to fashion into a protective amulet, although Dorsey denied this happened.Azealia Banks.GettyIn 2016, Banks posted on her now-deleted Twitter account that Dorsey sent her his hair, "in an envelope." Dorsey later told the HuffPo that the beard-posting incident never happened.Sources: Business Insider and HuffPoDorsey frequently travels the world and shares his photos with his 6 million Twitter followers.Jack Dorsey meeting Japanese Prime Minister Sinzo Abe.Twitter/@JPN_PMOOn his travels, Dorsey meets heads of state, including Japan's former Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.Source: TwitterTweets about his vacation in Myanmar also provoked an outcry.Bagan, Myanmar.Shutterstock/Martin M303Dorsey tweeted glowingly about a vacation he took to Myanmar for his birthday in December 2018. "If you're willing to travel a bit, go to Myanmar," he said.This came at the height of the Rohingya crisis, and Dorsey was attacked for his blithe promotion of the country — especially since social media platforms were accused of having been complicit in fuelling hatred towards the Rohingya.Source: Business InsiderHowever, Dorsey says he doesn't care about "looking bad."FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump welcomes South Korea’s President Moon to the White House in WashingtonReutersIn a bizarre Huffington Post interview in 2019, Dorsey was asked whether Donald Trump — an avid tweeter — could be removed from the platform if he called on his followers to murder a journalist. Dorsey gave a vague answer which drew sharp criticism.Following the interview's publication, Dorsey said he doesn't care about "looking bad.""I care about being open about how we're thinking and about what we see," he added.In September 2018, Jack Dorsey was grilled by lawmakers alongside Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey are sworn-in for a Senate Intelligence Committee.Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesDorsey and Sandberg were asked about election interference on Twitter and Facebook as well as alleged anti-conservative bias in social media companies.Source: Business InsiderDuring the hearing, Dorsey shared a snapshot of his spiking heart rate on Twitter.AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaDorsey was in the hot seat for several hours. His heart rate peaked at 109 beats per minute.Source: Business InsiderDorsey testified before Congress once again on October 28, 2020.Jack Dorsey tuning into the hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation/Handout via REUTERSDorsey appeared via videoconference at the Senate hearing on Section 230, a part of US law that protects internet companies from legal liability for user-generated content, as well as giving them broad authority to decide how to moderate their own platforms.In prepared testimony ahead of the hearing, Dorsey said stripping back Section 230 would "collapse how we communicate on the Internet," and suggested ways for tech companies to make their moderation processes more transparent. During the hearing, Dorsey once again faced accusations of anti-conservative biasJack Dorsey appearing virtually at the hearing.Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty ImagesThe accusations from Republican lawmakers focused on the way Twitter enforces its policies, particularly the way it has labelled tweets from President Trump compared to other world leaders.Dorsey took the brunt of questions from lawmakers, even though he appeared alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.Source: ProtocolDuring the hearing, the length of Dorsey's beard drew fascination from pundits.Dorsey had to address accusations of censorship.Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERSSome users referred to Dorsey's facial hair as his "quarantine beard," while others said it made him look like a wizard.—rat king (@MikeIsaac) October 28, 2020—Taylor Hatmaker (@tayhatmaker) October 28, 2020"Jack Dorsey's beard is literally breaking Twitter's own face detection," posted cybersecurity blogging account @Swiftonsecurity.—SwiftOnSecurity (@SwiftOnSecurity) October 28, 2020 Dorsey also addressed the way Twitter dealt with a dubiously sourced New York Post story about Hunter Biden.Jack Dorsey appearing on-screen at the hearing.Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAYWhen the New York Post published a report about Hunter Biden on October 14 that threw up red flags about sourcing, Twitter blocked users from sharing URLs citing its "hacked materials" policy.Dorsey subsequently apologized publicly, saying it was wrong of Twitter to block URLs.—jack (@jack) October 16, 2020During the Senate hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz accused Twitter of taking the "unilateral decision to censor" the Post.Dorsey said the Post's Twitter account would remain locked until it deleted its original tweet, but that updated policies meant it could tweet the same story again without getting blocked.Source: Business InsiderDorsey had to appear before another hearing on November 17 2020 — this time about how Twitter handled content moderation around the 2020 presidential election.U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee via REUTERS/File PhotoDorsey was summoned alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Republicans who were displeased with how the platforms had dealt with then-President Donald Trump's social media accounts. Both CEOs defended their companies, saying they are politically neutral.When he's not in Washington, Dorsey regularly hops in and out of ice baths and saunas.This is not Dorsey's sauna.ShutterstockDorsey said in the "Tales of the Crypt" podcast that he started using ice baths and saunas in the evenings around 2016.He will alternately sit in his barrel sauna for 15 minutes and then switch to an ice bath for three. He repeats this routine three times, before finishing it off with a one-minute ice bath.He also likes to take an icy dip in the mornings to wake him up.Source: CNBCDorsey's dating life has sparked intrigue. In 2018, he was reported to be dating Sports Illustrated model Raven Lyn Corneil.Sports Illustrated Swimsuit / YouTube / GettyPage Six reported in September 2018 that the pair were spotted together at the Harper's Bazaar Icons party during New York Fashion Week. Page Six also reported that Dorsey's exes included actress Lily Cole and ballet dancer Sofiane Sylve.Source: Page SixHe's a big believer in cryptocurrency, frequently tweeting about its virtues.Teresa Kroeger/Getty ImagesIn particular, Dorsey is a fan of Bitcoin, which he described in early 2019 as "resilient" and "principled." He told the "Tales of the Crypt" podcast in March that year that he was maxing out the $10,000 weekly spending limit on Square's Cash App buying up Bitcoin.In October 2020 he slammed Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong for forbidding employee activism at the company, saying cryptocurrency is itself a form of activism.—jack (@jack) September 30, 2020 Source: Business Insider, Business Insider and CNBC Dorsey said Square is launching a new bitcoin business.Square CEO Jack Dorsey speaks at the Bitcoin 2021 Convention, a crypto-currency conference held on June 4, 2021 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesDorsey announced the new venture in a tweet on July 15, 2021 and said its name was "TBD." It wasn't clear whether that was its actual name, or Dorsey hasn't decided on a name yet.—jack (@jack) July 15, 2021 Dorsey said he hopes bitcoin can help bring about "world peace."Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on stage at the Bitcoin 2021 Convention, a crypto-currency conference in Miami.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesDorsey appeared alongside Elon Musk and Ark Invest CEO Cathie Wood during a panel called "The B Word" on July 2021. He said he loves the bitcoin community because it's "weird as hell.""It's the only reason that I have a career — because I learned so much from people like who are building bitcoin today," Dorsey said.At the end of 2019 Dorsey said he would move to Africa for at least three months in 2020.AP Photo/Francois MoriDorsey's announcement followed a tour of Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. "Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I'll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020," he tweeted. Dorsey then came under threat of being ousted as Twitter CEO by activist investor Elliott Management.Paul Singer, founder and president of Elliott Management.REUTERS/Mike Blake/File PhotoBoth Bloomberg and CNBC reported in late February 2020 that major Twitter investor Elliott Management — led by Paul Singer — was seeking to replace Dorsey. Reasons given included the fact that Dorsey splits his time between two firms by acting as CEO to both Twitter and financial tech firm Square, as well as his planned move to Africa.Source: Business InsiderTesla CEO and frequent Twitter user Elon Musk weighed in on the news, throwing his support behind Dorsey.Tesla CEO Elon Musk.REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke"Just want to say that I support @jack as Twitter CEO," Musk tweeted, adding that Dorsey has a good heart, using the heart emoji.Source: Business InsiderDorsey managed to strike a truce with Elliott Management.AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaTwitter announced on March 9, 2020 that it had reached a deal with Elliott Management which would leave Jack Dorsey in place as CEO.The deal included a $1 billion investment from private equity firm Silver Lake, and partners from both Elliott Management and Silver Lake joined Twitter's board.Patrick Pichette, lead independent director of Twitter's board, said he was "confident we are on the right path with Jack's leadership," but added that a new temporary committee would be formed to instruct the board's evaluation of Twitter's leadership.In April 2020, Dorsey announced that he was forming a new charity fund that would help in global relief efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.Dorsey.Matt Crossick/PA Images via Getty ImagesDorsey said he would pour $1 billion of his own Square equity into the fund, or roughly 28% of his total wealth at the time. The fund, dubbed Start Small LLC, would first focus on helping in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, he said.The CEO said he would be making all transactions on behalf of the fund public in a spreadsheet.In July 2020, hackers compromised 130 Twitter accounts in a bitcoin scam.TwitterThe accounts of high-profile verified accounts belonging to Bill Gates, Kim Kardashian West, and others were hacked, with attackers tweeting out posts asking users to send payment in bitcoin to fraudulent cryptocurrency addresses.As a solution, Twitter temporarily blocked all verified accounts — those with blue check marks on their profiles — but the damage was done.  Elon Musk said he personally contacted Dorsey following the hack.Elon Musk (left) and Dorsey.Susan Walsh/AP; Getty ImagesDuring a July 2020 interview with The New York Times, Musk said he had immediately called Dorsey after he learned about the hack."Within a few minutes of the post coming up, I immediately got texts from a bunch of people I know, then I immediately called Jack so probably within less than five minutes my account was locked," said Musk.Source: The New York TimesIn March 2021 Dorsey put his first-ever tweet up for auction.Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, off camera, testify during a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building where they testified on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018Tom Williams/CQ Roll CallAs the craze for Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) gathered momentum, Dorsey announced he was auctioning his first tweet for charity. It was bought for $2.9 million by Hakan Estavi, chief executive at at Bridge Oracle. Dorsey said proceeds from the auction would go to Give Directly's Africa response.CNBC reported on November 29 that Dorsey is expected to step down as CEO of Twitter.Jack Dorsey co-founder and chairman of Twitter and co-founder and CEO of Square.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesAn undisclosed number of sources told CNBC's David Faber Dorsey is expected to announce he will step down as CEO, CNBC reported Monday.Twitter did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 29th, 2021

Jim Quinn: Fear Of Our Escalating Power Is Leading Elites To Increasingly Reckless Directives

Jim Quinn: Fear Of Our Escalating Power Is Leading Elites To Increasingly Reckless Directives Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog, The Wall Was Too High, As You Can See Hey you, out there in the cold Getting lonely, getting old Can you feel me? Hey you, standing in the aisles With itchy feet and fading smiles Can you feel me? Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light Don’t give in without a fight Pink Floyd – Hey You I wrote an article in December 2012, a week after the Newtown school shooting, called Hey You. My interpretation of this classic Pink Floyd song was related to how our culture has created generations of alienated and isolated people, allowing Big Pharma to peddle their pharmaceutical concoctions to the masses as the “easy” solution to living “normally” in a profoundly abnormal society. My contention was these mass shootings by young men (Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Tucson) were caused by the Big Pharma psychotropic drugs prescribed to all these young killers by sick industry peddlers (aka physicians). The hugely profitable Big Pharma solution to alienation, isolation and depression is drugs that turn a percentage of those afflicted into psychotic killers. The article’s premise was how our techno-narcissistic society, encouraged and enabled by our totalitarian overlords through mind manipulation, drugs, public education indoctrination, and propaganda, has purposely created the alienation, isolation, and hopelessness to further their goals of power, control, and wealth. When it comes to dystopian literature, there is always a clash between Huxley’s softer totalitarianism versus Orwell’s boot on your face tyranny when assessing how our governments enforce their dictates upon their subjects. The Wall certainly has an Orwellian bent, as it explores the issues of abandonment, isolation, alienation, authoritarianism, the brutality of war, a tyrannical conformist educational system, and the walls individuals and society build to protect themselves from having to confront reality and deal with the consequences of their actions. Once alienated from society, having built a wall between yourself and the outside world, attempting to reengage with society can be almost impossible, as the wall becomes too high, and no one can hear your pleas. Sometimes, there is no escape. The opening lyrics are haunting to me. I have felt like I’ve been out in the cold since the outset of this pandemic of herd madness in March 2020. I’ve gotten older and feel older. While family, friends, and coworkers have been drawn into this vortex of falsity, I feel like I am standing alone behind walls constructed by the government, the media, and society in general. It’s lonely when you chose to make a stand against the lies being peddled 24/7 by corrupt politicians, fake news pundits, faux medical “experts” bought off by Big Pharma, mega-corporations, and Hollywood propagandists playing their parts. These demonic forces have tried to bury the light of truth under an avalanche of lies. I’m unsure of their true purpose, but I am sure it will not be beneficial to me, my family or the honest hard-working people trying to survive this dystopian nightmare. Most days it feels like the evil forces arrayed against me and other lovers of liberty and freedom have the upper hand and cannot be defeated. I do feel isolated and alienated from the majority, as they have been psychologically manipulated to obey their masters, as their double vaccine dose, now requires a booster after six months, and will require annual boosters for eternity. They will unquestioningly submit, without ever using their critical thinking skills to grasp these are not real vaccines and do not work. I will not give in to their mass psychosis. Since I was relating the song to the Big Pharma drug induced mass shootings, my 2012 article gravitated towards Huxley’s view of totalitarianism, as he believed our overlords would use pharmaceuticals, conditioning, and mind control to achieve their evil means. “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.” – Aldous Huxley – Brave New World “And always, everywhere, there would be the yelling or quietly authoritative hypnotists; and in the train of the ruling suggestion givers, always everywhere, the tribes of buffoons and hucksters, the professional liars, the purveyors of entertaining irrelevances. Conditioned from the cradle, unceasingly distracted, mesmerized systematically, their uniformed victims would go on obediently marching and countermarching, go on, always and everywhere, killing and dying with the perfect docility of trained poodles.” –  Aldous Huxley My dire view of our future was just as grim nine years ago as it is today. My belief was the alienation and isolation created by our sprawling, automobile dependent, technology obsessed, government controlled, debt financed society had spread like a cancerous tumor, slowly killing our country. As with most of my early articles I gravitated towards our dire fiscal situation and how it was surely unsustainable. My example was: Since 1979, Total Credit Market Debt in the United States has risen from $4.3 trillion to $55.3 trillion, a 1,286% increase in 33 years. It had gone up $51 trillion in 33 years. Well guess what? It now stands at $85 trillion, up another $30 trillion in 9 years, with no deceleration in sight. Since I wrote that 2012 article, the national debt went from $16 trillion to $29 trillion (up 81%), GDP went from $16 trillion to $23 trillion (up 44%), the Dow went from 13,000 to 36,000 (up 177%), and consumer debt went from $2.9 trillion to $4.4 trillion (up 52%). As usual, the plebs went further into debt, while their overlords saw their trillions in stock holdings almost triple in nine years. I thought the debt growth was unsustainable, but the Fed said hold my beer. Their debt creation orgy accelerates by the minute, with real inflation (as opposed to the fake BLS bullshit) running in excess of 10% hitting average Americans, while the Wall Street oligarchs get richer by the second. Even using the BLS bullshit inflation figures, the USD has lost 17% of its purchasing power since 2012, again screwing the little guy. The USD has lost 96.4% of its purchasing power since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. So much for meeting their “mandate” of stable prices. Do you get it yet? The Fed’s job is to enrich their owners (bankers & billionaire oligarchs) while enslaving you in debt and making sure your meager wages buy less and less each year. This is where the “You Will Own Nothing and Be Happy” slogan begins to make sense. The Build Back Better slogan, created by Schwab and his Davos co-conspirators, really refers to building a better wall around the plebs so they remain isolated, alienated and under control. Roger Waters has explained the song Hey You was also an exhortation to make connections with people, help each other, and overcome the alienation and isolation created by those pulling the strings of our societal dystopia. When I heard the song on the radio the other day, my take on the lyrics is now colored by the last two years of this engineered, weaponized, marketed Covid pandemic. The alienation and isolation have not been a choice of individuals, but a mandate from our authoritarian overlords. The wall is being built by those who want to destroy our existing structural paradigm and replace it with something they consider better, but which will be far worse for liberty and freedom minded individuals. A more Orwellian dystopia is being ushered in by Soros, Gates, Schwab and their chief lieutenants Biden, Pelosi, Fauci, Powell, along with the other highly paid apparatchiks in government, media, medical industrial complex, and military industrial complex. We were already in the death throes of the most dysfunctional, decadent, delusional, debt engendered era in the long history of mankind. Their debt saturated “solutions” from 2008 through 2019 reflected an air of desperation. Those in power realized their stranglehold on the narrative was slipping away and were in danger of seeing a sudden decline in their wealth and control over the masses. Rather than accept their slightly less profitable fate like normal human beings, these psychopaths have doubled down by using a relatively non-serious flu for anyone under 85 years old and not morbidly obese, to try and implement a new world order, where they continue to reap all the benefits and the masses incur the pain, suffering and death. The diabolical aspects of this evil undertaking are almost too outrageous to believe. They have redoubled their propaganda endeavors in order to convince the ignorant masses to willingly love their servitude. But it was only fantasy The wall was too high As you can see No matter how he tried He could not break free And the worms ate into his brain Pink Floyd – Hey You In today’s circumstances those lyrics reflect this fantasy/nightmare of Covid being used as the justification to destroy our economic system, drive hundreds of thousands of small businesses into bankruptcy, locking people in their homes for months, mandating useless masks as a dehumanization and fear tactic, mandating the injection of an experimental gene therapy into our bodies as a requirement to make a living, and using a bottomless supply of lies and media propaganda to convince an already dumbed down populace to beg for increased levels of servitude to those who haven’t been right about one thing since this scamdemic was launched. As others have noted, this hasn’t been a pandemic, it’s been an IQ test. And as a society we’ve scored low enough to be put on the short bus to the school for the slow-witted. The global oligarchs began constructing our wall, but millions of willing collaborator Karens and Todds are gleefully adding bricks to that wall. I’ve been flabbergasted since the outset of this propagandized and highly marketed fearfest, over a strain of the annual flu, by the lack of critical thinking skills exhibited by average Americans and their inability to understand simple mathematical risk calculations when they are told blatant lies by the likes of Fauci, Walensky and a plethora of Big Pharma bribed “medical experts” paraded on the boob tube every day. They have let feelings, emotions, and false narratives guide their actions, rather than facts, data, and scientific proof. Everyone has the freedom to verify what they are being told and calculate for themselves the 99.7% overall survival rate and 99.999995% survival rate for those under 25 years old. But they have been psychologically compelled to not question the State or embrace their Constitutional freedom to dissent and not comply. They unquestioningly inject their children with these drugs when unequivocal evidence shows a much higher risk from the jab than from Covid. Huxley realized decades ago a weak-minded populace could be easily manipulated. We have now reached peak complicity, compliance and cowering to the national State and those pulling the strings of our government. “This concern with the basic condition of freedom — the absence of physical constraint — is unquestionably necessary but is not all that is necessary. It is perfectly possible for a man to be out of prison and yet not free — to be under no physical constraint and yet to be a psychological captive, compelled to think, feel and act as the representatives of the national State, or of some private interest within the nation, want him to think, feel and act.” –  Aldous Huxley Huxley was not a big fan of technological “progress” as he just saw it as a more efficient means of going backwards. Those who believe technology is the answer to all of our problems are either insanely myopic or profiting from this fallacy. Technology has certainly contributed to allowing corporations to generate profits through efficiencies, marketing, logistics, and replacing human beings with computers and robots. Technology has also made it very efficient for the State to utilize propaganda, fear, and social indoctrination through electronic media to control the population and manipulate the narrative to suit their diabolic purposes. For the few who dissent from their commands, technology is used to sensor, de-platform, restrain, monitor, and destroy their lives, if necessary. Modern technology has a dual purpose, as an entertainment aphrodisiac, and an electronic boot stomping on your face forever. They want you distracted, amused, and consumed by trivialities, while they execute their wealth pillaging scheme and slowly build a technological wall which grows ever higher and impossible to escape. Consumption, diversion, and obedience is all they asked. Societal stability, in the eyes of the sociopath unseen rulers behind the curtain, is based upon state designed happiness, social indoctrination disguised as public education, endless war, fear-based propaganda, and the use of pharmaceuticals to alleviate dissent and wrong thinking. Normalcy, traditional families, community standards, hard work, thrift, self-responsibility, neighborly connections, faith, and self-governing are all antithetical to the societal breakdown required to implement the Great Reset. Therefore, these values are banned in the world we inhabit today. The best laid plans of the ruling class began to go awry in late 2019, as the gears of the financial system began to grind and fracture. The never-ending Trump coup was floundering under the weight of lies. Their wealth, power, and control were going to take a major hit. So, they decided to pull it. They had laid the groundwork for decades, creating generations trained to value material possessions, require instant gratification, shun critical thinking, let feelings guide their actions, believe debt acquired possessions constituted wealth, trust politicians are working in their best interests, and do whatever those deemed “experts” by the corporate media tell them to do. They have created tens of millions of mentally ill sheep who only appear normal because they fit in to this profoundly abnormal society, where they forfeited the thinking and decision making for their lives to people like Gates, Soros, Biden, Fauci and Zuckerberg, who despise them. Because of their government created neurosis and cowardly compliance, we are all victims, and the wall we must scale to escape gets higher by the day. “The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.” –  Aldous Huxley The walls erected within Roger Waters’ lyrics were figurative, referring to the isolation and alienation from society chosen by an individual (himself). My interpretation, based on what myself and many others are experiencing today, is more literal, with the isolation and alienation being created by government and their mentally ill, willfully ignorant advocates of lockdowns, masking, jabs, mandates, passports, quarantine camps, and coercion to command compliance. This entire pandemic scheme has been designed as a divide and conquer undertaking, with the purpose of implementing their Great Reset plan to own everything while the plebs own nothing and happily do as they are told. For those of us not willing to go along with their plan, they have alternate arrangements in store. We are in the midst of this struggle for the future of our country and the world. The Party has told you to reject unequivocal facts during this entire engineered psychological operation. They convinced the vast majority of the population to be terrorized by a virus with a 99.7% survival rate that only kills the very old and the very obese. They said it didn’t come from the Wuhan lab and wasn’t funded by Fauci. They convinced the masses masks worked when they knew they didn’t. They said a fifteen-day lockdown would slow the spread and end the pandemic. They said their vaccines would immunize you from catching Covid before they changed the definition of vaccines and told you it was always supposed to just reduce the symptoms. They have convinced a couple hundred million people to participate in an experiment as guinea pigs for an unproven untested gene therapy. They continue to proclaim vaccines work, even though they don’t, and of course get your booster, also because they don’t work. They refuse to acknowledge natural immunity to be far more effective and long-lasting than their jabs. No money to be made from natural immunity. They have censored and de-platformed anyone who showed proof ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine worked better than the vaccines. No money in subscribing either safe and effective treatment. They deny the vaccines have caused millions of adverse reactions and tens of thousands of deaths. They have instructed you to reject all of this evidence of their deceit and demonic designs to abscond with your wealth, freedoms, and liberties. As we enter Biden’s dark winter, you can sense the desperation of the Party/Deep State/Oligarchy as they employ more coercive and destructive tactics to force the non-compliant to obey and do as they are told. They are attempting to isolate and alienate those who refuse to submit to their clearly unlawful vaccine mandates by excluding them from society and threatening their livelihoods. The threats and intimidation have succeeded with a significant portion of the holdouts, but tens of millions are refusing to bend the knee. Many feel alone in their resistance to these totalitarian measures, as those in control of the narrative have painted a picture of only a small minority of conspiracy theorists rejecting their Great Reset authoritarian blueprint. The wall seems too high for many. The truth be told, their blueprint is growing stale, as they desperately attempt to strike fear into the masses with their latest variant of the month. The truth is they fear our opposition. They fear we will inspire more people to resist. They fear we will band together. They fear the truth, which is the backbone for our resistance. They fear we are heavily armed. They fear us realizing we are actually the majority. They fear they are starting to lose. Their fear of our escalating power is leading them to make increasingly reckless and drastic pronouncements and demands. The push back to their directives is gaining in intensity. They believe they can make the wall high enough to deter those who could foil their Great Reset scheme. The odds are in their favor because they control the politicians, media, corporations, and the minds of the indoctrinated sheep, but don’t tell me there’s no hope at all. We have truth, the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment, and millions of liberty-minded truculent partisans who will not bend to their will. We have no choice but to fight, using any means at our disposal. We realize we must stand together, because divided we will fall. Hey you, out there on the road Always doing what you’re told Can you help me? Hey you, out there beyond the wall Breaking bottles in the hall Can you help me? Hey you, don’t tell me there’s no hope at all Together we stand, divided we fall Pink Floyd – Hey You *  *  * The corrupt establishment will do anything to suppress sites like the Burning Platform from revealing the truth. The corporate media does this by demonetizing sites like mine by blackballing the site from advertising revenue. If you get value from this site, please keep it running with a donation. Tyler Durden Sun, 11/28/2021 - 23:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytNov 28th, 2021

What Americans Say About Rising Prices This Thanksgiving

What Americans Say About Rising Prices This Thanksgiving By Cara Ding, Steven Kovac, Jackson Elliott, Michael Sakal, Allan Stein and Jannis Falkenstern of Epoch Times On the verge of celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, Melissa Ngo wasn’t happy after her grocery shopping trip. The high price of gasoline has cut into her family’s budget for everything, she said. She’s now having to shop at three different grocery stores—Giant Eagle, Marc’s, and Aldi—to find the lowest prices. “It’s everything,” said Ngo, a resident of Lakewood, Ohio, whose husband works as a dye-maker in Cleveland. “Everything has gone up, not just gas. The main thing I’ve noticed at the grocery store that has gone up in price [is] U.S. meat. It’s about double from last year. “We’re a one-worker family, and we’re always having to juggle. Now, we’re juggling more.” She blames the situation Americans have been facing for more than a year on such things as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, supply chain issues, and even the president she voted for.  Melissa Ngo, of Lakewood, Ohio, loads groceries into her car at the Giant Eagle grocery store in Lakewood on Nov. 23, 2021. Ngo said she’s paying nearly double for everything compared to 2020, especially meat. She and her husband are on a much tighter budget and “always juggling” to make things work on the home front. (Michael Sakal/The Epoch Times) As a resident of the west Cleveland suburb and Democratic stronghold, Ngo is quick to admit that she’s sorry she voted for President Joe Biden in the 2020 election. She usually votes Democrat. She said she may not vote in the next election. For Allen van Houten and Kathy Ellison of Lakewood, things have always been tight. Going into the 2021 holiday season, their budget is tighter still. Kathy Ellison and Allen Van Houten of Lakewood load up their car with groceries at the Giant Eagle grocery store in Lakewood on Nov. 23, 2021. (Michael Sakal/The Epoch Times) Van Houten, an Army and Navy veteran on disability, and Ellison, who works as a cook at a local restaurant, had just finished shopping at the Giant Eagle. Because of the skyrocketing price of gasoline and the higher food prices, they hardly go “anywhere” anymore, they said. They’re doing without as they prepare to spend Thanksgiving together. “We’re penny-pinching a lot more from last year,” Ellison said. “Now, we’re always penny-pinching. “Working a 40-hour workweek doesn’t keep your head above water anymore. Everything has gotten higher in price—food, gas, and utilities. And it’s not getting any better.” Van Houten noted that the couple have been depending on each other to get through such a difficult time. “If we didn’t have each other, we couldn’t survive,” he said. In addition to purchasing a smaller turkey this year, they’ve eliminated deviled eggs and potatoes from their Thanksgiving meal. “We’re going to three different grocery stores because we’re having trouble finding stuff,” Ellison told The Epoch Times. “We’re looking at pies at Giant Eagle that used to be on sale for $3.99. Now, they’re $5.99. We’d like to get a Dutch Apple pie, but those are $13.99. Sometimes, the supplier takes advantage of these situations, too.” The couple blames the situation on the high prices of gas and food, the workforce shortage, and the government. Van Houten and Ellison said they don’t vote. “The government is going to do whatever they want anyway,” Van Houten said. Kathy, also of Lakewood, who didn’t want to give her last name, was more sympathetic toward those facing hard times going into Thanksgiving. She had just loaded a cart full of groceries into her car outside of the Giant Eagle. Although she has seen at least a 20-percent increase in her grocery bill from 2020, she said her family won’t have to cut back. “We’ve been lucky. We’ve been blessed and have been able to work and stay comfortable through all of this,” Kathy told The Epoch Times. Although she said she’s happy with Biden, since she “didn’t like Donald Trump,” she noted that she feels as though the president could be doing more to help ease the situation. “I’m not happy with everything Joe Biden has done,” Kathy said. “The U.S. is not tapping into its resources, and we’re having to rely on foreign countries too much for certain goods. “I don’t want to have to pay more for everything. Our salaries are not commensurate with inflation. With all the high prices, it does make me and my husband want to give more to charity to help others who are struggling.”  Click on image to enlarge. (Illustration by The Epoch Times) In Florida, two large grocery chains—Publix and Winn-Dixie—are limiting certain holiday foods during Thanksgiving week. Publix Director of Communications Maria Brous released a statement saying that “caps” are being placed on certain food items because of “supply chain issues” and increased demand. Last week, the Lakeland company, which has 1,280 stores across the southeastern United States, placed the restrictions in anticipation of the demand and supply chain crisis, according to Brous. Another grocery outlet, Winn-Dixie, has placed a cap of one turkey per customer. Southeastern Grocers, a Jacksonville, Florida, company, owns Winn-Dixie, as well as Fresco y Mas and Harveys Supermarket. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis weighed in on the rising cost of food and said he’s concerned about “inflationary pressures,” for which he blames the Biden administration. “Inflation that you’re seeing—the White House said it wasn’t real. It’s real,” DeSantis said on Nov. 22. “This is going to be the most expensive Thanksgiving we’ve seen in quite some time. Prices have increased by 20 percent from last year.” Since 1986, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has conducted a Thanksgiving meal survey. The 2021 survey found that a meal for 10 people was expected to cost $53.31–up 14 percent from the 2020 average. The federation checked prices between Oct. 26 and Nov. 8 and noted that stores began selling whole frozen turkeys at a lower price two weeks later. As the meat protein most associated with Thanksgiving, the turkey is going to cost consumers 24 percent more than it did in 2020. The AFBF estimates that a 16-pound turkey will cost $23.99, or roughly $1.50 per pound more than 2020. The survey also found that the costs of other holiday goods were up as well, including dinner rolls—a 15 percent increase—while a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix is up by 7 percent. “Several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner,” senior economist Veronica Nigh said in a statement on the AFBF website. “These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat.  “The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often, due to the pandemic, led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019.” Outside of the Winn-Dixie in Punta Gorda, Florida, Diane Crowi said food prices are definitely going up. “Our kids are all grown up, and they live out of the area, so we don’t celebrate like we used to. But, yes, things are more expensive this year than last year,” Crowi said. “We’re retired—I mean, we have Thanksgiving, just on a smaller scale. You just have to absorb the costs.” Along with increasing food costs, the price of gasoline has significantly risen as well, she said. “Gas prices are ridiculous,” Crowi said. “We just have to shift things around to afford what we have on our fixed income. We just cut down on our trips. We don’t drive as much to save fuel. “If I have to blame anyone, it would be our president—but I’m a Trump fan, so …” Winn-Dixie shopper Crystal Hunsicker of Punta Gorda said Thanksgiving is “definitely more expensive this year than last year.” Crystal Hunsicker of Punta Gorda, Fla. loads groceries into her car on Nov. 23, 2021. (Jann Falkenstern/The Epoch Times) “It affects us, but what are you going to do?” Hunsicker said. “You just deal with it. “Yes, gas is expensive, and we were energy independent before Biden took office. It takes $100 just to fill up my tank. There’s nothing I can do to save any money on fuel. I have to work, so I have to have gas.” Hunsicker said she voted for Trump in 2020 and identifies as a Republican. “I blame Biden for all of this. Trump’s policies were working, and [Biden] gets into office and destroys everything Trump put into place.” Charnita West, a single mom, looked cold in the parking lot of the Food City grocery store in Rossville, Georgia, on Nov. 23. In 2021, feeding her three children a Thanksgiving dinner has been more expensive than usual, she said. Crystal Hunsicker of Punta Gorda, Fla. loads groceries into her car on Nov. 23, 2021. (Jann Falkenstern/The Epoch Times) Her shopping wasn’t over with, either. The previous night, she had spent three hours at Walmart looking for some items, but couldn’t find everything that she needed. “I can’t even find ham. It took a lot of digging to find ham,” West told The Epoch Times. For West, spending $80 on groceries is a lot, and rising gas and food prices have hurt her family, she said. West said she’s heard that food inflation was caused by the Biden administration, but she admitted that she knows little about politics. She’s currently working on getting her high school diploma. “I don’t pay much attention to presidential stuff,” she said. “I’m just trying to do better or get my daughters a better life.” Another Thanksgiving shopper, Don Weathers, said that prices on everything have risen. Don Weathers shops for Thanksgiving dinner at the Food City grocery store in Rossville, Ga., on Nov. 23, 2021. (Jackson Elliott-The Epoch Times) “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “The beef has gone up. Turkeys and ham, pork, and everything else.” Weathers said the situation has affected his family little because his children are adults, but he feels concerned about others. “I fear for the other people,” he told The Epoch Times. “They’ve got children and are trying to raise them.” Weathers, a Republican who voted for Trump in 2020, said he didn’t want to say whether Trump or Biden was responsible for the inflation. Once a Democrat, he said he left the party because it offered handouts in an irresponsible way. “The Democratic Party is not what it was 20 years ago,” he said. Political independent Edward Garrett agreed with Weathers and West about the rising prices that were changing his budget. “Everything impacts the budget,” he said. “You just got to make it happen. You got to do what you got to do. Just squeeze and tighten what you can.” Edward Garrett searches for groceries for Thanksgiving dinner at the Food City grocery store in Rossville, Ga., on Nov. 23, 2021. (Jackson Elliott-The Epoch Times) Garrett blamed the Trump administration for the inflation issues. He said the effects of a president’s policies usually hit months after the person leaves office. “It is what it is,” he told The Epoch Times. “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet.” Long-time grocer Jeff Durecka, who owns a couple of supermarkets known as Jeff’s Marketplace in the “Thumb Area” of Michigan, said the supply chain issues aren’t affecting him much. “If we are short on a certain brand, we have substitutes,” Durecka, a Democrat and a strong supporter of Joe Biden in 2020. “It’s not affecting us much. As you can see, we are pretty well stocked for Thanksgiving. “Wholesale prices are going up because of the cost of fuel. It takes fuel to get product to the warehouses and then to the stores. There’s really nothing we can do about it.” Durecka speculated that the rise in food and fuel prices may have something to do with the different administration in Washington. Shopper Dean Rydock of Port Sanilac, Michigan, had no doubt that Biden was to blame. Dean Rydock of Port Sanilac, Michigan goes shopping at Jeff’s Marketplace in Lexington, Mich., on Nov 23, 2021.(Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times) “Everything Trump did made our living easier and better,” he said. “Biden is acting like Trump’s policies are the cause of all this and is doing whatever he can to counteract them. Food and gas prices are way up. It looks to me like decisions are being made to deliberately bring our economy down, so we will all eventually look to the government for help.” Rydock, a conservative Republican, “most definitely voted for the non-politician Trump and his pro-American agenda.” “I’m driving 100 miles to have Thanksgiving with my daughter,” he said. “The high price of gasoline is starting to pinch. And we really have to mind our heating expenses with propane going up. I’m starting to burn wood, and even that is getting costly.” Shopper Susie Lentz, a retired resident living in the village of Lexington, Michigan, is a regular customer at Jeff’s. Susie Lentz of Lexington, Michigan had no trouble getting everything she needed for Thanksgiving dinner at Jeff’s Marketplace in Lexington on Nov. 23, 2021. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times) “Food is definitely more expensive than last year,” she said. “I suppose the pandemic has a lot to do with it. Less stuff being shipped. But I am finding everything I want for Thanksgiving.” Lentz, a self-described independent voter, said that if she were still working and having to drive more, the high gas prices would be “putting a dent” in her budget. “I think the current political policies are affecting the economy in a negative way,” she told The Epoch Times. When asked whether Jeff’s Marketplace had enough meat and turkeys for the Thanksgiving holiday, butcher Jed Matthews said: “The only thing that has been hard to get is turkey gizzards sold separately. People love to add them to their stuffing.” Manager Jed Matthews says the only thing short in his department this Thanksgiving was “turkey gizzards sold separately” at Jeff’s Marketplace in Lexington, Mich., on Nov. 23, 2021. (Steven Kovac/The Epoch Times) The Epoch Times also spoke with a number of shoppers at Local Market in the South Shore neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The neighborhood is predominately African American and has a median household income that is almost half of the city average. Ruth Shannon said that she used to help local nonprofit New Life Center give away turkeys during the Thanksgiving holiday every year, but not this time. The center decided to cancel the giveaway in 2021 because of the high prices, she said. Shannon said she used to spend less than $100 on gas every month. Now, as prices rise, she spends around $200. “I know where I go. I’m more strategic with how I travel for sure,” she told The Epoch Times. Shannon said she thinks that inflation is the unintended consequence of massive government spending during the pandemic. “It was a lot of money over a fairly short period of time. They could have stretched it out,” she said. “Lawmakers have to be more intentional about the policies they create.” A lot of people in her neighborhood received stimulus checks during the pandemic, but they didn’t know how to spend the money in the right way, according to Shannon. Ruth Shannon of Chicago says prices for Thanksgiving day dinner ingredients are up this year as she stands outside of the Local Market in Chicago on Nov. 23. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times) “It is one thing to have money. It’s a whole other thing to know what to do with it,” she said. “Everybody was happy when they got the stimulus checks. Now, the money’s gone and prices are up. What do they do?” Shannon hasn’t voted for most of her life. Her community has remained the same whether a Democrat or Republican was in office, she said. “I do whatever I can to volunteer in the community,” she said. “That is my voting.” Beverly, who declined to give her last name, was another shopper at Local Market. She said the rising food prices have further limited her grocery shopping because she lives on fixed government aid. She lost her daycare job at the start of the pandemic. She has since gone on food stamps and unemployment aid. Because the gas prices are much higher in Illinois, she drives to Indiana whenever she needs to fill up. A few other shoppers told The Epoch Times that they, too, drive to Indiana for gas. And across the United States, gas and diesel prices continue to be on the rise. According to the Energy Information Administration, the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline on the East Coast was $3.39 on Nov. 22—up by about $1.29 from the same time in 2020. In the Midwest, the average cost of gas at the pumps was $3.19, an increase of $1.28. On the West Coast, however, gas is currently at $4.19, an increase of $1.42 compared to 2020. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/25/2021 - 18:09.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 25th, 2021

Real Estate Marketing Ideas for the 2021 Holiday Season

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Holidays are fast approaching, and though it can be easy to get swept away in the excitement, it is important to keep up marketing efforts for your real estate business. In addition to your routine marketing strategy, adding in some seasonal and holiday-specific content this […] The post Real Estate Marketing Ideas for the 2021 Holiday Season appeared first on RISMedia. The most wonderful time of the year is upon us. Holidays are fast approaching, and though it can be easy to get swept away in the excitement, it is important to keep up marketing efforts for your real estate business. In addition to your routine marketing strategy, adding in some seasonal and holiday-specific content this time of year can boost engagement and help keep you top-of-mind. Not sure what to share? Here are some ideas for both online and in-person, to spread joy and highlight your brand this holiday season. Share a Holiday Home Decor Guide With the holidays come merry and bright decorations. Create a home decor guide for the holiday season, from safety tips for hanging lights to color schemes and patterns that work best for the season and even step-by-step DIY decor projects. Share on your website, blog and social media platforms, and be sure to include links and other resources to help your followers. Showcase your local expertise by recommending businesses in the area that specialize in professionally hanging lights, cut-your-own tree farms or small shops that sell unique seasonal or holiday decor. Provide Seasonal Home Maintenance Tips As the fall comes to a close and winter creeps in, especially in markets where cold weather and snow are expected, it is the perfect time of year to share maintenance tips for homes. Cleaning gutters, pulling weeds and swapping out seasonal plants, prepping windows, wrapping pipes, and more, are just a few suggestions to get a home ready for the winter. If you work with local businesses, such as landscapers, painters, house cleaners, electricians, plumbers and others, this is a great time of year for cross-promotion and building professional relationships. Your audience will also appreciate your local expertise and professional recommendations. Post a Holiday Contest or Giveaway Contest and giveaways offer a chance for you to increase engagement with your followers and keep you top-of-mind during this busy time of year. Ask your audience to share pictures of their seasonal or holiday home decor, themed cookies or holiday dinner spread, or hold a poll about the best holiday gifts. Choose a winner, randomly, and offer a seasonal or holiday-specific prize. A gift certificate for a local restaurant, a gift basket with seasonal food and drinks, or free professional services can be a good draw this time of year. This will not only increase engagement and gain new leads and referrals, but can also help keep your professional relationships strong. Highlight Seasonal Community Events Does your community hold an annual winter carnival? Maybe your local opera house presents a Christmas play, a local restaurant hosts an annual Hanukkah feast or the fire department holds a Thanksgiving food drive. No matter what events may be happening in your market, it is your job as the local expert to know about them. Use your social media outreach to promote seasonal community events, and be sure to sponsor these events when you can to increase your brand awareness in the area. Host a Festive Client Event Depending on your market’s COVID-19 restrictions, this may be the perfect time to gather some of your most cherished clients together to enjoy an in-person event. After spending the last holiday season stuck at home, a night out can be a great gift that many will be thankful for. Rent out a local restaurant, or hire a caterer and decorate your office for an evening of food, drinks and face-to-face conversations, highlighting your appreciation for their business. If you are looking to offer something a little more unique and holiday-themed, consider renting out an ice skating rink, and complete the experience with a hot cocoa stand, holiday music and, for the children, a visit from Mr. Claus. This holiday season, adding in a few of these marketing ideas for your real estate business—both on and offline—can help you increase engagement and brand awareness, gain referrals and new leads and spread some much-needed holiday cheer. Paige Brown is RISMedia’s content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to The post Real Estate Marketing Ideas for the 2021 Holiday Season appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaNov 24th, 2021

In Memory Of JFK: The First US President To Be Labeled A Terrorist & Threat To National Security

In Memory Of JFK: The First US President To Be Labeled A Terrorist & Threat To National Security Authored by Cynthia Chung via The Saker blog, In April 1954, Kennedy stood up on the Senate floor to challenge the Eisenhower Administration’s support for the doomed French imperial war in Vietnam, foreseeing that this would not be a short-lived war. In July 1957, Kennedy once more took a strong stand against French colonialism, this time France’s bloody war against Algeria’s independence movement, which again found the Eisenhower Administration on the wrong side of history. Rising on the Senate floor, two days before America’s own Independence Day, Kennedy declared: “The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile – it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism – and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism. Thus, the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.” In September 1960, the annual United Nations General Assembly was held in New York. Fidel Castro and a fifty-member delegation were among the attendees and had made a splash in the headlines when he decided to stay at the Hotel Theresa in Harlem after the midtown Shelburne Hotel demanded a $20,000 security deposit. He made an even bigger splash in the headlines when he made a speech at this hotel, discussing the issue of equality in the United States while in Harlem, one of the poorest boroughs in the country. Kennedy would visit this very same hotel a short while later, and also made a speech: “Behind the fact of Castro coming to this hotel, [and] Khrushchev…there is another great traveler in the world, and that is the travel of a world revolution, a world in turmoil…We should be glad [that Castro and Khrushchev] came to the United States. We should not fear the twentieth century, for the worldwide revolution which we see all around us is part of the original American Revolution." What did Kennedy mean by this? The American Revolution was fought for freedom, freedom from the rule of monarchy and imperialism in favour of national sovereignty. What Kennedy was stating, was that this was the very oppression that the rest of the world wished to shake the yoke off, and that the United States had an opportunity to be a leader in the cause for the independence of all nations. On June 30th, 1960, marking the independence of the Republic of Congo from the colonial rule of Belgium, Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister gave a speech that has become famous for its outspoken criticism of colonialism. Lumumba spoke of his people’s struggle against “the humiliating bondage that was forced upon us… [years that were] filled with tears, fire and blood,” and concluded vowing “We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa.” Shortly after, Lumumba also made clear, “We want no part of the Cold War… We want Africa to remain African with a policy of neutralism." As a result, Lumumba was labeled a communist for his refusal to be a Cold War satellite for the western sphere. Rather, Lumumba was part of the Pan-African movement that was led by Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (who later Kennedy would also work with), which sought national sovereignty and an end to colonialism in Africa. Lumumba “would remain a grave danger,” Dulles said at an NSC meeting on September 21, 1960, “as long as he was not yet disposed of.” Three days later, Dulles made it clear that he wanted Lumumba permanently removed, cabling the CIA’s Leopoldville station, “We wish give [sic] every possible support in eliminating Lumumba from any possibility resuming governmental position.” Lumumba was assassinated on Jan. 17th, 1961, just three days before Kennedy’s inauguration, during the fog of the transition period between presidents, when the CIA is most free to tie its loose ends, confident that they will not be reprimanded by a new administration that wants to avoid scandal on its first days in office. Kennedy, who clearly meant to put a stop to the Murder Inc. that Dulles had created and was running, would declare to the world in his inaugural address on Jan. 20th, 1961, “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” La Resistance Along with inheriting the responsibility of the welfare of the country and its people, Kennedy was to also inherit a secret war with communist Cuba run by the CIA. The Bay of Pigs set-up would occur three months later. Prouty compares the Bay of Pigs incident to that of the Crusade for Peace; the Bay of Pigs being orchestrated by the CIA, and the Crusade for Peace sabotaged by the CIA, in both cases to ruin the U.S. president’s (Eisenhower and Kennedy) ability to form a peaceful dialogue with Khrushchev and decrease Cold War tensions. Both presidents’ took onus for the events respectively, despite the responsibility resting with the CIA. However, Eisenhower and Kennedy understood, if they did not take onus, it would be a public declaration that they did not have any control over their government agencies and military. Further, the Bay of Pigs operation was in fact meant to fail. It was meant to stir up a public outcry for a direct military invasion of Cuba. On public record is a meeting (or more aptly described as an intervention) with CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Bissell, Joint Chiefs Chairman Lyman Lemnitzer, and Navy Chief Admiral Burke basically trying to strong-arm President Kennedy into approving a direct military attack on Cuba. Admiral Burke had already taken the liberty of positioning two battalions of Marines on Navy destroyers off the coast of Cuba “anticipating that U.S. forces might be ordered into Cuba to salvage a botched invasion.”[7] (This incident is what inspired the Frankenheimer movie “Seven Days in May.”) Kennedy stood his ground. “They were sure I’d give in to them,” Kennedy later told Special Assistant to the President Dave Powers. “They couldn’t believe that a new president like me wouldn’t panic and try to save his own face. Well they had me figured all wrong.” Incredibly, not only did the young president stand his ground against the Washington war hawks just three months into his presidential term, but he also launched the Cuba Study Group which found the CIA to be responsible for the fiasco, leading to the humiliating forced resignation of Allen Dulles, Richard Bissell and Charles Cabell. (For more on this refer to my report.) Unfortunately, it would not be that easy to dethrone Dulles, who continued to act as head of the CIA, and key members of the intelligence community such as Helms and Angleton regularly bypassed McCone (the new CIA Director) and briefed Dulles directly. But Kennedy was also serious about seeing it through all the way, and vowed to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” * * * There is another rather significant incident that had occurred just days after the Bay of Pigs, and which has largely been overshadowed by the Cuban fiasco in the United States. From April 21-26th, 1961, the Algiers putsch or Generals’ putsch, was a failed coup d’état intended to force President de Gaulle (1959-1969) not to abandon the colonial French Algeria. The organisers of the putsch were opposed to the secret negotiations that French Prime Minister Michel Debré had started with the anti-colonial National Liberation Front (FLN). On January 26th, 1961, just three months before the attempted coup d’état, Dulles sent a report to Kennedy on the French situation that seemed to be hinting that de Gaulle would no longer be around, “A pre-revolutionary atmosphere reigns in France… The Army and the Air Force are staunchly opposed to de Gaulle…At least 80 percent of the officers are violently against him. They haven’t forgotten that in 1958, he had given his word of honor that he would never abandon Algeria. He is now reneging on his promise, and they hate him for that. de Gaulle surely won’t last if he tries to let go of Algeria. Everything will probably be over for him by the end of the year—he will be either deposed or assassinated.” The attempted coup was led by Maurice Challe, whom de Gaulle had reason to conclude was working with the support of U.S. intelligence, and Élysée officials began spreading this word to the press, which reported the CIA as a “reactionary state-within-a-state” that operated outside of Kennedy’s control. Shortly before Challe’s resignation from the French military, he had served as NATO commander in chief and had developed close relations with a number of high-ranking U.S. officers stationed in the military alliance’s Fontainebleau headquarters. In August 1962 the OAS (Secret Army Organization) made an assassination attempt against de Gaulle, believing he had betrayed France by giving up Algeria to Algerian nationalists. This would be the most notorious assassination attempt on de Gaulle (who would remarkably survive over thirty assassination attempts while President of France) when a dozen OAS snipers opened fire on the president’s car, which managed to escape the ambush despite all four tires being shot out. After the failed coup d’état, de Gaulle launched a purge of his security forces and ousted General Paul Grossin, the chief of SDECE (the French secret service). Grossin was closely aligned with the CIA, and had told Frank Wisner over lunch that the return of de Gaulle to power was equivalent to the Communists taking over in Paris. In 1967, after a five-year enquête by the French Intelligence Bureau, it released its findings concerning the 1962 assassination attempt on de Gaulle. The report found that the 1962 assassination plot could be traced back to the NATO Brussels headquarters, and the remnants of the old Nazi intelligence apparatus. The report also found that Permindex had transferred $200,000 into an OAS bank account to finance the project. As a result of the de Gaulle exposé, Permindex was forced to shut down its public operations in Western Europe and relocated its headquarters from Bern, Switzerland to Johannesburg, South Africa, it also had/has a base in Montreal, Canada where its founder Maj. Gen. Louis M. Bloomfield (former OSS) proudly had his name amongst its board members until the damning de Gaulle report. The relevance of this to Kennedy will be discussed shortly. As a result of the SDECE’s ongoing investigation, de Gaulle made a vehement denunciation of the Anglo-American violation of the Atlantic Charter, followed by France’s withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966. France would not return to NATO until April 2009 at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit. In addition to all of this, on Jan. 14th, 1963, de Gaulle declared at a press conference that he had vetoed British entry into the Common Market. This would be the first move towards France and West Germany’s formation of the European Monetary System, which excluded Great Britain, likely due to its imperialist tendencies and its infamous sin City of London. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson telegrammed West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer directly, appealing to him to try to persuade de Gaulle to back track on the veto, stating “if anyone can affect Gen. de Gaulle’s decision, you are surely that person.” Little did Acheson know that Adenauer was just days away from signing the Franco-German Treaty of Jan 22nd, 1963 (also known as the ÉlyséeTreaty), which had enormous implications. Franco-German relations, which had long been dominated by centuries of rivalry, had now agreed that their fates were aligned. (This close relationship was continued to a climactic point in the late 1970s, with the formation of the European Monetary System, and France and West Germany’s willingness in 1977 to work with OPEC countries trading oil for nuclear technology, which was sabotaged by the U.S.-Britain alliance. The Élysée Treaty was a clear denunciation of the Anglo-American forceful overseeing that had overtaken Western Europe since the end of WWII. On June 28th, 1961, Kennedy wrote NSAM #55. This document changed the responsibility of defense during the Cold War from the CIA to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would have (if seen through) drastically changed the course of the war in Vietnam. It would also have effectively removed the CIA from Cold War military operations and limited the CIA to its sole lawful responsibility, the collecting and coordination of intelligence. By Oct 11th, 1963, NSAM #263, closely overseen by Kennedy[14], was released and outlined a policy decision “to withdraw 1,000 military personnel [from Vietnam] by the end of 1963” and further stated that “It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by 1965.” The Armed Forces newspaper Stars and Stripes had the headline U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY ’65. It would be the final nail in the coffin. Treason in America “Treason doth never prosper; what is the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” – Sir John Harrington By Germany supporting de Gaulle’s exposure of the international assassination ring, his adamant opposition to western imperialism and the role of NATO, and with a young Kennedy building his own resistance against the imperialist war of Vietnam, it was clear that the power elite were in big trouble. On November 22nd, 1963 President Kennedy was brutally murdered in the streets of Dallas, Texas in broad daylight. With the assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, likely ordained by the CIA, on Nov. 2nd, 1963 and Kennedy just a few weeks later, de facto President Johnson signed NSAM #273 on Nov. 26th, 1963 to begin the reversal of Kennedy’s policy under #263. And on March 17th, 1964, Johnson signed NSAM #288 that marked the full escalation of the Vietnam War and involved 2,709,918 Americans directly serving in Vietnam, with 9,087,000 serving with the U.S. Armed Forces during this period. The Vietnam War would continue for another 12 years after Kennedy’s death, lasting a total of 20 years for Americans, and 30 years if you count American covert action in Vietnam. Two days before Kennedy’s assassination, a hate-Kennedy handbill was circulated in Dallas accusing the president of treasonous activities including being a communist sympathizer. On November 29th, 1963 the Warren Commission was set up to investigate the murder of President Kennedy. The old Congressman Hale Boggs of Louisiana was a member of that Warren Commission. Boggs became increasingly disturbed by the lack of transparency and rigour exhibited by the Commission and became convinced that many of the documents used to incriminate Oswald were in fact forgeries. In 1965 Rep. Boggs told New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison that Oswald could not have been the one who killed Kennedy. It was Boggs who encouraged Garrison to begin the only law enforcement prosecution of the President’s murder to this day. Nixon was inaugurated as President of the United States on Jan 20th, 1969. Hale Boggs soon after called on Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell to have the courage to fire J. Edgar Hoover. It wasn’t long thereafter that the private airplane carrying Hale Boggs disappeared without a trace. Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans from 1962 to 1973 and was the only one to bring forth a trial concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. In Jim Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins”, J. Edgar Hoover comes up several times impeding or shutting down investigations into JFK’s murder, in particular concerning the evidence collected by the Dallas Police Department, such as the nitrate test Oswald was given and which exonerated him, proving that he never shot a rifle the day of Nov 22nd, 1963. However, for reasons only known to the government and its investigators this fact was kept secret for 10 months. It was finally revealed in the Warren Commission report, which inexplicably didn’t change their opinion that Oswald had shot Kennedy. Another particularly damning incident was concerning the Zapruder film that was in the possession of the FBI and which they had sent a “copy” to the Warren Commission for their investigation. This film was one of the leading pieces of evidence used to support the “magic bullet theory” and showcase the direction of the headshot coming from behind, thus verifying that Oswald’s location was adequate for such a shot. During Garrison’s trial on the Kennedy assassination (1967-1969) he subpoenaed the Zapruder film that for some peculiar reason had been locked up in some vault owned by Life magazine (the reader should note that Henry Luce the owner of Life magazine was in a very close relationship with the CIA). This was the first time in more than five years that the Zapruder film was made public. It turns out the FBI’s copy that was sent to the Warren Commission had two critical frames reversed to create a false impression that the rifle shot was from behind. When Garrison got a hold of the original film it was discovered that the head shot had actually come from the front. In fact, what the whole film showed was that the President had been shot from multiple angles meaning there was more than one gunman. When the FBI was questioned about how these two critical frames could have been reversed, they answered self-satisfactorily that it must have been a technical glitch… There is also the matter of the original autopsy papers being destroyed by the chief autopsy physician, James Humes, to which he even testified to during the Warren Commission, apparently nobody bothered to ask why… This would explain why the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), reported in a July 1998 staff report their concern for the number of shortcomings in the original autopsy, that “One of the many tragedies of the assassination of President Kennedy has been the incompleteness of the autopsy record and the suspicion caused by the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the records that do exist.” [emphasis added] The staff report for the Assassinations Records Review Board contended that brain photographs in the Kennedy records are not of Kennedy’s brain and show much less damage than Kennedy sustained. There is a lot of spurious effort to try to ridicule anyone who challenges the Warren Commission’s official report as nothing but fringe conspiracy theory. And that we should not find it highly suspect that Allen Dulles, of all people, was a member and pretty much leader of said commission. The reader should keep in mind that much of this frothing opposition stems from the very agency that perpetrated crime after crime on the American people, as well as abroad. When has the CIA ever admitted guilt, unless caught red-handed? Even after the Church committee hearings, when the CIA was found guilty of planning out foreign assassinations, they claimed that they had failed in every single plot or that someone had beaten them to the punch, including in the case of Lumumba. The American people need to realise that the CIA is not a respectable agency; we are not dealing with honorable men. It is a rogue force that believes that the ends justify the means, that they are the hands of the king so to speak, above government and above law. Those at the top such as Allen Dulles were just as adamant as Churchill about protecting the interests of the power elite, or as Churchill termed it, the “High Cabal.” Interestingly, on Dec. 22nd, 1963, just one month after Kennedy’s assassination, Harry Truman published a scathing critique of the CIA in The Washington Post, even going so far as to state “There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society, and I feel that we need to correct it.” The timing of such a scathing quote cannot be stressed enough. Dulles, of course, told the public not to be distressed, that Truman was just in entering his twilight years. In addition, Jim Garrison, New Orleans District Attorney at the time, who was charging Clay Shaw as a member of the conspiracy to kill Kennedy, besides uncovering his ties to David Ferrie who was found dead in his apartment days before he was scheduled to testify, also made a case that the New Orleans International Trade Mart (to which Clay Shaw was director), the U.S. subsidiary of Permindex, was linked to Kennedy’s murder. Col. Clay Shaw was an OSS officer during WWII, which provides a direct link to his knowing Allen Dulles. Garrison did a remarkable job with the odds he was up against, and for the number of witnesses that turned up dead before the trial… This Permindex link would not look so damning if we did not have the French intelligence SDECE report, but we do. And recall, in that report Permindex was caught transferring $200,000 directly to the bankroll of the OAS which attempted the 1962 assassination on de Gaulle. Thus, Permindex’s implication in an international assassination ring is not up for debate. In addition, the CIA was found heavily involved in these assassination attempts against de Gaulle, thus we should not simply dismiss the possibility that Permindex was indeed a CIA front for an international hit crew. In fact, among the strange and murderous characters who converged on Dallas in Nov. 1963 was a notorious French OAS commando named Jean Souetre, who was connected to the plots against President de Gaulle. Souetre was arrested in Dallas after the Kennedy assassination and expelled to Mexico, not even kept for questioning. What Does the Future Hold? After returning from Kennedy’s Nov. 24th funeral in Washington, de Gaulle and his information minister Alain Peyrefitte had a candid discussion that was recorded in Peyrefitte’s memoire “C’était de Gaulle,” the great General was quoted saying: “What happened to Kennedy is what nearly happened to me… His story is the same as mine. … It looks like a cowboy story, but it’s only an OAS [Secret Army Organization] story. The security forces were in cahoots with the extremists. …Security forces are all the same when they do this kind of dirty work. As soon as they succeed in wiping out the false assassin, they declare the justice system no longer need be concerned, that no further public action was needed now that the guilty perpetrator was dead. Better to assassinate an innocent man than to let a civil war break out. Better an injustice than disorder. America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order to not ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.” The American people would do well to remember that it was first John F. Kennedy, acting as the President to the United States, who was to be declared a terrorist and threat to his country’s national security. Thus is it not natural that those who continue to defend the legacy of Kennedy should be regarded today as threat, not truly to the nation’s security, but a threat to the very same grouping responsible for Kennedy’s death and whom today have now declared open war on the American people. This will be the greatest test the American people have ever been confronted with, and it will only be through an understanding of how the country came to where it is today that there can be sufficient clarity as to what the solutions are, which are not to be found in another civil war. To not fall for the trapping of further chaos and division, the American people will only be able to rise above this if they choose to ask those questions, if they choose to want to know, to want to find out the truth of things they dared not look at in the past for fear of what it would reveal. “Whenever the government of the United States shall break up, it will probably be in consequence of a false direction having been given to public opinion. This is the weak point of our defenses, and the part to which the enemies of the system will direct all their attacks. Opinion can be so perverted as to cause the false to seem true; the enemy, a friend, and the friend, an enemy; the best interests of the nation to appear insignificant, and the trifles of moment; in a word, the right the wrong, the wrong the right. In a country where opinion has sway, to seize upon it, is to seize upon power. As it is a rule of humanity that the upright and well-intentioned are comparatively passive, while the designing, dishonest, and selfish are the most untiring in their efforts, the danger of public opinion’s getting a false direction is four-fold, since few men think for themselves.” -James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) We must dare to be among the few who think for ourselves. Tyler Durden Mon, 11/22/2021 - 22:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 22nd, 2021

4 Tips to Earn Leads During Thanksgiving Week

Successful real estate professionals know it’s critical to stay connected with clients. With the holiday season in full swing, Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to get creative about engaging with past, present, and future clients. For many folks, the holiday season is a time to reconnect with friends and family. It’s also a great time […] The post 4 Tips to Earn Leads During Thanksgiving Week appeared first on RISMedia. Successful real estate professionals know it’s critical to stay connected with clients. With the holiday season in full swing, Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to get creative about engaging with past, present, and future clients. For many folks, the holiday season is a time to reconnect with friends and family. It’s also a great time to do the same for your clients. From running a Thanksgiving contest on social media to bringing people together to watch football and give back to the community, here are some of the best ways to reconnect with your sphere and generate some leads during Thanksgiving week: Holiday Notes and Postcards Writing personalized postcards to your clients can keep you top of mind and show that you still care. Including a picture of you and your team is a must, but you can also take it up a notch by sending your postcard with some freshly baked goodies. Depending on your budget, you could also invest in magnet postcards that your clients can put on their refrigerators. Not only will that be memorable, but it’s also bound to get fresh eyes on it as people start throwing their holiday parties. Run a Thanksgiving Competition Thanksgiving is a time for engaging and interacting. What is more interactive than a fun contest? Set up a social media campaign that encourages your followers to get into the holiday spirit by posting photos of their Thanksgiving feast or decorations at home. Set up a catchy hashtag and have people tag you to enter in a chance to win a prize. Set up a deadline and project day to announce a winner and continue to promote it on all your accounts and emails. Be sure to check with your brokerage for any restrictions on gifting and contest wording. Football Watch Parties You can always count on big games being on TV during Thanksgiving. Depending on your brokerage and state’s COVID-19 protocols, hosting a watch party for past clients either at your home or at the office is worth considering. Not only is it an excellent way to generate some referrals, but it’s also a great way to create some holiday memories. Set Up a Canned Food Drive You see them all the time during the holidays. If there was ever a great time to donate food to people’s needs, Thanksgiving is it. Reach out to a local organization or group running a canned food drive and set up noninvasive donation boxes at your office, home or local businesses—if you have permission. Once the logistics are set, promote it on social media and over email to get clients involved. Even if you don’t get many cans, you can include your contact information and branding on the box, along with information about how to donate in other ways. When it comes to reaching out to your clients this week, keep in mind that it’s the thought that counts. Take the time to add personal touches that will make you memorable. Agents, how else are you reaching out to potential clients this Thanksgiving? Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate online editor. Email him your real estate news ideas to The post 4 Tips to Earn Leads During Thanksgiving Week appeared first on RISMedia......»»

Category: realestateSource: rismediaNov 21st, 2021

The era of shortages is unraveling the old American Dream. But that"s not a bad thing.

America is running out of everything in 2021: houses, workers, and all kinds of goods. It could usher in a better economy — and a new American Dream. The postwar American Dream is coming apart at the seams, but a new one is taking its place.Shayanne Gal/Insider America is running out of everything in 2021: houses, workers, and all kinds of goods. It's caused the postwar American Dream, driven by consumerism, to come apart at the seams. It could usher in a better economy with more freedom to live where you want, better working conditions, and less spending on stuff. Insider's Economy team has spent a lot of time waiting for furniture in 2021.All 10 of us moved in the last year, and half of us bought new couches for our new pads. So far, we've spent a total of 45 weeks waiting for them to arrive. After a three-month wait, one editor's couch arrived and it was the wrong size, so she had to return it. The wait is set to get even longer.Just like us, most Americans aren't taking couch shortages sitting down. Headline after headline bemoans the fact that many Americans won't be reclining in the new couches they ordered for their pandemic digs anytime soon. This isn't just a delivery breakdown. It's also a sign of the way the American Dream is breaking down in 2021.When writer and historian James Truslow Adams coined the term in 1931, he defined the American Dream as the opportunity for a better life for all. The postwar boom of the 1950s introduced the house, white picket fence, and other consumerist trappings of the suburban idyll. The global health crisis that ushered in an era of shortages 70 years later is changing everything again.The housing shortage, the labor shortage, and the supply shortage are coalescing in 2021 to challenge every aspect of the 20th-century American Dream: The affordable house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, the job that pays well and provides meaning, and the consumer culture that meets every need and desire. Americans are at a fork in the road, so what will the next dream be?Housing has become a choose your own adventureThe American Dream home became a choose your own adventure quasi-gameshow during the pandemic.Remote work freed knowledge workers from the chains of office life, bringing the postwar dream in sight as workers snapped up nearly every suburban home. But the dream of suburbia was stronger than the market's ability to support it, as the ensuing housing shortage left America short millions of homes. It boxed aspiring first-time homeowners out of a cash-is-king seller's market.As housing prices continued their upward climb to a record highs of $386,888, the American Dream splintered into four different versions of a better life. "While considerable numbers of folks are still convinced that having the proverbial white picket fence will signify they've achieved the American Dream, many others are realizing there are other perfectly valid interpretations of the concept," Larry Samuel, the founder of Age Friendly Consulting and author of "The American Dream: A Cultural History," told Insider. A healthy 59% of Americans still aspire to be homeowners, a sign of the lingering allure of the post-World War II vision. But suburbia is now mostly attainable for the wealthy, less accessible to the 68% of millennials who have their sights set on homeownership. The housing shortage has boxed many out of the housing market.Newsday LLC/Getty ImagesAlyssa Cinami, 32, who has spent 14 months house-hunting and put in five rejected bids, described the market to Insider as "insane, and very discouraging for first-time buyers who can't compete with people with lots of cash."It prompted some 40,000 Americans in May and June alone to turn to more affordable housing in the exurbs, a rural community that is distantly commutable to a big city, or even further out to areas that urbanist Richard Florida has deemed "the rural fringe." Others are finding alternative options in a life on the go, bypassing debt-based homeownership for a more mobile lifestyle in a tiny house or a van, both of which saw a boom in sales since the pandemic began.But that doesn't mean cities are dead. Skyrocketing rents and the 60% of wealthy millennials who plan to buy a home in a big city within the next year indicates that city life still holds an allure. Now, urbanites are living there because they want to, not because they need to for work, and it's reshaping cities as a place centered around personal interaction rather than the office.As Samuel said, "The new white picket fence can be said to be the freedom and peace of mind that comes with not having to do whatever it takes to keep the fence."Power is slowly shifting from employers to workers, and leaving shortages in its wakeFor decades, the American Dream has valued the ideal of wealth through meaningful work: You want to work hard enough that you'll amass enough wealth to buy all the things you want, like a house, a TV, or a car.But the economic reality for many workers hasn't kept pace with these all-important items. Wages have been declining for five decades; the student debt meant to finance the educations that supply the American Dream has skyrocketed, trapping many in untenable cycles of debt. Meanwhile, the opportunities available to workers are increasingly low wage.The pandemic tightened the screws even further, with billionaires notching trillions in gains as low-wage workers found themselves on the frontlines — or just out of a job completely.Workers have taken advantage of the hot post-vaccine labor market. For six months, Americans have been quitting in record numbers, with 4.4 million in September alone. Meanwhile, thousands of workers have gone on strike to demand better conditions. The workers that have joined "the Great Resignation" are effectively on strike, too, many of them expressing a new philosophy of "antiwork," where they document quitting over exploitative conditions and contemplate a future where work is decentralized from life.Spirit Airlines pilots are on strike.Joe Raedle/Shutterstock"I think that it has a lot to do with Gen Z," Kade, a Gen Z antiworker in Kansas, told Insider. After reading antiwork for months, he quit his job when his boss said they would confiscate phones if they caught workers on them. Gen Z doesn't "put up with employers' crap anymore, like the abuse and the low pay," Kade said. "We're getting tired of it."These are still drops in the bucket against decades of stagnant wages and a weakened labor movement. But trends like antiwork seem to be making an impact, as employers have gone from continually bemoaning labor shortages to raising wages and offering better benefits.Businesses shifting from becoming customer-centric to employee-centric could "start a lot of healing," Steve Rowland, the host of Retail Warzone, a podcast chronicling retail workers' "horror stories," told Insider."Customers are important, but your employee base is what keeps you going," Rowland said. "The first company that does that, you'll see a huge change — that'll all of a sudden be the company that people want to work for."Supply chain shortages force a rethink of consumption It's not just couches — there's a shortage for every kind of thing. Factory shutdowns as a result of pandemic safety restrictions and labor shortages, congested shipping ports, the US-China trade war, bad weather, and global traffic jams have led to wait times for many Americans who became used to a "just-in-time economy" in the 2000s.Part of it is a snarled supply chain and part of it is that Americans are just buying more, well, stuff. As the economy reshaped to prioritize remote work and a spread-out populace, Americans had more use for gym equipment and new TVs and less need to go to restaurants and hotels. The demand has outstripped supply at the same time that the supply has broken down.The runaway spending could exacerbate the labor shortage: Rowland said that angry customers demanding their holiday goods could prompt workers to "start throwing their hands up in the air and walking out the door. They're just not going to take it." Container ships at the congested Port of Los Angeles in September 2021.Mike Blake/ReutersCanadian political scientist Krzysztof Pelc argued in the Financial Times that the key to happiness, and the next step in the evolution of our economy, is buying less stuff and more experiences. He explains that a shift toward service spending is a hallmark of developed economies, with effects on growth. Advanced societies may come to view high growth, spurred by goods consumption, not as progress, but a "necessary stage" of it. "The challenge is then to recognise when the moment has come for a shift in social purpose."Gen Z seems to agree with Pelc: Research and advisory firm Gen Z Planet recently found that the generation is saving and investing more than it's spending, and now holds $360 billion in disposable income. Coming of age amidst the greatest economic catastrophe in 100 years could shape their economic behavior for decades to come, and early signs indicate they aren't just "antiwork" — they're anti-spending and pro-thrift, too. That means companies might have to appeal to their thrifty ways and higher standards for work to survive the era of shortages.Gen Z may be saying they're thrifty while shopping just as much as older generations. But maybe, just maybe, the new American Dream is coming into view.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 21st, 2021

COVID Is Over (If You Want It)

COVID Is Over (If You Want It) Submitted by QTR's Fringe Finance The title of this blog post is, of course, an homage to the classic John Lennon Christmas song “Happy XMas (War is Over)”, which then spurred the popularity of the phrase “War is Over! (If You Want It)”. Despite my distaste for Yoko Ono (and John Lennon being one of my least favorite Beatles), the song is undeniably one of the greatest ever written, both musically and lyrically. Its chorus, including the background lyrics “war is over, if you want it”, sung by the Harlem Community Choir, deliver a goosebump-inducing message of peace at the time of year where so many people, of varying walks of life, celebrating any number of holidays, realign themselves with the magic of giving, the importance of family, the closeness of community and a sense of purpose about our short journey here on Earth. I caught myself by surprise a couple days ago when the first Christmas playlist I put on this year pumped out this song and I started to get a little emotional. It’s surprising, because while I’ve always enjoyed Christmas and the holidays, I never found Christmas music to be particularly moving. Rather, after suffering through years of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” being the number one song played on the bar jukebox where I used to work during all of November and December, I found it less to be about the spirit of giving and more to be a lobotomized cue for automatons to order a 16th glass of egg nog. And so, this week, I was trying to take personal inventory about what could have me feeling so moved during only the second week of November. I started thinking about it then, and finished thinking about it during a 3 hour drive I had this week - one of the rare times where I have silence and can hear myself think. I stumbled upon the idea that because Christmas last year broke from tradition for so many people (myself and my family included) and because this year it finally feels like some of the nation is breathing a true sigh of relief from Covid, that the 2021 holiday season could wind up being one where we embrace tradition yet again. This is akin to some actual Christmas magic.To me, it feels like the nation is on the verge of collectively exhaling after what can only be described as a physically arduous and psychologically burdensome 24 months. We’ve lost some family and friends, we’re all a couple years older, our perspectives have shifted - yet, if you’re reading this, you’re one of the billions of members of the human race relentlessly marching forward. Together, we have dealt with an assault on our senses for nearly two years and, this holiday season, it’s time to just let that shit go. Worse than the virus itself has been the continued incessant reminders to get vaccinated, two-faced mask requirements from hypocritical politicians, spurious and useless mandates and individuals and businesses who suffered personal or economic losses. The psychological toll from Covid easily rivals, if not surpasses, the physical toll we have paid. And why wouldn’t it be? Every day, the mainstream media brutalizes us with new sensationalist claims about how Covid is waiting around the corner with a gun, getting ready to shoot us in the face in our own homes if we do something as meaningless as use a one-way door labeled “Exit” to enter a building. And if the virus doesn’t shoot us (hyperbole), the government might (less hyperbole). Just ask Australia.What have we been rewarded with, as a nation - as a human race - for obeying all of these rules? We have been lied to and deceived at almost every instance possible. There have been deceptions about herd immunity, Dr. Fauci has lied willingly about whether or not he helped fund gain of function research, the media has lied about potentially efficacious Covid treatments, FDA staff have resigned in protest over pressure to approve boosters and the stocks of companies like Moderna have gone through the roof. Yesterday was another day that I woke up and watched the mainstream media narrative alternate between trying to scare the shit out of people and complete and total implosion. Almost one year to the day after President Biden said “You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations,” the following headline made its way onto MSNBC. The article read: “What we’re starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who’ve been vaccinated but not boosted,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, said Tuesday in an interview. Surprise, surprise. The goalposts have been moved again. Oh, and look: vaccination status continues to be pushed as controversial. Yesterday there was unending coverage on ESPN over whether or not NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown was vaccinated or whether he faked his vaccination card. The allegations of Brown using a fake card were made by his former private chef, who said Brown owes him $10,000. To which, I replied: who honestly fucking cares? How is this news? Nobody in a stadium full of 40,000 football fans (or on the field tackling each other) honestly cares so much about this that it should be any news story. The virus is dangerous, but not that dangerous, and vaccines have been, and will continue to be, personal health decisions. Between headlines like these and another “impending doom” chryon (remember that idiocy from the CDC director?), we continue to be subject to an onslaught of media hysteria heading into the holiday season. To the average American just trying to do the right thing, these news items are yet another reason, in addition to skyrocketing inflation and just trying to survive in general while healthy, to wake up with your muscles tensed and your mind panicked. How much human capital are we wasting in this perpetual fight or flight state right now? How far have we overshot the response mark? How counterintuitive are our actions? How much is it eating at our quality of life? The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Covid is simply going to be unavoidable for most of us. It is everywhere, it’s going to be everywhere, and the sooner that one makes peace with that and accepts it, the quicker they can start to alleviate themselves of the psychosis they’ve been carrying around for two years months. Since about March 2020, I haven’t worried much about Covid. I’m in good shape and have continued most of my normal routine despite having Covid earlier this year. I was one of the lucky ones who had a fever for a couple of days, some flu like symptoms, and then just got on with my life. The worst part was losing my smell and taste for a while, but that eventually came back. I didn’t crow about my positive Covid test, I didn’t write about it on Twitter, I didn’t use it as a soapbox to tell people what to do with their lives, and I didn’t have a nervous breakdown. I just got on with my life. This holiday season, we can all do the same. It’s weird that I’m feeling a great sense of relief heading into the holiday season this year. I know I’m going to be around family. I know they are going to be slightly less stressed than they are were last year and – Covid or no Covid – I know I only have so many holiday seasons left. So, this year, I’ll be focusing 100% of my energy on making this one special, and one to remember. By all means, if you are immuno-compromised or elderly, or have people with comorbidities in your family – take precautions. Protect those that you love. Realistically, you may not be able to completely ignore Covid this holiday season , but there’s a high chance that you owe it to yourself to try and exhale and enjoy your holidays as close to “normally” as you can. Many people might even be able to turn their brains off to Covid completely, like millions across the nation have already done. The least you can do, even if you are taking precautions with your family, is turn off the television and stop bludgeoning yourself with the media. It has been nothing but a combination of deception, hysteria and and sensationalism. None of those things belong at your peaceful holiday dinner table. Take that deep breath now, then exhale. Covid is over (if you want it). *  *  * This was a free look at paid subscriber content from QTR's Fringe Finance. If you enjoy and want to support my work, I'd love to have you as a subscriber. Zerohedge readers get 10% off a subscription for life by using this link. Tyler Durden Fri, 11/19/2021 - 19:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 19th, 2021

The best subscription boxes for food, drink, style, beauty, and hobbies in 2021

From coffee and snacks to games and books, these are the best subscription boxes you can buy as gifts for yourself and everyone else in 2021. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Birchbox Subscription box services are great for anything you love to receive on a regular basis. They can help you discover new products, develop your hobbies, or add convenience to your life. These boxes are great gifts, but if you're looking for other ideas, check out our list of the All-Time Best products we've ever tested. By now, the subscription concept has been widely applied to pretty much anything you can buy, but it's most useful for the things you actually use and enjoy regularly. Whether that's razor blades for your daily shaving routine or books to read during your commute, a subscription box helps automate the process for buying and receiving products so you have more time to use said products. Subscription boxes can help you discover new products in an arena you're already interested in or figure out if you want to pursue a hobby further. They're like trial runs for your various interests or needs and usually a lot more affordable than a full commitment. Plus, subscription boxes are great for gifting. With one fell swoop, you can gift three whole months of discovering new wine or trying out different perfumes.If you do change your mind about your subscription, all the following services make it easy to skip next month's shipment or cancel your subscription.Here are the best subscription boxes in 2021Food and drinkBest wine subscription: WincBest coffee subscription: TradeBest tea subscription: Sips byBest beer subscription: Beer of the Month ClubBest cocktail subscription: Cocktail Courier Best snack subscription: SnackCrateBest cheese subscription: Murray's CheeseBest meat subscription: ButcherBoxBest meal kit subscription: Blue ApronBeauty, grooming, and styleBest beauty subscription: BirchboxBest shaving subscription: Dollar Shave ClubBest men's clothing subscription: Menlo ClubBest women's clothing subscription: Rent the RunwayBest underwear subscription: MeUndiesBest jewelry subscription: RocksboxBest subscription for perfume and cologne: ScentbirdHobbies and interestsBest flower subscription: BloomsyboxBest plant subscription: HortiBest book subscription: Book of the Month ClubBest game subscription: Unbox BoardomBest crafting subscription: The Crafter's BoxBest subscription for kids: KiwiCoBest subscription for dogs: BarkboxBest subscription for cats: MeowboxBest wine subscriptionConnie Chen/InsiderSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: $9 for orders of three bottles or fewer; free for orders of four bottles or moreA la carte shop: Yes Gifting available: YesWinc's straightforward ordering process, on-trend wine curation, and reliable shipping make it the best online wine club we've tried in the last few years. If your interest in a wine subscription stems not only from the need for convenience but also the desire to expand your wine knowledge, Winc offers informative resources, easy-to-digest bottle descriptions, and a community ratings system to help you develop your palate. Winc delivers wine every month, but it's easy to adjust your membership to skip automatic shipments. Although it matches you to wines that it thinks you'll like based on your profile of tastes and preferences, you can also customize your shipment and browse Winc's complete catalog of varietals from all over the world.Winc Monthly Wine Subscription (4 bottles)$24.95 FROM WINCOriginally $52.00 | Save 52%Runners-up: Firstleaf, for affordable wine and big discounts ($80/month)Plonk, for natural and biodynamic wines ($110/month) Read more about the best wine subscriptions we tested in 2021. Read our reviews of Winc and Firstleaf.Best coffee subscriptionTrade/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every 1, 2, or 4 weeksShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesTrade is where you can order top-quality coffee from cool roasters all over the country, like Verve (Santa Cruz, CA), Cuvee (Austin, TX), and Huckleberry (Denver, CO). If you're the type to immediately seek out the local specialty coffee shop when you travel to a new city, then Trade's the best coffee subscription for you — and you don't even have to leave your house to receive your beans. All you have to do is tell Trade about how you take your coffee and it'll show you the best coffee you should be drinking every morning. It'll also provide the roaster's schedule for roasting and when your bag was roasted.Trade Coffee Monthly Membership$14.75 FROM TRADERunners-up: Driftaway, for sustainability-focused, single-origin coffee ($14.40/shipment)Atlas, for exploring the global coffee scene ($14/shipment)Read more about the best coffee subscriptions we tested in 2021. Read our reviews of Trade, Driftaway, and Atlas.Best tea subscriptionSips bySubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesSips by is a personalized tea subscription that sends you four different teas (enough to make at least 16 cups) every month, so your tea rotation always stays new and exciting. You'll get to explore teas from big and familiar brands as well as local tea shops and farms and choose from loose leaf, bagged, herbal, and caffeinated teas. If you weren't already familiar with all the benefits of tea, how to steep your tea, and the differences among all the tea types, Sips by shares plenty of educational resources to strengthen your tea knowledge.Sips by Monthly Tea Subscription$16.00 FROM SIPS BYRunners-up: Atlas Tea Club Starter Pack, for single-origin and global teas ($14/shipment)David's Tea Tasting Club, for exclusive and seasonal tea blends ($35/shipment)Best beer subscriptionBeer of the Month ClubSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: $15 A la carte shop: No Gifting available: YesChoose from five different beer memberships in this club: Microbrewed, Hop Heads, Rare Beers, International, and US and International. Each of these clubs gives you 12 12-oz beers in different styles from a few different breweries, plus brewery profiles and tasting notes. It's the most convenient way to tour breweries in the US and around the world. The original club started in 1994, and its panel of brewmasters and beer judges only pick out a mix of the most interesting and innovative craft beers every month. The diversity of options means you can stop pigeonholing yourself into drinking (and pretending to enjoy) IPAs.Beer of the Month Club Subscription$31.95 FROM BEER OF THE MONTH CLUBRunners-up: Tavour, for mobile-first beer orders (Price varies)Craft Beer Kings, for fun and creative flavors ($70/shipment)Best cocktail subscriptionCocktail Courier/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every 1, 2, or 4 weeksShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesUnless you keep your bar cart fully stocked and meticulously updated, it can be a hassle to source all the ingredients for a specialty cocktail you want to make. Let's also not forget that going out for happy hour requires putting on clothes. Cocktail Courier makes kits based on recipes from top bartenders and sends you all the ingredients you need, including the spirits. Keep in mind, though, you do need your own basic equipment, like glassware and a shaker. For the subscription, just choose your favorite spirits and you'll only be sent kits with those spirits. There's also an option for just the mixers and garnishes, if you prefer to use your own alcohol. Cocktail Courier Classic Cocktail Kit Subscription$49.99 FROM COCKTAIL COURIERRunners-up: Shaker & Spoon, for a variety of cocktails that focus on one spirit (from $40/shipment)SaloonBox, for group cocktail parties (from $49/shipment)Best snack subscriptionSnackCrate/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: NoGifting available: YesOne of our favorite things to do when visiting a new country is to scour the snack aisles of the local grocery store. SnackCrate brings that same excitement and discovery process to your door. Every month's snack box focuses on a different country and includes full-sized snacks directly imported from that country. You'll also get a music playlist and booklet of games and facts related to the country. There are three box sizes available to suit everyone from occasional grazers to snack aficionados. SnackCrate Original Snack Box Subscription$21.99 FROM SNACKCRATEOriginally $26.99 | Save 19%Runners-up: Mouth, for gourmet snacks from indie makers ($60/month)Bokksu, for authentic Japanese snacks ($49.95/month)Read our review of Bokksu.Best cheese subscriptionMurray’s Cheese/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesNew York City institution Murray's Cheese offers a few different monthly clubs that let you get your fix for creamy, stinky, soft, smoky, and hard cheeses. It's part indulgence, part educational experience. The Classic Club is great for people who want a reliable way to enjoy cheeses you might not have heard of but still have an approachable flavor profile — think Montealva, a flaky and citrus-y goat's milk cheese from Spain or The Farm at Doe Run's butterscotch-infused cheese. If you want something more adventurous, try the Cheesemonger's Picks club instead. Murray’s Classic Cheese of the Month Club$63.00 FROM MURRAY'SRunners-up: Curdbox, for cheese plates including sweet and savory pairings ($49.95/month)Jasper Hill, for special release and limited-edition cheese from Vermont ($100/month)Read our review of Murray's Cheese of the Month Club.Best meat subscriptionButcherBox/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: NoGifting available: YesIn addition to pre-curated boxes of grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, and crate-free pork, ButcherBox lets you choose from more than 25 different cuts to make your own custom box. It's an easy way to get high-quality meat (up to 14 pounds every month) without having to visit your local butcher or farmer's market. The subscription is also flexible in case you don't need that much meat every month. But if you're feeding a lot of mouths, hosting a barbeque, or just enjoy eating meat, you'll want to take advantage of ButcherBox's value every month.ButcherBox Mixed Box$137.00 FROM BUTCHERBOXRunners-up: Porter Road, for underrated cuts of meat and the best variety (Price varies) Snake River Farms, for high-end meat like American Wagyu ($225/shipment)Read more about the best meat subscriptions we tested in 2021. Read our reviews of ButcherBox, Porter Road, and Snake River Farms. Best meal kit subscriptionBlue Apron/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every weekShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: NoGifting available: YesBlue Apron's flavorful, creative takes on familiar recipes and reliable, accurate delivery make it the best meal kit you can subscribe to. It's versatile and flexible, with meal options for all kinds of dietary preferences, a variety of plans for two- and four-person families, and add-ons like meat and seafood bundles, spice blends, and cookware and tools. There's even a wine add-on to complete your dining experience. The meals (like chimichurri tilapia, one-pan prosciutto gnocchi, and sambal-peanut chicken noodles) are always delicious and the portions are generous — you'll even have leftovers,  sometimes. The menu updates frequently and we rarely see the same recipe twice.Blue Apron Meal Kits (3-meal, 2-serving)$53.94 FROM BLUE APRON Runners-up: Sunbasket, for organic ingredients and health-conscious recipes ($71.94/3-meal, 2-serving plan)Everyplate, for the most affordable yet filling meals ($39.93/3-meal, 2-serving plan)Read more about the best meal kit subscriptions we tested in 2021.Best beauty subscriptionBirchbox/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesBirchbox's mission is to make the vast world of beauty and skincare fun and less intimidating by giving you the freedom to sample tons of different products. Every month's affordable beauty box contains five samples you might like based on your Beauty Profile, featuring a variety of new and upcoming brands and products (makeup, skincare, haircare, fragrance).The brands included reflect Birchbox's core values of sustainability, inclusivity, and supporting women. For example, there's a limited edition Brown Girl Jane box which is made by and for Black women's wellness. Once you've tried a sample you really love, you can directly shop the full-sized product at Birchbox's shop. There's also a Grooming section with hair, face and body, and shaving essentials.Birchbox Beauty Subscription Box$13.00 FROM BIRCHBOXRunners-up: Kura, for clean skincare bundles customized to your needs (from $99/shipment)Prose, for personalized haircare like shampoo and hair masks (Price varies)Read more about the best beauty subscription boxes we tested in 2021. Read our reviews of Birchbox and Prose.Best shaving subscriptionDollar Shave Club/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every 2, 3, or 4 monthsShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: Yes Gifting available: YesThere are a variety of ways you can get sharp and budget-friendly razor shipments from Dollar Shave Club: the first is the Starter Set, which costs just $5 ($20 every two months afterward) and acts as your trial run for the shave subscription. Or, you can take the site's quiz to receive a personalized recommendation of products based on your hair type and shaving needs. Either way, this famous online shave club offers plenty of flexibility so that you'll always have a supply of razor blades and soothing post-shave essentials whenever you need it. Dollar Shave Club Starter Set$9.00 FROM DOLLAR SHAVE CLUBRunners-up: Billie, for fun yet practical razors ($9/shipment)Harry's, for sleek designs and other body care products ($15/shipment)Read our reviews of Billie and Harry's.Best men's clothing subscriptionAmir Ismael/InsiderSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesMenlo Club, the styling service loved by NBA stars and our own senior style reporter, curates two to three pieces for you per month based on your style preferences and clothing sizes. Brands include Five Four, Grand AC, and New Republic, and the pieces are easy to incorporate into your existing wardrobe. It's your best bet if you don't like or have time for clothing shopping because it offers high-quality clothing with plenty of variety. You can exchange sizes for free and you'll also get perks like exclusive discounts and early access to drops.Menlo Club Subscription$60.00 FROM MENLO CLUBRunners-up: Stitch Fix, for clothing picks made by your own personal stylist ($20/shipment)Gentleman's Box, for stylish accessories like ties and socks ($35/shipment)Read more about the best men's clothing subscriptions we tested in 2021.Read our review of Menlo Club.Best women's clothing subscriptionRent the RunwaySubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesWith over 750 designers to choose from, Rent the Runway is the closet of your dreams for special occasions like weddings, workwear essentials, or simply to add excitement to your regular wardrobe. Its most popular plan lets you rent four pieces at a time, twice a month, for just $99 a month (for the first two months). We've always found it easy to pick out, wear, and return dresses, tops, loungewear, and accessories from the service. It's all the fun and excitement of wearing designer clothing, without the exorbitant price tags or complicated dry cleaning.Rent the Runway 2 Swaps$135.00 FROM RENT THE RUNWAYRunners-up: Stitch Fix, for clothing picks made by your own personal stylist ($20/shipment)Nuuly, for affordable rentals from Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People ($88/shipment)Read our review of Rent the Runway.Best jewelry subscriptionRocksbox/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesThe right jewelry can bring an outfit to the next level, and with Rocksbox, the search for the perfect ring, earring, necklace, or bracelet is easy and very affordable. The $21 monthly membership gets you three pieces of jewelry from brands like Kendra Scott, Slate, 8 Other Reasons, and more, and the best part is you can swap the pieces as many times as you want during the month. If you fall in love with a piece and decide to buy it, your membership fee turns into a credit towards your purchase, saving you even more money.Rocksbox Monthly Jewelry Subscription$21.00 FROM ROCKSBOXRunners-up: Switch, for luxury and fine jewelry like Hermes and Chanel (from $40/shipment)Rowan, for hypoallergenic earrings and fun freebies ($35/shipment)Best underwear subscriptionMeUndies/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesMeUndies makes incredibly soft and comfy underwear in a variety of cuts and a huge selection of fun, ever-rotating prints and patterns. Though new underwear every month may seem unnecessary, you might just change your tune once you try a pair from MeUndies. All its fabrics are breathable and stretchy and last through years of washes. The part to look forward to the most? Collecting all the unique prints, which have included sharks, a "Space Jam" collaboration, and sun-tanning alligators in the past.MeUndies Monthly Subscription$14.00 FROM MEUNDIESRunners-up: Underclub, for designer underwear in a range of styles (from $15/shipment)Savage by Fenty Xtra VIP, for access to monthly drops and exclusive deals from Rihanna's lingerie brand ($49.95/shipment.Read our review of MeUndies.Best subscription for perfume and cologneScentbird/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every 1, 2, or 3 monthsShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesFragrance is so personal to each individual person that it only makes sense to turn buying perfume or cologne into a sampling experience. Scentbird is home to over 500 fragrances from designer and indie brands, letting you discover your signature scent, add some variety to your current fragrance lineup, or simply try fragrances you wouldn't have access to otherwise. You'll be able to try perfume and cologne from Versace, D&G, Acqua di Parma and more. Each 8 mL sampler bottle holds about 140 sprays — enough to use a couple times a day, every day of the month.Scentbird Subscription Box$15.95 FROM SCENTBIRDRunners-up: Scentbox, for an even larger variety of fragrances to choose from ($14.95/shipment)Skylar Scent Club, for limited-edition rollerballs made with clean ingredients ($20/shipment)Best flower subscriptionLauren Savoie/InsiderSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesSome people like food or shoes or jewelry, but for us, flowers are the ultimate monthly pick-me-up. BloomsyBox's monthly flower delivery service features one unique bouquet of 22-24 stems, and though you can't pick the exact flowers you want, the ones we've received from the service have always been gorgeous. It's a lovely way to liven up your home with new and interesting arrangements and the flowers arrive fresh and undisturbed. Be on the lookout for cool, limited-time collaborations, like the current partnership with the New York Botanical Garden.BloomsyBox Flower Subscription Service$44.99 FROM BLOOMSYBOX$38.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $44.99 | Save 13%Runners-up: UrbanStems, for timeless arrangements and deliveries as frequent as every week ($55/shipment)Read more about the best flower delivery services we tested in 2021. Read our reviews of Bloomsybox and UrbanStems.Best plant subscriptionHorti/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: $8-$12A la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesHorti is best for beginner plant enthusiasts who are interested in starting a plant collection but may not know where to start or how to learn the basics of plant care. Horti's subscription is strategically designed so you begin with hardy, low-maintenance plants but eventually graduate to more complex species as you develop your confidence and experience. Each one always comes in a hand-painted pot (or you can opt for just the naked plants) and sometimes you'll also receive planting tools and accessories. Horti Month-to-Month Plant Subscription$28.00 FROM HORTIRunners-up: The Sill, for a robust variety of medium-sized, easy care plants ($60/shipment)The Plant Club, for unique, seasonal plants ($39/month)Read our review of The Sill. Best book subscriptionBook of the Month Club/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: YesA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesAs the OG national book club (since 1926!), Book of the Month has book curation down to a science, with its finger on the pulse of all the books that everyone seems to be reading and talking about lately. Every month you have the opportunity to choose from five hardcover books representing a variety of genres. Whether you're trying to start up a reading habit or already a voracious reader, the consistent shipments will keep you on track and make you a more well-read citizen. It also offers a separate, formal Book Club service where you can organize your own book club with anyone in your circle.Book of the Month Membership$15.99 FROM BOOK OF THE MONTHRunners-up: Owl Crate, for signed young adult books and extra freebies ($32.99/shipment)Next Big Idea Club, for nonfiction books curated by big names in business and psychology ($21/month)Best game subscriptionUnbox Boardom/FacebookSubscription frequency: Every 1, 2, or 3 months Shipping fee: $5 A la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesIf you like to unplug and unwind with a board game, try the cleverly named Unbox Boardom subscription. Each month, you can either choose a new game yourself or let the gaming experts choose one for you. The membership has all kinds of unique games (strategy, family, trivia, and more) that you haven't heard of before and will keep you well occupied throughout the year. Soon enough, you'll have a healthy stack of games to choose from any time you want to exercise your brain a bit. Past games have included Photosynthesis, a strategy game where you chase the sun to grow trees and Sabordage, a mayhem-filled pirate adventure.Unbox Boardom Monthly Subscription$29.99 FROM UNBOX BOARDOMRunners-up: Video Games Monthly, for classic and retro video games (from $34.99/shipment)Finders Seekers, for mystery and escape room games ($30/shipment)Best crafting subscriptionThe Crafter’s Box/InstagramSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesFor people who love working with their hands, The Crafter's Box offers the convenient and affordable opportunity to try out different kinds of crafts and learn from real working crafters. In addition to the kit of materials, you'll receive access to a digital workshop and live chat with a community of fellow craft lovers. The exciting lineup of craft options include fabric weaving, leather sandal making, paper making, soap making, and contemporary quilting. Since The Crafter's Box sends you all the materials you need, you can test drive various crafting types and figure out the one you love the most before you drop an entire month's paycheck at Michael's.The Crafter's Box Monthly Membership$65.00 FROM THE CRAFTER'S BOXRunners-up: Kiwi Doodle Crate, for creative projects designed for teens ($22.95/shipment)Adults and Crafts, for small, approachable projects ($33/shipment)Best subscription for kidsAlicia Betz/InsiderSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesCreated by an engineer and mother of three, KiwiCo makes kits with toys and activities for kids of every age, from newborns to 14-year-olds. The science and art projects, designed by educators and scientists including but not limited to mechanical and industrial engineers, are age-appropriate and teach kids important skills like creative problem-solving, curiosity and tinkering, and hands-on craft. The beauty of KiwiCo is it frees up time for parents: time spent researching activities to do, and time spent participating in those activities with their kids. Though parents can certainly join in on the fun, the kits work best when the child can play independently.Kiwico Crates$19.95 FROM KIWICORunners-up: Lovevery, for developmental play kits for babies and toddlers (Price varies)Baketivity, for kid-friendly baking kits ($32.95/shipment)Read our reviews of KiwiCo and Lovevery. Best subscription for dogsKate Barrington/InsiderSubscription frequency: Every monthShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesDogs and their owners love this popular subscription box, which sends toys, treats, and chews revolving around a creative theme each month. When you sign up, you'll share info about your dog, including its breed, birthday, and dietary restrictions, so that Barkbox can send a personalized collection of items. The plush toys in particular are a pup favorite. Soft, squeaky, and durable, they're made for play. Barkbox also has the best themes and collaborations we've seen around, from movie character chews and toys to a winter cabin getaway bundle.BarkBox Single Box$35.00 FROM BARKBOXRunners-up: Pupbox from Petco, for treats, toys, and training resources specifically for puppies ($39/shipment)Kongbox, for highly rugged Kong products and especially playful dogs ($44.95/shipment)Read our review of Barkbox.Best subscription for catsMeowboxSubscription frequency: Every 1 or 2 monthsShipping fee: FreeA la carte shop: YesGifting available: YesSometimes hair ties, lights, and cardboard boxes just won't cut it for your cat. That's where Meowbox comes in. Every box has five to six items, including high-quality toys and organic or grain-free treats that are always produced in the US or Canada. Plus, for every box sold, Meowbox donates a can of food to a cat shelter. It even provides a unique code you can use to track exactly where your donation has gone. Like Barkbox, Meowbox offers adorable themed products, like a summer fishing bucket hat or a "skippy kitty rope" and kettlebell for cat-owner workouts. The a la carte shop also features paraphernalia for the owner so you don't feel left out of the fun.Meowbox Monthly Subscription$22.95 FROM MEOWBOXRunners-up: KitNipBox, for extra treats and toys if you have more than one cat ($19.99/shipment)RescueBox, for a subscription box with high impact ($29.95/shipment)Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 19th, 2021

The 15 essentials you should pack while traveling during a pandemic this holiday season

Stay safe this holiday season with these travel essentials that help you minimize exposure to COVID-19 and stay safe and healthy while on the road. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Hispanolistic/Getty Images Holiday travel is safer in 2021 than in 2020 but you should still take precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The best precautions for traveling are getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public spaces. Additional items like at-home COVID tests and portable hand sanitizer can also help you travel safer. Medical review by: David Aronoff, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Table of Contents: Masthead StickyWith rising vaccination rates in the U.S. and around the world, travel is reopening further. Americans are cleared to travel within the U.S. and, if fully-vaccinated, many places abroad, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).However, traveling isn't the same as pre-pandemic or even the same as mid-pandemic: Whether or not you're vaccinated, you need to take precautions when flying or driving. Everyone must wear a mask over their nose and mouth on planes, buses, trains, taxis, and other forms of public transportation.Most countries have other specific rules to visit, including proof of vaccination and certification that you've had a recent negative COVID test. Many experts also recommend taking a COVID test before and after you travel regardless of if it's required.While it's relatively safe to travel, that's only true if you take proper precautions. We've talked to three experts about everything you need to know to travel safely in the fall and winter of 2021, whether you're flying or driving, vaccinated or not.Here are the new essentials everyone should pack before traveling:Vaccine passport: CommonPassN95 mask: Kimberly-Clark N95 RespiratorKN95 mask: Powecom KN95 masks, 10 packDisposable mask: DemeTech DemeMask Surgical MaskFabric face masks: Herschel Classic Fitted Face MaskFace masks with removable filter: Halo Life Nanofilter MaskFace masks for kids: Onzie Mindful Masks (2-Pack)At-home COVID test: EmpowerDX At-Home COVID-19 PCR TestPortable hand sanitizer: Touchland Power Mist Sanitizer SprayTravel-sized disinfectant wipes: Clorox Disinfectant Wipes To GoA smartphone sanitizer: PhoneSoap 3 Smartphone UV SanitizerPacking cubes: eBags Hyperlite Packing CubesTape to help your face mask fit better: Cabeau TapeA mask bracket for added comfort: HeartFormSF Mask BracketReusable bags for safety gear: Stasher Reusable Silicone BagWhat to consider before you goEmilija Manevska/Getty ImagesVaccination against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the most important and effective way we can reduce the spread and severity of COVID-19, David Aronoff, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Insider during his medical review of this piece."While masks, reduced crowding, and social distancing are among the many things we can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19, vaccination has been shown to protect against getting infected, reduce the risk of symptoms or severe disease, and prevent death," he said.Be sure that anyone in your traveling party (or meeting you at your destination) is vaccinated if they are eligible, and that they've received their booster vaccine doses, which is now available for most people who've already been immunized.Additionally, all travelers should ask themselves before they go: Can I afford to be trapped somewhere if I or one of my travel companions gets COVID and can't travel home? "If the answer is no, stay home," Dr. Aronoff added.If you are traveling, Dr. Aronoff encourages checking your health insurance carefully to find out where and how to seek medical attention if you need it and exactly what your policy covers. Some countries require proof of travel health insurance that covers COVID to enter their borders. Dr. Aronoff also suggested having a plan for where you'd go to get care if you got sick and how you'd quarantine from the people you're visiting.What should be in your travel safety kitImages By Tang Ming Tung/Getty ImagesWhether you're vaccinated or not, driving or flying, remember the basics of COVID travel: Wear the best mask you can (ideally an N95-type mask), making sure it fits snuggly without gaps at the sides (layering two masks can help), and keep your distance from people outside your household as much as possible.Then, pack a portable COVID-19 safety kit, whether flying or driving.Proof of vaccinationAgain, getting the COVID vaccine is the best thing you can do to stay safe and keep other safe while traveling during the pandemic. Many countries require proof of vaccination before entering their borders, and even if you're traveling domestically, it's a good idea to have proof with you just in case a public space or business upon arrival requires it.If you want to travel with your physical vaccine card, we suggest putting it in a protective vinyl casing. But there are also a handful of apps, such as CommonPass and VeriFLY, that allow you to upload proof of vaccine and even connect PCR test results so you have proof of your low-risk all in one place.Card Protector Vinyl Sleeve (small)App (small)App (small)Masks for adultsMasks are required on all airlines, regardless of your vaccination status or where you're flying. They're also recommended for any public place while driving, like public restrooms or service stations.As coronavirus is an airborne virus, wearing a mask is still one of the key ways to reduce spreading or getting COVID, especially in an indoor, crowded place like an airport or airplane, Joyce Sanchez, MD, medical director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin tells Insider.Wearing the right mask the right way helps to protect not only the people around you but the wearer too.Nearly everyone can safely wear a mask, other than those who can't put on or take off a mask themselves. This includes those with chronic lung and heart problems, Dr. Sanchez says. "Even if it feels harder to breathe while wearing a mask, it doesn't actually affect how much oxygen your body gets," she assures.Why are masks so important? Think of the COVID virus like cigarette smoke spreading indoors — it flows throughout the space (beyond 6 feet from the person who exhaled it and around plexiglass barriers) and can hang in the air for hours, even after the person is no longer in the room.Considering its spreadability, and given how contagious the Delta variant is, it's more important than ever to wear a well-fitting mask to both prevent spreading the virus to others and inhaling it yourself.Quick tip: If your mask tends to suction to your mouth when you breathe in, look for a mask with a more structured frame that keeps the fabric away from your lips (like a KN95 mask). Or, insert a frame, like one from HeartFormSF, into a covering you already have.N95-type masks are best now that they're no longer in short supply like early in the pandemic, followed by KN95 masks (both technically called respirators rather than masks). Both seal the sides of the face and top of the nose to minimize any gaps where air can leak, and offer additional filtration of air as you breathe, Dr. Sanchez explains.However, counterfeits are common, so check the CDC's list of approved masks and suppliers. A quick way to tell is that real N95s have straps around the back of the head instead of ear loops and a TC number (e.g., 84A-XXX for U.S.-approved N95s).After N95s and KN95s, a three-layer cloth mask is your next best option. The outside two layers should be a tightly-woven fabric like cotton or linen and the middle a filter fabric, either built-in or added-in by you (a folded paper towel works great).It's important that your mask fits snugly to trap the potentially-infected air particles rather than leaking through the edges of the mask and being directly inhaled, Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, the founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA, tells Insider. Make sure there are no gaps around the edges of your mask — a detail of equal importance regardless of if you're vaccinated or not.Quick tip: If a mask causes your glasses or sunglasses to fog up, that's a sign it doesn't fit properly and is allowing potentially virus-laden air in and out. Use a special tape like Cabeau Tape between the fabric and your skin where there's a gap to create a better seal.If your mask has gaps on the top or sides or if you only have a single-ply mask, it's smart to double up with a disposable surgical-type mask underneath and a tighter cloth mask over top. And if your mask slips down under your nose as you talk, it's a sure sign you need a better-fitting mask.Quick tip: Pack multiple masks. When you travel, you should have enough coverings to wear a fresh mask each day, as well as extras on hand if it gets dirty or wet.It's also important to wash reusable masks daily — a clean-looking mask can be covered with germs, which can spread to your hands and everything you touch every time you take it off or put it on. Wash it as you do your hands, with a minimum 20-second scrub with soapy water and a thorough rinse, then hang it to dry.Skip the neck gaiters and bandanas — early reports that they're worse than no mask at all were likely overblown, but researchers do know real masks are more effective. Plus, many airlines don't allow them anyway.N95 Respirator (small)KN95 Masks (10 Pack) (small)DemeMask Surgical Mask, 50 pack (small)Classic Fitted Face Mask (small)Nanofilter Mask (small)Mask Bracket (5-Count) (small)Tape (small)Masks for kidsA well-fitting mask is the most important factor for anyone, so children should use masks made for kids, Dr. Malkin says, adding "adult masks are too big for them."If kids can help choose their own supplies, it increases the chance they'll use them. Dr. Malkin advises opting for a mask with a character or designs your child likes to increase the chance that they'll keep it on when you're not looking.Mindful Masks (2-Pack) (small)Mickey Mouse masks, 4-pack (small)Smurfs Original Blue Cloth Face Mask (small)Masks are generally required on planes for kids 5 and older, though sometimes it's 2 or older (check your airline's requirements before you go). And Dr. Aranoff advises all kids over 2 years old should wear one in indoor, public places unless they physically can't. The CDC does not recommend masks for children under 2.Kids need multiple masks just like adults, so stash a few extras in their backpacks and in the car, Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University tells Insider.Quick tip: It's super important to model safe practices, Dr. Sanchez says. "If you're wearing a mask, disinfecting your hands, maintaining that distance, and reinforcing those behaviors through what you say and do — children pick up on and mirror that."At-home COVID-19 testMost countries require you to have proof of a negative COVID test to enter. Taking one is a good idea even if you're traveling domestically, especially if you're unvaccinated, the CDC advises.Even if your destination doesn't require it and even if you're vaccinated, it's wise to get a COVID test both before you travel and after you arrive to minimize the chance of spreading the virus to vulnerable people. "If you are planning on visiting others, make sure to get tested to ensure everyone's safety," Dr. Malkin adds.For international or domestic travel, the CDC recommends that people who aren't vaccinated take a COVID test one to three days before you leave, keep your distance from others as much as possible while traveling, and once you return home, take another viral test and self-isolate for a full seven days. If you don't get a viral test, you should isolate for 10 days. Either way, avoid being around high-risk folks for 14 days.As for where to get a COVID test, many towns have free testing sites. But you can also snag an at-home rapid antigen test or, slightly less common, more accurate molecular tests (such as a PCR test). Just remember, the tests aren't 100% foolproof.Many at-home tests require you to mail in a nasal swab or spit tube to be processed in a lab. But newer tests (both antigen and molecular) available in some countries let you get your results online in as little as 45 minutes, with some antigen tests delivering results right in front of you, within 15 minutes. (Just be sore to follow the instructions closely and the tests can give a false negative.)Most tests that are supervised by a health professional over video provide you with the certification you need for flights. Just make sure you know the precise time window to do your test and get the certification back before your flight.When our team researched and tested the leading at-home COVID tests on the market throughout 2021, we found EmpowerDX Nasal to be the most accurate, covered by most insurance or the cheapest test available out of pocket and turns results around within two days of the lab receiving the sample. Dr. Sanchez also recommends the Abbott at-home antigen test kit, which offers six tests for $150.Dr. Sanchez recommends each person bring at least two approved at-home test kits that meet the testing requirements when traveling internationally in case there's a problem with one or you need to re-test. "You do not want to be stuck or delayed in returning home because you have not prepared for that required step," she adds.At-Home Covid-19 Nasal PCR Test (small)BinaxNOW COVID-19 At-Home Test Kit - 6 Pack (small)Hand soap, sanitizer, and wipesTraveling exposes you to tons of germs — viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi — outside of COVID that can cause illnesses. It's super important to clean your hands before and after you eat, in particular. The best way: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and then dry them thoroughly with a paper or cloth towel (rather than an air blower).But since that's not always possible, the second-best option is to use hand sanitizer. Always pack one with at least 60% alcohol in your carry-on, and rub it all over your hands, even the nooks and crannies, until it evaporates.Antibacterial hand wipes are less ideal since they sometimes contain harmful chemicals and may contribute to antibiotic resistance. But in a pinch, they're definitely better than having unclean hands. Keep in mind that most wipes are formulated for objects and not for skin, Dr. Malkin points out. As with hand sanitizer, the formula needs to be at least 60% alcohol to kill viruses.Power Mist Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer (small)Antibacterial Aloe Wipes (small)Disinfectant wipesKeeping high-touch surfaces clean is important, but don't obsess over disinfecting every surface you come into contact with, Dr. Sanchez told us — you're not at all likely to acquire COVID by touching an infected surface. This is especially true when driving; there's no need to wipe down your car handles or steering wheel, for example.That being said, high-touch surfaces on planes — armrests, tray tables, in-flight entertainment screens — can transmit germs, so it's wise to wipe down surfaces around your seat with a disinfectant wipe.Be sure to clean your phone too — you might be surprised by how dirty it actually is. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for how to clean it and try to use it only with clean hands. (But be careful: Some cleaners can ruin your screen.)Disinfectant Wipes On the Go (small)HomeSoap UV Sanitizer (small)Storage bagsWhen flying, carry-on storage is essential to make it easy to access hand sanitizer and other essential items. Ideally, your carry-on bag has multiple pockets so you can keep things like food and extra masks separate from dirty items. You can also use a small pouch to keep these essentials right on top (we like these durable, zippered pouches from Baboon to the Moon).We also recommend having a few plastic bags available to store dirty masks, in addition to things like used disinfectant wipes or tissues until you can find a trash can. You'll want one for your car and in your carry-on.It's also helpful to have a designated clean storage bag where you can put your mask when you take it off to eat away from dirty surfaces or other people's breath, Dr. Sanchez advises. Avoid placing your mask on a table or your arm to minimize germ contamination.Reusable Silicone Sandwich Bag (small)Dopp Kit (small)What you should leave at homeGlovesYou don't need to bring gloves with you traveling. First of all, COVID-19 is transmitted by breathing, not by touching things and then touching your face. Regardless, germs can live on the surface of a latex glove, the same as skin, Dr. Malkin says. Plus, "some people become too relaxed when they are wearing gloves. They do not realize they are at more risk for spreading [germs] because they are touching multiple personal items in between other things," he adds.Studies have suggested that people who wear gloves tend not to wash their hands as often or notice when gloves get dirty or damaged. It's also easy to contaminate your hands when removing gloves. Plus, we don't need any more COVID-19 waste than we already have.Face shieldsHow important are face shields? "As we do not have data to support the use of face shields in protecting individuals from acquiring COVID-19 in the community setting, they should not be used as a substitute for a well-fitting mask," Dr. Sanchez says.She added that while she saw no downside to adding a face shield to your travel safety kit, "they are not an equivalent substitute for face masks." They might provide protection if someone sneezes in your direction, for example, but they don't protect others from any virus you may be carrying.Is it safer to fly or drive?RuslanDashinsky/Getty ImagesIf you do need to travel, driving is generally safer than flying commercially, Dr. Sanchez says. If you drive, you have control over who shares the car with you, where you stop along the way, and when you return.If you're fully vaccinated and wearing a well-fitting mask, it's generally safe to fly from a COVID-19 transmission standpoint, she adds.Just keep in mind that you're most likely to transmit or catch the coronavirus when in close proximity to an infected person, especially in situations where people aren't wearing masks at all or wearing them properly. That means airport lines are an issue (sitting on the plane much less so, as we'll explain below), as is driving with anyone not already in your household bubble. Eating indoors — since people have no choice but to remove their masks — is high risk.Regardless of your mode of transportation, it's important to be diligent with precautions.Your driving safety planRealPeopleGroup/Getty ImagesRemember that COVID is spread by people breathing and talking, not by touching surfaces. If you're driving, you don't need to wipe down your steering wheel. But it can bring peace of mind to clean your hands before getting in; have hand sanitizer at the ready before and after you eat, and for after you use a gas pump and public restroom, for example.Power Mist Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer (small)Choose restaurants where staff are diligent about wearing masks. Keep your mask on unless you're actively eating or drinking, and try to eat outdoors or in your car.Use public restrooms for bathroom breaks. Pulling over for a roadside bathroom break is actually illegal throughout the U.S. Just wear a mask and try to wait outside in a well-ventilated space for a free stall. If the toilet has a lid, close it to flush. (There's evidence that the coronavirus can spread by flushing.)Dr. Sanchez adds that you should assume public restrooms are not properly disinfected and that surfaces could be covered in many kinds of germs aside from COVID. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and then use a paper towel to dry your hands and turn off the tap and open the door. If you do touch anything on your way out, use your 60%-plus alcohol hand sanitizer.Your airport safety plandmphoto/Getty ImagesAirports — especially with lines at security, boarding gates, and within the plane itself — are risky because of the close proximity to other people. Wear your mask at all times and keep as much distance from others as you can.When the TSA has you lower your mask for identity verification, touch it from the ear loops rather than the middle to avoid transferring any germs on the fabric onto your hands. It's wise to sanitize or wash your hands after you've touched security trays, not so much because of the coronavirus, but to protect yourself from other germs.As for the plane itself, airlines have stepped up their disinfecting regimens. Many use electrostatic foggers nightly — sometimes between every flight. They spray a fine mist of disinfectant throughout the plane, and the electrostatic charge causes it to stick to all surfaces, not just fall to the floor.Though COVID isn't transmitted by touching things, don't assume your flight has been freshly fogged with disinfectant. Planes can be filthy. It's still wise to wipe down everything in your seat area with a disinfecting wipe like Clorox Ultra Clean Disinfecting Wipes; many airlines now hand out disinfecting wipes as you board, too.If you bring your own, look for "disinfecting" and at least 60% alcohol on the label — a cleaning wipe rids your tray table of that splash of Coke, but it won't kill bacteria and viruses. Settle into your seat and wipe down everything you're likely to touch: the seat belt, armrests, the tray table, the air vent, the window-shade handle, and all places you need to touch to operate the entertainment system.Then, thoroughly clean your hands with sanitizer. The TSA increased the size limit for sanitizer during the pandemic, and until further notice, you're allowed to bring one bottle that's up to 12 ounces in your carry-on bag. If you're flying internationally, note that some countries maintain the 3-ounce limit.Disinfectant Wipes On the Go (small)Power Mist Moisturizing Hand Sanitizer (small)You might be worried about sitting in an enclosed space for hours, but the air on planes is cleaner than in many indoor places, and airlines' mandatory mask policies help protect everyone from virus particles that anyone could be breathing out. A September 2021 peer-reviewed, real-world study showed that the risk of contracting COVID-19 on a plane is 0.1% thanks to mask policies, requiring negative COVID tests to fly, and planes' hospital-grade air filtration systems.When a plane cruises, the cabin air refreshes every three to four minutes, using both fresh air from outside and air that's gone through HEPA filters that remove virtually all viruses.However, if you need to eat or drink on a plane, it's wise to wait a few minutes after the people around you have put their masks back on before you take yours off.Minimize moving around on the plane, including wrestling carry-on luggage in and out of the overhead bin. If you need to use the restroom, be sure to close the toilet lid before you flush. After washing your hands for 20 seconds and drying them, use a paper towel to unlock and open the door. Avoid touching seatbacks as you return to your own, both to keep your hands clean (headrests are the dirtiest surfaces inside an airplane cabin) and so you don't disturb other passengers.After your flight, it's smart to avoid crowds around the baggage carousel — wait until space clears before you grab your bag.You'll also want to check your destination's latest COVID-19 rules for arriving passengers. Some countries require everyone, whether vaccinated or not, to have a negative COVID-19 test on arrival and self-isolate until it's confirmed negative.Our expertsFor this article, we deeply researched across leading health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). We also spoke with the following experts:Joyce Sanchez, MD, the medical director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert and the Medical College of WisconsinDr. Abe Malkin, MD, MBA, the founder and medical director of Concierge MD LAJagdish Khubchandani, PhD, a professor of public health at New Mexico State UniversityThis piece was also medically reviewed for accuracy before publishing by Dr. David Aronoff, MD, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 15th, 2021

Reed Hastings explains the psychology behind Netflix games in an exclusive interview: "We"re unafraid to fail"

"We have to learn by doing, learn by trying things," the billionaire co-founder and co-CEO of Netflix told Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer. "We're unafraid to fail, we're willing to try new things," said Reed Hastings, co-CEO of Netflix. Netflix Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings recently discussed the multibillion-dollar company's future with Mathias Döpfner. Döpfner is the co-CEO of Axel Springer, Insider's parent company, and a board member at Netflix. Netflix gained 40 million new subscribers during the pandemic and has plans to branch out into the video game space. You are perceived as a successful entrepreneur, and yet your first idea did not work out. You wanted to invent the foot mouse. Can you tell us what the foot mouse was, and why it did not work? I have lots of ideas, but not always the best judgment. I was using a keyboard and mouse, and I had this idea that I could use my hands only for the keyboard and use my foot to operate the mouse. It was the mid-1980s. And so, I worked with some designers and came up with the foot mouse. But then we found out that your leg cramps, and the floor is very dirty. After a couple days, it's disgusting. And so, my first big idea was a total failure. I was just as excited about the foot mouse as I was about Netflix. That's why, when I briefly tried to be an investor, I was totally awful at it, because I was just so full of hope for every person that came in. I was like,"Sure, that might work!" I have a very optimistic personality.Well, the foot mouse did not work out. But Netflix did! It now has over 200 million subscribers worldwide and a market cap of around 250 billion. How did Netflix do during the pandemic?The internet is becoming very widely adopted for smart TVs, so that has given us a pretty steady line. We gained about 30 million more members a year for five years as smart TVs rolled out. Under COVID, in 2020, we gained 40 million, and this year it will probably be about 20 million. It's all about staying on the same trajectory, but COVID's made it a bit lumpier. The fundamental fact remains: can we tell amazing stories? There are so many people now competing in streaming and it's really exciting. That will just drive more people to get a smart TV, and to watch television.What did COVID do to movie production?Shooting stopped it for a while. But we and others figured out how to get back to shooting, with testing, different zones for the teams on set and making it as safe as possible.Netflix is now entering the video game space. Is it a new strategic priority?Sure. You know, when you have a small child, a two-year-old, they're always saying "Papa, will you read to me?" They love to be told stories. And they also love playing with their friends and roughhousing with their cousins or their siblings. And these two main aspects of children's psychology - read me a story and I want to play - when they get older, one part grows into watching movies and series. People want to lean back and be told good stories; that's Netflix. And the other part is interactive play, which grows into video gaming.Until now, you've concentrated on telling good stories.Exactly. Now that we're big enough, we have been trying to expand from showing original series in the US to showing documentaries, German films, French films, and so on. We've continued to expand, and each one of these is a new area. We have to learn by doing, learn by trying things. We're unafraid to fail, we're willing to try new things. And so, we're going to try video gaming. Maybe the first game will be as good as "Among Us," the big game of last year. But more likely, it will take us many tries. About 10,000 games per year are launched on mobile. So, it's a big, crowded marketplace. We may not succeed, but that doesn't mean we're not going to try. And the thing about mobile games is that you get a lot of ads and upsells, trying to get players to buy this sword, buy this robe. The commerce really distorts the storytelling. But on Netflix, you get to just play the game. There is no upselling, no ads. We just want to provide you with the entertainment and the thrill of playing the game.Are there any other ideas for future growth pillars at Netflix? Sport or news, for example? Sports or news are not really compatible with entertainment. News is about trying to get to reality. And we're about escapism. We're on a very different kind of course, even if we offer documentaries. What we want is for people to feel, we want emotion. The main areas where we've still got a long way to go are getting better at films and series from around the world. We've had some great successes like Dark and Barbarians. And we're investing more. And the amazing thing is that the market will be much, much larger in five years than it is today. Before, I mentioned 10,000 video games produced per year. The figure for films is less than 1,000. In the German language alone, 70,000 books per year are published.And you don't feel overwhelmed by books, do you?No, of course not. You learn to choose what you want to read, you're perfectly okay with the huge selection. So, this idea that we're going to produce too much, and that the consumers won't love it is just not true. Consumers love greatness. And to get there, you have to try lots of things and give many people a chance to express their voice. For 100 years, you could only watch an episode of a show, say, at 8 o'clock on Thursday night, or you go to the theater. Now, it's much more flexible. You can watch what you want when you want, and you can also go to a theater. We just want to provide people with that choice, and that expands the market a lot.Netflix got famous, among other things, because it is a no-rule company. And you wrote an important book about that. Nevertheless, there is one unwritten rule, and that is that you don't like to talk about competition. Because you think we should just talk and care about the things that we can really influence ourselves, and not about things that other people are doing. Given the fact that there are now some competitors trying to get pieces of the cake that Netflix took so successfully: Does that rule still apply?Since I wrote a book titled "No Rules Rule," I can't say that there's a rule about what you talk about.So among the three categories of potential competitors: the platforms like Apple and Amazon; the original content creators like HBO, and Disney; and the unknown, young, disruptive startup. Which of the three would you take most seriously?I take all of them seriously. But I would say Disney and HBO eat, sleep, and breathe entertainment. That's what they do, it's what they live, and they have a 100-year history of doing that.If you talk to the creative community, there are two main reasons - at least that's what I hear - why they love to work with Netflix. The first one is that Netflix is fast, and secondly, it provides a lot of freedom. How do you make sure that an incumbent, which has become as big as Netflix, can still keep these two USPs?The thing that helps producers most is the big platform, because if you put your film or series on Netflix, the whole world sees it. So, our biggest proposition is that, if you want broad distribution around the world, then Netflix is really the superior platform. But in terms of freedom and being quick, we know that those are very important, as well as all the technical support we provide concerning production.Certain countries, like Turkey like Hong Kong for example, are now implementing rules that basically makes things very difficult for a freedom-oriented company like Netflix. How do you deal with censorship or more subtle interference with your products?In the US today, whether you get vaccinated or not is political. Nearly everything has become political. We have a series called "Queer Eye" that stars five LGBTQ men who share heartfelt and emotional makeovers with people all over the world. "Queer Eye" is in Saudi Arabia, in Indonesia, in Russia, and in Hungary. So, our ability to influence culture is not just in documentaries; it's really quite broad. "Sex Education," with season three coming out this week, is in every country in the world. And it's not banned anywhere. We do have about a half dozen or so per year that get banned in a certain country, which is unfortunate. And we would rather not have that, of course. All in all, though, we really do have very few takedowns in very few countries and we do report them annually in our ESG report.There has been some improvement over the last couple of years in getting data from Netflix to the producers, but it is still minuscule compared to all other exploitation means. What is the problem?I think that's a good point. We're moving towards providing more and more data and towards standardizing. You know how Spotify has the artist portal and you can look up lots of things. We're moving towards that, but we're not yet there. But we're making steps in that direction on a consistent basis, so you will get more and more information.You launched the company Netflix more than two decades ago. You had to pivot at least three times. Did you in your early days expect, imagine, dream about creating a company of that size and importance?I was very fortunate to be in internet companies in the 90s, and so I always believed that the Internet speeds would continue to do this, as they have. And so, when we named the company Netflix 25 years ago, that was because we believed in internet television and that possibility. I'd say what I did not see is us doing original content. The concept that we had is sort of blockbuster online, where you have everything from everybody, and then we would be a retailer. And I didn't understand the value producer, distributor, channels, exclusive content that HBO and others had done. Ted Sarandos, my partner, really figured out that part that if you looked at again, HBO, which was our model for a long time, having exclusive content was essential, and then we ended up pivoting towards that. The first part of that being "House of Cards," and then getting into building our own content. So, it's been a really two-part thing one is, yes, internet entertainment and second, doing original content.With Ted Sarandos you have established a co-CEO. You're still extremely active in the company but, nevertheless, establishing your co-CEO is also a sign that a kind of mid-term transition is in your mind. A sentence that I would like you to complete, and that is: In five years, I would like to spend much more time…Spending a little more time on philanthropy, that's where I'm taking time off. Not doing something else commercial. But I've had the great fortune to work with Ted for more than 20 years. He's been my partner and effective co-CEO for a long time and now he's formally co-CEO. Doing global entertainment competing with the people we're competing with, we need all the CEOs we can get. So I'm super happy to have him with me.And philanthropy? What is the next thing that you would like to do?Yeah, the project I just made a big investment in is MyAgro. It's a West African farming and savings collective. What they do is help farmers with scratch cards save money when they have the harvest. And then you build up these scratch cards that are mobile validated and then, when the planting time comes, you get fertilizer, or high-quality, great seeds, and some advice. We want to help it go from 100,000 farmers in Senegal and Mali to a million. I was a high school math teacher in southern Africa, which was my first job out of university. I got the chance to travel throughout most countries in Africa and so it's just kind of close to my heart. I love working to help these farmers, you know, with a little bit of fertilizer and good seeds, you can double the output of a small subsistence farmer so it's really a profound impact. So that's the current project.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 5th, 2021

Farnam Street Investments October 2021: Cranking the Amplifier to Eleven

Farnam Street Investments commentary for the month ended October 2021, titled, “Cranking the Amplifier to Eleven.” Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” – George Carlin You probably have good taste in music. At least we all think we do. But why do you […] Farnam Street Investments commentary for the month ended October 2021, titled, “Cranking the Amplifier to Eleven.” .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 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 “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” - George Carlin You probably have good taste in music. At least we all think we do. But why do you like certain songs and not others? Is it possible your preferences are swayable? The research says yes. Matthew Salganik and his coauthors crafted a large-scale study of music downloads. They designed a website where people could hear and download one or more of seventy-two songs by new bands. In the control group, participants were kept in the dark about which songs were popular. The researchers then created eight groups where visitors could see popularity based on downloads of others in their group. With eight separate versions of “history” running, you’d expect to see the good songs rise to the top, while the bad would sink to the bottom. There’d be no noise--meritocracy would sort wheat from chaff in all eight cohorts. Yet the researchers found the group rankings varied greatly. Early random popularity would propel a song to the top of the charts. It’s slightly comforting that the best songs (as based on the control group) were never dead last, and the worst never rose to the absolute top. But otherwise, anything could happen. Salganik and coauthors crafted a clever follow-up experiment. They inverted the initial rankings from the control group. Participants now saw the least popular songs as the most popular, and vice versa. With that subtle initial nudge, the “worst” songs became very popular and the “best” songs did poorly. As Daniel Kahneman summarized the study in his book Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement, “social influences create significant noise across groups.” > Researchers identify two key issues to explain how groups amplify noise: informational cascades and group polarization. We’ll tackle both in a bit, but first we must ask a broader question: Why are groups of humans often so bad at decision-making? To answer this question, let’s rewind the clock all the way back and observe the historical sweep of communications. Homo Fabula (Man, the Storyteller) Dinosaurs ruled the earth for 165 million years. The current iteration of our species has been around for just two. We’re still young and figuring some things out. For the vast majority of our evolution, we’ve communicated contemporaneously, in the flesh, face-to-face. We told each other stories describing how we thought the world worked. Typically information flowed down the gradient from old to young. “There’s a watering hole over that hill, but watch out for the lions behind the pile of rocks. And mind that dark cloud... the thunder gods are angry today.” These stories generated mental models to better anticipate our environment and move our genes to the next round. Our messages didn’t necessarily have to be true. Nor did we need to fully understand the arrows of causation and correlation. They just had to increase our odds of survival. One theory holds that we developed large brains in order to gossip. We had to figure out who was cool and who was a jerk. Or said more academically, we conducted dynamic hierarchical sorting and monitoring. Figuring out our place in the tribe to prevent exile (which was a prehistoric death sentence) was of paramount importance. Additionally, group work inherently invites parasitism. A free rider can do less than their share and still enjoy the fruits of the group’s effort. It required a bigger brain to keep score and track all the social dynamics of a typical one-hundred-person tribe.3 Just as the ocean molds boat design, environments generate adaptive pressures which mold genetic expression. Think of the long beak on one of Darwin’s finches used for picking seeds from deep inside a plant. That pressure also molds cultural adaptation. Our early stories were the transmission of culture from one generation to the next, a supplement to our genetic instincts. But it was all so provincial. We communicated via words (grunts?), intonation, body language, pheromones, and gift-giving. The messages were real-time and location dependent, bound by the range of the human voice. And then a funny thing happened. About five thousand years ago, the Sumerians started making small notches on clay tablets and kicked off a process that would radically alter humanity. This notching system was called cuneiform, and humans could now transmit ideas, information, and stories across both time and space. Assuming I could read cuneiform, I can receive messages from a fellow human separated by 7,500 miles (California to Iraq) and 5,000 years.5 Simply remarkable. Summary To summarize: for 99.75% of our evolution, all complex ideas were transmitted verbally through storytelling. For only nine inches on the 100-yard football field of humanity have we employed written language. Our brains are still playing catch-up to more than just gossip and weather. For the next 4,500 years, everything was basically written by human hand. It was painfully slow and expensive for scribes to “print” books. The speed and cost of communication was choked by the human hand. Then in Germany around 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, dramatically lowering the cost of transmitting culture. Little wonder the pace of cultural progress revved. One theory of the cause of the Cambrian explosion 500 million years ago was the rise in planetary oxygen levels,6 boosting the potential vitality of animals. To push the analogy, the printing press increased humanity’s cultural oxygen. A fresh vibrancy burst forth. Fast forward 400 years or so. In 1844, Samuel Morse famously “texted” the first message over a telegraph: “What hath God wrought?” By 1876, Alexander Graham Bell had placed the first phone call. The constraints of geography in real time communications were fully obliterated. In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi patented the radio. In 1927, Philo Farnsworth successfully demonstrated the television. We could now transmit both audio and visual images from one-to-many. Due to the constraints of the electromagnetic spectrum, there was only so much space available for separate channels. This choke point created a consumer packaged goods ecological niche where large national brands flourished. Household names like Kraft, Crest, and Coca-Cola had the scale for nationwide advertising to build their brands. These brands could then charge premium prices to build CPG empires. The next big development was the transistor in 1947, which led to computers, and eventually the internet. That digital story is still playing out today. Next stop, into the metaverse. The unconstrained capacity of internet bandwidth (as opposed to only having space for NBC, ABC, and CBS), has fragmented communication and attention.7 The proliferation of communication tools has been, well... prolific. Email, text, phone call, video chat, DM, slack, instant messenger, tweet, post, snap, pin, blast, spam… you get the idea. A Flood The spectre of caloric starvation stalked humanity for eons. We find ourselves suddenly drowning in a flood of information that is a new threat to our mental health. A UC San Diego study found we are inundated with the equivalent of 35,000 megabytes of information every day. Yet in 2020, our species created something like 1.1 trillion megabytes per day. Very roughly speaking, that means we’re only accessing .00000318% of the new information.8 And we aren’t consciously processing anything near that rate. The human body sends roughly 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing. Yet the conscious mind seems to only be capable of processing around 50 bits per second. Consciousness is shockingly low throughput; there’s a lot always happening under the covers. Suffice it to say, our sensory perception is a tiny keyhole into the world. We evolved for an information desert. We find ourselves cast adrift in a vast informational ocean. Through this tiny keyhole, we construct our sensory inputs into “reality.” No wonder there’s so much disagreement and strife. As we’ll see, we’re like so many proverbial blind men touching an elephant. If you make it to the end of this letter, you’ll see that technology might just save us from this predicament. But only if we’re thoughtful in how we use it. MAPping the Elephant Stop me if you’ve heard this one: six blind men encounter an elephant for the first time... The first touched the elephant’s side and declared, “He’s exactly like a wall!” The second felt the tusk. “It’s hard, smooth and sharp like a spear.” The third touched the trunk and described it as a snake. The fourth grasped the leg and observed it as a tree. The fifth found the ear to be a fan. The sixth pulled the tail and said it had to be a rope. The six blind men spent the rest of the day arguing with each other, believing to their cores that they alone possessed the One Truth. They were right in their individual assessments, yet couldn’t have been more wrong. Given all the noise and our pinched perspectives, how can we make better decisions? I put forth three tactics: MAP, Correcting Predictions and something I’m calling “Decision Voltron.” Reading the MAP Daniel Kahneman describes a process called Mediating Assessment Protocol (MAP). In the most basic terms, here’s how it works: As a group, figure out the most important elements of the situation. Independently score each of those away from the group. Share your results, and talk through why you scored each item a certain way. Run another assessment. Aggregate the scores for an overall decision. It’s an implementation of several decision hygiene techniques: sequencing information, structuring the decision into independent assessments, using a common frame of reference ground in the outside view, and aggregating the independent judgments of multiple individuals. Kahneman’s description of the main steps of the Mediating Assessment Protocol: At the beginning of the process, structure the decision into mediating assessments. Ensure that whenever possible, mediating assessments use an outside view. In the analytic phase, keep the assessments as independent of one another as possible. In the decision meeting, review each assessment separately. On each assessment, ensure that participants make their judgments individually; then use the Estimate-Talk-Estimate method. To make the final decision, delay intuition, but don’t ban it. Source: Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment, by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, & Cass Sunstein Kahneman’s MAP approach works because it balances competing factors. First, blindspots are legion when you only have access to your singular keyhole. We can miss big, obvious facts that lead to catastrophic errors. There’s a story of a man who bet on horses. He knew everything about the horses, the jockeys, the tracks, the weather. He wagered his entire fortune on a particular horse that was a lock to win. Just as the race was starting, a friend informed him that his horse had a broken leg. Decisions in an absolute vacuum are inherently dangerous. We lack what psychologists call the “outside view.” Yet being influenced by others is just as dangerous. Recall the chaotic online music experiments. We suffer from two primary phenomena: information cascades and polarization. Information cascades explain how groups start to think alike. A persuasive, likeable, or smart person shares their opinions with the group first, biasing the rest to see the world in a similar way. Social dynamics also play a part. Lower-power individuals don’t want to be seen as non-team players, so they defer comment or withhold information from those with higher power. The group loses the individual objectivity that underpins the wisdom of the crowds’ hypothesis. Blindspots run amok. Group polarization is the basic idea that when groups of people work together, they often end up at an extreme position compared to their original inclinations. Group enthusiasm creates more confidence, unity, identity, and extremism. Studies of juries making punitive damage awards in product liability cases show that group discussions lead to larger dollar amounts than when individuals assign their own awards for damages. One study found 27% of juries awarded a higher amount than even the most severe single member’s punishment. Whether you vote red or blue, it’s uncontroversial at this point to observe how group polarization is impacting politics in the U.S. for the worse. We miss “broken legs” when deciding by ourselves. We are heavily influenced by others when deciding together. MAP balances these competing factors. Single Player Mode What if you don’t have a group? Research suggests that even polling yourself at different times can create a “crowd within.” If you allow three weeks to pass between your estimates, you’ll achieve approximately one-third the value of a second outside opinion. That’s how much “occasion noise” we generate. But there’s a better way to get a new perspective. In the appendix of Noise, Kahneman lays out a helpful operational procedure he calls Correcting Predictions. It includes making predictions, honoring base rates, and allowing for the powerful force of reversion to the mean. Let’s use Kahneman’s example to explore. Imagine a four year old girl who was an early reader. What would you predict her GPA would be upon high school graduation? The average guess is 3.8. She’s clearly clever, maybe in the top ten percent at age four. Our gut might tell us the top ten percent fourteen years later would equate to a 3.8 GPA at graduation. Makes sense. STEP 1: Make an intuitive guess. This is our fast, automatic “System 1” prediction. Sometimes there’s quality information in that first hunch, especially if we’ve received a lot of feedback and we’re operating in a kind learning environment.9 This would be our intuitive guess of a 3.8 GPA. STEP 2: Look for the mean. This is the base rate. Forget what we know about the specific situation. What would the average GPA be for the graduating class? Let’s say it’s 3.2. We’re now incorporating the outside view and honoring potential reversion to the mean. It’s similar to polling a group, but we’re using a statistical base rate to reduce blindspots. STEP 3: Estimate the diagnostic value of the information you have. This is difficult. But based on what we know, how helpful is the extra information we have compared to just the vanilla base rate? We’re attempting to quantify the diagnostic value of the information, where zero is totally irrelevant (say, the student’s shoe size) and one is perfectly correlated (perhaps a list of all of her grades in every subject). Shades of gray make the world messy, and real world correlations are all but impossible to untangle. We usually don’t have the explicit answers, like all of her grades. Let’s assume we believe there’s a 20% correlation between a 4 year old reading and eventual graduating GPA. The other 80% is due to parental influence, her friends, her socio-economic status, and a million other factors, many unknown. STEP 4: Adjust from the outside view in the direction of your intuitive guess, to an extent it reflects the diagnostic value of the information you have. This is the simple arithmetic of three numbers. You adjust the mean (from Step 2) toward your intuitive guess (from Step 1), in proportion to the correlation you estimated (in Step 3). In the case of the student GPA, we’d start with the 3.2 GPA (base rate) and shift it upward by twenty percent toward our 3.8 intuitive GPA estimate. That would equal a 3.3 GPA. Correcting Predictions is a nice Bayesian blend of base rates and intuition. Decision Voltron Our last method is my own concoction blending Kahneman’s MAP and Correcting Predictions, which I’ll call Decision Voltron. It’s admittedly a bit cumbersome, but that’s the going price for robustness. Good work is often hard work. The goal is to integrate the wisdom of the crowds and base rates, without compromising individual integrity. We need a procedure that’s informationally watertight. And for the first time in human history, software allows us to share our views while minimizing the infection rate of biases. Enough preamble… STEP 1: Figure out what’s important. What factors are going to move the needle for this decision, policy, investment, etc? With minimum initial discussion, each team member writes down their own assessment of what’s important. They can share their own gut feelings along with supporting explanations. These are recorded individually. This is Kahneman’s MAP. STEP 2: The results of individual MAPs are shared. Individual assessments are collated and shared anonymously with the team. This removes power dynamics and persuasive halo effects. A round of discussion ensues. Kahneman recommends the E-T-E method (Estimate-Talk-Estimate). Do your own work, share it, talk about it, then estimate again. As a team, decide on the three10 factors that will drive the outcome. Rank ordering or a points allocation system can be good ways to pick the team’s top three. STEP 3: Make an estimation. Now that the group has narrowed down what’s important, make individual estimations for each of these factors. These intuitive estimations are collected and averaged behind the scenes for now. This would equate to the initial 3.8 GPA estimate of our early reader. STEP 4: Hunt for base rates. Each individual goes off hunting for appropriate base rates for each factor. It’s a Bayesian winnowing process to find the closest data we can to describe the situation we’re trying to predict. Write down what you found and why you think it’s an appropriate base. The “captured” base rates and logic then get collated and shared simultaneously and anonymously with the group. Conduct another round of Estimate-Talk-Estimate. Average the individual resulting base rates for each of the three factors. STEP 5: Assign a correlation. This represents the confidence in our own assessments compared to the base rate. Do we have a special insight or conviction? Are we willing to bet on ourselves or should we defer to the base rate? Individuals assign their own correlations for the three factors, plus their reasoning. As you might expect by now, these results are then shared anonymously with the team. Discuss the results, then perform another round of estimation. Take the group’s average correlation for each factor. STEP 6: Calculate the necessary arithmetic to unlock Decision Voltron. We now have three factors with a wisdom-of-the-crowd-infused estimation, adjusted by the base rate in proportion to the perceived correlations. The math is straightforward. Our estimations around the three factors should allow us to make an informed and well-researched decision. The miracle of software gives us synchronized, anonymized, non-contemporaneous, collated communication. We’ve removed blindspots, respected base rates, all the while minimizing the biases from information cascades and polarization. What emerges from this process is as well-vetted a group decision as presently imaginable. That is, until the robots fully take over... As always, we’re thankful to have such great partners in this wealth creation journey. Jake Updated on Nov 4, 2021, 4:39 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//"; 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: valuewalkNov 4th, 2021

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

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

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 2nd, 2021

Philadelphia Passes "Anti-Driving While Black" Measure That Bans Minor Traffic Stops

Philadelphia Passes "Anti-Driving While Black" Measure That Bans Minor Traffic Stops Today in "liberal cities are moving one step closer to total lawlessness" news, it was reported that Philadelphia's City Council has passed a measure that bans officers from pulling over drivers for traffic violations like broken taillights or expired registrations. The measure, being called an "anti-driving-while-black" law, is being seen by social justice advocates as a "victory for equity", according to the Delaware Valley Journal.  Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’ Driving Equality bill supposedly seeks "to address the tension between members of the Black community and police by reducing the number of minor traffic stops". Thomas wants to redirect police time toward "keeping the community safe" while removing negative interactions that "widen the racial divide". We guess the idea of reprimanding officers for pulling people over for no reason, instead of actually having a valid reason, never crossed his mind. Because keeping things "safer" now apparently means you can drive around in a car with busted headlights and no registration. Ah, the sweet smell of progress. Thomas commented: “To many people who look like me, a traffic stop is a rite of passage – we pick out cars, determine routes, and plan our social interactions around the fact that police will likely pull us over. With this vote, I breathe a sigh of relief that my sons and my friends’ children will grow up in a city where being pulled over is not a rite of passage but a measure of the safety of your driving and vehicle, regardless of the skin color of the driver. That’s why I am grateful to my colleagues for voting to pass my Driving Equality bills.” NYPD deputy inspector John Hall conducted an analysis of the approach and said: “Experience during the pandemic has revealed that removing police from traffic enforcement leads to more dangerous streets, more disorder, and more crime. Public safety policy decisions and legislation must be informed by data and made with eyes wide open to their consequences.” Once Mayor Kenney signs the measure into law, it'll also create a database of all traffic stops. Thomas concluded: “Data will tell us if we should end more traffic stops or amend how this is enforced. Data will also tell other cities that Philadelphia is leading on this civil rights issue, and it can be replicated. Data and lived experiences showed us the problem, and data will be key to making sure this is done right.” The bill passed city council 14-2, with the council's only two Republican members voting against it.  Former Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, who had also worked as a police officer in Philadelphia, said: “Some of the best arrests that I ever made were based on a headlight out or a turn signal off. I can recall arresting an individual with six handguns in a trunk of a car and masks and rope based on the fact that his rear light wasn’t working.”   Tyler Durden Sun, 10/31/2021 - 19:45.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 31st, 2021

COVID-19: Moderna Gets Its Miracle

COVID-19: Moderna Gets Its Miracle Authored by Whitney Webb via Unlimited Hangout, COVID-19 erased the regulatory and trial-related hurdles that Moderna could never surmount before. Yet, how did Moderna know that COVID-19 would create those conditions months before anyone else, and why did they later claim that their vaccine being tested in NIH trials was different than their commercial candidate? In late 2019, the biopharmaceutical company Moderna was facing a series of challenges that not only threatened its ability to ever take a product to market, and thus turn a profit, but its very existence as a company. There were multiple warning signs that Moderna was essentially another Theranos-style fraud, with many of these signs growing in frequency and severity as the decade drew to a close. Part I of this three-part series explored the disastrous circumstances in which Moderna found itself at that time, with the company’s salvation hinging on the hope of a divine miracle, a “Hail Mary” save of sorts, as stated by one former Moderna employee.  While the COVID-19 crisis that emerged in the first part of 2020 can hardly be described as an act of benevolent divine intervention for most, it certainly can be seen that way from Moderna’s perspective. Key issues for the company, including seemingly insurmountable regulatory hurdles and its inability to advance beyond animal trials with its most promising—and profitable—products, were conveniently wiped away, and not a moment too soon. Since January 2020, the value of Moderna’s stock—which had embarked on a steady decline since its IPO—grew from $18.89 per share to its current value of $339.57 per share, thanks to the success of its COVID-19 vaccine. Yet, how exactly was Moderna’s “Hail Mary” moment realized, and what were the forces and events that ensured it would make it through the FDA’s emergency use authorization (EUA) process? In examining that question, it becomes quickly apparent that Moderna’s journey of saving grace involved much more than just cutting corners in animal and human trials and federal regulations. Indeed, if we are to believe Moderna executives, it involved supplying formulations for some trial studies that were not the same as their COVID-19 vaccine commercial candidate, despite the data resulting from the former being used to sell Moderna’s vaccine to the public and federal health authorities. Such data was also selectively released at times to align with preplanned stock trades by Moderna executives, turning many of Moderna’s highest-ranking employees into millionaires, and even billionaires, while the COVID-19 crisis meant economic calamity for most Americans.  Not only that, but—as Part II of this three-part series will show, Moderna and a handful of its collaborators at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seemed to know that Moderna’s miracle had arrived—well before anyone else knew or could have known. Was it really a coincidental mix of “foresight” and “serendipity” that led Moderna and the NIH to plan to develop a COVID-19 vaccine days before the viral sequence was even published and months before a vaccine was even considered necessary for a still unknown disease? If so, why would Moderna—a company clearly on the brink—throw everything into and gamble the entire company on a vaccine project that had no demonstrated need at the time? The Serendipitous Origins of Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine When early January 2020 brought news of a novel coronavirus outbreak originating in Wuhan, China, Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel immediately emailed Barney Graham, deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health, and asked to be sent the genetic sequence for what would become known as SAR-CoV-2, allegedly because media reports on the outbreak “troubled” him. The date of that email varies according to different media reports, though most place it as having been sent on either January 6th or 7th. A few weeks before Bancel’s email to Graham, Moderna was quickly approaching the end of the line, their desperately needed “Hail Mary” still not having materialized. “We were freaked out about money,” Stephen Hoge would later remember of Moderna’s late 2019 circumstances. Not only were executives “cutting back on research and other expenditures” like never before, but – as STAT News would later report – “cash from investors had stopped pouring in and partnerships with some drug makers had been discontinued. In meetings at Moderna, Bancel emphasized the need to stretch every dollar and employees were told to reduce travel and other expenses, a frugality there were advised would last several years.” At the tail end of 2019, Graham was in a very different mood than Bancel, having emailed the leader of the coronavirus team at his NIH lab saying, “Get ready for 2020,” apparently viewing the news out of Wuhan in late 2019 as a harbinger of something significant. He went on, in the days before he was contacted by Bancel, to “run a drill he had been turning over in his mind for years” and called his long-time colleague Jason McLellan “to talk about the game plan” for getting a head start on producing a vaccine the world did not yet know it needed. When Bancel called Graham soon afterward and asked about this new virus, Graham responded that he didn’t know yet but that “they were ready if it turned out to be a coronavirus.” The Washington Post claimed that Graham’s apparent foreknowledge that a coronavirus vaccine would be needed before anyone officially knew what type of disease was circulating in Wuhan was a fortunate mix of “serendipity and foresight.”  Dr. Barney Graham and Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, VRC coronavirus vaccine lead, discuss COVID-19 research with U.S. legislators Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Benjamin Cardin and Rep. Jamie Raskin, March 6, 2020; Source: NIH A report in Boston magazine offers a slightly different account than that reported by the Washington Post. Per that article, Graham had told Bancel, “If [the virus] is a coronavirus, we know what to do and have proven mRNA is effective.” Per that report, this assertion of efficacy from Graham referred to Moderna’s early stage human-trial data published in September 2019 regarding its chikungunya vaccine candidate, which was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as its cytomegalovirus (CMV) vaccine candidate.  As mentioned in Part I of this series, the chikungunya vaccine study data released at that time included the participation of just four subjects, three of whom developed significant side effects that led Moderna to state that they would reformulate the vaccine in question and would pause trials on that vaccine candidate. In the case of the CMV vaccine candidate, the data was largely positive, but it was widely noted that the vaccine still needed to pass through larger and longer clinical trials before its efficacy was in fact “proven,” as Graham later claimed. In addition, Graham implied that this early stage trial of Moderna’s CMV vaccine candidate was somehow proof that an mRNA vaccine would be effective against coronaviruses, which makes little sense since CMV is not a coronavirus but instead hails from the family of viruses that includes chickenpox, herpes, and shingles.  Bancel apparently had reached out to Graham because Graham and his team at the NIH had been working in direct partnership with Moderna on vaccines since 2017, soon after Moderna had delayed its Crigler-Najjar and related therapies in favor of vaccines. According to Boston magazine, Moderna had been working closely with Graham specifically “on [Moderna’s] quest to bring a whole new class of vaccines to market” and Graham had personally visited Moderna’s facilities in November 2019. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIH’s infectious-disease division NIAID, has called his unit’s collaboration with Moderna, in the years prior to and also during the COVID-19 crisis, “most extraordinary.” The year 2017, besides being the year when Moderna made its pivot to vaccines (due to its inability to produce safe multidose therapies, see Part I), was also a big year for Graham. That year he and his lab filed a patent for the “2P mutation” technique whereby recombinant coronavirus spike proteins can be stabilized in a prefusion state and used as more effective immunogens. If a coronavirus vaccine were to be produced using this patent, Graham’s team would financially benefit, though federal law caps their annual royalties. Nonetheless, it would still yield a considerable sum for the named researchers, including Graham. However, due to the well-known difficulties with coronavirus vaccine development, including antibody dependent enhancement risk, it seemed that commercial use of Graham’s patent was a pipe dream. Yet, today, the 2P mutation patent, also known as the ’070 patent, is not just in use in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, but also in the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer/BioNTech, and CureVac. Experts at New York University School of Law have noted that the 2P mutation patent first filed in 2016 “sounds remarkably prescient” in light of the COVID crisis that emerged a few years later while later publications from the NIH (still pre-COVID) revealed that the NIH’s view on “the breadth and importance of the ’070 patent” as well as its potential commercial applications was also quite prescient, given that there was little justification at the time to hold such a view.  On January 10, three days after the reported initial conversation between Bancel and Graham on the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, Graham met with Hamilton Bennett, the program leader for Moderna’s vaccine portfolio. Graham asked Bennett “if Moderna would be interested in using the new [novel coronavirus] to test the company’s accelerated vaccine-making capabilities.” According to Boston, Graham then mused, “That way . . . if ever there came a day when a new virus emerged that threatened global public health, Moderna and the NIH could know how long it would take them to respond.”  Graham’s “musings” to Bennett are interesting considering his earlier statements made to others, such as “Get ready for 2020” and his team, in collaboration with Moderna, would be “ready if [the virus then circulating in Wuhan, China] turned out to be a coronavirus.” Is this merely “serendipity” and “foresight”, as the Washington Post suggested, or was it something else? It is worth noting that the above accounts are those that have been given by Bancel and Graham themselves, as the actual contents of these critical January 2020 emails have not been publicly released.  When the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was published on January 11, NIH scientists and Moderna researchers got to work determining which targeted genetic sequence would be used in their vaccine candidate. Later reports, however, claimed that this initial work toward a COVID-19 vaccine was merely intended to be a “demonstration project.”  Other odd features of the Moderna-NIH COVID-19 vaccine-development story emerged with Bancel’s account of the role the World Economic Forum played in shaping his “foresight” when it came to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine back in January 2020. On January 21, 2020, Bancel reportedly began to hear about “a far darker version of the future” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he spent time with “two [anonymous] prominent infectious-disease experts from Europe” who shared with him data from “their contacts on the ground in China, including Wuhan.” That data, per Bancel, showed a dire situation that left his mind “reeling” and led him to conclude, that very day, that “this isn’t going to be SARS. It’s going to be the 1918 flu pandemic.”  Stéphane Bancel speaks at the Breakthroughs in Cancer Care session at WEF annual meeting, January 24, 2020; Source: WEF This realization is allegedly what led Bancel to contact Moderna cofounder and chairman, as well as a WEF technology pioneer, Noubar Afeyan. Bancel reportedly interrupted Afeyan’s celebration of his daughter’s birthday to tell him “what he’d learned about the virus” and to suggest that “Moderna begin to build the vaccine—for real.” The next day, Moderna held an executive meeting, which Bancel attended remotely, and there was considerable internal debate about whether a vaccine for the novel coronavirus would be needed. To Bancel, the “sheer act of debating” pursuing a vaccine for the virus was “absurd” given that he was now convinced, after a single day at Davos, that “a global pandemic was about to descend like a biblical plague, and whatever distractions the vaccine caused internally at Moderna were irrelevant.” Bancel spent the rest of his time at the Davos annual meeting “building partnerships, generating excitement, and securing funding,” which led to the Moderna collaboration agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—a project largely funded by Bill Gates. (Bancel and Moderna’s cozy relationship with the WEF, dating back to 2013, was discussed in Part I as were the Forum’s efforts, beginning well before COVID-19, to promote mRNA-based therapies as essential to the remaking of the health-care sector in the age of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution). At the 2020 annual meeting attended by Bancel and others it was noted that a major barrier to the widespread adoption of these and other related “health-care” technologies was “public distrust.” The panel where that issue was specifically discussed was entitled “When Humankind Overrides Evolution.”  As also noted in Part I of this series, a few months earlier, in October 2019, major players in what would become the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, particularly Rick Bright and Anthony Fauci, had discussed during a Milken Institute panel on vaccines how a “disruptive” event would be needed to push the public to accept “nontraditional” vaccines such as mRNA vaccines; to convince the public that flu-like illnesses are scarier than traditionally believed; and to remove existing bureaucratic safeguards in the vaccine development-and-approval processes.  That panel took place less than two weeks after the Event 201 simulation, jointly hosted by the World Economic Forum, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Event 201 simulated “an outbreak of a novel zoonotic coronavirus” that was “modeled largely on SARS but . . . more transmissible in the community setting by people with mild symptoms.” The recommendations of the simulation panel were to considerably increase investment in new vaccine technologies and industrial approaches, favoring rapid vaccine development and manufacturing. As mentioned in Part I, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security had also conducted the June 2001 Dark Winter simulation that briefly preceded and predicted major aspects of the 2001 anthrax attacks, and some of its participants had apparent foreknowledge of those attacks. Other Dark Winter participants later worked to sabotage the FBI investigation into those attacks after their origin was traced back to a US military source.  It is hard to imagine that Bancel, whose company had long been closely partnered with the World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation, was unaware of the exercise and surprised by the closely analogous event that transpired within three months. Given the accounts given by Bancel, Graham, and others, it seems likely there is more to the story regarding the origins of Moderna’s early and “serendipitous” push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, given that Moderna was in dire financial circumstances at the time, it seems odd that the company would gamble everything on a vaccine project that was opposed by the few investors that were still willing to fund Moderna in January/February 2020. Why would they divert their scant resources towards a project born only out of Barney Graham’s “musings” that Moderna could try to test the speed of its vaccine development capabilities and Bancel’s doomsday view that a “biblical plague” was imminent, especially when their investors opposed the idea? Moderna Gets to Bypass Its Long-Standing Issues with R & D Moderna produced the first batch of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate on February 7, one month after Bancel and Graham’s initial conversation. After a sterility test and other mandatory tests, the first batch of its vaccine candidate, called mRNA-1273, shipped to the NIH on February 24. For the first time in a long time, Moderna’s stock price surged. NIH researchers administered the first dose of the candidate into a human volunteer less than a month later, on March 16.  Controversially, in order to begin its human trial on March 16, regulatory agencies had to allow Moderna to bypass major aspects of traditional animal trials, which many experts and commentators noted was highly unusual but was now deemed necessary due to the urgency of the crisis. Instead of developing the vaccine in distinct sequential stages, as is the custom, Moderna “decided to do all of the steps [relating to animal trials] simultaneously.” In other words, confirming that the candidate is working before manufacturing an animal-grade vaccine, conducting animal trials, analyzing the animal-trial data, manufacturing a vaccine for use in human trials, and beginning human trials were all conducted simultaneously by Moderna. Thus, the design of human trials for the Moderna vaccine candidate was not informed by animal-trial data.  Lt. Javier Lopez Coronado and Hospitalman Francisco Velasco inspect a box of COVID-19 vaccine vials at the Naval Health Clinic in Corpus Christi, TX, December 2020; Source: Wikimedia This should have been a major red flag, given Moderna’s persistent difficulties in getting its products past animal trials. As noted in Part I, up until the COVID-19 crisis, most of Moderna’s experiments and products had only been tested in animals, with only a handful able to make it to human trials. In the case of the Crigler-Najjar therapy that it was forced to indefinitely delay, toxicity concerns related to the mRNA delivery system being used had emerged in the animal trials, which Moderna was now greenlighted to largely skip. Given that Moderna had subsequently been forced to abandon all multidose products because of poor results in animal trials, being allowed to skip this formerly insurmountable obstacle was likely seen as a boon to some at the company. It is also astounding that, given Moderna’s history with problematic animal trials, more scrutiny was not devoted to the regulatory decision to allow Moderna to essentially skip such trials.  Animal studies conducted on Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine did identify problems that should have informed human trials, but this did not happen because of the regulatory decision. For example, animal reproductive toxicity studies on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that are cited by the European Medicines Agency found that there was reduced fertility in rats that received the vaccine (e. g., overall pregnancy index of 84.1% in vaccinated rats versus 93.2% in the unvaccinated) as well as an increased proportion of aberrant bone development in their fetuses. That study has been criticized for failing to report on the accumulation of vaccine in the placenta as well as failing to investigate the effect of vaccine doses administered during key pregnancy milestones, such as embryonic organogenesis. In addition, the number of animals tested is unstated, making the statistical power of the study unknown. At the very least, the 9 percent drop in the fertility index among vaccinated rats should have prompted expanded animal trials to investigate concerns of reproductive toxicity before testing in humans.  Yet, Moderna declined to further investigate reproductive toxicity in animal trials and entirely excluded reproductive toxicity studies from its simultaneous human trials, as pregnant women were excluded from participation in the clinical trials of its vaccine. Despite this, pregnant women were labeled a priority group for receiving the vaccine after Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was granted for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Per the New England Journal of Medicine, this meant that “pregnant women and their clinicians were left to weigh the documented risks of Covid-19 infection against the unknown safety risks of vaccination in deciding whether to receive the vaccine.”  Moderna only began recruiting for an “observational pregnancy outcome study” of its COVID-19 vaccine in humans in mid-July 2021, and that study is projected to conclude in early 2024. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in “people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future.” This recommendation is largely based on the CDC’s publication of preliminary data on mRNA COVID-19 vaccine safety in pregnant women in June 2021, which is based on passive reporting systems in use within the United States (i. e., VAERS and v-safe). Even in the limited scope of this study, 115 of the 827 women who had a completed pregnancy during the study lost the baby, 104 of which were spontaneous abortions before 20 weeks of gestation. Of these 827 pregnant women, only 127 had received a mRNA vaccine before the 3rd trimester. This appears to suggest an increased risk among those women who took the vaccine before the 3rd trimester, but the selective nature of the data makes it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions. Despite claims from the New England Journal of Medicine that the study’s data was “reassuring”, the study’s authors ultimately stated that their study, which mainly looked at women who began vaccination in the third trimester, was unable to draw “conclusions about spontaneous abortions, congenital anomalies, and other potential rare neonatal outcomes.” This is just one example of the problems caused by “cutting corners” with respect to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trials in humans and animals, including those conducted by the NIH. Meanwhile, throughout February, March and April, Bancel was “begging for money” as Moderna reportedly lacked “enough money to buy essential ingredients for the shots” and “needed hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps even more than a billion dollars” to manufacture its vaccine, which had only recently begun trials. Bancel, whose tenure at Moderna had long been marked by his ability to charm investors, kept coming up empty-handed. Then, in mid-April 2020, Moderna’s long-time cooperation with the US government again paid off when Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) awarded the company $483 million to “accelerate the development of its vaccine candidate for the novel coronavirus.” A year later, the amount invested in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine by the US government had grown to about $6 billion dollars, just $1.5 billion short of the company’s entire value at the time of its pre-COVID IPO. BARDA, throughout 2020, was directly overseen by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), led by the extremely corrupt Robert Kadlec, who had spent roughly the last two decades designing BARDA and helping shape legislation that concentrated many of the emergency powers of HHS under the Office of the ASPR. Conveniently, Kadlec occupied the powerful role of ASPR that he had spent years sculpting at the exact moment when the pandemic, which he had simulated the previous year via Crimson Contagion, took place. As mentioned in Part I, he was also a key participant in the June 2001 Dark Winter exercise. In his capacity as ASPR during 2020, Kadlec oversaw nearly all major aspects of the HHS COVID-19 response and had a key role in BARDA’s funding decisions during that period, as well as in the affairs of the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration as they related to COVID-19 medical countermeasures, including vaccines.  On May 1, 2020, Moderna announced a ten-year manufacturing agreement with the Lonza Group, a multinational chemical and biotech company based in Switzerland. Per the agreement, Lonza would build out vaccine production sites for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, first in the US and Switzerland, before expanding to Lonza’s facilities in other countries. The scale of production discussed in the agreement was to produce 1 billion doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine annually. It was claimed that the ten-year agreement would also focus on other products, even though it was well known at the time that other Moderna products were “nowhere close to being ready for the market.” Moderna executives would later state that they were still scrambling for the cash to manufacture doses at the time the agreement with Lonza was made. The decision to forge a partnership to produce that quantity of doses annually suggests marvelous foresight on the part of Moderna and Lonza that the COVID-19 vaccine would become an annual or semiannual affair, given that current claims of waning immunity could not have been known back then because initial trials of the Moderna vaccine had begun less than two months earlier and there was still no published data on its efficacy or safety. However, as will be discussed Part III of this series, Moderna needs to sell “pandemic level” quantities of its COVID-19 vaccine every year in order to avoid a return of the existential crises it faced before COVID-19 (for more on those crises, see Part I). The implications of this, given Moderna’s previous inability to produce a safe product for multidosing and lack of evidence that past issues were addressed in the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, will also be discussed in Part III of this series.  It is also noteworthy that, like Moderna, Lonza as a company and its leaders are closely affiliated with the World Economic Forum. In addition, at the time the agreement was reached in May 2020, Moncef Slaoui, the former GlaxoSmithKline executive, served on the boards of both Moderna and Lonza. Slaoui withdrew from the boards of both companies two weeks after the agreement was reached to become the head of the US-led vaccination-development drive Operation Warp Speed. Moderna praised Slaoui’s appointment to head the vaccination project.  By mid-May, Moderna’s stock price—whose steady decline before COVID-19 was detailed in Part I —had tripled since late February 2020, all on high hopes for its COVID-19 vaccine. Since Moderna’s stock had begun to surge in February, media reports noted that “nearly every progress update—or media appearance by Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel—has been gobbled up by investors, who seem to have an insatiable appetite for the stock.” Bancel’s tried-and-tested method of keeping Moderna afloat on pure hype, though it was faltering before COVID-19, was again paying off for the company thanks to the global crisis and related panic.  Some critics did emerge, however, calling Moderna’s now $23 billion valuation “insane,” especially considering that the company had posted a net loss of $514 million the previous year and had yet to produce a safe or effective medicine since its founding a decade earlier. In January 2020, Moderna had been worth a mere $5 billion, $2 billion less than its valuation at its December 2018 IPO. If it hadn’t been for the onset of the COVID crisis and a fresh injection of hype, it seems that Moderna’s valuation would have continued to shrink. Yet, thankfully for Moderna, investors were valuing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine even before the release of any clinical data. Market analysts at the time were forecasting Moderna’s 2022 revenue at about $1 billion, a figure based almost entirely on coronavirus vaccine sales, since all other Moderna products were years away from a market debut. Yet, even with this forecasted revenue, Moderna’s stock value in mid-May 2020 was trading at twenty-three times its projected sales, a phenomenon unique to Moderna among biotech stocks at the time. For comparison, the other highest multiples in biotech at the time were Vertex Pharmaceutical and Seattle Genetics, which were then trading at nine and twelve times their projected revenue, respectively. Now, with the implementation of booster shot policies around the world, revenue forecasts for Moderna now predict the company will make a staggering $35 billion in COVID-19 vaccine sales through next year. To read the rest of the report, click here. Tyler Durden Fri, 10/29/2021 - 12:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 29th, 2021

The 31 spookiest thriller books to read this Halloween

Whether you love a good fictional crime story, mystery novel, or deep psychological thriller, these are the best thriller books. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Whether you love a good fictional crime story, mystery novel, or deep psychological thriller, these are the best thriller books. Amazon; Alyssa Powell/Insider Thriller books are naturally enticing, fast-paced fiction reads with notorious plot twists. The best thrillers offer plenty of suspense and mystery throughout the novel. This list has a wide variety of popular books, including crime and psychological thrillers. Thrillers have taken the book industry by storm over the last several years for one clear reason: They make reading really fun. In a world where so many things compete for our attention, thrillers stand out as gripping stories full of shocking twists and turns. They build up fast and tightly hold our interest as we navigate shadowy hallways and unsolved murders, eliciting an adrenaline rush just from turning the page - making them especially perfect reads for the spooky Halloween season.I've read the vast majority of the books on this list and added the rest based on the rave reviews from fellow thriller nerds. Whether it's a deeply psychological thriller narrative, a fast-paced YA mystery novel, or a crime thriller too scary to read at night, there's a book on this list for every thriller lover.The 31 best thriller books:Best psychological thrillersBest crime thrillersBest mystery and suspense thrillersBest YA thrillersBest horror thrillers Psychological thrillers A psychological thriller with an electrifying twist Amazon "Before She Knew Him" by Peter Swanson, available at Amazon and BookshopSpeaking of throwing books against a wall, this was the first book I ever chucked when the plot twist was revealed — one that I didn't even know was a possibility until I reached the climax. Henrietta has finally found some stability between her bipolar medication and her new home with her husband. When they go to the neighbor's house for dinner, Henrietta notices a unique trophy that definitely belonged to someone who was killed two years ago. Torn between the comfort of her new life and her weakness to find the answer to this unsolved case, Henrietta quickly unravels far more than she bargained for.  Thrill factor: A plot twist that will have you rethinking the entire book. A thriller with multiple truths Amazon "The Silent Patient" by Alex Michaelides, available at Amazon and BookshopThere are four stories here: The one the jury decided, his, hers, and — completely separate — the truth. I love books with "solved" murders that push us to read on to uncover the real truth. One night, Alicia's husband returns home late from his job. She shoots him five times in the face and never speaks again. Confined to a psychiatric ward, Theo — a criminal psychotherapist — is determined to get Alicia to talk and uncover why she murdered her husband. Digging into Alicia's past reveals that there are many things that can drive us to do the unthinkable.Thrill factor: Being sure of the truth just before new information is revealed. A thriller around a kidnapping Amazon "Then She Was Gone" by Lisa Jewell, available at Amazon and BookshopThis one was particularly enticing and dark, the secrets running far deeper and with more complexity than I expected. It's been 10 years since Laurel's then-15-year-old daughter, Ellie, disappeared — and Laurel has never given up hope of finding her. Laurel is swept up in a romance with her new boyfriend and finds herself meeting his nine-year-old daughter, who looks exactly like Ellie did at that age. This is a tightly wound ball of thriller chaos that is so much fun to unravel as you read. Thrill factor: A plot that catches you completely off guard. A deeply psychological thriller Amazon "Behind Her Eyes" by Sarah Pinborough, available at Amazon and BookshopOn Monday morning, Louise discovers her (very married) boss is the same man with whom she shared an amazing kiss at a bar just days ago. Though assuring her it will never happen again, David can't keep his eyes off Louise. What ensues is a complex yet comprehensible web of manipulation and a twist that had me nearly yelling "WHAT?!" by the end.Thrill factor: A baffling realization hiding in the final pages. A chilling thriller all about the little details Amazon "The Push" by Ashely Audrian, available at Amazon and BookshopBlythe is fully committed to being the warm, nurturing mother she never had, but she's convinced that something is wrong with her new baby — she doesn't behave as other children do. As her husband dismisses her fears, she begins to question her sanity. When her second child is born, the familial connections are undeniable...until a devastating event has Blythe (and the reader) questioning everything. Best described as a tour de force, this is an extremely fast-paced thriller that's easy to devour in a day. Thrill factor: A whiplash-y plot that launches you straight into the story. An unsettling marital thriller Amazon "Behind Closed Doors" by B. A. Paris, available at Amazon and BookshopJack and Grace are the epitome of true love, radiating elegance, wealth, and charm, all while never being apart...ever. It's hard to get to know the mysterious Grace because she can't meet for coffee, she never answers her phone, and one of the bedroom windows seems to have bars on it. This is one that masterfully incites panic into a reader, worrying about the characters and desperately needing to know what happens. Thrill factor: The graphic descriptions in the already chilling scenes. A psychological book with family intrigue Amazon "The Next Wife" by Kaira Rouda, available at Amazon and BookshopThis is a guilty pleasure of a thriller: fast, dramatic, and satisfying. Kate had a picture-perfect life with her husband and daughter — until her husband left for a woman half his age. Tish is gorgeous, luxurious, and only a little suspicious of her new husband's previous infidelity. She plans a romantic getaway to fend Kate off, but love and revenge are powerful weapons that tear plans apart. Thrill factor: The dark humor that ramps up the intensity. A psychological thriller that will leave you speechless Amazon "Sometimes I Lie" by Alice Feeney, available at Amazon and BookshopWith an unreliable narrator and more lies than you can count, this thriller is perfectly constructed and the plot is a baffling rollercoaster. When Amber wakes up from a coma, she can't remember what happened, but she suspects her husband has something to do with it. This book alternates between the present, the week before her accident, and Amber's childhood diaries to help us piece together a brilliant psychological twist. Thrill factor: The subtle inflections the narrator assigns to each character. Crime thrillers A dark yet elegant crime thriller Amazon "Behind the Red Door" by Megan Collins, available at Amazon and BookshopMegan Collins became well-known for her debut thriller "The Winter Sister," but I'm here to proclaim that "Behind the Red Door" is the one that should really be in the spotlight. I have never read a thriller that featured characters with such complexity or one where I said "oh NO" out loud so many times. When Fern hears the news that a woman named Astrid has gone missing, she's sure she knows her. Fern's husband is sure that it must be from Astrid's infamous kidnapping 20 years prior, which happened just outside Fern's childhood town but of which she has no memory. When Astrid starts appearing in Fern's nightmares, Fern grapples to understand if it's a dream or a memory with the help of her psychologist father.Thrill factor: The main character's unreliable memory. A chilling stalker thriller Amazon "You" by Caroline Kepnes, available at Amazon and BookshopIf you have yet to be pulled into the Netflix adaptation, resist and pick up the book first! This is the creepiest yet most believable stalker thriller, packed with so many insane developments that you think it can't get any wilder…until it does. Told from Joe's perspective, the book depicts his rapidly growing obsession over a woman he meets in a bookstore, one that morphs and twists as Joe stops at nothing to make himself the center of her world. Joe is the most messed up fictional character I've ever encountered, making this book a fabulously creepy thriller to grab. Thrill factor: The chilling main character. A terrifying serial killer story Amazon "The Whisper Man" by Alex North, available at Amazon and BookshopThis thriller gripped me so much that I read the second half all in one shot and finished at 3:30 a.m. It's about a serial killer and abductor who whispers to children to lure them away from safety. The Whisper Man has been locked away for 20 years, but the patterns of his crimes are emerging once again. The book also threw in a couple of mini-twists at the end that made reading until the very last page exciting. Thrill factor: Wanting so badly to protect the characters. An alluring marital thriller Amazon "My Lovely Wife" by Samantha Downing, available at Amazon and BookshopIn this creepy thriller where we never learn the narrator's name, a married couple does everything married couples are "supposed" to do: Settle down, buy a house, have a kid, and grow horribly bored with their lives. With the thrills building up in nearly every scene, the secret ingredient that keeps their marriage alive is getting away with murder.Thrill factor: The layers upon layers of secrets behind every character. A thriller for the true-crime lovers Amazon "The Night Swim" by Megan Goldin, available at Amazon and BookshopRachel's true-crime podcast gained notoriety after it helped set an innocent man free. When a note begging for help is left on Rachel's windshield, it launches an investigation into the past and present, exploring a town disrupted by a rape trial and a drowning accident from 25 years ago. This is an especially perfect thriller for true crime lovers — it swirls you quickly into the center of this plot and keeps you strapped in for the ride. Thrill factor: The two separate (yet intertwined) mysteries  A multi-POV thriller Amazon "Every Last Fear" by Alex Finlay, available at Amazon and BookshopThis heartbreaking story about familial tragedy is as deep as it is twisty. Matt returns home after a night of partying to be informed that nearly his entire family was killed by a gas leak in their hotel in Mexico. Though it seems like an accident, one FBI agent believes otherwise, but won't disclose why. The deaths make national headlines because this isn't the first time Matt's family has been thrust into the spotlight: his brother is currently in prison for the murder of his high school girlfriend — a murder the public believes he didn't commit. When Matt returns home to bury his family, the connections between his brother's case and his family's accident begin to emerge. Thrill factor: That "look over your shoulder" feeling. A domestic legal thriller Amazon "A Good Marriage" by Kimberly McCreight, available at Amazon and BookshopThis domestic thriller is just as emotional and insightful as it is surprising and exhilarating. Lizzie spends long hours working at her law firm after her marriage slowly crumbled apart. When she gets a call from Zach, her old friend who's currently being held on suspicion of killing his wife, Lizzie knows she has to drop everything and help him. As she begins to piece together what happened to Zach's wife, she finds that maybe their idyllic marriage wasn't so great after all. Thrill Factor: The marital drama and endless secrets. Mystery and suspense thrillers A staple in the genre Amazon "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn, available at Amazon and BookshopAn indisputable thriller staple, this is a great one to pick up if you're just getting into the genre because it will introduce you to some of the nuances of thrillers on which many others are based. In this book, Amy goes missing on her and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary. Dealing with the town breathing down his neck and haunting diary entries from his wife, Nick begins to spin a web of lies around his wife's disappearance. Thrill factor: Carefully sculpted plot twists. A full-throttle, high suspenseful mystery thriller Amazon "No Exit" by Taylor Adams, available at Amazon and BookshopI ignored my family during the holidays because of this book, and I'm not sorry about it! While driving home through Colorado, Darby is caught in a blizzard and forced to wait the storm out at a highway rest stop, stranded with four strangers. When she goes to her car to try and get a signal, she notices a child locked in a cage in the back of a van. Far from police help, Darby must figure out which person is the kidnapper and get the child and herself to safety. This was the tensest I have ever felt reading a book.Thrill factor: The high-speed action scenes. A thriller of multiple marriages (and multiple truths) Amazon "Too Good To Be True" by Carola Lovering, available at Amazon and BookshopWith three points of view (and none of them entirely reliable), "Too Good To Be True" is a thriller about two marriages and the secrets that can uproot well-laid plans. Skye is overjoyed to be engaged to Burke, her seemingly perfect boyfriend who, in a series of letters to his therapist, reveals that he's married and deviously manipulating Skye. The third perspective is of Heather, Burke's ex from 30 years ago. It's a twist-filled read that will leave you wondering how well you know those closest to you. Thrill factor: The feeling of an emotional car crash waiting to happen. A book with a jaw-dropping reveal Amazon "The Wife Between Us" by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, available at Amazon and BookshopThis is a thriller that thrives on your assumptions. It lets you assume that you're reading the story of a jealous woman, obsessed with her ex-husband's new wife, just to turn everything on its head halfway through this impeccably constructed book. Even when you know something is coming, the twists in this tangled love triangle are utterly shocking. Thrill factor: Questioning our own assumptions. A thriller almost too wild to believe Amazon "When No One Is Watching" by Alyssa Cole, available at Amazon and BookshopSydney is tired of the gentrification of her Brooklyn neighborhood, the homes changing and her neighbors moving faster than she can keep up. She decides to start a deep-dive into the neighborhood's history with her neighbor Theo, but what they uncover instills paranoia and fear as what they once thought were conspiracies are slowly revealed to hold hidden truths. This one is a wild ride with a pile of twists that happen all at once. Thrill factor: The conspiracy theories that might actually be true. A binge-worthy book Amazon "Verity" by Colleen Hoover, available at Amazon and BookshopWhen you open this book, make sure you have no plans for the rest of the day — the first 20 pages or so ease you into the story and the rest of the book is a dead sprint to the end. Little-known writer Lowen has been hired to finish Verity's well-loved book series after a car accident left her in a waking coma. While looking for outlines or notes in Verity's office, Lowen discovers a horrifying autobiographical manuscript that depicts Verity's darkest secrets, kept from her husband and children. This thriller is one gripping scene of action after another, barrelling towards an ending that will have you shoving this book into your friends' hands so they can experience the wild ride for themselves. Thrill factor: The inability to choose which lie to believe. The story of a murderous fashionista Amazon "#FashionVictim" by Amina Akhtar, available at Amazon and BookshopThis book is unassumingly murderous, exciting, and fun. Anya is a fashion editor with an envious wardrobe, a flawless social media presence, a soaring career, and a stack of bodies of those who almost got in her way. When Anya's desire to be friends with Sarah, her coworker, turns into an obsession, the intrigue may turn fatal. There is an unreasonably large amount of murder in this story, which is exactly what kept me interested. Thrill factor: Anya's conniving ability to get away with murder. A suspenseful mystery of a missing woman Amazon "I Am Watching You" by Teresa Driscoll, available at Amazon and BookshopElla nearly intervenes when she sees two recently released convicts flirting with two young women, Anna and Sarah. After Ella decides to mind her business, Anna goes missing — and Ella is still riddled with guilt one year later. But now someone is sending Ella threatening letters, and the gaps in Sarah's account of that night grow wider as Ella realizes someone knows where Anna might be. This is one where the intense plot twist threw so many readers for a loop and settled with a satisfying resolution.Thrill factor: The psychological distress of the protagonist. YA thrillers A heartbreaking YA thriller novel Amazon "See All The Stars" by Kit Frick, available at Amazon and BookshopI was not in the least surprised to learn that Kit Frick is also a poet. This book is teenage heartbreak mixed in a swirl of emotional prose and confounding thrills. Told between then and now, Ellory returns to her senior year of high school riddled with guilt, anxiety, and loss. As you read, you'll sort through the lies to find the truth to Ellory's pain. The whole book leads up to discovering the event that tore apart the main character's world, so you always have the feeling that something is coming… but you never know what might be around the corner. Thrill factor: A potentially unreliable narrator. A compulsively readable YA thriller Amazon "Lies You Never Told Me" by Jennifer Donaldson, available at Amazon and BookshopThis is another book that I finished in one sitting, the two seemingly unrelated storylines leading to a climax so shocking, I'm not sure I even blinked until I finished the book. It follows Gabe and Elyse, complete strangers with similar secrets. They each fall for the wrong person and make one bad choice that spins their lives out of control. When you have no clue what you're looking for, a thriller's twist can hit you like a brick wall (in a good way!) and that's exactly what this book did to me. Thrill factor: Two different tales with unsettling similarities. A twisted teenage tale Amazon "The Cheerleaders" by Kara Thomas, available at Amazon and BookshopFans of "Riverdale" and high school thriller will undoubtedly devour this YA novel. The cheer squad at Sunnybrook High was disbanded after the death of five cheerleaders, all unrelated but close together. Five years after the deaths, the community is finally ready to move forward — except for Monica, who just discovered letters and an old cell phone in her stepdad's desk. I accidentally read most of it in one sitting just because the story flows so smoothly.Thrill factor: The flashback snippets providing little clues. An investigative YA thriller Amazon "A Good Girl's Guide To Murder" by Holly Jackson, available at Amazon and BookshopIn this YA thriller favorite, the case is already closed. Sal Singh murdered Andie Bell five years ago. Everyone knows he did it — except Pippa, who chooses to investigate the murder for her senior year project. As she begins to uncover long-buried secrets, there might be some who need the truth to stay buried lurking in the shadows. If you love true crime, murder mysteries, and unstoppable young women, this is the perfect easy-read thriller to grab. Thrill factor: The feeling of investigating alongside the protagonist. A thriller version of "The Breakfast Club" Amazon "One of Us is Lying" by Karen M. McManus, available at Amazon and BookshopThis YA thriller uses spectacular character development and dramatic, unreliable rumors to create a whodunnit thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end. On Monday's detention, five students walk in and one never walks out. Simon, now dead, planned to post high-profile secrets about the others the next day, making the other four students murder suspects in the ensuing investigation. There's a lot of depth to this book besides the thrill ride, which makes it even more satisfying to read.   Thrill factor: The equal probability of every suspect's guilt. Horror thrillers A paranormal thriller novel Amazon "Home Before Dark" by Riley Sager, available at Amazon and BookshopRiley Sager has published four great thrillers so far but this one's my favorite. In this spooky and paranormal haunted house thriller, Maggie returns to restore the recently inherited home that made her family famous. Her father wrote a non-fiction bestseller based on their family's three-week stay in the home before they were forced to flee in the night. Not only was Maggie too young to remember what happened; she doesn't believe any of it is true. I genuinely had a great time reading this thriller — it was so much fun to feel the fear and expose the truths of this house alongside Maggie.Thrill factor: Skepticism and doubt mixed with a foggy memory. A haunted "smart" house Amazon "The Turn of the Key" by Ruth Ware, available at Amazon and BookshopRuth Ware is another notorious thriller writer and this is my favorite of her books so far — and was actually too scared to read it alone at night. It takes place in a technologically advanced home in the Scottish Highlands, where Rowan is hired as a live-in nanny and earns an outrageous salary. Told in the form of a letter from Rowan to her lawyer, she recounts the events from her arrival at the home to the death of one of the children. This story is so immersive and scary that I had to remind myself more than once that it's just a book.Thrill factor: Technology's role in generating unease. The tale of a spooky motel Amazon "The Sun Down Motel" by Simone St. James, available at Amazon and BookshopThis book is filled with so many vivid and borderline violent scenes that build tension throughout the story. Viv works at a 1982 roadside motel to pay for her move to New York City. As the secrets of the motel and its guests begin to reveal themselves, the nights seem to grow darker and darker. Once I finished this book, I felt like I could exhale for the first time in days — I was so satisfied with the resolution. Thrill factor: Realizing that the deeper the shadows, the more secrets that can hide within. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 21st, 2021

Bitcoin & The US Fiscal Reckoning

Bitcoin & The US Fiscal Reckoning Authored by Avik Roy via, Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have few fans in Washington. At a July congressional hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren warned that cryptocurrency "puts the [financial] system at the whims of some shadowy, faceless group of super-coders." Treasury secretary Janet Yellen likewise asserted that the "reality" of cryptocurrencies is that they "have been used to launder the profits of online drug traffickers; they've been a tool to finance terrorism." Thus far, Bitcoin's supporters remain undeterred. (The term "Bitcoin" with a capital "B" is used here and throughout to refer to the system of cryptography and technology that produces the currency "bitcoin" with a lowercase "b" and verifies bitcoin transactions.) A survey of 3,000 adults in the fall of 2020 found that while only 4% of adults over age 55 own cryptocurrencies, slightly more than one-third of those aged 35-44 do, as do two-fifths of those aged 25-34. As of mid-2021, Coinbase — the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States — had 68 million verified users. To younger Americans, digital money is as intuitive as digital media and digital friendships. But Millennials with smartphones are not the only people interested in bitcoin; a growing number of investors are also flocking to the currency's banner. Surveys indicate that as many as 21% of U.S. hedge funds now own bitcoin in some form. In 2020, after considering various asset classes like stocks, bonds, gold, and foreign currencies, celebrated hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones asked, "[w]hat will be the winner in ten years' time?" His answer: "My bet is it will be bitcoin." What's driving this increased interest in a form of currency invented in 2008? The answer comes from former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who once noted, "the U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press...that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost. By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation...the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to...inflation." In other words, governments with fiat currencies — including the United States — have the power to expand the quantity of those currencies. If they choose to do so, they risk inflating the prices of necessities like food, gas, and housing. In recent months, consumers have experienced higher price inflation than they have seen in decades. A major reason for the increases is that central bankers around the world — including those at the Federal Reserve — sought to compensate for Covid-19 lockdowns with dramatic monetary inflation. As a result, nearly $4 trillion in newly printed dollars, euros, and yen found their way from central banks into the coffers of global financial institutions. Jerome Powell, the current Federal Reserve chairman, insists that 2021's inflation trends are "transitory." He may be right in the near term. But for the foreseeable future, inflation will be a profound and inescapable challenge for America due to a single factor: the rapidly expanding federal debt, increasingly financed by the Fed's printing press. In time, policymakers will face a Solomonic choice: either protect Americans from inflation, or protect the government's ability to engage in deficit spending. It will become impossible to do both. Over time, this compounding problem will escalate the importance of Bitcoin. THE FIAT-CURRENCY EXPERIMENT It's becoming clear that Bitcoin is not merely a passing fad, but a significant innovation with potentially serious implications for the future of investment and global finance. To understand those implications, we must first examine the recent history of the primary instrument that bitcoin was invented to challenge: the American dollar. Toward the end of World War II, in an agreement hashed out by 44 Allied countries in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the value of the U.S. dollar was formally fixed to 1/35th of the price of an ounce of gold. Other countries' currencies, such as the British pound and the French franc, were in turn pegged to the dollar, making the dollar the world's official reserve currency. Under the Bretton Woods system, foreign governments could retrieve gold bullion they had sent to the United States during the war by exchanging dollars for gold at the relevant fixed exchange rate. But enabling every major country to exchange dollars for American-held gold only worked so long as the U.S. government was fiscally and monetarily responsible. By the late 1960s, it was neither. Someone needed to pay the steep bills for Lyndon Johnson's "guns and butter" policies — the Vietnam War and the Great Society, respectively — so the Federal Reserve began printing currency to meet those obligations. Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon, also pressured the Fed to flood the economy with money as a form of economic stimulus. From 1961 to 1971, the Fed nearly doubled the circulating supply of dollars. "In the first six months of 1971," noted the late Nobel laureate Robert Mundell, "monetary expansion was more rapid than in any comparable period in a quarter century." That year, foreign central banks and governments held $64 billion worth of claims on the $10 billion of gold still held by the United States. It wasn't long before the world took notice of the shortage. In a classic bank-run scenario, anxious European governments began racing to redeem dollars for American-held gold before the Fed ran out. In July 1971, Switzerland withdrew $50 million in bullion from U.S. vaults. In August, France sent a destroyer to escort $191 million of its gold back from the New York Federal Reserve. Britain put in a request for $3 billion shortly thereafter. Finally, that same month, Nixon secretly gathered a small group of trusted advisors at Camp David to devise a plan to avoid the imminent wipeout of U.S. gold vaults and the subsequent collapse of the international economy. There, they settled on a radical course of action. On the evening of August 15th, in a televised address to the nation, Nixon announced his intention to order a 90-day freeze on all prices and wages throughout the country, a 10% tariff on all imported goods, and a suspension — eventually, a permanent one — of the right of foreign governments to exchange their dollars for U.S. gold. Knowing that his unilateral abrogation of agreements involving dozens of countries would come as a shock to world leaders and the American people, Nixon labored to re-assure viewers that the change would not unsettle global markets. He promised viewers that "the effect of this action...will be to stabilize the dollar," and that the "dollar will be worth just as much tomorrow as it is today." The next day, the stock market rose — to everyone's relief. The editors of the New York Times "unhesitatingly applaud[ed] the boldness" of Nixon's move. Economic growth remained strong for months after the shift, and the following year Nixon was re-elected in a landslide, winning 49 states in the Electoral College and 61% of the popular vote. Nixon's short-term success was a mirage, however. After the election, the president lifted the wage and price controls, and inflation returned with a vengeance. By December 1980, the dollar had lost more than half the purchasing power it had back in June 1971 on a consumer-price basis. In relation to gold, the price of the dollar collapsed — from 1/35th to 1/627th of a troy ounce. Though Jimmy Carter is often blamed for the Great Inflation of the late 1970s, "the truth," as former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow has argued, "is that the president who unleashed double-digit inflation was Richard Nixon." In 1981, Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker raised the federal-funds rate — a key interest-rate benchmark — to 19%. A deep recession ensued, but inflation ceased, and the U.S. embarked on a multi-decade period of robust growth, low unemployment, and low consumer-price inflation. As a result, few are nostalgic for the days of Bretton Woods or the gold-standard era. The view of today's economic establishment is that the present system works well, that gold standards are inherently unstable, and that advocates of gold's return are eccentric cranks. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that the post-Bretton Woods era — in which the supply of government currencies can be expanded or contracted by fiat — is only 50 years old. To those of us born after 1971, it might appear as if there is nothing abnormal about the way money works today. When viewed through the lens of human history, however, free-floating global exchange rates remain an unprecedented economic experiment — with one critical flaw. An intrinsic attribute of the post-Bretton Woods system is that it enables deficit spending. Under a gold standard or peg, countries are unable to run large budget deficits without draining their gold reserves. Nixon's 1971 crisis is far from the only example; deficit spending during and after World War I, for instance, caused economic dislocation in numerous European countries — especially Germany — because governments needed to use their shrinking gold reserves to finance their war debts. These days, by contrast, it is relatively easy for the United States to run chronic deficits. Today's federal debt of almost $29 trillion — up from $10 trillion in 2008 and $2.4 trillion in 1984 — is financed in part by U.S. Treasury bills, notes, and bonds, on which lenders to the United States collect a form of interest. Yields on Treasury bonds are denominated in dollars, but since dollars are no longer redeemable for gold, these bonds are backed solely by the "full faith and credit of the United States." Interest rates on U.S. Treasury bonds have remained low, which many people take to mean that the creditworthiness of the United States remains healthy. Just as creditworthy consumers enjoy lower interest rates on their mortgages and credit cards, creditworthy countries typically enjoy lower rates on the bonds they issue. Consequently, the post-Great Recession era of low inflation and near-zero interest rates led many on the left to argue that the old rules no longer apply, and that concerns regarding deficits are obsolete. Supporters of this view point to the massive stimulus packages passed under presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden  that, in total, increased the federal deficit and debt by $4.6 trillion without affecting the government's ability to borrow. The extreme version of the new "deficits don't matter" narrative comes from the advocates of what has come to be called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), who claim that because the United States controls its own currency, the federal government has infinite power to increase deficits and the debt without consequence. Though most mainstream economists dismiss MMT as unworkable and even dangerous, policymakers appear to be legislating with MMT's assumptions in mind. A new generation of Democratic economic advisors has pushed President Biden to propose an additional $3.5 trillion in spending, on top of the $4.6 trillion spent on Covid-19 relief and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. These Democrats, along with a new breed of populist Republicans, dismiss the concerns of older economists who fear that exploding deficits risk a return to the economy of the 1970s, complete with high inflation, high interest rates, and high unemployment. But there are several reasons to believe that America's fiscal profligacy cannot go on forever. The most important reason is the unanimous judgment of history: In every country and in every era, runaway deficits and skyrocketing debt have ended in economic stagnation or ruin. Another reason has to do with the unusual confluence of events that has enabled the United States to finance its rising debts at such low interest rates over the past few decades — a confluence that Bitcoin may play a role in ending. DECLINING FAITH IN U.S. CREDIT To members of the financial community, U.S. Treasury bonds are considered "risk-free" assets. That is to say, while many investments entail risk — a company can go bankrupt, for example, thereby wiping out the value of its stock — Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Since people believe the United States will not default on its obligations, lending money to the U.S. government — buying Treasury bonds that effectively pay the holder an interest rate — is considered a risk-free investment. The definition of Treasury bonds as "risk-free" is not merely by reputation, but also by regulation. Since 1988, the Switzerland-based Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has sponsored a series of accords among central bankers from financially significant countries. These accords were designed to create global standards for the capital held by banks such that they carry a sufficient proportion of low-risk and risk-free assets. The well-intentioned goal of these standards was to ensure that banks don't fail when markets go down, as they did in 2008. The current version of the Basel Accords, known as "Basel III," assigns zero risk to U.S. Treasury bonds. Under Basel III's formula, then, every major bank in the world is effectively rewarded for holding these bonds instead of other assets. This artificially inflates demand for the bonds and enables the United States to borrow at lower rates than other countries. The United States also benefits from the heft of its economy as well as the size of its debt. Since America is the world's most indebted country in absolute terms, the market for U.S. Treasury bonds is the largest and most liquid such market in the world. Liquid markets matter a great deal to major investors: A large financial institution or government with hundreds of billions (or more) of a given currency on its balance sheet cares about being able to buy and sell assets while minimizing the impact of such actions on the trading price. There are no alternative low-risk assets one can trade at the scale of Treasury bonds. The status of such bonds as risk-free assets — and in turn, America's ability to borrow the money necessary to fund its ballooning expenditures — depends on investors' confidence in America's creditworthiness. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve's interference in the markets for Treasury bonds have obscured our ability to determine whether financial institutions view the U.S. fiscal situation with confidence. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton's advisors prioritized reducing the deficit, largely out of a conern that Treasury-bond "vigilantes" — investors who protest a government's expansionary fiscal or monetary policy by aggressively selling bonds, which drives up interest rates — would harm the economy. Their success in eliminating the primary deficit brought yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond down from 8% to 4%. In Clinton's heyday, the Federal Reserve was limited in its ability to influence the 10-year Treasury interest rate. Its monetary interventions primarily targeted the federal-funds rate — the interest rate that banks charge each other on overnight transactions. But in 2002, Ben Bernanke advocated that the Fed "begin announcing explicit ceilings for yields on longer-maturity Treasury debt." This amounted to a schedule of interest-rate price controls. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve has succeeded in wiping out bond vigilantes using a policy called "quantitative easing," whereby the Fed manipulates the price of Treasury bonds by buying and selling them on the open market. As a result, Treasury-bond yields are determined not by the free market, but by the Fed. The combined effect of these forces — the regulatory impetus for banks to own Treasury bonds, the liquidity advantage Treasury bonds have in the eyes of large financial institutions, and the Federal Reserve's manipulation of Treasury-bond market prices — means that interest rates on Treasury bonds no longer indicate the United States' creditworthiness (or lack thereof). Meanwhile, indications that investors are growing increasingly concerned about the U.S. fiscal and monetary picture — and are in turn assigning more risk to "risk-free" Treasury bonds — are on the rise. One such indicator is the decline in the share of Treasury bonds owned by outside investors. Between 2010 and 2020, the share of U.S. Treasury securities owned by foreign entities fell from 47% to 32%, while the share owned by the Fed more than doubled, from 9% to 22%. Put simply, foreign investors have been reducing their purchases of U.S. government debt, thereby forcing the Fed to increase its own bond purchases to make up the difference and prop up prices. Until and unless Congress reduces the trajectory of the federal debt, U.S. monetary policy has entered a vicious cycle from which there is no obvious escape. The rising debt requires the Treasury Department to issue an ever-greater quantity of Treasury bonds, but market demand for these bonds cannot keep up with their increasing supply. In an effort to avoid a spike in interest rates, the Fed will need to print new U.S. dollars to soak up the excess supply of Treasury bonds. The resultant monetary inflation will cause increases in consumer prices. Those who praise the Fed's dramatic expansion of the money supply argue that it has not affected consumer-price inflation. And at first glance, they appear to have a point. In January of 2008, the M2 money stock was roughly $7.5 trillion; by January 2020, M2 had more than doubled, to $15.4 trillion. As of July 2021, the total M2 sits at $20.5 trillion — nearly triple what it was just 13 years ago. Over that same period, U.S. GDP increased by only 50%. And yet, since 2000, the average rate of growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers — a widely used inflation benchmark — has remained low, at about 2.25%. How can this be? The answer lies in the relationship between monetary inflation and price inflation, which has diverged over time. In 2008, the Federal Reserve began paying interest to banks that park their money with the Fed, reducing banks' incentive to lend that money out to the broader economy in ways that would drive price inflation. But the main reason for the divergence is that conventional measures like CPI do not accurately capture the way monetary inflation is affecting domestic prices. In a large, diverse country like the United States, different people and different industries experience price inflation in different ways. The fact that price inflation occurs earlier in certain sectors of the economy than in others was first described by the 18th-century Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon. In his 1730 "Essay on the Nature of Commerce in General," Cantillon noted that when governments increase the supply of money, those who receive the money first gain the most benefit from it — at the expense of those to whom it flows last. In the 20th century, Friedrich Hayek built on Cantillon's thinking, observing that "the real harm [of monetary inflation] is due to the differential effect on different prices, which change successively in a very irregular order and to a very different degree, so that as a result the whole structure of relative prices becomes distorted and misguides production into wrong directions." In today's context, the direct beneficiaries of newly printed money are those who need it the least. New dollars are sent to banks, which in turn lend them to the most creditworthy entities: investment funds, corporations, and wealthy individuals. As a result, the most profound price impact of U.S. monetary inflation has been on the kinds of assets that financial institutions and wealthy people purchase — stocks, bonds, real estate, venture capital, and the like. This is why the price-to-earnings ratio of S&P 500 companies is at record highs, why risky start-ups with long-shot ideas are attracting $100 million venture rounds, and why the median home sales price has jumped 24% in a single year — the biggest one-year increase of the 21st century. Meanwhile, low- and middle-income earners are facing rising prices without attendant increases in their wages. If asset inflation persists while the costs of housing and health care continue to grow beyond the reach of ordinary people, the legitimacy of our market economy will be put on trial. THE RETURN OF SOUND MONEY Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, was acutely concerned with the increasing abundance of U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies in the early 2000s. In 2009 he wrote, "the root problem with conventional currency is all the trust that's required to make it work. The central bank must be trusted not to debase the currency, but the history of fiat currencies is full of breaches of that trust." Bitcoin was created in anticipation of the looming fiscal and monetary crisis in the United States and around the world. To understand how bitcoin functions alongside fiat currency, it's helpful to examine the monetary philosophy of the Austrian School of economics, whose leading figures — especially Hayek and Ludwig von Mises — greatly influenced Nakamoto and the early developers of Bitcoin. The economists of the Austrian School were staunch advocates of what Mises called "the principle of sound money" — that is, of keeping the supply of money as constant and predictable as possible. In The Theory of Money and Credit, first published in 1912, Mises argued that sound money serves as "an instrument for the protection of civil liberties against despotic inroads on the part of governments" that belongs "in the same class with political constitutions and bills of rights." Just as bills of rights were a "reaction against arbitrary rule and the nonobservance of old customs by kings," he wrote, "the postulate of sound money was first brought up as a response to the princely practice of debasing the coinage." Mises believed that inflation was just as much a violation of someone's property rights as arbitrarily taking away his land. After all, in both cases, the government acquires economic value at the expense of the citizen. Since monetary inflation creates a sugar high of short-term stimulus, politicians interested in re-election will always have an incentive to expand the money supply. But doing so comes at the expense of long-term declines in consumer purchasing power. For Mises, the best way to address such a threat is to avoid fiat currencies altogether. And in his estimation, the best sound-money alternative to fiat currency is gold. "The excellence of the gold standard," Mises wrote, is "that it renders the determination of the monetary unit's purchasing power independent of the policies of governments and political parties." In other words, gold's primary virtue is that its supply increases slowly and steadily, and cannot be manipulated by politicians. It may appear as if gold was an arbitrary choice as the basis for currency, but gold has a combination of qualities that make it ideal for storing and exchanging value. First, it is verifiably unforgeable. Gold is very dense, which means that counterfeit gold is easy to identify — one simply has to weigh it. Second, gold is divisible. Unlike, say, cattle, gold can be delivered in fractional units both small and large, enabling precise pricing. Third, gold is durable. Unlike commodities that rot or evaporate over time, gold can be stored for centuries without degradation. Fourth, gold is fungible: An ounce of gold in Asia is worth the same as an ounce of gold in Europe. These four qualities are shared by most modern currencies. Gold's fifth quality is more distinct, however, as well as more relevant to its role as an instrument of sound money: scarcity. While people have used beads, seashells, and other commodities as primitive forms of money, those items are fairly easy to acquire and introduce into circulation. While gold's supply does gradually increase as more is extracted from the ground, the rate of extraction relative to the total above-ground supply is low: At current rates, it would take approximately 66 years to double the amount of gold in circulation. In comparison, the supply of U.S. dollars has more than doubled over just the last decade. When the Austrian-influenced designers of bitcoin set out to create a more reliable currency, they tried to replicate all of these qualities. Like gold, bitcoin is divisible, unforgeable, divisible, durable, and fungible. But bitcoin also improves upon gold as a form of sound money in several important ways. First, bitcoin is rarer than gold. Though gold's supply increases slowly, it does increase. The global supply of bitcoin, by contrast, is fixed at 21 million and cannot be feasibly altered. Second, bitcoin is far more portable than gold. Transferring physical gold from one place to another is an onerous process, especially in large quantities. Bitcoin, on the other hand, can be transmitted in any quantity as quickly as an email. Third, bitcoin is more secure than gold. A single bitcoin address carried on a USB thumb drive could theoretically hold as much value as the U.S. Treasury holds in gold bars — without the need for costly militarized facilities like Fort Knox to keep it safe. In fact, if stored using best practices, the cost of securing bitcoin from hackers or assailants is far lower than the cost of securing gold. Fourth, bitcoin is a technology. This means that, as developers identify ways to augment its functionality without compromising its core attributes, they can gradually improve the currency over time. Fifth, and finally, bitcoin cannot be censored. This past year, the Chinese government shut down Hong Kong's pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper not by censoring its content, but by ordering banks not to do business with the publication, thereby preventing Apple Daily from paying its suppliers or employees. Those who claim the same couldn't happen here need only look to the Obama administration's Operation Choke Point, a regulatory attempt to prevent banks from doing business with legitimate entities like gun manufacturers and payday lenders — firms the administration disfavored. In contrast, so long as the transmitting party has access to the internet, no entity can prevent a bitcoin transaction from taking place. This combination of fixed supply, portability, security, improvability, and censorship resistance epitomizes Nakamoto's breakthrough. Hayek, in The Denationalisation of Money, foresaw just such a separation of money and state. "I believe we can do much better than gold ever made possible," he wrote. "Governments cannot do better. Free doubt would." While Hayek and Nakamoto hoped private currencies would directly compete with the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies, bitcoin does not have to replace everyday cash transactions to transform global finance. Few people may pay for their morning coffee with bitcoin, but it is also rare for people to purchase coffee with Treasury bonds or gold bars. Bitcoin is competing not with cash, but with these latter two assets, to become the world's premier long-term store of wealth. The primary problem bitcoin was invented to address — the devaluation of fiat currency through reckless spending and borrowing — is already upon us. If Biden's $3.5 trillion spending plan passes Congress, the national debt will rise further. Someone will have to buy the Treasury bonds to enable that spending. Yet as discussed above, investors are souring on Treasurys. On June 30, 2021, the interest rate for the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond was 1.45%. Even at the Federal Reserve's target inflation rate of 2%, under these conditions, Treasury-bond holders are guaranteed to lose money in inflation-adjusted terms. One critic of the Fed's policies, MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor, compares the value of today's Treasury bonds to a "melting ice cube." Last May, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and a former bitcoin skeptic, said "[p]ersonally, I'd rather have bitcoin than a [Treasury] bond." If hedge funds, banks, and foreign governments continue to decelerate their Treasury purchases, even by a relatively small percentage, the decrease in demand could send U.S. bond prices plummeting. If that happens, the Fed will be faced with the two unpalatable options described earlier: allowing interest rates to rise, or further inflating the money supply. The political pressure to choose the latter would likely be irresistible. But doing so would decrease inflation-adjusted returns on Treasury bonds, driving more investors away from Treasurys and into superior stores of value, such as bitcoin. In turn, decreased market interest in Treasurys would force the Fed to purchase more such bonds to suppress interest rates. AMERICA'S BITCOIN OPPORTUNITY From an American perspective, it would be ideal for U.S. Treasury bonds to remain the world's preferred reserve asset for the foreseeable future. But the tens of trillions of dollars in debt that the United States has accumulated since 1971 — and the tens of trillions to come — has made that outcome unlikely. It is understandably difficult for most of us to imagine a monetary world aside from the one in which we've lived for generations. After all, the U.S. dollar has served as the world's leading reserve currency since 1919, when Britain was forced off the gold standard. There are only a handful of people living who might recall what the world was like before then. Nevertheless, change is coming. Over the next 10 to 20 years, as bitcoin's liquidity increases and the United States becomes less creditworthy, financial institutions and foreign governments alike may replace an increasing portion of their Treasury-bond holdings with bitcoin and other forms of sound money. With asset values reaching bubble proportions and no end to federal spending in sight, it's critical for the United States to begin planning for this possibility now. Unfortunately, the instinct of some federal policymakers will be to do what countries like Argentina have done in similar circumstances: impose capital controls that restrict the ability of Americans to exchange dollars for bitcoin in an attempt to prevent the digital currency from competing with Treasurys. Yet just as Nixon's 1971 closure of the gold window led to a rapid flight from the dollar, imposing restrictions on the exchange of bitcoin for dollars would confirm to the world that the United States no longer believes in the competitiveness of its currency, accelerating the flight from Treasury bonds and undermining America's ability to borrow. A bitcoin crackdown would also be a massive strategic mistake, given that Americans are positioned to benefit enormously from bitcoin-related ventures and decentralized finance more generally. Around 50 million Americans own bitcoin today, and it's likely that Americans and U.S. institutions own a plurality, if not the majority, of the bitcoin in circulation — a sum worth hundreds of billions of dollars. This is one area where China simply cannot compete with the United States, since Bitcoin's open financial architecture is fundamentally incompatible with Beijing's centralized, authoritarian model. In the absence of major entitlement reform, well-intentioned efforts to make Treasury bonds great again are likely doomed. Instead of restricting bitcoin in a desperate attempt to forestall the inevitable, federal policymakers would do well to embrace the role of bitcoin as a geopolitically neutral reserve asset; work to ensure that the United States continues to lead the world in accumulating bitcoin-based wealth, jobs, and innovations; and ensure that Americans can continue to use bitcoin to protect themselves against government-driven inflation. To begin such an initiative, federal regulators should make it easier to operate cryptocurrency-related ventures on American shores. As things stand, too many of these firms are based abroad and closed off to American investors simply because outdated U.S. regulatory agencies — the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Treasury Department, and others — have been unwilling to provide clarity as to the legal standing of digital assets. For example, the SEC has barred Coinbase from paying its customers' interest on their holdings while refusing to specify which laws Coinbase has violated. Similarly, the agency has refused to approve Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) without specifying standards for a valid ETF application. Congress should implement SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce's recommendations for a three-year regulatory grace period for decentralized digital tokens and assign to a new agency the role of regulating digital assets. Second, Congress should clarify poorly worded legislation tied to a recent bipartisan infrastructure bill that would drive many high-value crypto businesses, like bitcoin-mining operations, overseas. Third, the Treasury Department should consider replacing a fraction of its gold holdings — say, 10% — with bitcoin. This move would pose little risk to the department's overall balance sheet, send a positive signal to the innovative blockchain sector, and enable the United States to benefit from bitcoin's growth. If the value of bitcoin continues to appreciate strongly against gold and the U.S. dollar, such a move would help shore up the Treasury and decrease the need for monetary inflation. Finally, when it comes to digital versions of the U.S. dollar, policymakers should follow the advice of Friedrich Hayek, not Xi Jinping. In an effort to increase government control over its monetary system, China is preparing to unveil a blockchain-based digital yuan at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Jerome Powell and other Western central bankers have expressed envy for China's initiative and fret about being left behind. But Americans should strongly oppose the development of a central-bank digital currency (CBDC). Such a currency could wipe out local banks by making traditional savings and checking accounts obsolete. What's more, a CBDC-empowered Fed would accumulate a mountain of precise information about every consumer's financial transactions. Not only would this represent a grave threat to Americans' privacy and economic freedom, it would create a massive target for hackers and equip the government with the kind of censorship powers that would make Operation Choke Point look like child's play. Congress should ensure that the Federal Reserve never has the authority to issue a virtual currency. Instead, it should instruct regulators to integrate private-sector, dollar-pegged "stablecoins" — like Tether and USD Coin — into the framework we use for money-market funds and other cash-like instruments that are ubiquitous in the financial sector. PLANNING FOR THE WORST In the best-case scenario, the rise of bitcoin will motivate the United States to mend its fiscal ways. Much as Congress lowered corporate-tax rates in 2017 to reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to relocate abroad, bitcoin-driven monetary competition could push American policymakers to tackle the unsustainable growth of federal spending. While we can hope for such a scenario, we must plan for a world in which Congress continues to neglect its essential duty as a steward of Americans' wealth. The good news is that the American people are no longer destined to go down with the Fed's sinking ship. In 1971, when Washington debased the value of the dollar, Americans had no real recourse. Today, through bitcoin, they do. Bitcoin enables ordinary Americans to protect their savings from the federal government's mismanagement. It can improve the financial security of those most vulnerable to rising prices, such as hourly wage earners and retirees on fixed incomes. And it can increase the prosperity of younger Americans who will most acutely face the consequences of the country's runaway debt. Bitcoin represents an enormous strategic opportunity for Americans and the United States as a whole. With the right legal infrastructure, the currency and its underlying technology can become the next great driver of American growth. While the 21st-century monetary order will look very different from that of the 20th, bitcoin can help America maintain its economic leadership for decades to come. Tyler Durden Tue, 10/19/2021 - 23:25.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytOct 20th, 2021

3D Gun Legend, "JStark," Famous For "FGC-9," Dead At 28-Years Old

3D Gun Legend, "JStark," Famous For "FGC-9," Dead At 28-Years Old It's come to our attention that German magazine Der Spiegel reports the inventor of the rapid-fire 3D-printed gun that could be entirely printed at home has passed away.  JStark, a 28-year-old German citizen, was one of the biggest innovators of this decade when printing weapons and gun parts at home. He helped create Deterrence Dispensed - an online group that promotes and distributes open-source 3D printed firearms, gun parts, and cartridges. The group strongly supports freedom of speech applied to computer code and blueprints. Der Spiegel says JStark passed away on Friday of an apparent heart attack. Foul play was ruled out, and it "appears" his death was natural without any involvement of a third party. Along with this, the German magazine also reported police raided his home days before.  Another top 3D-printed gun designer that goes by the Twitter handle "CTRLPew," also confirmed the death of Stark.   Its a sad time my friends. I can confirm the news that JStark has passed. The drive he brought to development will be dearly missed. I'll not be offering any details or commentary on his passing or the articles that were written. We are investigating some inconsistencies. — CTRLPew (@CtrlPew) October 9, 2021 JStark's wasn't just an at-home gun hobbyist printing weapons. He promoted firearm ownership, freedom of speech and has been quoted in a documentary as saying, "We want everyone to have the freedom of speech, and the right to bear arms. If that's too politically extreme for you ... f**k yourself."  JStark's 2020 release of the FGC-9. otherwise known as "f**k gun control 9 mm," was made widely available across the internet in late 2020. The publication of the gun's blueprints created an online sensation. It spurred freedom movements of millennial printers who have revolutionized the way firearms are produced and that government cannot and will not control them. FGC-9 emerged as a symbol of life and freedom rather than a deadly weapon as governments worldwide impose tyrannical measures that restrict freedoms in a post-COVID world.  Some in the printing community have pointed out that a young man like himself shouldn't have had a heart attack at 28-years old and reeks of suspension.  Im not gonna lie, a "heart attack" for a young man like him really just... glows. — hanz (@TacticalHanz) October 9, 2021 Keep in mind, governments around the world are freaking out about printed guns (because they're unserialized). The Biden administration has repeatedly warned he will "stop ghost guns." Here's a tribute to JStark.  Tyler Durden Sun, 10/10/2021 - 20:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 10th, 2021

JPMorgan Prime Advises Institutions To Keep Shorting Even As The Bank Hikes Its S&P Price Target

JPMorgan Prime Advises Institutions To Keep Shorting Even As The Bank Hikes Its S&P Price Target One wouldn't know it from reading the "house view" research distributed for broad retail and media consumption, and to a large extent for political motives, but behind the cheerful and bullish facade spun by JPMorgan's equity strategists, the bank is quietly telling a subset of its top clients that they should keep shorting the market. This should come as a surprise - after all just a few weeks ago, with many Wall Street firms scaling back their stock market outlooks for the rest of the year, JPMorgan was adamantly bullish and in a recent note, the bank's chief US equity strategist Dubravko Lakos-Bujas said the bank is confident that strong growth lies ahead despite concerns that the recent downshift in economic and business cycle momentum will weigh on stocks. He also raised his year-end S&P 500 price target to 4,700 from 4,600, representing a 6% gain from current levels, and predicted that the index would hit 5,000 at some time in 2022. So in light of this euphoric optimism, we found it strange that JPM's "positioning intelligence" team, a group which operates under the umbrella of the bank's Prime Brokerage team which in turn directly interfaces with institutional investor clients and provides them with ideas and insights from "top-ranked analysts, to high-touch sales and trading services, to world-class algorithmic and electronic trading capabilities" is far less enthused about the market's near-term perspective. In fact, in its latest note, the team of JPM wonder traders whose views rarely if ever make it to the broader public is advising clients on "5 Reasons Why Shorts Can Continue to Work in the Medium Term." Seems a bit strange to pitch shorts when your chief strategist sees stocks surging over 300 points in under three months? Or perhaps, JPM is playing both sides of the trade: getting its retail clients and less privileged institutions to keep buying, helping a handful of select top accounts to short into a rising tide. Then again, JPMorgan would never do something that duplicitous, would it? Rhetorical questions aside, here is the thesis presented by the JPM prime folks; needless to say this would never make its way into a bullish "house view" research report: During the recent drawdown, one element that’s helped HF performance is that shorts have generally worked. When compared to what we saw early this year, this is a welcome development and potentially a sign that HFs relative returns could appear better if the markets were to continue to correct. However, with the recent declines, the US High Short Interest stocks (JPTASHTE basket) are back to the mid-May lows in absolute terms and are back to relative lows on a YTD basis…  So a key question as we approach year-end could be will these rip higher once again? In general, we think shorts are not set up for a sharp reversal higher (i.e. they can continue to work), unless we see a very strong “risk on” market come back into vogue. Digging deeper into this argument, and before getting into the main reasons for why JPM Prime thinks shorts can continue to perform better relative to the market going forward, it’s worth taking a quick step back to look at what’s happened this year on the short side. First, when we look at short “alpha” (i.e. the performance of shorts relative to the market), it suggests that shorts rallied much faster than the market and faster than longs at the start of this year, particularly among Equity L/S funds (left chart). Everyone remembers the reason: the hedge fund inspired squeeze of "meme stonks" by millions of retail investors, who made hedge fund like Senvest which was long Gamestop well ahead of the short squeeze frenzy and which leaked its GME squeeze thesis to the reddit message boards, the best performing hedge fund of the year. And yet WallStreetBets still thinks it is somehow "socking" it to the billionaire hedge funds, little do they know that they were merely pawns in a far bigger game which made one of said hedge funds, the one that precipitated the squeeze, fabulously wealthy as we explained in "The Curious Case Of The Hedge Fund That Made $700 Million On GameStop." But we digress. Again in late May to early June, we saw another period of fairly strong outperformance (i.e. negative alpha). Both of these periods were tied to greater activity among the retail community, especially among so-called “meme” stocks, with the timing coinciding with Joe Biden's stimmies hitting bank accounts. However, and this did surprise us, JPM notes that since the peaks in Feb/Mar of this year, shorts have been underperforming the broader market and are actually underperforming on a YTD basis. Second, looking at short activity (i.e. short additions vs. covering), we had seen sharp covering in 4Q20 as markets rallied into year-end and this persisted into Jan of this year, but the trend since then has been mostly one of shorts being added back. That said, the short additions on a cumulative basis still lag the long additions by a wide margin on a YTD, 2-year, or 4-year basis. Third, High Short Interest stocks (e.g. the “tip of the spear”) clearly rallied very sharply — both in absolute and relative terms — in both Jan and late May. However, with the recent declines, these stocks are back to the mid-May lows in absolute terms and are back to relative lows on a YTD basis…so a key question according to JPM prime - again, these are the guys that institutions listen to, not the generic tripe distributed by "chief equity strategists" which is just fodder for CNBC talking heads, as we approach year-end is will these rip higher once again? Below we get into some of the multiple reasons why JPM Prime thinks it’s less likely that we experience another Jan or late May “squeeze” - for what it's worth we disagree completely and are confident that accumulating some of the most shorted names will soon pay off in droves, more on that in a subsequent post - however, one key factor (pun intended) that JPM wanted to emphasize up front is that it seems far less likely that “risky” factors will drive shorts higher going forward. Thus, this suggests that the worst for High SI stocks (and the short book more generally) is likely behind us, given the regime backdrop could remain more favorable going forward. Put simply, a rally in “risky” factors drove a lot of the outperformance of High SI stocks from the Covid lows to this past Feb.  Importantly, the magnitude and duration of the factor moves is already in line with what we saw coming out of the low in the early 2000s and the 2009 low. Thus, JPM's crack in house traders believe that "there’s a much lower likelihood that we get a repeat of what we saw from last March to mid-Feb of this year." And again, we believe JPM is dead wrong... again. With that in mind, here is what JPMorgan really thinks: 5 reasons why shorts can continue to work in the medium term: ETFs still make up relatively high % of the short book; thus, there’s room for a continued shift back to single-names Short Leverage is still low; it’s at a 1-year low for the All Strategies composite and only the 24th %-tile since 2017 Lack of evidence that HFs are strongly pressing shorts in High SI stocks; there has been some increase recently, which may lead to some near term risk of a bounce higher due to covering, but this is quite different from the build-up into mid-May Distribution of shorts suggests fewer extreme names; there are still many fewer stocks that have SI/float at elevated levels (e.g. 0 stocks in the Russell 3000 with SI/float > 50% vs. 10 of these at the start of the year), Factors have mattered a lot, but they shouldn’t nearly as much going forward; from a regime perspective, “risky” factors – i.e. high trading activity, high vol, high earnings variability, high leverage – tend to outperform over the 12-18 months from a market low. Given the move we saw from the COVID lows was similar in both magnitude and duration to what we saw post other major market lows, it suggests that the risk of a persistent outperformance on the short side is less likely to occur We drill down into these starting at the top: 1. ETFs as % of Short Book in N. America – Still Elevated Among Equity L/S funds, the % of shorts in ETFs is down from the highs earlier this year (17-18% recently vs. high of 19% at end of Jan 2021). That said, the recent level is still elevated on a longer lookback and well above the ~14% it was pre-COVID and early 2021. Among non-ELS funds, ETF shorts have been trending lower to 10-11% of the book, from a high of 12% in 1Q21. However, the level is still higher than it was in early Jan 2021 or early 2020. 2. Short Leverage – Still Low Among All Strategies, short leverage (i.e. short exposure as a % of equity) remains near ~1yr lows and is only at the 24th %-tile since 2017. Among ELS funds, it has been trending higher lately, but is still well below pre-COVID levels — it’s at the 52nd %-tile. One thing to note is that short leverage changes due to multiple factors including the relative performance of shorts, how it relates to HF performance (i.e. equity changes), and also includes derivative exposures. Thus, some of the decline among All Strategies is likely due to a) shorts performing better, b) performance holding up reasonably well lately, and c) some derivative exposures declining after quadruple witching in Sep. This is why it appears to be at odds with the recent flows that show a continuation of shorts being actively added. 3. High SI Stock Flows vs. Performance – Not pressing High SI Shorts High SI stocks saw material outperformance at the start of 2021 amidst retail squeeze behavior and very large covering. In Mar to mid-May, we saw HFs re-engage and add shorts among these stocks as they underperformed, but ultimately this was reversed again as the names squeezed in 2H May into early June. More recently, JPM has seen relatively less shorting of the High SI stocks despite their relative performance dropping back to mid-May lows. On a related point, JPM notes that since the flows are for the stocks that already have High SI, i.e. these stocks were likely shorted prior to getting into the basket, it’s not too unusual to see a lack of further short adds, but the recent flows also suggest that there’s not a strong pressing into these names. 4. Distribution of shorts suggests fewer extreme names In Jan 2021, the large covering of High Short Interest names caused a material reduction in the # of stocks in the Russell 3000 that had very high SI. In particular, the number of stocks with >50% SI/float went from 10 to 1, and was down from 19 at the end of 2019. However, the “belly” of the distribution has been rising as the number of stocks with 3-10% SI/float has been rising in the past few quarters. Given there are still relatively fewer stocks with 15%+ SI/float, the risk of a short squeeze having much broader market impacts seems relatively low. This is exemplified by the fact that in recent months, retail still seems to occasionally cause squeezes in one-off names, but a) they  often come back down and b) there haven’t been broader impacts as the High SI stocks have generally underperformed the market. 4. Distribution of shorts suggests fewer extreme names According to JPM, in Jan 2021, the large covering of High Short Interest names caused a material reduction in the # of stocks in the Russell 3000 that had very high SI. In particular, the number of stocks with >50% SI/float went from 10 to 1, and was down from 19 at the end of 2019. However, the “belly” of the distribution has been rising as the number of stocks with 3-10% SI/float has been rising in the past few quarters. As such the bank believes Given there are still relatively fewer stocks with 15%+ SI/float, the risk of a short squeeze having much broader market impacts seems relatively low. This is exemplified by the fact that in recent months, retail still seems to occasionally cause squeezes in one-off names, but a) they often come back down and b) there haven’t been broader impacts as the High SI stocks have generally underperformed the market. Again, we disagree with JPM here, and remain confident it's just a matter of time before hedge funds - not retail - orchestrate the next squeeze wave. 5. Factor Matters (or to put it more clearly, Factors HAVE Mattered a lot, but they shouldn’t nearly as much going forward) The performance of High SI stocks broadly correlates with the broader short book JPM Prime sees (although it generally hasn’t performed as well). However, understanding what caused the massive outperformance from the March 2020 lows to mid-Feb 2021 can help understand what’s likely going forward. So what’s the main takeaway? From a factor standpoint, the High SI stocks’ relative returns tend to be very positively correlated to a number of “risky” factors – i.e. stocks with high trading activity, high vol, high earnings variability, high leverage – and negatively correlated to stocks with lower risk – i.e. large caps, highly profitable stocks. Put simply, HFs are often shorting lower quality, highly volatile (and liquid), smaller cap stocks. When JPM takes the average return across these factors, it sees a very strong relationship to the relative returns of the High SI stocks. Looking at the chart since the start of 2020 (right chart below), the average factor driver line has been extremely correlated to the High SI stocks relative returns, except for Jan 2021 and then late May 2021, arguably as large HF covering drove these stocks to diverge from the factor drivers for a period of time. So what is JPM's the view going forward, and why does it differ so much from the "house view"? As the Prime folks explain, the magnitude and duration of the factor moves, which have tended to drive the High SI stocks to outperform post a market low, are already in line with what we saw coming out of the low in the early 2000s and the 2009 low. Thus, the bank believes that there’s a much lower likelihood that we get a repeat of what we saw from last March to mid-Feb of this year. For those curious about more details, the charts below on the left show the relative returns of the High SI stocks since 2014 against the various factors that seem to influence them. The right charts show these various factors vs. the SPX since 2000. Finally, JPM takes a brief look at some other questions on this topic. First, how does retail’s role figure into this? Here the House of Morgan is confident that there is less potential for retail to drive broader risk propagation due to 1) more awareness among HFs of what retail is trading, 2) less concentrated shorts (see prior reasons 3 & 4 in particular), 3) retail trading shifting more towards ETFs lately. Second, how does this look in other regions? Short performance has generally been less extreme in other regions, compared to what we saw in the US in 2H20 to early 2021. While there was some outperformance of top shorts in Europe in 4Q20 to Jan 2021, the volatility of the relative returns has generally been much lower. Additionally, in Japan and China there has not been as strong a move in the last year towards shorts outperforming. Finally, where does JPM see shorts relatively low or high vs. history? On a global basis, it’s mostly Defensive sectors that appear to have relatively low short exposure vs. history (e.g. FBT, Utilities, Food Retail, Telcos, Household & Pers. Products). On the flip side, a number of Cyclicals and Financials generally have higher short exposure vs. history. And while we thank JPM's elite trading forces for this stern defense of institutional shorting, we wonder just how all of this jives with the bank's overarching bullishness which has maintained JPM's equity strategists such as Lakos-Bujas and Kolanovic at or near the top of the highest S&P price targets. As for who will be right in their "medium-term" outlook on the market, whether it is the bullish JPMorgan urging smaller retail investors and less important institutions to buy or the bearish JPMorgan telling its high margin prime brokerage clients to press their shorts here, we eagerly look forward to getting the answer over the next few weeks. Tyler Durden Sun, 10/10/2021 - 07:35.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 10th, 2021