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Category: topSource: bizjournalsFeb 12th, 2024

Cytokinetics, Incorporated (NASDAQ:CYTK) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Cytokinetics, Incorporated (NASDAQ:CYTK) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 27, 2024 Cytokinetics, Incorporated misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-1.38 EPS, expectations were $-1.03. Cytokinetics, Incorporated isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Good afternoon. And welcome ladies […] Cytokinetics, Incorporated (NASDAQ:CYTK) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 27, 2024 Cytokinetics, Incorporated misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-1.38 EPS, expectations were $-1.03. Cytokinetics, Incorporated isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Good afternoon. And welcome ladies and gentlemen to Cytokinetics Fourth Quarter 2023 Conference Call [Operator Instructions]. I will now turn the call over to Diane Weiser, Cytokinetics, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communication and Investor Relations. Please go ahead. Diane Weiser: Good afternoon. And thanks for joining us on the call today. Robert Blum, President and Chief Executive Officer, will begin with an overview of the quarter and recent developments; Fady Malik, EVP of R&D, will provide updates related to aficamten focused to SEQUOIA-HCM and FOREST-HCM; Stuart Kupfer, SVP and Chief Medical Officer, will provide additional updates for aficamten relating to SEQUOIA-HCM and MAPLE-HCM, and will also discuss CK-586 and CK-136; Andrew Callos, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, will discuss commercial readiness activities for aficamten; Robert Wong, VP and Chief Accounting Officer, will provide a financial overview of the past quarter; and finally, Robert Blum, will provide discuss our 2024 financial guidance and corporate development strategies before closing the call by reviewing expected key milestones for the year. Please note that portions of the following discussion, including our responses to questions, contain statements that relate to future events and performance rather than historical facts and constitute forward-looking statements. Our actual results might differ materially from those projected in these forward-looking statements. Additional information concerning factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those in these forward-looking statements is contained in our SEC filings, including our current report regarding our fourth quarter 2023 financial results filed on Form 8-K that was furnished to the SEC today. We undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statements after this call. And now, I will turn the call over to Robert. Robert Blum: Thank you, Diane. And thanks for joining us on the call today. The fourth quarter of 2023 represented a transformational inflection point for our company. As we turned the card on SEQUOIA-HCM, our Phase 3 clinical trial of aficamten for the potential treatment of patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM. The results exceeded our already high expectations and we began 2024 firing on all cylinders with renewed commitments to preparing for regulatory interactions and submissions with urgency, executing on the broad clinical development program following behind SEQUOIA-HCM, as well as activating the next phase of commercial readiness activities. On today’s call, Fady will discuss our plans for presentation and publication of primary and other results of SEQUOIA-HCM, which will further elaborate on the efficacy and safety of our next in class cardiac myosin inhibitor. And as well, we’re how we’re moving swiftly to regulatory submissions across the globe. And then Andrew will comment on how we’re prudently planning for differentiated commercial positioning for our next in class opportunity. As important as SEQUOIA-HCM is to our path to commercialization, there’s much more in our pipeline that we believe will meaningfully unlock shareholder value as the company continues to mature. Stuart will provide an update on the progress of MAPLE-HCM and the ACACIA-HCM, the additional Phase 3 clinical trials of aficamten, which will provide an on-ramp to potentially expanding the utility of cardiac myosin inhibitors as a first line treatment for obstructive HCM, as well as potentially provide a new treatment option for the growing number of patients with non-obstructive HCM. As you will hear, there’s been an increased enthusiasm and activity surrounding these trials on the heels of the positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM. However, much still remains ahead of us to bring aficamten to patients, but I’m confident in our ability to execute on our ambitious strategies. As you’ll hear in more detail, we ended 2023 with a strong balance sheet thanks to reduced spending during the year. In the last quarter and earlier this year, we also added to our cash balance with an infusion of capital from our aftermarket or ATM equity vehicle. We’re pleased to be reporting our financial guidance today with approximately two years of cash runway, when accounting for both our cash on hand and cash available to us and despite projecting an increase in our expected operating expenses in 2024. Recently, we announced the retirement of Ching Jaw from his position as CFO in order to attend to his personal health. Ching’s departure is unrelated to our business prospects and on mutually good terms with the company. On behalf of our senior leadership team, we support his decision for his well being and we express our gratitude for as many contributions to our company. Ching built a strong team that many of you may know, including Robert Wong, VP and Chief Accounting Officer, as well as Matt Yang, VP of Corporate Finance and FP&A. Together with the teams they have assembled, we’re confident that Ching’s departure will have minimal impact to day-to-day financial operations. Libby Schnieders, our SVP of Business Development, who has served our company for well over 20 years, continues to lead business development, so we do not foresee any impact on that front. Furthermore, in anticipation of Ching having to attend to his health, in the fourth quarter of 2023, we brought on a seasoned consultant who previously served as CFO of a public biopharma company and who has extensive experience in financial planning and structured finance transactions. They will continue to work with me through this transition as we’ve already initiated a national search for Ching’s replacement, so we expect we’ll bring international commercial and capital allocation experience compatible with maturing operations. Cytokinetics is looking ahead to a bright future in 2024 and also beyond. And as we turn the page towards potential commercialization of the first medicine arising from our pioneering and leading muscle biology research with more to come as we continue to prosecute our R&D programs. We’re fortunate to be where we are today. But it is not by coincidence, it’s a result of meticulous planning, risk mitigation, strategic foresight, perseverance and dedication. We’re building a specialty cardiology company, leading with aficamten as the foundation and we have the pipeline, the passion and the people to make happen that vision as we believe we’ll further reward shareholders. With that, I’ll turn the call over to Fady please. Fady Malik: Thanks, Robert. During the quarter, we shared top line results from SEQUOIA-HCM, which as Robert said, exceeded our expectations. It was a truly extraordinary milestone reflective of an incredible commitment from so many, including our investigators, study staff, patients and of course, our teams at Cytokinetics. The results of SEQUOIA-HCM showed that treatment with aficamten significantly improved exercise capacity compared to placebo, increasing peak oxygen uptake or peak VO2, measured by cardiopulmonary exercise testing, by a least square mean difference of 1.74 milliliters per kilogram per minute with a p-value of 0.000002. The treatment effect with aficamten was consistent across all pre-specified subgroups, reflective of patient baseline characteristics and treatment strategies, including patients receiving or not receiving background beta blocker therapy. Statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements with a p-value of less than 0.0001 were observed across all 10 pre-specified secondary endpoints, including the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire clinical summary score at weeks 12 and 24, the proportion of patients with a greater than or equal to one class improvement in New York Heart Association functional class at weeks 12 and 24, the change in provoked left ventricular outflow track gradient and proportion of patients whose gradient fell below 30 millimeters of mercury at weeks 12 and 24, as well as exercise workload and guideline eligibility for septal reduction therapy. These positive results reflect rapid and sustained improvements of symptoms, functional capacity and heart failure status. Aficamten was well tolerated with an adverse event profile comparable to placebo. Treatment emergent serious adverse events occurred in eight patients or 5.6% on aficamten and 13 patients or 9.3% on placebo. Core echocardiographic left ventricular ejection fraction or LVEF was observed to be less than 50% in five patients or 3.5% on aficamten compared to one patient or 0.7% on placebo. Importantly, there were no instances of worsening heart failure or treatment interruptions due to low LVEF. While these top line results provide a relatively comprehensive look at the overall effect of treatment with aficamten, we have an extensive plan to share the primary results and additional analyses in more detail in a series of published manuscripts and presentations. We hope the first of these to occur at heart failure 2024, the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology, taking place in May in Lisbon. Along with the primary results from SEQUOIA-HCM, over the coming months, we plan to present and publish key data that may lend support to the differentiated profile of aficamten. One important analyses is to examine the clinical effectiveness of aficamten in patients across several endpoints in aggregate, examining the breadth of improvements patients experienced in SEQUOIA-HCM. In another, we plan to elaborate on the dosing and safety experience from SEQUOIA-HCM, which we believe informs the potential safety and monitoring needed in the clinical environment. In addition to these important analyses from SEQUOIA-HCM, we have a robust scientific communications plan over the coming year that includes manuscripts and congress presentations that will further elaborate on the effect of aficamten and other metrics of exercise capacity, cardiac remodeling from the CMR substudy, echocardiographic measures of systolic and diastolic function and cardiac structure, symptoms and quality of life and cardiac biomarkers. We look forward to sharing these analyses with you in 2024 starting in Q2. I’d like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts by our steering committee and internal teams to support and execute on this ambitious plan of publications and presentations. Shifting over to FOREST-HCM, the Open Label Extension Clinical Trial of aficamten, we can report that over 90% of the patients eligible from REDWOOD-HCM and SEQUOIA-HCM have enrolled in FOREST-HCM, representing nearly 300 patients that will contribute to our understanding of the effects of long term treatment with aficamten. Please note that this does not include patients from the China cohort of SEQUOIA-HCM. These patients will eventually make their way into a China specific open label extension clinical trial. In April, at the American College of Cardiology annual Scientific Sessions, we will present the efficacy and safety of aficamten in the first cohort of patients with symptomatic obstructive HCM that have completed one year of follow up in FOREST-HCM. Last month, we shared data at CMR 2024 from the cardiac magnetic resonance, or CMR substudy of FOREST-HCM. The results showed the treatment with aficamten for 48 weeks resulted in cardiac structural remodeling, improvements in cardiac function and stabilization of myocardial fibrosis, demonstrating that aficamten has potential disease modifying effects and ability to improve the architecture of the heart in patients with obstructive HCM. While this analysis is small, only 16 patients were eligible at the time of this data cut. We plan to expand on these data in the future as more patients reached a one year mark and beyond. Regarding regulatory engagements, during the month of February, we held two meetings with FDA ahead of our expected submission of an NDA in the third quarter of this year. A first meeting to review the results of SEQUOIA-HCM and a second pre NDA meeting, providing an opportunity to align on the content and format of the NDA. We’re pleased with the FDA’s feedback, supporting the sufficiency of our proposed NDA submission package and the receptivity to a rolling submission plan. We believe that the positive readout for SEQUOIA-HCM, along with the favorable pharmacologic and DDI profile of aficamten continue to support the opportunity to achieve differentiated labeling and risk mitigation. We look forward to providing future updates regarding our interactions with FDA this year. As to regulatory planning and interactions in Europe, we’re similarly ready for submission of our marketing application in the fourth quarter of this year, and plan to meet with EMA in Q2 to inform preparations. Similarly, we’re coordinating with our partners, JI XING in China to collaboratively support JI XING’s plan to submit an NDA. Overall, our proactive planning in 2023 has enabled us to capitalize on the positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM and to proceed with urgency towards global regulatory submissions, as well as to consider expedited pathways consistent with our aggressive planning scenarios. Alongside all of this, from a medical affairs perspective, during the quarter, our therapeutic medical science liaisons continued profiling of HCM treatment programs, while our managed healthcare medical science liaisons began development of our payor clinical value proposition. We also continued our support of medical education activities at medical conferences. As Robert said, the strength of the specialty cardiology company we are building is anchored in the power of our research engine and development pipeline with aficamten if approved, leading the way. The top line results from SEQUOIA-HCM have been well received by the HCM community of physicians and patient advocates who foresee that they represent what can be a meaningful advance in care. We’re grateful for their support and we look forward to continuing to engage with them as we work to establish aficamten as a potential next in class treatment option for patients with HCM. I’ll hand it over to Stuart to elaborate more on additional clinical trials progress we’re making with aficamten and provide an update on our earlier stage clinical development pipeline. Stuart Kupfer: Thank you, Fady. In addition to sharing positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM, during the fourth quarter, we continued enrollment and are building momentum with our two ongoing Phase 3 clinical trials of aficamten, MAPLE- HCM and ACACIA-HCM. We’re pleased to see that screening and enrollment is accelerating and have been catalyzed by the announcement of results from SEQUOIA-HCM. In MAPLE- HCM, which is evaluating the potential superiority in aficamten as monotherapy compared to metoprolol as monotherapy in patients with obstructive HCM, nearly all US sites are now activated and we’ve now activated sites in the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Israel. We expect to complete enrollment in MAPLE-HCM in the third quarter of this year, which would enable results from MAPLE-HCM to be available in 2025 concurrent with when we hope to be commercially launching in aficamten. We believe that if MAPLE-HCM were to read out positively, it would provide support for the positioning of aficamten as a first line therapy for patients with obstructive HCM. For developing aficamten to capitalize on its next in class potential and MAPLE-HCM factors importantly into that strategy. ACACIA-HCM, the pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial of aficamten in patients with symptomatic non-obstructive HCM is currently focused on study startup. But we have the necessary IRB approvals in the US and the EU, we’re progressing our clinical trial application through the new harmonized procedure. We plan to hold investigator meetings for North America, South America, and Europe in the second quarter, and look forward to continuing enrollment in this trial through 2024 with the objective to complete enrollment in 2025. ACACIA-HCM represents an important opportunity for aficamten and tests a key therapeutic hypothesis for expanding the evidence to support cardiac myosin inhibition in a growing population of patients underserved by current treatment options. We believe that the results from SEQUOIA-HCM and REDWOOD-HCM faithfully add confidence to what we can expect from ACACIA-HCM, and our optimism is shared by clinical investigators. Both clinical trials have the potential to expand the utilization of aficamten and the HCM patient population and impact treatment guidelines. At the same time, we’re pleased with the progress of our clinical trials of aficamten. In the past quarter, we also advanced our earlier stage development pipeline, notably with CK-586, our cardiac myosin inhibitor and development for the potential treatment of a subgroup of patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction or HFpEF. Having completed analyses of a single ascending dose data, we proceeded to the multiple ascending dose portion of the study. We expect to complete the Phase 1 study in this quarter and subsequently share data in the second quarter of this year with plans to begin a Phase 2 clinical trial in the second half of the year. We believe that the positive Phase 2 data we generated for aficamten in patients with non-obstructive HCM support the development of CK-586 in a population of patients with HFpEF. This condition has many parallels to non-obstructive HCM. Currently in the United States, there are about 3.6 million people with HFpEF, which is expected to increase to 4.8 million by 2033. Approximately 30% to 40% of these patients present with characteristics that may make their condition amenable to cardiac myosin inhibition. Even with SGLT-2 inhibitors, the first evidence based therapies demonstrating some benefit in those of HEpEF, there is still a high residual risk of cardiovascular events and a clear need for additional effective therapies. Additionally, during the past quarter for CK-136, our cardiac troponin activator, we continued analyses of the single and multiple ascending dose cohorts in the Phase 1 study with healthy participants and expect to complete the study in the second quarter of this year. In 2024, we plan to share more updates from our early stage pipeline and our research. As more programs mature from our labs into the clinic we will report on how in recent years we’ve extended our focus and muscle biology beyond muscle contractility to also include other programs entering development, representing potential innovations in muscle metabolism and energetics. While aficamten represents the most important near term value driver for our company, our early stage pipeline and emerging programs from ongoing research demonstrate productivity against our vision 2025. The long term goal is to cement our leadership and muscle biology adjacent to exciting developments and treatments for cardiometabolic syndromes. We’ll look forward to sharing more progress soon. With that, I’ll turn the call over to Andrew. Andrew Callos: Thanks, Stuart. During the quarter, ahead of our announcing the results for SEQUOIA-HCM, we continued commercial readiness activities for aficamten. Throughout 2023, our focus was on learning the first phase in our go-to-market approach. We commissioned multiple market research studies seeking insights from nearly 850 healthcare professionals and more than 160 patients with obstructive HCM, which revealed that the HCM patient journey can be complex and challenging. Furthermore, HCM can also negatively impact patient’s overall mental health, social engagement, and other aspects of everyday life. We also tested a range of product profiles in market research prior to our receipt of the results from SEQUOIA-HCM. The tested attributes most closely resembling the actual SEQUOIA-HCM results revealed that healthcare professionals would perceive the results from SEQUOIA-HCM favorably and would drive use of aficamten if approved across a broad range of obstructive HCM patients. These learnings are informing the strategic decisions we’re making around the target product profile, positioning potential customer profiles in our patient services hub. Access, in particular, is a key focus for us aligned with our company values of keeping patients at the forefront of all we do, we’re designing a comprehensive patient support program to facilitate and support patients in transitioning to treatment with aficamten inclusive of patient education resources and reimbursement support and affordability programs for eligible patients. In the fourth quarter of 2023, we held initial conversations with specialty pharmacies and patient and service hub providers to support our build of a differentiated patient services hub. Now that we have results from SEQUOIA-HCM this year, we are advancing to the second and third stage phases of our go to market strategy, design and build. This year, we plan to build our patient support services, access strategy, inclusive of distribution model, contracting approach and pricing. Our seasoned account manager team is fully staffed and interacted with every major payor in 2023 to introduce Cytokinetics. This field-based payor account team will continue to further engage in 2024 to share the results from SEQUOIA-HCM and ensure payors understand the clinical meaningfulness of the results. In 2024, we also plan to finalize our product positioning and launch our market development and education campaign, while we develop our branded marketing campaign in support of a potential 2025 promotional launch. As we previously shared, we began building our commercial capabilities in the United States prior to the potential FDA approval and launch of omecamtiv mecarbil. After receiving the CRL from the FDA, we maintained the infrastructure that had been built and further refined the team and activities to prepare for what now will be our first commercial launch with aficamten. Today, we have on board the majority of US based headquarter personnel that we expect to need, including marketing, field sales leadership, and individuals leading insight generation, market analysis, commercial strategy, systems and operations. We expect to expand the team in 2025 with HCP customer facing positions gated appropriately alongside the regulatory process for aficamten. In Europe, having hired key leadership positions last year, including our Head of Europe and Head of Market Access, we plan to only modestly expand our EU staff in 2024 while maintain a disciplined eye to spending and gating, [indiscernible] [costs of] regulatory submissions and feedback from health technology assessments or HTAs. It is encouraging to see favorable benefit assessment from HTAs in both Germany and France related to cardiac myosin inhibitors as a new treatment option for patients with obstructive HCM and we believe this bodes will the future reimbursement of aficamten if approved across major European markets. Overall, I’m very pleased with the foundational commercial readiness work that we’ve completed ahead of sharing our results of SEQUOIA-HCM last year, which sets us up to nimbly advanced into the next phase of our planning in 2024 and can enable us to capitalize on what we believe will be differentiated positioning for aficamten in the treatment of patients with obstructive HCM. And with that, I’ll turn the call over to Robert Wong. Robert Wong: Thanks, Andrew. We ended the fourth quarter with $655.4 million in cash and investments, which included $162.9 million that we raised through after market equity vehicle in the quarter. Following the quarter close, we raised approximately $83 million net through yesterday with our ATM equity vehicle, which is not reflected in our year end balance. Our fourth quarter 2023 R&D expenses increased to $85 million from $75 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, primarily due to spending on our cardiac myosin inhibitor programs. Our fourth quarter 2023 G&A expenses were $44.1 million, down from $54 million in Q4 2022 due primarily to lower outside spending on commercial activities, offset by higher personnel related costs including stock-based compensation. Overall, our net cash burn in 2023 was $414 million relative to what was our initial 2023 guidance of $420 million to $450 million. We believe we proved to be good stewards of shareholder capital by reducing spending ahead of the results of SEQUOIA-HCM at the end of the year, which puts us in a stronger financial position to begin 2024. Now, I’ll hand it over to Robert Blum to review our financial outlook, 2024 guidance and corporate development strategies. Robert Blum: Thank you, Robert. Today, we announced our financial guidance for 2024. The company anticipates revenue will be in the range of $3 million to $5 million, operating expenses will be in the range of $420 million to $450 million and net cash utilization will be approximately $390 million to $420 million. In terms of capital allocation, our priorities are focused on benefiting patients and enriching shareholder value anchored by a prudent spending plan that balances advancing our commercial strategy with investment in our pipeline. Our foremost priority is advancing regulatory submissions for aficamtem in obstructive HCM and ensuring commercial preparedness in key markets like the US and Europe. Secondly, in continuing MAPLE-HCM and ACACIA-HCM, we plan to maximize the therapeutic potential of aficamten. And finally, we remain focused on growing our pipeline inclusive of CK-586 and bolstering our R&D platforms to sustain future innovation. Inclusive of the approximately $83 million net raised in recent weeks through our ATM as well as cash available to us under our loan agreement with Royalty Pharma, our current cash [balance] of 655 million at the end of last year represents approximately two years of forward cash runway based on our financial guidance and projected 2024 operating expenses and net cash utilization. With positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM in hand, we’ve been looking at the arc of capital requirements leading up to potential approvals and the global commercial launch of aficamten, as well as sustaining and growing R&D through profitability. As such, we continue to focus on a multi-pronged approach to accessing capital that enables us to pull several different levers over time. As has been our history, we plan to monetize our R&D progress and preserve shareholder value via partnering, as well as structural finance engineering and other non-dilutive approaches. Our priority remains focused on business development. And you know, we’ve been focused on a Japan deal for aficamten. We’re in active discussions with multiple parties and I’m pleased with how that deal campaign is looking. Moreover, we’re considering partnering CK-586 for the potential treatment of HFpEF, while also preserving key rights for Cytokinetics in both co-development and co-commercialization. We believe that our longstanding leadership in the area of cardiac myosin modulation for the treatment of severe cardiovascular diseases has enabled us to look at partnering in an advantaged way as would benefit shareholders while also preserving important shareholder value in major markets of value for aficamten. And additionally, we may consider restructuring our debt and other novel ways to build on the momentum from SEQUOIA-HCM in structured finance transactions that we believe would augment shareholder value and importantly, would not subtract from it. I’ll remind you that through our transaction with Royalty Pharma, we remain eligible for two additional loan tranches under our development funding agreement. The first tranche of $75 million became available upon our sharing positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM and we remain eligible to draw down for one year following our receipt of the results, which occurred in late December. The second tranche of $100 million will become available to us, were we to choose to draw on it subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions, most notable of which is the acceptance of an NDA submission for aficamten in the United States. As we are now a company valued between $8 billion and $10 billion, we have an ambitious yet practical and realistic plan to increase shareholder value over the next three to five years, to that which would be upwards of $15 billion to $20 billion. How do we get there? By unlocking the value in our pipeline and maximizing our opportunities. It starts with aficamten in North America and Europe based on the results from SEQUOIA-HCM. From there, we hope to increase value as MAPLE-HCM and ACACIA-HCM readout results that now have higher probability of technical success. And next then, we expect CK-586 to advance through proof-of-concept and HFpEF with additional upside coming from our earlier stage pipeline. I also want to take a moment to address recent M&A speculation relating to Cytokinetics. Since sharing the positive results from SEQUOIA-HCM, Cytokinetics has been rumored to be an acquisition target. While we will not and cannot comment on specific speculations, let me please be clear about one thing, we did not initiate nor do we have a sale process ongoing. However, as responsible fiduciaries to our shareholders, I can assure you that we thoroughly evaluate options that are presented. And as you heard me say a moment ago, we continue to advance business development discussions. We’re optimistic about how those discussions are proceeding and we’re committed to building a sustainable specialty cardiology company as starts with executing against our goal of bringing new medicines to patients. We take great care in fulfilling our duty to shareholders by ensuring that we’re doing the right thing to deliver maximum value and controlling that which we can control. We believe that can be best achieved by advancing our innovative science, ensuring operational efficiencies and thoughtfully and prudently managing and deploying capital to maximize shareholder value. We’re beginning 2024 in an advantaged position. We have turned the page to the next chapter of the Cytokinetics story and the work we’re now undertaking will set the stage for our first potential regulatory approvals we hope within the next 18 months. In the second half of this year, we expect to submit regulatory filings in both the United States and Europe for aficamten. You heard from Fady, in Q3, an MDA with FDA and in Q4 an MAA with EMA. We expect to be more precise as timing goes to our Q1 earnings call and especially as it relates on positioning and other aspects contained within the content of those submissions. And we have ambitious goals beyond obstructive HCM, as well as beyond aficamten, including expanding our development pipeline with new compounds arising from our research extending beyond the contractility of muscle to the energetics growth and metabolism of muscle. Each of our programs in muscle biology has been designed to potentially address severely ill and underserved populations in need of new therapies. And our vision of building a specialty cardiology company is now being realized and we’re well positioned for success. With that, I now would like to share our expected 2024 milestones. For aficamten, we expect to present primary results from SEQUOIA-HCM at a medical conference in Q2 2024. We expect to submit an NDA to the FDA in Q3 2024 and an MAA to the EMA in Q4 2024. We expect to complete enrollment in MAPLE-HCM in Q3 2024. We expect to complete enrollment of ACACIA-HCM in 2025, but continue its enrollment in 2024. And we expect to continue advancing go-to-market strategies for aficamten. For omecamtiv mecarbil, we expect the CHMP to issue an opinion regarding the MAA in Q2 2024. For CK-586, we expect to share data from the Phase 1 study in Q2 2024. And finally for CK-136, we expect to complete the phase one study in the second quarter of this year. And operator, with that we can now open up the call please to questions. Operator: [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Mayank Mamtani with B. Riley Securities. Mayank Mamtani: So just quickly on the pre-NDA meeting that occurred, I was just curious how much of the FOREST-HCM data would be part of that submission? I believe by the ESC heart failure congress, you’d probably have about 150 patients to go through the titration phase. Just curious if how much of that is going to be important as part of the pre-NDA meeting and eventually make it into the NDA submission? See also 15 Best Dividend Stocks to Buy According to Warren Buffett and 25 Easiest Countries with Digital Nomad Visas for Remote Work. Q&A Session Follow Cytokinetics Inc (NASDAQ:CYTK) Follow Cytokinetics Inc (NASDAQ:CYTK) or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Robert Blum: So I’ll turn that — call that question rather over to Fady. Fady Malik: So I can’t give you the exact number of patients that will be available. But we also, besides the number of patients who have extended follow up in FOREST, the time of NDA submission, we’ll also have the opportunity to submit an update the day 120 time point, there’s a day 120 safety update, where we can expand the data set. So we fully expect the number of patients with up to a year of follow up to be perfectly adequate for their review. Mayank Mamtani: And a related question just quickly, the ACACIA-HCM, I’m glad you narrowed the timelines there. I was just curious based on everything we know on dosing safety, cardiac remodeling data, just your confidence level for that, what you could report there? Also recognizing that a threshold could be set from the HCM study next — early part of next year? Robert Blum: Well, I think, based on the results that we saw in Phase 2 and the predictability of dosing and the safety profile we saw of aficamten and SEQUOIA, we feel very confident with the outcomes in — potential outcomes in ACACIA. So I think all of them read well on the likelihood of that trial reading out positively and we will continue to conduct it in a way that helps us get to the best answer. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Salim Syed with Mizuho. Salim Syed: Robert, I just wanted to focus on, maybe this is for Fady as well, but on the rolling submission. What exactly is going in, because, I believe it’s the first time you guys are using that terminology, if I’m not mistaken, rolling submission for aficamten. So what exactly is going in first and then what is the piece that you plan to submit later? And then curious also if the rolling submission if that in any way encompasses the potential to submit the MAPLE-HCM data, because you’re going to get that before an approval decision? Robert Blum: So I’ll answer that question. So you’re right, we are using that terminology for the first time and that’s coming out of our recent meetings with FDA. We’re very encouraged by what appears to be a leaning forward and willingness to consider these data sooner. We’re looking at how we might accelerate submission. And in that regard, they were amenable to our recommendation that we do it in a rolling basis. We’re going to be submitting most of the modules earlier. And what’s going to be the long pole in the tent, so to speak, in terms of what will be coming in later, will be some of the CMC data that we’re still in the process of finalizing in light of the fact that there are certain time points we need to collect in order to be able to finalize those submissions. But all this speaks to, we think, a focus forward in connection with a submission that could be started sooner. Keep in mind that the actual filing doesn’t change. That ultimately depends on the final modules as they are then submitted, but it certainly allows the review to begin. As it relates to MAPLE, I know we don’t expect that those data will be contained in this submission. MAPLE won’t read out till next year. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Ashwani Verma with UBS. Unidentified Analyst: [Fatma] on behalf of Ash Verma from UBS. Just a general quick question, in terms of cardiology, in general, just a high level, is portfolio level contracting common? Like would such a practice mean that companies with a broad set of offerings may get favorable like benefit of scale in the long run? Robert Blum: I don’t understand that question. Might you repeat it please? Unidentified Analyst: I’m just trying to understand like in the cardiology space, is portfolio level contracting common, do you think companies that have a broad set of diverse portfolio in cardiology, they have a larger benefit compared to companies that are focused on single assets? Robert Blum: Your question is, are we going to be potentially disadvantaged, because we’ll be launching with a single product relative to payors, I assume, who might have multiple — who might be contracting around multiple products. Is that right? Unidentified Analyst: Yes. Robert Blum: From a payor point of view, no, I don’t believe we’re at a disadvantage. Payors aren’t managing this category. It’s a rare disease, there’s over 120 payors in the US, each payor only has very limited number of patients. It’s not a big budget impact. It’s a high unmet need. There’s one product in the market, a second product. So these usually aren’t payor managed categories from a cardiology point of view. The focus of a subset of cardiologists was what we will focus on those that diagnose and treat HCM as a subset of overall cardiology and highly motivated to treat the disease. So they are going to be more focused on the products, the patients relative to the disease. So by all means, I think we’ll compete fine and it’s not going to be at a disadvantage. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Maya Iskandarani with Barclays. Carter Gould: This is Carter. Maybe for Robert and Fady, the commentary on the REMS sort of referenced SEQUOIA, PK and the DDI profile all of which we’ve known for a while, I guess now. But can you comment if the FDA interactions in any way shifted or reaffirmed your belief in that differentiated label for REMS? Robert Blum: Yes, I’ll just comment very briefly. It’s premature because those conversations will continue, but reaffirming our view that between positioning, labeling, lesser REMS and other things that read on safety and risk mitigation, that we’ll be in a position to have a very constructive fruitful conversation with FDA. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Paul Choi with Goldman Sachs. Paul Choi: My question is with regard to your recent meeting with the FDA. Can you maybe just confirm for us if there were any either preclinical or clinical testing requirements that were specified by the agency and [Indiscernible] are there are any — how much of this needs to be coordinated with EMA requirements ahead of a potential MAA filing in additions to NDA? Robert Blum: We don’t believe there are any other such studies that are required. Hopefully that addresses your question. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Tess Romero with JP Morgan. Adi Jayanthi: I’m Adi on for Tes. So we just wanted to ask, is there any data from SEQUOIA that you are yet to see at this point? Robert Blum: I’ll turn that over to Fady. Fady Malik: We’ve seen the full set of data. I wouldn’t say every analysis you could imagine has been complete that may go on for years, to be honest, as we think of new analyses. But all the pre-specified analyses, for example, the clinical study report, have been completed and reviewed in detail. Robert Blum: You’ll also see this laid out in full glory in the second quarter. We expect multiple presentations, multiple publications. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Yasmeen Rahimi with Piper Sandler. Yasmeen Rahimi: I guess, it’s been now two months since the top line data. Have you had a chance to complete all your REMS preparation by hiring the consultants, reviewing the data on the integrated basis, coming up with a package and kind of laying out sort of the proposal? Like could you maybe give us a color on which of these activities have been completed, what is left to do, how much of the proposal, I guess, is in it’s finishing process? And thank you again for allowing me to ask my question. Robert Blum: I’ll take that one. And we are in the process of doing just what you are asking. I don’t think that’s the kind of thing that we’re going to choose to elaborate on publicly, that’s obviously something that informs competitive positioning. I do believe, to elaborate on Carter’s question, that we’re going to be potentially able to consider how we maybe differentiated and advantaged in ways that could be enabling of aficamten to be accessed by a greater number of physicians for a greater number of patients. And as it relates to how that REMS maybe positioned, situated, what would be the elements of it, that’s something that I think will be the subject of negotiation at the end of the day during the review period of an NDA after it’s on file. So that’s not something I expect we’ll be providing play by play visibility to until such time as we believe that there’s certainty around what that looks like. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jason Butler with JMP Securities. Unidentified Analyst: This is Jose for Jason. You mentioned that the data from FOREST-HCM demonstrate favorable structural remodeling. Could you speak to the potential long term functional benefits of structural remodeling in HCM patients? And as a quick follow up on aficamten, do your discussions with payors give any insights into the potential risk pricing versus the standard of care? Robert Blum: So I’ll ask Fady or Stuart to address the first question. Fady Malik: This is really a really key question that we are anxious to investigate, certainly in the long term, because what we hypothesized is that cardiac myosin inhibition will result in a long term very favorable remodeling and hopefully normalization of cardiac structure and function. And we anticipate that will mediate confer lifelong benefit for patients in terms of symptomatic and functional improvement and we could also hypothesize reduced risk of cardiovascular events. Stuart Kupfer: I might just add that the data we reported in January are really just the first taste of the CMR cohort, which I think is the largest cohort of patients that will undergo serial CMRs at one — at yearly or every other yearly intervals. And so that number, the length of time those data will mature as the years go on and I think give us very good sense of how the cardiac structure changes over time. Robert Blum: From a pricing point of view, we will be sharing SEQUOIA-HCM results with payors, once the SEQUOIA-HCM results are published. There is one product on the market today, obviously, that has a list price. We’ll be in the range of that list price, whether we’re at, slightly above, slightly below, we haven’t finalized where we’ll be in pricing, but we’ll finalize that as we get closer to launch next year. And those are not the kinds of things that one talks about at this point in time. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Joe Pantginis with H.C. Wainwright. Joe Pantginis: So I think my question is more suited for Andrew. I know you guys, from an internal standpoint, don’t want to talk about the competitive profile or what you’re thinking, but curious from your marketing research and talking to physicians and polling, et cetera. The profile data from SEQUOIA, has it led to any data that you can discuss regarding physician’s willingness to switch from Camzyos early on or needing more real world data in order to get educated about the drug, aficamten? Andrew Callos: We haven’t focused on that. We’re completely focused on making sure that patients who are on beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, not on standard of care, not on disease modifying therapy, are activated towards the CMI, educate those physicians on ultimately the label and REMS program associated with aficamten soon to be approved. We’re going to focus on activating and getting patients on therapy. We’re not going to focus on patients that were already on an existing therapy, that’s really up to a physician patient dialog if they choose to go that route. Robert Blum: Underscore for a next in class opportunity, like we believe aficamten represents, it’s incumbent upon us to think about how might this lead to an expansion of the category for the benefit of more patients at the end of the day, and that’s where our focus is. Andrew Callos: And we do think that there’s well over 100,000 patients who will be eligible. Our best guess is that the vast majority of those will still be available for a CMI treatment when we come to market. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jeffrey Hung with Morgan Stanley. Unidentified Analyst: This is Catherine on for Jeff. We just had a quick one, I’m just curious from your conversations or interactions with providers. Have they expressed any enthusiasm about the potential for a less restrictive REMS program or have they indicated whether they feel the data might be supportive of that? Robert Blum: Well, we certainly spoken to providers and they’re optimistic given the safety profile that we’ve shared with them in the SEQUOIA data. But they really, obviously, don’t contribute to the FDA’s evaluation of that question. And we’ll be proposing something based on the findings that we have and the accumulated data that we have. So I would just stay tuned. Operator: Our next question comes from a line of Roanna Ruiz with Leerink Partners. Roanna Ruiz: So I was curious if you could discuss the European market opportunity for aficamten a little bit and if there are any similarities or differences that we should think about versus the US, and possible timeline for ramping up more of a commercial presence in Europe? Robert Blum: From a European point of view, you heard the filing dates, the prevalence in terms of the number of patients is slightly higher just because of the overall population is slightly higher. The price point is lower than the US, probably in the range of 15% to 25%, depending on the country. From an opportunity point of view, once approval is occurred, we will launch in Germany. That allows for launch that approval. Other markets need to submit for reimbursement and pricing negotiation. So in general, Europe will probably be about a year behind in launch in terms of market opportunity outside of Germany. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Srikripa Devarakonda with Truist Securities. Billal Jahangiri: This is Bilal on for Kripa. Is there anything in your data analysis to help predict who would be more susceptible to LVEF drops in patients treated with aficamten, and would that be incorporated into your REMS program? And are you seeing stabilization of LVEF over time? Robert Blum: Well, the answer to the second part of your question is yes. And we’ve looked at those data and we’ve actually presented those data, you’ll see some of that in FOREST where you’ll see EF over time for up to a year looks very stable. I think the question as to susceptibility factors, I think you can kind of predict, obviously, who might have susceptibility. Those are patients that have after you finish titration, their EFs are 50%, 55%. They’re maybe at more risk because they’re closer to the cut off, it’s kind of obvious. And I think when you look at any sort of monitoring strategy that’s employed in medicine you generally look at patients that are closer to certain thresholds, you look at them more carefully than other patients who are more distant from it. So we’ll certainly incorporate that into our thinking. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Jason Zemansky with Bank of America. Unidentified Analyst: This is Cameron [indiscernible] on for Jason. Congrats on the quarter and thanks for taking our question. How important to your commercial outlook is use in the community setting, especially when looking at the front line opportunity? What do you think is necessary to make community prescribers feel more comfortable in administering afi, especially given it’s likely to have a REMS? And then how long do you expect this transition to take? Robert Blum: When you’re describing community, I’m assuming you still mean cardiology, community cardiology. Unidentified Analyst: Yes, exactly. Robert Blum: There’s a little over a 1,000 prescribers now of CMI. When you look at claims data, there’s probably around 10,000 cardiologists who drive diagnosis, about 80% of diagnosis is a smaller subset of general cardiology. Typically, specialty product launches always go from a core outward, that outward will occur over time. I do think the remS probably slows it down a bit as education continues to occur, as patients start to show up in general cardiology already on a CMI, that’ll accelerate, especially in the maintenance phase. So hard to say exactly what that point will be, but it’ll certainly occur over time given the number of patients that need to be treated. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Serge Belanger with Needham. Serge Belanger: I guess my question is regarding the upcoming SEQUOIA presentations. Maybe just talk about the decision to present at the heart failure meeting rather than the upcoming ACC meeting next month? And maybe what kind of additional data and analysis we’ll see in those results? Robert Blum: I will take that one. So we knew there was a risk when we top lined the results of SEQUOIA-HCM, that we may run a foul of a policy that ACC has regarding acceptance of abstracts and what would be otherwise contained in the public domain when they have that abstract to review. We also knew we had a material obligation to shareholders to disclose that which we did choose to disclose. So our abstract for SEQUOIA was not accepted by ACC, we assume for the reasons that it was already disclosed in large detail in a press release. And therefore the next meeting is the HFA meeting a month later in May in Lisbon. So that’s where these data we hope will be presented, that’s still to be determined. But at the same time we expect that it’ll be presented and potentially published concurrently in and around the second quarter. So I hope that answers your question. But we expect, not just will these primary efficacy and safety results be presented and published but more so in connection with other secondary analyses and also some post hoc analyses. We believe we’ve got an aggressive communications plan with regard to presentations and publications, and you’ll see multiple presentations and publications during that period. Operator: Our next question comes from the line of Charles Duncan with Cantor Fitzgerald. Charles Duncan: ACC seems a little shortsighted on that last point. Wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions that you may not be able to answer. And one is kind of simple, and that is, do you anticipate an adcom to be called? And the second is harder to answer, and that is, what compels you more pharmacoeconomic modeling supportive of, say, premium pricing or an anchor to a standard of care? I know you’re not really talking about pricing, but just your perspective. Robert Blum: So as it relates to an adcom, we can’t know that. What we do know is that there was not an adcom for mavacamten, that doesn’t necessarily mean we wouldn’t have an adcom. We’ll be prepared if there is an adcom but that’s not something that one can know at this juncture, and certainly not until a submission is accepted for filing. As it relates to what we’re compelled by in connection with pricing, I’m not going to speak to pricing. But I will say we’re quite compelled by what are the HEOR data sets that are being prepared and analyzed and how they relate to value associated with aficamten, and that alongside of a number of other factors ultimately contribute to what will be determinants of pricing. I think that’s the best I can do for you today. Operator: And I’m showing no further questions at this time. I would now like to turn the conference back to Robert Blum, President and CEO for closing remarks. Robert Blum: Thank you, operator. We covered a lot of ground today, both in our prepared comments and also in our Q&A. so I’ll be brief. I’ll simply say that with SEQUOIAbresults, we do believe we’ve turned an important page onto the next chapter for Cytokinetics. And we’ll remain vigilant with regard to execution and doing right by shareholders. At the same time, we’re humbled by the science but also we’re leaning forward on the opportunity that aficamten presents, not just as it relates to OHCM but also as it opens the door we believe on other value creation. We’ll look forward to keeping shareholders abreast of that progress. And with that operator, we can now conclude the call, please. Operator: This concludes today’s conference call. Thank you for participating. You may now disconnect. Follow Cytokinetics Inc (NASDAQ:CYTK) Follow Cytokinetics Inc (NASDAQ:CYTK) or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 28th, 2024

I ordered salads from Saladworks and Sweetgreen. The winner seemed to use fresher ingredients.

I tried similar Cobb salads at Saladworks and Sweetgreen. Both salads were tasty, but I preferred the Saladworks version. I ordered a Cobb salad from Saladworks and Sweetgreen.Ted BergI ordered a Cobb salad at two popular chains: Saladworks and Sweetgreen.The Avocado Cobb salad at Saladworks seemed to be made with fresh ingredients and tasted great.I enjoyed Sweetgreen's Garden Cobb salad but thought some ingredients lacked flavor. Saladworks and Sweetgreen both offer fresh salads with fast service at similar prices.To see how they compare, I visited both restaurants and ordered Cobb salads from their menus that were as similar as possible.Here's what I thought about both Cobb salads.I started my journey at Saladworks.Saladworks was empty when I visited on a Sunday.Ted BergI started my journey at Saladworks, a US-based salad chain with over 100 locations in 26 states.Before a Sunday afternoon train trip, I stopped at the restaurant near Union Station in Washington, DC.The place was empty — probably because it was a Sunday — and very clean.I ordered the Avocado Cobb salad.The Avocado Cobb salad from Saladworks came with a warm roll and a serving of butter.Ted BergI ordered the Avocado Cobb salad, which consists of iceberg and romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, tomatoes, avocado, a hard-boiled egg, bacon, and blue cheese.The person making my salad asked for my choice of dressing. I opted for Thousand Island because it was suggested on the Saladworks menu.When the salad arrived, it looked promising, with bright colors, plenty of proteins, and fresh lettuce. I appreciated that, unlike at some salad chains, Saladworks' salads are not chopped into tiny bits by default.The salad also came with a warm roll and a serving of butter.I mixed the ingredients together before digging in.The flavor of the Thousand Island dressing was a little too strong for my liking. Ted BergI mixed all the ingredients up as best as I could before digging in.When I took the first bite, I discovered that the Thousand Island dressing was the most prominent flavor, which was probably my fault.Dressing preferences are personal, and the Saladworks menu allows for substitutions. I like Thousand Island on cheeseburgers, but I don't love it on salads.Nonetheless, all the ingredients tasted fresh. The egg was yolky and creamy, the bacon was crunchy, and the chicken was moist. But the flavors of the avocado and, surprisingly, the blue cheese got lost in the dressing.Overall, it was an extremely filling salad and felt a bit like eating a club sandwich.The dinner roll was also a great addition to the meal. It was soft, hearty, and fresh enough that it didn't need the butter.Later that week, I headed to Sweetgreen to try its version of a Cobb salad.Sweetgreen was busy when I visited on a Thursday afternoon.Ted BergLater that same week, I stopped by Sweetgreen, another US-based salad chain with over 200 locations in 20 states.I visited at lunchtime on a Thursday, and unsurprisingly, the Midtown Manhattan location was packed.Since the Garden Cobb salad is billed as "online only," I figured I would save time by ordering on my phone and skipping the line.However, I failed to consider that there'd be a couple of massive, whole-office-type orders ahead of mine in the queue, which meant I had to wait a while to pick up my order.The egg and avocado in Sweetgreen's Garden Cobb salad weren't sliced.I was surprised to find that the egg and avocado weren't chopped up. Ted BergThe Garden Cobb salad comes with chopped romaine lettuce, spring mix, red onions, sweet potatoes, almonds, avocado, a hard-boiled egg, blue cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette.When you order online at Sweetgreen, you need to opt into getting bread, which is free of charge. When I opened my salad, I discovered that Sweetgreen does not cut up the egg or avocado before adding it to a salad. This put a lot of pressure on my plastic fork.The Garden Cobb salad was imperfect but tasty.I found that some of the lettuce looked a bit wilted. Ted BergWhile mixing the salad, I saw that some of the lettuce looked a little wilted and brown around the edges.Still, owing to a few select ingredients, it was a tasty salad. The cherry tomatoes burst with flavor, the blue cheese was present and intense, the almonds added some great crunch, and the dressing was crisp and sweet.The flavor of the sweet potatoes got drowned out, and they didn't do much for the salad besides making it mushier. I also found the avocado to be a little mealy and not flavorful.The bread, I'm sorry to say, was hardly worth the time I spent toggling the little green button to indicate that I wanted it. It was dry and tasted a bit stale, a far cry from the roll at Saladworks.In my opinion, Saladworks had the better Cobb salad.I'll definitely return to Saladworks in the future.Ted BergIn all, Saladworks — despite a day devoid of foot traffic — served what looked to be fresher ingredients.My only quibble with its salad was the dressing, which could easily be easily corrected in the future.If I have to choose between the two of them again, I'll take Saladworks.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytFeb 27th, 2024

China"s master plan to crush Elon Musk

Elon Musk relied on China to fuel Tesla's rise. Now Beijing has its own plan to dominate the future of electric cars and beat the US auto industry. China's EV ascendance has sparked a fight that is forcing American companies to rethink their whole strategy.Getty Images; Alyssa Powell/InsiderWhen Tesla CEO Elon Musk was asked in 2011 about the Chinese electric-car maker BYD — a Warren Buffett-backed company focused on cheaper eclectic vehicles with a name short for Build Your Dreams — he simply laughed it off. "Have you seen their car?" he said with a giggle to Bloomberg TV, adding that BYD didn't "have a great product" and "the technology is not very strong."Musk's juvenile expression of hubris was (and still is) singular, but his belief that China's automakers were not a threat was shared across the US auto industry at the time.A lot can change in 13 years. BYD eclipsed Tesla in 2023 as the best-selling EV maker in the world. One out of every three electric cars sold is made by the company, up from 15% in 2020.Instead of laughing off the competition, Musk is now sounding the alarm on threats from Chinese automakers. On a conference call with investors in January, he said Chinese EVs would "pretty much demolish" other American carmakers if allowed to enter the US. America's biggest car companies have also started to recognize that they must figure out how to make electric cars cheap as soon as possible before China eats their lunch.While the likes of Tesla, GM, and Ford are rolling out a handful of high-priced luxury EV models, Chinese companies already offer a slew of options across a range of price points: starter EVs, beater EVs, ones for getting from point A to point B. And while the American automakers are still trying to win over consumers just in their own country, Beijing is already planning to work around trade barriers and get these cars sold around the world, including in the US."The thought that Chinese-quality engineering and design are not as high quality as the legacy carmakers — that should be put to bed," Tu Le, the founder of Sino Auto Insights, a consultancy focusing on the Chinese EV market, told me. "Right now, the legacies don't have competitive products. There's a vacuum. If China EV Inc. were allowed to enter the US today or next year, the legacies would be gutted."We are witnessing a shock to the global automotive order unseen since Japan barreled into the market in the 1970s. China's EV ascendance has sparked a fight that is forcing companies to stretch the limits of their technological capability and policymakers to reimagine the ideological underpinnings of decades of trade strategy. What's at stake is nothing less than a US industry worth $104 billion, about as much as Angola's national GDP, and all the 3 million jobs that come with it."It's a global game. It has been a global game," Le said. "Motherfuckers just haven't been paying attention."It's safe to say EVs have moved beyond the "early adopter" phase of the technological life cycle and are now working to conquer mainstream car buyers in the US. In 2023, 1 million were sold in the country for the first time, up from 918,500 in 2022. Despite this growth, there have been flashing red signs that American automakers' strategy — making EVs that are just like combustion-engine cars but about $10,000 more expensive — isn't working. Projections for sales growth in the years ahead have come down, and consumers have expressed dissatisfaction with the crop of cars available. To overcome that, carmakers have realized they must lure customers with cheaper models. Earlier this month, Ford CEO Jim Farley said his company was "ruthlessly" focused on developing a more affordable mass-market car. Tesla has been saying a cheaper car is on the way for years, without success (yet).While US carmakers are still figuring out how to please a wide variety of customers, Chinese brands have EVs in about every form imaginable. Want a $10,000 car? Try the BYD Seagull. Want a luxury SUV that can float in water? That's the BYD U8 Premium Edition. Want something more luxurious? Chery, another Chinese carmaker, launched a sexy EV sports car with scissor doors called the iCar, which costs between $21,800 and $58,000. China's ability to expand its suite of offerings comes down to cost. Of course, the US has higher labor costs, but China has also taken great pains to own the EV supply chain. Legacy carmakers are still searching around the world to source the raw materials and parts they need, a project the Chinese government has been working on for over a decade. In fact, many of these companies are selling their products to American firms: Tesla buys batteries from BYD, for example. The thought that Chinese-quality engineering and design are not as high quality as the legacy carmakers — that should be put to bed. That doesn't mean Chinese car companies aren't facing challenges. While the US's strategy (or lack thereof) has left us without enough chargers or the right kind of inventory, China has the opposite problem. It has too many EVs, too many EV makers, and a flagging domestic economy. China EV Inc. needs to expand to new markets. The future of the auto industry hangs on whether it can start to do that before the rest of the world can catch up.The year Musk tittered at the idea of Chinese EVs overtaking Tesla, the country produced only 5,000 electric cars. But Beijing's plan to dominate the global EV space was already well underway. The Chinese Communist Party started out by setting the goal of having EVs make up 25% of all cars sold in China by 2025 and showered money on companies with anything even resembling a plan to contribute to that goal. At the same time, the government set about marshaling all the raw materials Chinese companies would need for EV batteries and drivetrains, creating a domestic ecosystem for suppliers. In this way, its industrial policy for EVs copied past plans to dominate steel and solar panels — flood the market with supply until Chinese manufacturers were the only game in town.But in 2016, the CCP changed course. The grant money for EV research and development petered out, and the government announced that by 2027, it would phase out subsidies that lowered the price of electric cars for consumers. Beijing also instituted policies that opened the door for foreign carmakers to invest more in China's domestic industry and move manufacturing there. The result was pure carnage for China's domestic EV industry. Companies that depended on Beijing for subsidies began to implode, and small players got pushed out of the market. But the chaos ended up strengthening the country's auto sector, ensuring that the most competitive carmakers gained market share. What emerged started to look more like a more mature industry — one with the capacity to manufacture world-class products. Last year, China became the world's largest auto exporter.Xi Jinping's goal is to make China the world's leading manufacturer of electric cars — no matter what it takes.Andy Wong-Pool/Getty ImagesNone of this means the road ahead is any easier for the victors of Beijing's EV wars. Chinese automakers now have to deal with slower domestic demand as the Chinese economy enters a protracted phase of slower growth. At the same time, they know that their growth and success are central to the vision of China's technological landscape that its leader, Xi Jinping, has. Slowing down is not an option. The sector is expected to add capacity for 5 million more cars (most of them EVs) by 2025. Domestic sales are projected to reach only 3.7 million in that same period. Sales for standout startups such as Nio, Li Auto, and XPeng are already coming in lower than expected. BYD alone has built enough capacity to manufacture 4 million cars in China. In 2023, it sold 3 million cars total.All these cars need somewhere to go, and for China EV Inc., the more profitable option is to move them west — first to Europe, where trade barriers are easier to overcome (for now), and eventually to the US. That is why brands such as BYD, Chery, and SAIC are all in discussions with the Mexican government to expand operations there. They need a toehold in North America to even begin conquering the US market. In the meantime, the US government is trying to spend an EV-parts ecosystem into existence, in part by handing out grants from the Energy Department to domestic companies working on battery technologies.No country wants to lose its automotive sector, so in Brussels and Washington, the rise of China's national champions has become a thorny topic between international-trade interlocutors. In public forums, Chinese trade apparatchiks have talked a good game about culling excess capacity to assuage the fears of their counterparts. But at the same time, Beijing has put out an 18-point plan to counter trade restrictions and push Chinese EVs out to the world. None of this is really up for negotiation.To dominate the global market, Chinese automakers have to find ways to slip around the various barriers Western nations have put up. To crack Europe, BYD has announced plans to build a factory in Hungary. Cracking the US is more complex. It has more trade barrier protection from a China Auto Inc. onslaught, but it may not work forever.Take, for instance, America's taxes on Chinese EV imports. The Trump administration smacked a 25% tariff on Chinese EVs, bringing the total levy for their entrance to the US up to 27.5%. To avoid the tariffs, brands like BYD, Chery, and SAIC are all in discussions with the Mexican government to expand operations there."Most likely, the way Chinese companies would be able to participate in the US EV market would be by investing in the Mexican auto-parts sector," Mary Lovely, an economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute, told me.Parts that come from Mexico would be considered North American-made and subjected to lighter restrictions under the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. EVs fully built in China would also not be eligible for a $7,500 tax rebate for consumers created under President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. They would be eligible, though, if they were built in Mexico and met specific battery-sourcing requirements. We want to maintain an auto industry in the US — that's essential for jobs, national security, and for other sectors of the economy. But then the question is how much protection do you need? It's not a free lunch. For some stakeholders, the barriers aren't high enough. US consumers have shown that if the price is low enough, "Made in America" takes a backseat. That's why the United Auto Workers union is already so worried about Chinese cars that it has asked the White House to raise tariffs even more. The Biden administration has said it's seriously considering such a move.This auto industry has become caught up in the existential question that is bedeviling societies all over the world — is globalization worth it? In this case: What do we care about more, preserving the auto industry or giving consumers a variety of cheap EVs to choose from?"We want to maintain an auto industry in the US — that's essential for jobs, national security, and for other sectors of the economy," Lovely said. "But then the question is how much protection do you need, recognizing that it's not a free lunch. This is why people don't like economists. We keep reminding people none of this is free."There is no telling how this will all shake out. Sure, Chinese EV makers are lean and mean, but they've never had to deal with international markets before. Beijing is used to dealing with foreign brands entering its market, not the other way around. For most of China's rise, it has operated in a cooperative world. Now it's operating in a world where its most important trading partners no longer trust Beijing. EVs collect so much data that policymakers have started to frame this debate as one not just about trade but also about national security. That's a harder debate for China to win.In the US, the race to counter China by building a cheaper EV is on. Tesla could pull ahead if delivers on its promise to get its $25,000 car out by 2025. But the company has a history of delayed product launches, an ongoing price war impairing cash flow, and an erratic, X-distracted CEO to deal with. Big Auto is contending with a more muscular United Auto Workers, more skittish shareholders, and management that has done nothing but fall behind. That said, America's legacy automakers have experience fighting for their survival and winning. Whatever happens, what is guaranteed is a transformation of the auto industry.Linette Lopez is a senior correspondent at Business Insider.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 25th, 2024

15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate

In this piece, we will be presenting 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. If you want to skip detailed analysis of Wealth Management Market, you can go directly to 5 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. In a cultural landscape where homeownership is often portrayed as […] In this piece, we will be presenting 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. If you want to skip detailed analysis of Wealth Management Market, you can go directly to 5 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. In a cultural landscape where homeownership is often portrayed as the epitome of financial achievement, the pervasive belief in the “American Dream” can overshadow alternative avenues to building wealth. While investing in real estate is commonly touted as one of the surefire ways to secure a prosperous future, it is imperative to recognize that it may not be the optimal strategy for everyone. This article delves into the intricacies of 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. While property ownership undeniably has its merits, a diverse array of wealth-building options exists beyond the realms of bricks and mortar. The global wealth management market expanded from $1,681.75 billion in 2022 to $1,826.17 billion in 2023, demonstrating a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 8.6%. Furthermore, the wealth management market is expected to grow to $2465.75 billion in 2027 at a CAGR of 7.8%. The global landscape of wealth management is undergoing a transformative shift, driven by an escalating demand for alternative investments. The surge in interest towards private equity, commodities, hedge funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs), and intellectual property is reshaping the dynamics of the wealth management market. Before delving into Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate, it’s crucial to recognize prominent players in the wealth management industry. Three notable companies in this sector are Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS), and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM); understanding their roles and market positions provides valuable insights into the broader landscape of wealth management. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) provides investment banking financial services, catering to diverse financial planning needs of the clients. Also, clients can access various discretionary options for investment management, benefitting from Morgan Stanley’s global resources and expertise. Morgan Stanley had revenue of $54.00 billion in the twelve months ending September 30, 2023, down -2.61% year-over-year. Revenue in the quarter ending September 30, 2023 was $13.27 billion with 2.21% year-over-year growth. Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) Goldman Sachs’ (NYSE: GS) private wealth advisors offer clients exceptional resources, access, and guidance to optimize their wealth and influence. Each advisor tailors Goldman Sachs’ offerings to align with the client’s goals and values. Services encompass investment advice using a proven risk management approach, personalized portfolio construction, and strategic trust and estate planning. Clients can schedule a meeting with Goldman Sachs to explore how these services can help them meet their financial goals. The Goldman Sachs Group had revenue of $45.68 billion in the twelve months ending December 31, 2023, down -3.56% year-over-year. Revenue in the quarter ending December 31, 2023 was $10.74 billion with 1.40% year-over-year growth. In the year 2023, The Goldman Sachs Group had annual revenue of $108.42 billion with 128.90% growth. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) provides personalized financial planning services to help clients achieve financial goals and ensure assets are distributed according to their wishes. Their team assists in implementing strategies aligned with clients’ objectives, including tax-efficient gifting and updating essential documents. Clients can engage with J.P. Morgan (NYSE: JPM) for financial planning strategies reflecting their unique needs. JPMorgan Chase had revenue of $158.10 billion in the twelve months ending December 31, 2023, with 22.85% growth year-over-year. Revenue in the quarter ending December 31, 2023 was $38.57 billion with 11.66% year-over-year growth. Relating this market dynamism to our main article topic on “15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate,” it becomes evident that the expanding wealth management sector offers a diverse range of avenues for individuals to grow their financial portfolios beyond traditional real estate investments. Intriguingly, a 2019 report by Wealth-X sheds light on a fascinating aspect of wealth creation, challenging the conventional notion that substantial riches are primarily inherited. The report, which defines the ultra-wealthy as individuals possessing $30 million or more in assets, unveils a surprising statistic—67.7% of the world’s ultra-wealthy are self-made. This revelation not only debunks the myth that significant wealth is predominantly a product of inheritance but also underscores the potential for individuals to amass fortunes from humble beginnings. What adds another layer of fascination to this narrative is the rapid ascent of the self-made ultra-wealthy. Between the 2019 and 2020 reports, the number of ultra-wealthy individuals surged from 265,490 to 290,720, marking an astonishing nearly 10% increase. This surge indicates a dynamic shift in the landscape of wealth creation, suggesting that achieving the seemingly “impossible” is not only possible but is becoming more commonplace. As we delve into the intricacies of building wealth without relying on real estate, these statistics serve as a compelling backdrop, emphasizing the evolving opportunities for individuals to forge their paths to financial success. It is intriguing to note the varying perspectives on wealth among different generations. While only 41% of Americans believe they will ever achieve wealth, there is a notable divergence between age groups. Younger individuals, with nearly 70% of Gen Z and 54% of millennials expressing optimism about future wealth accumulation, demonstrate a more hopeful outlook. Furthermore, the younger generations exhibit a greater faith in the stock market, with 38% of Gen Z and 37% of millennials viewing it as the best route to wealth, compared to 30% of Gen X and 24% of baby boomers. While real estate has maintained its status as a traditional route to prosperity, this article contends that it is by no means the only viable option. By exploring alternative methods, readers will discover that building wealth and breaking free from the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle can be achieved without necessarily investing in property. The importance of dispelling the notion that saving alone leads to wealth cannot be overstated. With inflation rates exceeding 8%, keeping money dormant in a bank account results in a significant loss of value over time. The argument here is not against savings, but rather an encouragement to embrace a more dynamic and growth-oriented financial strategy. An executive in a luxury office, speaking on a conference call about wealth management investments. Methodology To come up with our list of 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate, we conducted an extensive research, relying on experts’ opinion, running around on various sources, to finalize our list. The sources used are namely, Sarwa, CNBC, Forbes, Finance Buzz, and Business Insider. With his, let us now look now head on to our list of 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders. 15. Switch Jobs Strategic job changes can be a powerful wealth-building move. In 2022, over 22% of workers aged 20+ changed jobs in under a year. Job hoppers beat inflation in 49% of cases, compared to 42% who stayed put. As skills and experience grow, so does market value, allowing for higher salary negotiations. Beyond immediate pay bumps, job hopping fosters long-term wealth by enabling skill development and expanding professional networks. Overall, it’s a way to maximize earning potential and secure financial growth. 14. Invest in your Education Investing in education is a powerful wealth-building strategy. By focusing on personal development and continuous learning, individuals can unlock better job opportunities, promotions, and high-income careers. This doesn’t always require a large financial investment; resources like reading, online courses, and mentorship offer cost-effective paths to growth. Moreover, education fosters resilience, innovation, and financial literacy, empowering individuals to navigate economic challenges and optimize wealth accumulation over time. 13. Do not carry Credit Card Debt Avoiding credit card debt is crucial for wealth-building. Paying off your balances in full each month prevents high-interest charges, saving money and preserving a healthy credit score. This ensures access to better financial products and interest rates when necessary. 12. Have enough Insurance Insurance is a vital component of any budget, safeguarding you from substantial financial losses in unfortunate events. Health insurance is essential to avoid crippling expenses from medical issues. Homeowner and auto insurance protect your property and vehicles. Additionally, term life insurance provides financial security for dependents. While building wealth is important, protecting it from unforeseen circumstances is equally crucial. Proactively insuring your most valuable assets ensures financial stability. As Jack Ma, a renowned Chinese business investor, wisely stated, “Buying insurance cannot change your life but it prevents your life from being changed.” 11. Tackle your Debt Material wealth doesn’t guarantee a positive net worth; having $1 million in the stock market doesn’t offset $1 million in debt, resulting in a net worth of zero. Accumulating substantial debt is a major obstacle to financial prosperity. Paying off debt not only builds wealth but also reduces stress and enhances peace of mind. While some debt can be beneficial if used wisely, minimizing debt and financial burdens is advisable. Ultimately, carrying as little debt as possible is key to financial stability and wealth accumulation, according to most financial advisors. 10. Peer-to-Peer Lending Peer-to-peer lending, or P2P lending, facilitates borrowing money from individuals or businesses via online platforms that connect borrowers with lenders. Lenders earn money through interest charged on the loans they provide. Interest rates on P2P loans vary based on borrower risk, loan term, and other factors, typically exceeding rates offered by traditional savings accounts or investments. P2P lending platforms offer annual returns ranging from 4% to 15%, contingent on the platform and specific loan. 9. Put Your Money in 401(k)s and IRAs An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is a personal retirement account, whereas a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement plan. With a 401(k), a portion of your paycheck is automatically deposited into the account, often with an employer match. Conversely, with an IRA, contributions are made by the individual, with no employer involvement. Personal finance expert, Jean Chatzky, highlighted that the automated nature of 401(k)s, simplifies contributions compared to IRA contributions, which require active decisions. Once contributions begin, the focus should be on long-term growth through strategic investments. 8. Open a Taxable Investment Account Once you’ve maximized contributions to your IRA and 401(k) accounts, the next step is to open a taxable investment account, also known as a brokerage account. Allocate a predetermined amount to this account annually. Experts from Business Insider recommend allocating 25% of your gross income each year to a combination of retirement and brokerage accounts for wealth management clients. This diversified approach ensures that you continue building wealth beyond retirement savings, while maximizing investment opportunities and potential returns. 7. Explore Passive Income Ideas Diversifying your income beyond your main job or business is crucial for building wealth from scratch. Passive income, which doesn’t require constant labor, offers financial freedom beyond typical employment. Warren Buffett’s famous advice, “If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die,” underscores the importance of earning even when you’re not actively working. In today’s digital economy, there are various avenues for passive income, such as affiliate marketing, drop shipping, and selling digital products. 6. Invest in Commodities Commodity trading predates stocks and bonds and now takes place on specialized stock marketplaces known as commodity exchanges. Today, millions of individuals invest in commodities daily. One of the primary benefits of commodity investments is their ability to hedge against inflation. During periods of high inflation, prices of most goods tend to rise, making commodities an attractive investment option. Commodities, like gold or oil, offer diversification and can act as hedges against inflation. These investments are highly liquid, making it easier to buy and sell. Despite their sensitivity to factors like currency exchange rates, interest rates, and market changes, there is a robust global demand for investing in commodity futures due to their potential for profit. Click to continue reading and find out about 5 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate. Suggested Articles: 13 Best Falling Stocks To Buy Right Now 10 Best Performing Bond ETFs in 2023 10 Cheap REITs with Huge Upside Disclosure: None. 15 Tips and Tricks To Build Wealth Without Buying Real Estate is originally published on Insider Monkey......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 22nd, 2024

Walker & Dunlop, Inc. (NYSE:WD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

Walker & Dunlop, Inc. (NYSE:WD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 15, 2024 Walker & Dunlop, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.93 EPS, expectations were $1.05. Walker & Dunlop, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). […] Walker & Dunlop, Inc. (NYSE:WD) Q4 2023 Earnings Call Transcript February 15, 2024 Walker & Dunlop, Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.93 EPS, expectations were $1.05. Walker & Dunlop, Inc. isn’t one of the 30 most popular stocks among hedge funds at the end of the third quarter (see the details here). Operator: Good day and welcome to the Q4 2023 Walker & Dunlop, Inc. Earnings Call. Today’s conference is being recorded. At this time, I would like to turn the conference over to Kelsey Duffey, Senior Vice President of Investor Relations. Please go ahead. Kelsey Duffey: Thank you, Taryn. Good morning everyone. Thank you for joining Walker & Dunlop’s fourth quarter and full year 2023 earnings call. I have with me this morning our Chairman and CEO, Willy Walker and our CFO, Greg Florkowski. This call is being webcast live on our website and a recording will be available later today. Both our earnings press release and website provide details on accessing the archive webcast. This morning we posted our earnings release and presentation to the Investor Relations section of our website, www.walkerdunlop.com. These slides serve as a reference point for some of what Willie and Greg will touch on during the call. Please also note that we will reference the non-GAAP financial metrics, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted core EPS during the course of this call. Please refer to the appendix of the earnings presentation for a reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial metrics. Investors are urged to carefully read the forward-looking statements language in our earnings release. Statements made on this call, which are not historical facts, may be deemed forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements describe our current expectations and actual results may differ materially. Walker & Dunlop is under no obligation to update or alter our forward-looking statements, whether as result of new information, future events, or otherwise and we expressly disclaim any obligation to do so. More detailed information about risk factors can be found in our annual and quarterly reports filed with the SEC. I’ll now turn the call over to Willy. Willy Walker: Thank you, Kelsey and good morning everyone. 2023 was a challenging year for the commercial real estate industry and the fourth quarter started out with the same headwinds that we saw throughout the year, but the lower than expected CPI print in November drove a 100 basis point rally in rates and the deals in our pipeline held together for the first time all year, resulting in $9.3 billion of total transaction volume in the quarter. This was still down 17% from Q4 of ‘22, but up sequentially from the third quarter and our highest quarterly volume of the year, a nice way to end the year. As you can see on Slide 3, our Q4 financial performance was solid across the board, including total revenues of $274 million down just 3% from Q4 of ‘22 and diluted earnings per share of $0.93. EPS was off more than other metrics, largely due to two transaction-related adjustments unique to Q4 of last year. Adjusted core EPS, which strips out a good deal of non-cash revenues and expenses, was up 1% from the same period last year. Finally, reflecting the strength of the W&D business model, adjusted EBITDA grew each quarter throughout the year from $68 million in Q1 to $88 million in Q4, down only 5% from Q4 of ‘22. Q4 results were a nice uptick after a very challenging 2023, when full year total transaction volume was down 48% to $33 billion. Yet due to our underlying business model, significant cost management and the exceptional W&D team, full year adjusted EBITDA was $300 million, down only 8% from 2022. We are hopeful that we have effectively weathered the great tightening and that as rates stabilize and potentially head down, that we are extremely well positioned to benefit from the market’s eventual recovery. The market’s belief that the Fed is done tightening and will start to ease in 2024 is welcome news and very constructive for the commercial real estate industry. Yet there are clearly questions around when and by how much the Fed will ease and the answer to those questions will have a dramatic impact on the market. We are currently seeing a slow start to the year as investors and developers try to incorporate rate cuts or not into their business planning. As shown on this Slide, we started 2023 with a 3.88% ten year, which moved up to 5% over the subsequent 3 quarters, only to rally back down to 3.88% in Q4. That type of rate volatility makes it exceedingly difficult for buyers and sellers of commercial real estate to establish pricing, determine their cost of capital and compute an IRR on the sale or acquisition of an asset. If the Fed begins easing in Q2 and continues to ease, we would expect a nice uptick in transaction volume this year and also an improvement in the credit landscape. Our multifamily property sales team closed $2.9 billion of sales in the fourth quarter, bringing our full year volume to $8.8 billion, down 55% from 2022, slightly less than the broader market decline of 61%. As a result, we increased market share from 6.7% in 2022 to 7.4% in 2023. Debt brokerage volume declined 34% in Q4 to $2.9 billion and was down 55% for the full year to $11.7 billion. Our GSE volumes and market share remained strong, once again finishing the year as Fannie Mae’s largest dust lender for the fifth consecutive year at $6.6 billion and Freddie Mac’s third largest partner at $4.6 billion of loan deliveries. Our focus on affordable housing and small balance lending added significant loan volume to our GSE totals. Our research arm, Zelman, provided W&D with stable, subscription revenues as their research continues to be known as some of the very best covering the housing industry. We also extended Zelman’s investment banking capabilities into the commercial market in 2023 and in the fourth quarter, the investment banking team closed three transactions, albeit all in the single family sector, that boosted revenues and expanded the W&D brand significantly. I mentioned our small balance lending group’s importance to our GSE volumes and thanks to the team and technology we have invested in that business. We ended 2023 as the third largest small balance lender with Fannie Mae and the fourth largest with Freddie Mac, expanding market share nicely with both. And our other tech enabled business apprise grew faster than the market last year, ending the year with a 11% market share, up from 6% in 2022. I’ll now turn the call over to Greg to review our quarter and full year financial results in more detail. Greg? Greg Florkowski: Thank you, Willy and good morning everyone. This was a year of persistent, volatile market conditions that depressed commercial real estate investment and transaction activity. However, the sharp decline in long-term rates during the fourth quarter and a positive sentiment that followed the Fed’s November remarks led to increased transaction activity that drove improved performance in our Capital Markets segment. When coupled with the continued strength of our servicing in Asset Management segment, we delivered our strongest quarterly results for 2023. I will spend a little time on our quarterly segment performance before recapping our annual consolidated financial performance and finish with our current outlook for 2024. Beginning with our Capital Markets segment on Slide 6, this segment delivered its strongest quarterly financial results of the year due to the sequential uptick in total transaction volume. Total revenues were $129 million, down 5% year-over-year, but up 10% from the third quarter of 2023. Revenues benefited from a stronger gain on sale margin compared to the same quarter last year due to the mix of transaction activity that was weighted more heavily towards agents’ deep financing volume this quarter. Personnel expense for the segment declined 17% year-over-year due to a decline in variable compensation. Our Capital Markets segment benefits from a high proportion of performance based compensation and in periods of lower transaction activity and associated revenues, we recognize lower variable compensation costs. This is reflected in adjusted EBITDA, which improved to a loss of only $2 million this quarter, compared to a $16 million loss in Q3 ‘23, but down from positive adjusted EBITDA of $6 million in the fourth quarter last year. The Servicing & Asset Management sector or SAM produced revenues of $140 million this quarter, as shown on Slide 7, driven by our $131 billion servicing portfolio and $17 billion of assets under management. Revenues this quarter were down $7 million compared to the same quarter last year. Typically, the fourth quarter is the strongest quarter of revenues for Walker & Dunlop affordable equity, formerly Alliant due to the gains realized from the disposition of maturing tax credit deals. The macroeconomic challenges caused the pace of dispositions to slow meaningfully at the end of this year compared to the last 2 years and as a result, investment management revenues were down quarter-over-quarter. These deals remain in our portfolio and we expect to dispose of the assets when market conditions become more favorable. Our affordable equity team did have its most successful year of equity originations in its history though, syndicating $688 million of new equity during 2023. Our servicing activities, including recurring servicing fees and related placement fees, generated Q4 revenues of $121 million, up 18% year-over-year, offsetting the majority of the decline from investment management fees. But operating margin for this segment was still down 4 percentage points to 30%, while adjusted EBITDA declined 3% to $111 million. Before I discuss our consolidated annual performance, I want to touch on credit, which continues to hold up well. As shown on Slide 8, we ended the year with 3 defaulted loans in our at-risk portfolio, totaling $27 million or just 5 basis points. We are currently estimating losses of $3 million on the defaulted loans, which compares to our overall risk sharing allowance of $32 million at year end, leaving sufficient reserves to cover any other potential defaults that may materialize during the cycle. In addition to these defaulted loans, last quarter we reported that Fannie Mae requested we repurchase a $13 million loan and we expect to complete that repurchase in the first quarter. We do not expect to incur any loss on the loan and our asset management team is working with the borrower to resolve the outstanding issue that led to the repurchase. We also carefully monitor loans that are more than 60 days delinquent and as of January 2024, we had only 7 such loans compared to 3 last year. The remainder of our at-risk portfolio is performing very well, as illustrated by the credit fundamentals on this Slide. The weighted average debt service coverage ratio of the at-risk portfolio remains over 2 times. The underwritten loan to value was just over 60% and only $3.4 billion of at-risk loans are maturing over the next two years. As it relate specifically to the maturing loans, the weighted average debt service coverage ratio of those loans is also over 2 times and only 12% are floating rate loans. In short, we have maintained a consistent, disciplined approach to credit for over 30 years as a DUS lender and we continue to feel good about the broad credit fundamentals of our at-risk portfolio, given where we are in the cycle. Turning back to our consolidated financial results, full year total transaction volume of $33 billion was down 48% year-over-year. Our scaled, servicing and asset management platform contributed significantly to our revenues, which totaled $1.1 billion, down only 16% from 2022. Diluted earnings per share continues to be impacted by lower transaction activity and was $3.18 per share for the full year, down 50% from 2022. However, the durable recurring cash flows generated by the servicing and asset management segment supported our adjusted EBITDA and adjusted core EPS. 2023 adjusted EBITDA of $300 million was down 8% year-over-year, while adjusted core EPS totaled $4.68 per share down 16%. Finally, operating margin was 13% and return on equity was 6%, compared to 21% and 13% respectively in 2022. We have a fantastic business model that generates strong cash flow and we ended the year with $329 million of cash on hand. Our cash position always decreases in the first quarter as we pay company bonuses, repurchase shares connected to employee stock vesting events and settle our tax liabilities. This year we will also pay another earn-out installment to Alliant as they have now achieved 47% of the aggregate earn-out and remain on pace to achieve the full amount over the next 2 years. Given the stability of our cash earnings, yesterday, our board approved a quarterly dividend of $0.65 per share, a 3% increase and authorized a $75 million share repurchase program. This is our sixth annual dividend increase since we initiated the dividend in February 2018 at $0.25 per share and represents a cumulative increase of 160% over the last 6 years. Our 2023 cash generation is a testament to the strength and durability of our business model in a downturn, giving us confidence to increase the dividend yet again, while still retaining capital to support the business. Over the past year, we struck a cautious tone with respect to the market. We actively managed our business to withstand the sharp decline in transaction activity by cutting personnel and G&A costs, refinancing and upsizing our term loan and preserving capital and while we exited 2023 in a strong financial position, we remain cautious entering 2024. For starters, Q1 is going to be slower than last year from an earnings perspective, likely in the range of $0.40 to $0.60 per diluted share, as transaction activity is off to a slow start and we will not repeat the $11 million net benefit for credit losses resulting from the annual update to our CECL methodology, nor will we replicate the $7.5 million investment banking transaction we closed in Q1 last year. As it relates to our full year outlook, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have stated they expect their 2024 lending volumes to be similar to 2023. That would be a disappointing outcome given the potential for stable and maybe even declining interest rates this year, but we cannot disregard the view of our 2 large partners. Finally, there are many macroeconomic drivers that we do not control, including interest rates, political elections and inflation that will undoubtedly impact our business this year. Those are the challenges, but there are opportunities. There are over $450 billion of multifamily loans maturing over the next two years. We are leveraging our data and technology to understand those deals, meet with those customers and win their business. We added 17 bankers and brokers to our platform in 2023 through our recruiting efforts, giving us a clear opportunity to gain market share this year. There are over 0.5 million multifamily units under construction that are being delivered in 2024 and our team will assist many of those developers with selling or recapitalizing their assets. Last year was also challenging for LIHTC dispositions, but we are focused on reviewing opportunities with our developers and evaluating ways to make 2024 a better year for our clients. Finally, we generate strong cash flow from operations and have a solid capital base that will allow us to invest in our business and raise capital to meet the market demand, just as we did when we announced the first close of our new debt fund in February that raised $150 million of capital and when levered will allow us to fund $0.5 billion of bridge business. We have a terrific team that has performed over the long-term and that team is focused on the opportunities that will help us return to growth in 2024. As a result, as shown on Slide 12, our full year guidance is for diluted earnings per share, adjusted EBITDA and adjusted core EPS to increase in the mid single digits to low teens this year. While the challenges of 2023 are not in the rear view mirror, we move into 2024 with the business model and the people, brand and technology to continue exceeding our clients expectations, executing on our long-term strategy and generating extremely strong cash flows to set our business up for long-term success. Thank you for your time this morning. I will now turn the call back over to Willy. Willy Walker: Thank you, Greg. As you just heard, our solid Q4 financial performance was thanks to the rally in the debt markets and the prospect of rate cuts in 2024. And while those two macro shifts drove top and bottom and line performance in Q4, they do not explain why our balance sheet is so strong where our credit book remains healthy and why our brand and team are so exceptional. Performance in those metrics takes years of consistent investment in performance. Our balance sheet and cash position are so strong because we have built a wonderful business model over decades, which supplies us with durable revenues and earnings. And we have continuously invested in businesses like Zelman and Alliant that have broadened our client offering and diversified our revenue and earnings away from our core debt finance and sales businesses. Our credit book is healthy because we have taken the conservative, thorough underwriting perspective throughout both bullish and bearish markets. 92% of our at-risk portfolio is fixed rate loans. We have no exposure to CLOs and we have no credit risk on commercial real estate asset classes outside of multifamily. And our brand and team are so strong because we are continually innovating and investing in them both. We take a long-term view of our business and this long-term view has not only benefited our company and financial performance, but also our investor returns. As you can see on Slide 13, over the past 1, 5 and 10 years, Walker & Dunlop has generated total shareholder returns greater than any of our direct competitors in the commercial real estate services, specialty finance and real estate technology space. Note that we aren’t cherry picking here. These are global firms and domestic firms, services firms and specialty finance firms, lenders and technology companies and we aren’t selecting a convenient time period. W&D’s outperformance is over the short, medium and long-term, thanks to establishing bold, highly ambitious business plans, focusing our exceptional team on achieving those goals and then executing. We grow faster than the competition through cycles due to a business model that allows us to invest when others pull back. We have scale and brand in the multifamily market that is a competitive advantage every day. And we have avoided making investments and taking balance sheet risk in the office, retail and hospitality sectors. Long-term outlook, bold, highly ambitious business plans, never stop investing in people and technology and be mindful that it is often equally as important what you didn’t do as what you did do. That is what has made W&D such an exceptional company to invest in and we will continue to generate shareholder returns going forward. The market run up over the last few months reflected widespread views that the Fed tightening is over and that easing is near. And while we believe 2024 will be a better financing and sales environment than 2023, it is way too early to predict when market conditions return to normal. Just 2 weeks ago, we saw New York Community Bank dramatically increase their commercial real estate loan loss reserves and cut their dividend. Similarly, the publicly traded multifamily REIT saw average rent decline of 3.4% in Q4. And while W&D’s credit outlook is very solid and 3.4% negative rent growth in no way impairs any loan in our portfolio, these market data points clearly reflect the marketing transition not stabilized. Therefore, as Greg just outlined, our outlook for 2024 is optimistic, yet cautious. Yet as we demonstrated in 2023 when our financing and sales volume fell by almost 50%, we have the business model, active management, an exceptional team to generate solid results as in $300 million in adjusted EBITDA on the year, only 8% below 2022 in challenging markets. As we stated throughout 2023, we remain focused on our current 5-year growth plan, the drive to ‘25, including growing our debt and property sales volumes, scaling our servicing and asset management businesses and scaling our newer businesses of small balance lending, appraisals and investment banking. Through 2022, we were on path to achieve the financial targets of the drive to ‘25, including $2 billion of total revenues and $13 of diluted earnings per share. But the market condition set us off course in 2023. And as we sit here today in a market that still has numerous headwinds, generating $13 of EPS in 2025 is going to be extremely challenging. Yet we know we have the people, brand and technology to achieve $13 a share of earnings in a robust market, which is very exciting. We also have a long history of making significant strategic acquisitions, 18 in total that have accelerated our growth, such as when we acquired CWCapital in 2012, doubling the size of W&D and fully achieving our first 5-year highly ambitious business plan. What is fundamental for investors to understand is that the business strategy underpinning the drive to ‘25 is the right long-term strategy for W&D and that our team will continue to focus on achieving our ambitious goals with or without a strong macro environment. I’d like to finish this call with a couple of points on people and culture. Our President, Howard Smith, retired at the end of the year. I want to once again thank Howard for all of his contributions to W&D and for being such an outstanding executive, steward of our culture and partner to me over the past 20 years. Second, I want to reiterate my excitement about our current management team. We are blessed to have a wildly talented group of executives at W&D, who love both what they do and the people they work with every day. Third, we’ve been fortunate to recruit some exceptional banking and brokerage talent to W&D over the past year from some of our largest and most formidable competitors. And their perspective on being part of W&D is super exciting. One broker who joined W&D at the beginning of the year wrote, it’s abundantly clear that the velocity, intentionality, level of energy and spirit of growth at W&D is remarkable and unique in the industry. We join the best platform and are thrilled about our new home. As I reflect back on 2023, I’m deeply thankful for all the hard work and results our team achieved. Walker & Dunlop is blessed to be a great company in the most dynamic commercial real estate market on earth. We have the team, brand and technology to continue delighting our clients, meeting the competition and growing and we plan to do just that in 2024. Thank you all for joining us this morning and I will now ask Karen to open the line for any questions. See also 20 Cities With The Highest Cost of Living in the US and Top 20 Most Valuable Blockchain Companies in 2024. Q&A Session Follow Walker & Dunlop Inc. (NASDAQ:WD) Follow Walker & Dunlop Inc. (NASDAQ:WD) or Subscribe with Google We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: Thank you. [Operator Instructions] We will take our first question from Jade Rahmani with KBW. Please go ahead. Jade Rahmani: Thank you, very much. Appreciate the balanced commentary about the outlook, I think that’s the prudent thing to do. I wanted to ask about credit, how it’s holding up. I think, Greg, in your remarks, you did cite seven loans delinquent as of January 2024. How are you all feeling about the outlook? And have you looked at the portfolio stating by 2021 to 2022 vintages and focusing on geographies with excess supply. Greg Florkowski: So yes, I think, look, go ahead, Will. Willy Walker: No, no, no. Greg, go. Greg Florkowski: Yes, Jade I was just going to say about that, I think that, as I said in my remarks and as we’ve said for the last few quarters, our credit is holding up well. I think seven delinquent loans in our at-risk book is on a book of close to 3,000 loan. So we’re feeling really good about how our borrowers are performing and how they are capitalized and how their assets are doing. We are looking at different markets, but most of the ones we have are going to be longer-term, longer duration. So the ‘21 to ‘23 visage that you cited there is really going to be maturing in 5 to 10 years. So that’s much farther out than the deals we’re looking at that are maturing in the next 2 years that are likely our focus just given where the macro is right now. So again, I’d just reiterate what we said on the call and what we’ve been saying, which is we’ve got real cash flowing assets with over 2x debt service coverage ratio, low going-in LTVs and limited maturities over the next 2 years. And I think that, that has us feeling good about where we’re positioned at this point in the cycle. Willy Walker: Yes, I’d only jump in behind that, Jade and just say, 92% fixed rate. So many of the problems that people are seeing right now are on floating rate debt on our at-risk portfolio, 92% are fixed rate. And as Greg just said, the ‘21 and ‘22 vintages are all longer-term fixed rate loans. And then we only have 3.0 what was it, $3.2 billion of loan maturities in the portfolio in ‘24 and ‘25. So we don’t even have significant refi risk in the portfolio on a fixed rate loan that was done at 3%. It needs to be redone at 6.5%. So generally speaking, feeling extremely good. But as you well know from covering the broader industry, the multifamily industry has credit concerns to it today and particularly deals that were advanced in ‘21 and ‘22 with floating rate debt on them. And we are very fortunate to not have done a lot of that. Jade Rahmani: Okay. And then in terms of the CECL reserve, I know you have to factor in your current expectations and the period of loss look back is probably 2 decades, a period during which there is very strong multifamily credit performance for lots of different reasons. But then when you look at prior periods, the ‘80s and early ‘90s, clearly, there was a lot of pressure there. So is it reasonable to expect a general uptick in CECL reserves in the coming quarters? In 2023, there are a lot of releases that took place. Greg Florkowski: Yes, yes, I think I would say I look back at the last 10 years, which included even during the GFC probably actually look at over our entire history and we’ve lost our losses on defaulted loans total in that 30-year period, $15 million. So we’ve had an excellent track record of credit that includes some of the cycles that you’re talking about and included the GFC, it included what happened post COVID and I think ultimately, our CECL reserve today is greater than that by 2x. So we feel like we’ve got adequate reserves given history, we’re absolutely going to continue to monitor the market and the fundamentals. One of the reasons I gave the guidance for Q1 was that we aren’t going to have a release of reserves like we’ve had in the last 2 or 3 years and we’re expecting to at least maintain that level of reserves on a forward-look basis. We will continue to take a forward look as you said. Right now, I think our forward-look reserves for the next year or 2 are 6x or 7x our average historical loss rate. So look, we will keep an eye on that for sure. But right now, I don’t see anything more than normal growth, absent some change in the credit fundamentals that we just went through both Willy and I just talked through. Jade Rahmani: Thank you very much. Operator: We will move to our next question from Kyle Joseph with Jefferies. Please go ahead. Kyle Joseph: Hey, good morning, Willy, Greg. Thanks for taking my question. First one probably for Greg, I just want to kind of get a little bit more on guidance. From what – from your commentary, it sounds like you guys are baking in kind of flattish agency volume. So, just want to get a sense for the incremental growth there in ‘24. Is that a function of servicing or is that kind of other channels of origination opening up more so than agency? Greg Florkowski: Yes, I think, Kyle, great to hear you. Thanks for joining us this morning. I think a couple of things, one is I mentioned we added 17 bankers and brokers last year. So even as the market was shifting on us, we were still bringing on talent and making sure that we were bolstering our bankers and brokers. So we think we have an opportunity to gain share even in a flat environment. I think importantly, there is a lot of deliveries coming online in 2024 and there is going to be an opportunity for our investment sales team to get involved in some of those deals for merchant builders and help them capitalize those assets. And I think there is – there is likely to be more Capital Markets transactions this year than in prior years. So while may the uncertainty – may not be as active, there is certainly market data. The MBA is projecting the market to increase to $350 billion from multifamily perspective in ‘24. So there is going to be transactions likely brokered or Capital Markets. Obviously, we have a very talented team there as well. So we will capture our share and I think there is many different ways for us to try to take the diversified platform we have and deliver those results to generate that growth, even if Fannie and Freddie are flat year-on-year. Willy Walker: Yes, and kind of… Kyle Joseph: Very helpful. And then… Willy Walker: Kyle, let me – if I can just add one other quick thing, which is, as Greg said, I want to reiterate one thing that Greg said in his commentary. It is ridiculous that Fannie and Freddie are signaling to the market that their volumes are going to be flat between 2023 and 2024. They are in the market to provide counter cyclical capital. Their role is to provide counter cyclical capital to the market and their capital is needed in this market. So while we are reflecting to everyone on this call what we are hearing from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as it relates to their outlook for 2024. And as Greg said, we can’t do anything about that outlook other than work with them. I just want to underscore the point that as Fannie’s largest partner and Freddie Mac’s third largest partner, seeing the opportunity in the market to meet refinancing needs in a year where refinancing is up dramatically in the multifamily market as it relates to demand. There is no reason that Fannie and Freddie’s volume should be the same in 2024 as they were in 2023. Kyle Joseph: That’s helpful. That makes sense. Yes, that’s a good segue to my next question, just on Slide 11, in the maturity wall on multifamily. Just – and given your knowledge of the market, any sort of color you can give us on the quality of this portfolio, whether it’s floating versus fixed, Class A, Class B and geographic areas. And then specifically, if there is any, I don’t know geographic areas you’re looking to avoid or target as a result of this upcoming maturity ways? Willy Walker: So if you look at the overall maturities in 2024 per the Mortgage Bankers Association, in 2023, the ‘24 number for total commercial real estate refinancings were somewhere in the $600 billion number, $620 billion and about $300 billion of loans that were scheduled to be refinanced in 2023 were pushed to 2024. So the 2024 total commercial real estate refinancing volume is over $900 billion now. That’s going to present a significant challenge to the market to find enough capital across the spectrum to meet that need for financing, particularly as we see banks pull back. CMBS had growth in 2023. You probably expect to see continued growth in CMBS. Life insurance companies have been very, very consistent at doing about 10% of the market’s volume through cycles even in good times and bad times when they could actually expand out beyond 10%. And the interesting part about the 2024 refi is that the agencies, Fannie and Freddie have a very small amount of deal flow in their own books that is maturing in ‘24. And so the opportunity for us in ‘24 is to go out and take refinancing opportunities from the competition. And to your specific question, Kyle, what those loans look like, how much new equity needs to go into them to refinance them or preferred equity or a recapitalization is the real question. And I think that, we have got the team, we have got the capital as it relates to both first-trust financing, as well as anything above that, whether it would be in a mezzanine or preferred equity position to be able to meet borrowers’ needs. But there is no doubt that a lot of those deals that are coming up for maturity in ‘24, fortunately not in our portfolio, but a lot of them are going to need some type of structured finance to get them refinanced out. Kyle Joseph: Really helpful color. Thanks for taking my questions. Operator: [Operator Instructions] We will move to our next question from Steve Delaney with Citizens JMP. Please go ahead. Steve Delaney: Thanks. Good morning everyone and great news on the dividend increase and the buyback. Willy, I was wondering on the buyback, looking back to the end of ‘21, you haven’t repurchased any shares over that period, obviously, the last year or so was sort of uncertain environment, that’s understandable. But as far as your execution, as you are talking to the Board, should we think about the buyback as being opportunistic or programmatic given where you sit today? Thank you. Willy Walker: Good morning Steve, nice to have you on the call. Steve Delaney: Yes sir. Willy Walker: We talked about just this issue yesterday. As you know, Steve, because you have covered us for quite some time, we have a track record of being opportunistic in buying back stock. As Greg underscored in his comments, our cash position at the end of the year is very strong. And as you just reiterated in response to Jade’s question on credit, we feel very, very good as it relates to our credit provisions and our credit outlook. So, with that said, the Board said, we will authorize $75 million of potential share buybacks. I would not think it will be programmatic, Steve, as we see how the year goes. I would also say to you that if we start to see the growth that we expect as rates come down and as transaction volume picks up, we could find ourselves in a more programmatic situation. But for now, the authorization, I would say, is more opportunistic than programmatic. Steve Delaney: Got it. And Greg, you gave a figure – I probably didn’t get these right. I know Willy, you commented on $13 of EPS by 2025. You mentioned $300 million, I believe of earnings for 2024. In both cases, are you referring to the earnings or the EPS on a GAAP basis as we, I think all tried to convert to over the second half of this – of last year, just for clarity on if we are talking about GAAP or some other measure? Greg Florkowski: Yes, Steve – when we gave the – yes, we had not yet implemented adjusted for EPS, so we are trying to balance the transition from GAAP to adjusted core, but we are continuing to refer to GAAP as we give guidance. But in my remarks, I did give similar full year guidance for adjusted EBITDA and adjusted core EPS to GAAP diluted EPS, all in mid-single or mid-single digits to low teens. Steve Delaney: Got it. And just a final thing for clarity. When you define your at-risk portfolio, I assume that’s your bridge book, as well as your Fannie Mae loss sharing. Is there anything else in there that I am missing? Greg Florkowski: That’s exclusively. We have $40 million of bridge loans left on our balance sheet and then the vast majority of our at-risk book is the Fannie Mae portfolio, nearly $60 million......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyFeb 16th, 2024

Higher Education Reform, Civic Thought, And Liberal Education

Higher Education Reform, Civic Thought, And Liberal Education Authored by Peter Berkowitz via RealClear Wire, For decades, American colleges and universities have desperately needed reform. The urgency of the moment may create openings to mitigate the damage and restore the basic elements of liberal education. Over the last few months, turmoil on campus has provoked outrage among wealthy donors, members of Congress, parents of college and college-bound students, and no small number of ordinary citizens. The sympathy exhibited by students and faculty for Hamas’ barbaric Oct. 7 attacks on Israelis, mostly civilians, along with the vacillating and mealy-mouthed response of many elite university administrators to students’ championing jihadist genocide threw into sharp relief how badly higher education has lost its way. Notwithstanding the recent intensification of interest, clear and constant signs of decay have been apparent since the 1990s. The decline can be traced back beyond the politicization of teaching and scholarship stemming from the upheavals of the 1960s to at least the mid-century subordination of the university curriculum and scholarly research to the imperatives of progressive politics. The tenuring of the 1960s generation in the late 1980s and the population of the faculty ranks with their students and their students’ students over the last 40 years, however, has accelerated the deterioration. Our colleges and universities have been policing speech. They have been curtailing due process, particularly concerning allegations of sexual misconduct. They have been relaxing to the point of eliminating core curriculum requirements. And they have been packing course offerings, particularly in the humanities, with classes aimed at indoctrinating students in leftist articles of faith: The one and only prism for viewing moral and political life is the distinction between oppressor and oppressed, chief among oppressors on the global scene is the United States, and chief among oppressors within the United States are white people. Responsible higher education reform must consider the depth and breadth of the dysfunction. And the remedies must accord with the governing aim of liberal education, which is to cultivate citizens who understand the principles that undergird, and who can contribute to the maintenance of, free and democratic political institutions. Now may be just the time for concerted action. It is already being led by the one campus minority that campus authorities permit faculty and students to revile. “Conservatives have an extraordinary opportunity to reform higher education,” husband-and-wife team Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey write in “Follow the Left’s Example to Reform Higher Ed,” which appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal. “Universities face a perfect storm of falling enrollments, souring public opinion and political scrutiny. They need friends. Prudent administrators should be eager to work with those whose opinions they might previously have ignored.” Senior fellows at the American Enterprise Institute and research fellows at the University of Texas’ Civitas Institute, the Storeys urge conservatives to take a page from the left’s playbook and “think academically.” Professors on the left, the Storeys observe, “create new disciplines” such as women’s studies to address topics “overlooked by existing modes of inquiry.” These new disciplines give rise to new “ways of thinking” which, in turn, give birth to and are eventually supported by academic associations, professional journals, dedicated funders, and freshly minted students. Those on the right, advise the Storeys, should follow suit: “To make enduring change in the academy, conservatives must identify important areas that aren’t getting attention and create programs to study them.” The Storeys offer encouraging news on that front. Conservative reform has commenced, mainly in the neglected area of civic education. With Arizona State University’s School of Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) – launched by the Arizona legislature in 2016 and, until recently, led by founding director Paul Carrese – as a model, public-university initiatives in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Utah, North Carolina, and Ohio are well underway. The Storeys call the model informing these programs “Civic Thought.” It encompasses the wide range of issues with which responsible citizens must grapple – “everything from war to education.” Establishing such programs requires partnerships among “trustees, donors and policymakers.” They must cooperate to identify and hire scholars with learning in the humanities and social sciences and with the administrative skills to design curricula, recruit faculty, and create and maintain communities devoted to learning and scholarship. The ambitious, multi-arena reform contemplated by the Storeys – I take part in a small way as a member of the Academic Advisory Board at the University of Florida’s Hamilton Center – has great potential. By re-grounding higher education in the principles of individual freedom, reasoned inquiry, and self-government, civic thought programs can put our colleges and universities in the service of – rather than in opposition to – the public interest. At the same time, salutary higher education reform must dodge several temptations and pitfalls. The Storeys rightly advise conservatives to learn from the left’s success in working within the academy. However, conservative reformers must also recognize and repudiate the left’s abuses of academic institutions, which have fueled the progressive takeover of university curriculum and administration and degraded higher education. First, conservatives should reject the left’s conceit – common in women’s studies, African American studies, and many of the other fashionable “studies” – that neglected topics require the creation of new methods of inquiry and new modes of thinking. Down that path lie pretentious jargon, obfuscatory discourse, and the erection of barriers to criticism and accountability. Nothing more is necessary for the flourishing of civic thought than the conscientious application of the traditional forms of inquiry in the humanities, the best of contemporary social science, and the experimentation and rigor of the natural sciences to the challenges of freedom and democracy. Second, conservatives should reject the left’s penchant for affirmative action. Notwithstanding that they are often a small and despised minority on campus, conservatives should not seek to make or receive appointments based on political beliefs or party attachments. To inquire into the voting preferences of candidates for faculty positions is antithetical to the university’s mission. Faculty hiring must concentrate on scholarly accomplishment, classroom excellence, and curricular need. As it happens, programs in civic thought will attract a disproportionate number of conservatives to their faculty. That’s because these days conservatives are disproportionately drawn to the topics at the heart of civic thought and essential to the formation of well-educated citizens: political philosophy; political economy; jurisprudence; foreign affairs and national security; religion; and constitutional, diplomatic, and military history. Third, conservatives should reject the left’s conviction that higher education’s aim is to prepare students to change the world. Understanding the world comes first, particularly for teachers and students. University programs in civic thought should not seek to mold conservative political activists to counter the progressive political activists that many African American studies, women’s studies, and the like endeavor to produce. Rather, programs in civic thought should strive to form more thoughtful citizens, whether of the left, center, or right. Fourth, conservatives should reject the left’s compartmentalization of the curriculum. While short-term advantage may be derived from emulating the left’s leveraging of academic proclivities and protocols to create new disciplines, civic thought should not seek status as a separate field of study like literature, political science, physics, much less like women’s studies, African American studies, and the like. Instead, civic thought should bring to bear on the myriad challenges of citizenship in a free society – including the status of minorities, the role of women, and changing sexual mores – the wisdom that is gleaned from, and the toleration and humility that are developed by, study of history, languages, literature, the principles of politics and economics, and the leading opinions about ethics and faith. Such intellectual exploration begins close to home with one’s nation, broadens into a study of one’s civilization, and eventually encompasses other peoples, nations, and civilizations. Civic thought must be grounded in liberal education. Fifth, conservatives should reject the left’s politicization of teaching and learning. Conservatives should not conceive of civic thought programs as conservative, at least in the narrow partisan sense of furthering a right-wing political agenda. Civic thought programs should be conservative in the larger sense – devoted to preserving the treasures of Western civilization and other civilizations and transmitting them to the next generation. Such preservation and transmission, it must be emphasized, can only be accomplished by those who have learned to weigh the evidence, seek out and grasp the truth in contending opinions, and craft persuasive arguments. Conservatives should emphasize that civic thought programs are the best means in the present circumstances for restoring a traditional liberal education, one which serves the public interest by forming young men and women capable of exercising their rights effectively and preserving and improving free and democratic institutions. The extent of the disrepair of U.S. colleges and universities and the urgency of the moment necessitate the recovery of the traditional principles of liberal education to guide the long, arduous work of higher education reform. Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. From 2019 to 2021, he served as director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. State Department. His writings are posted at PeterBerkowitz.com and he can be followed on Twitter @BerkowitzPeter. Tyler Durden Tue, 02/13/2024 - 23:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytFeb 13th, 2024

OPINION: David Jones Sr., Wendell Cherry and preserving Louisville"s legacies

David Jones will still be recalled 100 years from now for spearheading development of the Parklands of Floyds Fork......»»

Category: topSource: bizjournalsFeb 12th, 2024

Concern Lingers About Biden Losing Black Voters After South Carolina Primary

Concern Lingers About Biden Losing Black Voters After South Carolina Primary Authored by Lawrence Wilson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) adamantly insisted that President Joe Biden’s support is rock solid among black voters moments after the president won the state’s Democratic presidential primary. “The best illustration of that, he got 96 percent of the vote in this primary, but its largest percentage—over 97 percent—was in the town of Orangeburg where there are two HBCUs and a community college,” Mr. Clyburn told reporters at the Democratic watch party on Feb. 3. “I go to an African American barbershop. I go to an African American Church. Joe Biden is as strong with African Americans as he has ever been,” Mr. Clyburn added. President Joe Biden, left, and first lady Jill Biden visit the Biden campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Democrats have labored to dispel the notion that President Biden is losing popularity with black voters, a key element of the Democratic coalition, after a Dec. 12 survey by GenForward revealed that 17 percent of black Americans would vote for President Donald Trump and 20 percent said they would vote for someone other than the two major candidates. A poll conducted by The New York Times and Siena College in November revealed that 22 percent of black voters in six battleground states vote for President Trump in 2024. South Carolina was specifically selected to hold the nation’s first Democratic primary this year in order to give black voters, who comprise 51 percent of the state’s Democratic voters, a greater voice in the electoral process. While the impressive margin of victory helped place President Biden in a position of strength at the beginning of the 2024 campaign, the data itself presents a mixed picture. And some, especially younger, South Carolina democrats seem resigned rather than enthusiastic about supporting his reelection. The Black Vote While awaiting the result of the Feb. 3 primary, Christale Spain, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, touted an increase in voting by blacks. “From the data, we saw a 13 percent increase in black voter participation,” she told attendees at a Democratic watch party. That data point was derived from the roughly 48,000 ballots cast during the state’s 12-day early voting period. It is not yet known how data from the remainder of the approximately 131,000 votes cast may alter that result. Overall, voter turnout in this primary appears to have been low by historical standards. Nearly 188,000 Democratic votes were cast in the state’s 2022 midterm primary. More than 330,000 voters participated in the state’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Some Democratic officials had speculated that voter turnout could be depressed by the fact that an incumbent president was facing little opposition and that some Democrats had stated an intention to vote in the Feb. 24 Republican primary to oppose President Donald Trump. Crossover voting is possible in this state with an open primary system. Democratic leaders did not entertain the idea, at least publicly, that some Democrats may have preferred to vote for neither President Biden nor President Trump. If that were to have been the case, President Biden could face a significant challenge in the general election. Black eligible voters are projected to number 34.4 million in November, comprising 14 percent of eligible voters, a historic high, according to Pew Research. “I think the president needs to be concerned about black voters,” Richard Gordon, founder of Gordon Strategies and member of the chairman’s board of the Democratic Governors Association, told The Epoch Times. “Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Georgia ... were enormously close [in 2020]. And if the President were to lose, let’s say, 2 percent of the vote in each of those, he probably won’t get reelected. And that is why the black vote in all of those states is massively important,” Mr. Gordon said. Younger People, Different Issues Democrats are not a monolithic group, and one fissure runs along generational lines. Older, more traditional Democrats are more likely to be well satisfied with President Biden’s performance and age. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) takes part in a ceremony in Washington on March 17, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) Asked if the president has an electability problem, Jim Horch, 67, an ironworker from Aiken, said, “No, I really don’t because I’ve seen President Biden give several speeches, and his fitness, in my opinion, is great.” Younger Democrats were more likely to hedge their answer about President Biden’s electability. “I hope and pray his health remains good for the next four years,” Andrina Mullins, 40, of Florence, said. A 31-year-old Columbia woman supporting President Biden, who asked not to be named, when asked about his electability, paused, laughed nervously, and said, “Do I have to answer that?” Younger black Democrats may also be driven by different issues than their elders, according to Marcurius Byrd, 39, an advisor to Young Democrats of the Central Midlands. That difference in perspective is readily seen in attitudes toward the war in Gaza, according to Mr. Byrd, who, as an older Millennial, sees himself as a bridge between generations. Older Democrats are more likely to view support for Israel as unconditional based on their emotional memory of previous conflicts and historical support for an ally. Younger Democrats, lacking that attachment, may be more likely to evaluate the fact in a neutral manner. “There are also the complexities of this being warfare,” Mr. Byrd said. “There’s more [to it] than just a ceasefire because ceasefire does not bring an end, and other things will be happening,” he added, “and people aren’t thinking that far ahead.” That’s why Gen Z Democrats may be more likely to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, according to Mr. Byrd. Younger black Democrats are more likely to mention the war in Gaza, affordable housing, and the cost of higher education as key issues. Older black Democrats are more likely to mention access to abortion, voter suppression, and preserving the gains made in civil and women’s rights as key concerns. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) takes part in a ceremony in Washington on March 17, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images) In South Carolina, 42 percent of registered black voters are under age 45 according to data from the South Carolina Election Commission. Nationally, 60 percent of black eligible voters are age 59 or younger according to Pew Research. Messaging and Turnout President Biden has had a messaging problem with some black voters, according to Mr. Gordon. “For many people in the black community, it’s been very hard for the President to translate what he has done for them,” Mr. Gordon said. That may be easier done in a small state like South Carolina than in a battleground state like Michigan or Wisconsin, he added. Some black Democratic leaders are aware of this communication gap. “I think my only concern is that we have to do a better job of getting the message out about why we should be voting for Joe Biden,” Isaac Wilson, 36, chair of the Florence County Democratic Party, told The Epoch Times. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting that message out.” Regarding President Biden’s electability, Jonathan Kirkwood, 54, of Columbia, told The Epoch Times, “I don’t think that there’s a big concern, but I think that we all need to get out and vote and just make sure that that happens.” That will involve new messaging tailored to specific demographics, according to Mr. Byrd. “He’s done a good job. The problem is, nobody knows about it,” he said. “You have to do more direct targeting.” For some black Democrats, this comes down to a binary choice between Presidents Biden and Trump in which they believe President Biden will surely prevail. “Do you want a competent administration led by an 81-year-old man or an incompetent administration by someone that’s pushing 80? That, I believe, is going to end up becoming the choice. And I believe that most people will vote for competence in the end,” Austin Jackson, 33, president of Young Democrats of South Carolina, told The Epoch Times. DNC Chair Jamie Harrison (L) and South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain listen to a reporter's question in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 3, 2024. (Lawrence Wilson/The Epoch Times) The question is whether winning most black voters will be enough. In 2020, President Biden won 92 percent of the black vote compared to 8 percent by President Trump. Even a relatively small change in that balance could affect the outcome of the 2024 election, according to Mr. Gordon. “I don’t believe there is a realignment of the black vote in America. I feel there is an erosion of the black vote in America,” Mr. Gordon said. “I think it will prove relatively small when the population is confronted with a binary choice between Biden and Trump. But he doesn’t have room to lose those voters.” Tyler Durden Mon, 02/05/2024 - 23:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytFeb 6th, 2024

Supreme Court Allows Idaho To Enforce Strict Abortion Ban, Will Hear Case

Supreme Court Allows Idaho To Enforce Strict Abortion Ban, Will Hear Case Authored by Caden Pearson via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), The Supreme Court on Friday granted Idaho the authority to enforce its strict abortion ban while legal clashes play out over a federal law mandating emergency care. Pro-life supporters celebrate outside the Supreme Court in Washington after the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images) Responding to emergency requests from Idaho state officials, the nation’s highest court temporarily suspended a federal judge’s ruling that found parts of the ban conflicted with the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986. “The applications for stay ... are granted,” the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday stated. “The preliminary injunction issued on August 24, 2022, by the United States District Court for the District of Idaho ... is stayed.” The high court said it would hear oral arguments on the matter in April. Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador welcomed the decision, writing on X, formerly Twitter, “Idaho will continue to fight to protect life.” Federal Law Turns Hospitals ‘Into Abortion Clinics’ EMTALA, the federal law at the center of the case, stipulates that emergency room care must be provided to anyone, irrespective of their ability to pay. The Biden administration cited this law in a 2022 federal guidance for health care providers regarding abortion. The guidance told hospitals they were obligated to provide “stabilizing” care under EMTALA to patients experiencing an emergency condition, extending this to include abortion. It applies to hospitals receiving federal funding through the Medicare program. On Monday, lawyers from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), acting on behalf of the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, filed an emergency application for a stay pending appeal with the Supreme Court. Their motion asked for an immediate injunction against the 9th Circuit’s ruling, arguing that EMTALA preempts Idaho’s abortion ban, the Defense of Life Act. “Hospitals—especially emergency rooms—are centers for preserving life. The government has no business transforming them into abortion clinics,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erin Hawley in a statement. “Emergency room physicians can, and do, treat ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. But elective abortion is not life-saving care—it ends the life of the unborn child—and the government has no authority to override Idaho’s law barring these procedures. “We urge the Supreme Court to halt the lower court’s injunction and allow Idaho emergency rooms to fulfill their primary function—saving lives,” she added. District Court’s Block of Ban Idaho’s abortion ban has been partially blocked from being enforced to the extent it conflicts with EMTALA since U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill issued an injunction in July 2022 after the Biden administration sued. Judge Winmill, in making his ruling, noted that the state’s actions put doctors in an ethical bind. The dilemma, as described in the ruling, revolves around doctors grappling with the obligation to provide emergency care under EMTALA and the state’s blanket prohibition of abortions in Idaho. “The doctor believes her EMTALA obligations require her to offer that abortion right now. But she also knows that all abortions are banned in Idaho. She thus finds herself on the horns of a dilemma. Which law should she violate?” Judge Winmill wrote. Idaho challenged this ruling, arguing that the two laws were not conflicting and emphasizing that the federal law did not expressly mandate doctors to perform abortions in specific circumstances. The Biden administration, represented by Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, disagreed, asserting in court filings that the Idaho law “criminalizes care required by federal law.” The Epoch Times contacted Ms. Prelogar’s office for comment. Appeals Court’s Suspension of Block The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals briefly suspended Judge Winmill’s ruling in September but later allowed its reinstatement, prompting Idaho to appeal to the Supreme Court in November 2023. Idaho aimed to expedite resolution, seeking an injunction to limit the full enforcement of its abortion ban. An appeal is pending at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In light of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling for Texas earlier this week in a similar case involving EMTALA and stringent abortion restrictions, Idaho’s attorney general pushed the Supreme Court to act on their request, pointing to the 5th Circuit’s Jan. 2 opinion. In a win for Texas, the 5th Circuit unanimously declined “to expand the scope” of EMTALA to include enforcing abortions. The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, argued the Biden administration’s rule would force doctors to perform elective abortions against state law. “The question before the court is whether EMTALA, according to HHS’s Guidance, mandates physicians to provide abortions when that is the necessary stabilizing treatment for an emergency medical condition. It does not,” wrote 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Kurt Engelhardt in the opinion. “EMTALA does not mandate any specific type of medical treatment, let alone abortion,” the opinion added. ADF lawyers are also litigating the Texas case. Idaho’s abortion law was enacted in 2020 with a provision stating it would take effect if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in July 2022, which effectively overturned Roe, Idaho’s law came into force. The Defense of Life Act imposes criminal penalties, including up to five years in prison, for anyone performing an abortion, with health care professionals risking the loss of their licenses if found in violation. An exception is granted if the abortion is deemed necessary to protect the life of the pregnant woman. Tyler Durden Sun, 01/07/2024 - 16:20.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJan 7th, 2024

I tried 20 types of Dannon Light + Fit Greek Yogurt to find the best low-calorie, protein-packed flavor

I ranked every protein-packed, low-calorie flavor of Dannon Light + Fit yogurt I could find, including salted caramel, raspberry, and tiramisu. I grabbed every flavor of Dannon Light + Fit yogurt I could find for a taste test.David SilbertDannon's Light + Fit Greek yogurt cups taste great and provide 12 grams of protein for 80 calories.After trying 20 flavors, the toasted-coconut vanilla was my favorite. My least favorite flavor was strawberry banana, because I didn't feel the flavors mixed well.Eating smart has always been an uphill battle for me. It's hard to break away for something healthier when staring down pancakes in the breakfast aisle or cookies over by the desserts.Dannon's Light + Fit yogurt makes eating right easier for me. Not only is it great as a quick meal or snack, but each cup has zero fat, 80 calories, and 12 grams of protein.I recently tried every flavor I could find. Here's my personal ranking from worst to best:I thought strawberry banana was the worst flavor. In my opinion, strawberries and bananas, unfortunately, do not mix.David SilbertI'm a big fan of both bananas and strawberries. Together, however, the two just didn't jive.The banana flavor overpowered the strawberry, and I noticed the taste lingered on my tongue. Light + Fit has a great selection, but this one's a miss, in my opinion.Orange cream was my least favorite of the citrus flavors. Light + Fit has better citrus options available.David SilbertOf the three Light + Fit citrus flavors I tried, orange cream was easily the worst. True to its name, there was a welcome creaminess to each bite.However, the acidity cut through, souring an otherwise decent offering.The blueberry Greek yogurt didn't stand out.Blueberry was a safe but boring choice.David SilbertThere's nothing bad about blueberry yogurt; it just isn't anything special.Light + Fit's take included actual blueberries (albeit puree), which gave dimension to an otherwise standard Greek yogurt.Something was missing in the salted-caramel flavor. I wish the Light + Fit salted-caramel flavor had a bit more dimension.David SilbertSalted caramel had a welcome sweetness that wasn't overpowering, making it a strong option for both breakfast and dessert.That said, the flavor was a bit one-note, limiting its appeal.The raspberry yogurt had an uneven crunch.If you don't mind the crunch, the raspberry is a great choice.David SilbertRaspberry was a step up from the blueberry flavor, as it had a smoother consistency and packed a sweeter punch.My major knock against it was the seeds, which gave the yogurt an uneven crunch.Although strawberry cheesecake is a popular choice, it wasn't one of my favorites. Strawberry cheesecake is one of Light + Fit's most popular options.David SilbertAlthough you can't go shopping without seeing this flavor in the yogurt aisle, it has never ranked high on my list.The strawberry distracted too much from the otherwise pleasant cheesecake taste.The banana-cream flavor was much better than the strawberry banana. I liked this flavor a lot more than the strawberry banana. David SilbertWhere strawberry banana disappointed, banana cream delivered. This yogurt brought out the banana flavor in a stated yet delicate way.However, it has its audience. If you're not a banana person, this flavor won't change your mind. If you are, you'll dig it.The tiramisu Greek yogurt was a perfect after-dinner snack. I recommend tiramisu over salted caramel.David SilbertTiramisu was, by all accounts, a superior version of salted caramel. Its flavor profile was more dynamic, with hints of coffee and cocoa.It may be a little rich for some, but this is an excellent yogurt to have after a nice Italian dinner.Strawberry was my favorite of the berry flavors.Make sure to stir this yogurt to mix in the strawberry puree. David SilbertOut of all the berry flavors I tried, strawberry was definitely my favorite. Once I gave the puree at the bottom a good stir, the yogurt became velvety smooth.There was a subtle richness that never overpowered the palate, making this a great pick.Dannon's Light + Fit cherry yogurt had a unique texture.The bits of cherry were sweet and chewy.David SilbertCherry was another great fruit flavor. Although its texture lacked consistency, it impressed in terms of taste.The bits of cherry added a satisfying chew compared to the typical puree.Raspberry chocolate was a delicious sweet treat.This yogurt makes a fantastic dessert. David SilbertIf you have a sweet tooth, look no further than Dannon's raspberry-chocolate flavor. This yogurt provided a rich chocolate flavor with just the right hint of raspberry.It probably wouldn't be my everyday pick, but as a rare treat, it's divine.The lemon cream was much better than the orange cream.Can't find lemon meringue? Try lemon cream.David SilbertLemon cream was a significant upgrade from its orange cream sibling. Although it was a bit rich, the creaminess came through and the lemon was more sweet than tart.If you can't find Light + Fit's limited-edition lemon meringue, this is a great substitute.Toasted marshmallow was hard to findToasted marshmallow tasted surprisingly similar to vanilla.David SilbertBecause toasted marshmallow was the hardest flavor to track down, my expectations were high.Although I enjoyed the taste, I had trouble distinguishing the marshmallow notes. Everything but the name screamed vanilla yogurt to me.Vanilla is a classic favorite. Vanilla is a go-to flavor for a reason.David SilbertVanilla is ranked higher than toasted marshmallow for its sheer simplicity.You know what you're getting with this staple, and Dannon's take on the classic flavor didn't disappoint.Because it's simple yet versatile, I would have it for breakfast, before bed, or anytime in between.As someone born and raised in Massachusetts, Boston cream was a favorite. As a Bostonian, I have to show some love to the Boston-cream pie flavor.David SilbertAs a Massachusetts native, I admit I may be biased. However, there's no denying the taste of a nice Boston-cream pie, and Dannon delivered it with confidence.The peach yogurt was light but flavorful. The peach flavor was light and sweet. David SilbertPeach has been a longtime favorite of mine. Although it was the lightest of the fruit flavors, it didn't sacrifice on taste.It did require a good stir to get the right consistency, but the effort was worth it.Pumpkin pie was a great seasonal flavor. Don't let autumn slip by without trying the pumpkin pie flavor.David SilbertDannon Light + Fit has a rotating selection of limited-time flavors.Although I couldn't track down tantalizing one-offs like crème brûlée or chocolate cherry, I did find a delicious pumpkin-pie option.Key lime was the superior citrus flavor. The key lime was a well-balanced flavor. David SilbertIf I had to pick one citrus yogurt, it would definitely be key lime.Unlike orange cream, which I found to be too sour, and lemon cream, which I found a bit rich, this flavor was surprisingly well-balanced.Caramel-apple-pie yogurt makes the perfect dessert. It was hard to find fault with caramel-apple pie.David SilbertThe caramel-apple-pie variation was a fantastic dessert yogurt. The caramel shined through, along with chunks of apples generously seasoned with cinnamon.Although it's not as versatile as my No. 1 choice, caramel-apple pie came close.The toasted-coconut vanilla was my favorite. I'll never get tired of this excellent flavor.David SilbertDannon's toasted-coconut vanilla was the perfect cup of yogurt. It was sweeter than the standard vanilla flavor and had a welcome smokiness.However, it wasn't fruity or sugary enough to spoil your appetite.Read the original article on Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJan 5th, 2024

I tried some top YouTuber coffee brands — and found a clear winner

Business Insider's reporter tried Dodger Coffee Co, Chamberlain Coffee, Carlin Brothers Coffee, and Top of the Mornin'. Jacksepticeye's Top of the Mornin' coffee, and Emma Chamberlain's Chamberlain Coffee.Lindsay Dodgson/Business Insider, Chamberlain CoffeeTons of influencers have started coffee brands in the past few years.BI's reporter tried a few of them to see which came out on top.Turns out a lot of them are made by the same company.A lot of influencers have turned their attention to selling coffee over the past few years.Business Insider found 11 different content creators who sell their own branded beans, and decided to try a few.Immediately, the experiment was held back by the number of companies that actually shipped to the UK, where this reporter is based.The brands we found were:Bankroll Coffee by financial guru Graham Stephan.Awesome Coffee Club by Vlogbrothers Hand and John Green.Morris Coffee by YouTube golfer Micah Morris.Florida Man Coffee by gamer GrayStillPlays.Kramoda by Vlog Squad members Zane Hijazi and Heath Hussar.Coffee Brand Coffee by controversial commentator TheQuartering.Chamberlain Coffee by fashionista Emma Chamberlain.Carlin Brothers Coffee by the internet's favorite millennials, the SuperCarlinBrothers.Top of the Mornin' by superstar gamer Jacksepticeye.Dodger Coffee Co by streamer PressHeartToContinue.Flight Fuel Coffee by TikToker Chris Olsen.But just four shipped to London: Dodger Coffee Co, Chamberlain Coffee, Carlin Brothers Coffee, and Top of the Mornin'.Kramoda did technically ship to the UK, but it didn't seem worth the £138 ($175) FedEx fee, no matter how tasty their "Pumpkin Spice" beans sounded.Armed with four bags, I made four coffees over the week in my usual way — a latte made with espresso from a stovetop percolator and heated oat milk.Here are the results.Chamberlain coffeeA bag of Emma Chamberlain's Chamberlain Coffee beans.Lindsay Dodgson, Emma Chamberlain/YouTubeChamberlain Coffee was the first I tried, as fashion vlogger Chamberlain was one of the first influencers I'd noticed from the coffee-bean trend. Chamberlain launched her brand at the start of 2020, and it raised $7 million in funding last year.The beans are described as 100% organic Arabica coffee on the bag, sourced from Peru, Guatemala, and Colombia.I went for the Original Family Blend, which claims to have notes of milk chocolate, almond, and black cherry.I could definitely taste some fruitiness in there, but my main takeaway from the coffee was that it was quite bitter. It reminded me of a super-strong Italian coffee, which I didn't mind. The bitterness also softened with the addition of the milk.Overall, the quality seemed very good. As someone whose partner has a fancy coffee bean subscription service, I feel pretty spoiled when it comes to the standard of my daily cup. And I thought Chamberlain Coffee measured up.Cost: £16 ($20) per bag, £23 ($29) with shipping.Rating: 3.9/5Top of the Mornin'A bag of Jacksepticeye's Top of the Mornin' coffee beans.Lindsay Dodgson, Karwai Tang/Getty ImagesA nod to his Irish roots and his catchphrase "Top of the mornin' to ya, laddies," Jacksepticeye's coffee beans are named just that: Top of the Mornin'.The gamer, whose real name is Seán McLoughlin, launched the brand in June 2020. At the time he promised there would be a charitable element to the company, which he fulfilled — 1% of profits are donated to the mental health charity Crisis Text Line.I bought a bag of Twilight beans from the range as the flavor notes of cocoa, molasses, and brown sugar seemed up my street.I wasn't convinced all of those came through — but I definitely got a hint of chocolate, and a bit of caramel. The flavors seemed enhanced when the coffee cooled a bit, so they may be more pronounced in a cold brew or iced latte. I'll have to try it again in summer to be sure.The beans, which are described as 100% Arabica, seemed good quality, and they were very fresh when I opened the bag, so overall I found them to be of a high standard. On that basis, I'd definitely try the Golden Hour flavor, or even the more intense-sounding Midnight Oil.Cost: £14 ($18) per bag, £23.60 ($30) with shipping.Rating: 3.5/5Dodger Coffee CoA bag of Dodger Coffee Co coffee beans.Lindsay Dodgson, PressHeartToContinue/YouTubeChamberlain was a major domino in the chain reaction of YouTubers starting up coffee companies since 2020. But Dodger, AKA PressHeartToContinue, AKA Brooke Leigh Thorne got there much sooner, setting up Dodger Coffee Co six years ago in September 2017.Thorne was once a vlogger but now spends most of her time online gaming and streaming on Twitch.Dodger Coffee Co describes its beans as 100% Arabica, and say they make "the perfect coffee for friends to share."The taste is strong but light, and has hints of caramel. On the website, it claims to have notes of cocoa and peanut as well, but those didn't come through for me.The beans were fresh, and the packaging is stylish and easily resealable, so I had no real complaints. I prefer my coffee a little more interesting, but there certainly wasn't anything wrong with it.Cost: £15 (19) per bag, £26 ($32) with shipping.Rating: 3.2/5Carlin Brothers CoffeeA bag of Carlin Brothers Coffee beans.Lindsay Dodgson, SuperCarlinBrothers/YouTubeSuperCarlinBrothers, also known as Jonathan "J" Carlin and Ben Carlin, have been on YouTube for over a decade, and are known for discussing and reviewing movies.They set up their coffee brand in 2018, also predating Chamberlain's.Their beans would be my fourth to try. But it was around this time in my coffee review week that I realized something. Three out of four of the bags I'd ordered came from Lincoln, Nebraska.I'd never thought of the region as a coffee hotspot, so I looked deeper.I found out that there's a coffee company based there that works with online creators to help them create their own coffee brands.It's called Akira Coffee Co and it lists Top of the Mornin', Florida Man Coffee, Dodger Coffee Co, and Carlin Brothers Coffee as its partners, among others.It might be for this reason that I couldn't really tell the difference between my third cup, which was made from Dodger Coffee beans, and my fourth, which was brewed with Carlin Brothers Coffee beans.The beans look different so they haven't just slapped different branding onto two identical products. But seeing as they are both sourced from the same place by the same company, it makes sense that they would taste pretty similar. They even cost the same.That being said, the coffee tasted good. It was strong, but not overly so. The beans seemed slightly sweeter than Dodger Coffee Co's, with a hint of citrus.I probably wouldn't buy it again, mainly because I have a surplus of beans now, and I slightly preferred Dodger Coffee Co. But it isn't a bad product at all.Cost: £15 (19) per bag, £26 ($32) with shipping.Rating: 3.1/5The verdictNone of the YouTuber coffees I drank were the best I'd ever had. They were all decent enough, and I'm sure none of the beans will go to waste in my household.But judging by the similarity of some of the products, and the more memorable flavors of others, my winner has to be Chamberlain Coffee.It stood out as an original product in a crowded field of a lot of other companies trying to do the same thing. It was clear to me that Chamberlain put a lot of work into creating the company, rather than outsourcing the process to a wholesaler, and I believe that pays off in the flavor.It also came out the cheapest, probably because the company has a European warehouse in Denmark so it had less far to travel. And it was the first to arrive, which was nice even though it didn't majorly sway my opinion.For fans of influencers, a bag of coffee beans is a nice gift. And if they are all up to the standard of the ones I tried, it probably won't be one that ends up in the trash either.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 25th, 2023

The best Champagne and sparkling wine, according to experts

Experts helped us determine the best Champagne, Prosecco, brut, and other sparkling wines, from affordable to expensive bottles. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn moreWe're here to help you figure out the best Champagne to ring in the new year.Kokouu/Getty ImagesThis content is intended for readers 21+. Please drink responsibly. If you or anyone you know is dealing with alcohol abuse, get help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) provides a free, confidential, 24/7, treatment referral, and information service.Champagne, a favorite beverage for making a toast or giving as a gift, comes from its namesake region in France where it's aged in individual bottles. Many enthusiasts prize the limestone soil where the grapes are grown. Because of the region's rules and prestige, bottles labeled Champagne are generally more expensive than those from other places. But there's more to sparkling wine than just Champagne. Prosecco from Italy and cava from Spain generally cost less and are enjoyable in their own right. Producers from all over the world also follow similar methods to make sparkling wine that's much more accessible and affordable than Champagne. Below, we've rounded up an exhaustive list of the best Champagne, sparkling wine, prosecco, cava, and more. Use the table of contents to help jump between sections, and use the glossary at the bottom of the page to learn more about the differences between each type of wine. Best ChampagneThe selection of Champagne at your grocery store will mostly consist of big-name makers, with prices starting around $40. To be called Champagne, the wine must be made in a specific region of France.Best Champagnes under $65While perhaps not priced for most people's weekly wine budget, you can still find many Champagnes that come out to around $10 a glass. "We try to kind of really combat this stigma of Champagne being celebratory and kind of pretentious," said Ariel Arce, owner of Air's Champagne Parlor in New York City. She believes you can open a bottle of Champagne for lots of occasions.Most of the choices at these prices will be non-vintage, meaning winemakers may mix different varieties and harvests of grapes to ensure their signature wines taste the same, year after year. These are perfect for drinking right off the shelf for an impromptu celebration. The specialists we consulted recommend Agrapart & Fils Les 7 Crus Brut NV, Chartogne-Taillet Sainte Anne Brut, Cheurlin Brut Spéciale, and Marie Courtin Résonance Extra-Brut. "There's almost nothing better than grower's Champagne," Chevonne Ball, owner of wine-focused travel company Dirty Radish, said about the Chartogne-Taillet. "Crisp and elegant, this true Champagne is worth the price.""For those seeking the crème de la crème of the sparkling world, I always have some grower Champagnes in stock, like Laherte Frères," said Laura Marchetti, owner of Riverview Wines & Spirits. Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV: Forty percent of this wine is from the reserve selection, which are wines aged an average of 10 years. Charles Heidsieck was one of the first Champagnes imported to the US in the 19th Century. Notes: brioche, apple.Henriot Brut Souverain NV: With 30% of the Brut Souverain coming from reserve wines and an almost equal amount of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, this Champagne is very consistent from bottle to bottle. Notes: apple, mineral.Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV: This chardonnay grape Champagne is made from 50% reserve wines from previous years. Notes: mineral, lemon.Marie Courtin Résonance Extra-Brut: This wine is made from pinot noir grapes. Owner Dominique Moreau makes zero-dosage Champagne, aged in the bottle for about two years. Notes: tart, yeasty.Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut: This Champagne, made with pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay grapes, should be easy to find in practically any grocery or liquor store. Notes: citrus, apple.Best Champagnes under $150As you go closer to the over-$100 price point, you'll start seeing more vintage wines. The grapes for vintages all come from the same year, and the wines are aged longer than non-vintages. Leaving a bottle to sit for three years takes up space, which costs money. There are also constraints on how much is grown in Champagne, France. "It's a small area of land, so they can only produce so much," said Crystal Hinds, who owns Effervescence, a sparkling wine lounge in New Orleans. "You're paying for the taste of that terroir, which is usually very limestone."At under $150, you'll also see some cuvées, which is a term winemakers use to designate their very special blends. But there's no real regulation of the term, so its appearance on a label doesn't ensure quality. Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée: A popular Champagne made of over 60% pinot noir grapes, Bollinger's Special Cuvée shouldn't be too hard to find. Notes: apple, toast.Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru: Egly-Ouriet is a grower-producer in Champagne, and its Brut is a mix of 75% pinot noir and 25% chardonnay. Notes: lemon, butter.Henri Goutorbe Special Club Brut Champagne 2006: A wine labeled "Special Club" must earn the approval of the Club Trésors de Champagne's members. Henri Goutorbe is a grower-producer, and this 2006 wine meets the designation. Notes: biscuit, lemon.Best Champagnes over $150For most people, drinking a glass of Champagne from a bottle that costs upwards of $150 is a once-in-a-lifetime – if ever – event. As prices climb, there will be more vintages. Prized wines are made with more care and are aged longer, so they come in smaller batches. Rarity increases the price. Producers also make bottles that are meant to be stored before they're savored. That's not true of every expensive Champagne, but if you're spending a lot, you'll want to ensure you're drinking it at the best time. You'll also want to properly store the bottle so the Champagne doesn't go bad. To see just how out-of-control prices can get, check out some of the world's most expensive Champagnes. Krug Grande Cuvée: Unlike many high-priced Champagnes, this Krug is a non-vintage. It's made by blending over 120 individual wines. Notes: lemon, brioche.Laurent-Perrier NV Grand Siècle Grande Cuvée Brut No. 24: A non-vintage, this Champagne is made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, a blend of wines from the 2007, 2006, and 2004 vintages. Notes: toast, honey.Philipponnat Clos des Goisses Extra Brut 2010: The wine, made up of 71% pinot noir and 29% chardonnay grapes, is a good choice for aging. Notes: almond, citrus.Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2009: You can either drink or save this cuvée, which is made of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. It's named for the English Prime Minister, who was a fan. Notes: brioche, citrus. Alternatively, if you can get the 2008 vintage, which is generally harder to find, we recommend it.Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004: This prestige cuvée, made from chardonnay grapes, is a good choice for aging, especially given the price. Notes: mineral, citrus.Best proseccoMost prosecco comes from Italy and is aged in tanks, unlike Champagne, which ages in bottles. "Prosecco is usually super easy to drink," Hinds said. "It's not super complex — doesn't have a lot of different flavors that linger." Best prosecco under $20It's very easy to find a nice bottle of prosecco for under $20, which makes it attractive for a lot of people. "If I'm being honest, people are buying for cost," said Ball of Dirty Radish. "But I would say that people who like prosecco probably really like a little bit softer of a bubble," she added. Ball is a fan of Loredan Gasparini's prosecco. "Inexpensive and available at most grocery stores, this is one of my favorite brunch sparkling wines," she said. "Delicious on its own or great as a mimosa. I suggest fresh-squeezed citrus!" Acinum Extra Dry Prosecco: From the Veneto region of Italy, this prosecco is made from 100% glera grapes. Notes: pear, apple.Adriano Adami Garbel Brut Prosecco: This prosecco from Treviso in Northern Italy is made with glera grapes. Notes: melon, apple.Bisol Jeio Prosecco Superiore: From the Valdobbiadene area of Northern Italy, the Bisol family makes this prosecco from glera grapes. Notes: apple, citrus.La Marca Prosecco: Easy to spot with its pale-blue label, this is a prosecco you can find most anywhere. Notes: apple, lemon.Loredan Gasparini NV Brut Asolo Prosecco Superiore: Made with all glera grapes, this prosecco is from Veneto, Italy. Notes: apple, citrus.Villa Sandi Prosecco il Fresco Brut: Villa Sandi's prosecco comes from the Treviso region in Italy and is made from mostly glera grapes, along with some chardonnay and pinot blanc. Notes: apple, citrus.Best prosecco over $20A few years ago, the prosecco industry was having issues with counterfeit sparkling wine. To try and combat the problem, it created two classifications, Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Both require following strict regulations, but DOCG is more stringent.Not all prosecco — even some nice ones — will have these marks, but they can help guide your selection-making if you're feeling a little lost and want a marker of quality. Keep in mind that taste is subjective, and it doesn't guarantee it will be to your liking, though. Bisol Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Crede DOCG Brut 2018:  Made from 85% glera grapes, as well as pinot bianco and verdiso, this prosecco is from Valdobbiadene in Italy. Notes: pear, apple.Cà dei Zago Prosecco Col Fondo 2018: Mostly made with glera, this prosecco from the Valdobbiadene also has some verdiso, perera, and bianchetta grapes. Notes: lemon, apple.Col Vetoraz Valdobbiadene Cartizze Superiore 2018: The Cartizze on this label refers to a specific hilly region known for its quality glera grapes. Notes: peach, floral.Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore: You can sometimes find this 100% glera prosecco for under $20, making it an even better value. Notes: apple, lemon.Best cavaPenedès, a region of Catalonia, Spain, is known for its sparkling wine called cava. Compared to prosecco, cava is made more similarly to Champagne — aged in bottles. The grapes are very different, though, with many wines being made from a mix of macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo grapes. Best cava under $20Like prosecco, cava is much more affordable than Champagne. But just because you can pick up a bottle for $10, it doesn't mean you need to hold your nose and drink. While inexpensive cavas do make great choices for mimosas or bellinis, you can also enjoy them in their own right. "[The Naveran Dama Brut] has one of the most delicate mousses and mouthfeel," Ball said. "The bubbles fill your palate with delicious aromas." Marchetti of Riverview Wines & Spirits recommends the line of Azimut wines from Cellers de Can Suriol "for a classic, traditional palate at an affordable price."Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs Brut Reserva Cava: Mainly chardonnay, along with some parellada, xarel·lo, and macabeo grapes, this cava is aged at least 15 months. Notes: peach, citrus.Cellers de Can Suriol Azimut Brut Nature Cava: A cava from Penedès, this wine is made with macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo grapes. Notes: white fruit, pear.Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava: Macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo grapes make up this cava from Penedès, in Spain. Notes: apple, toast.Segura Viudas: From Penedès, this cava is made with macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo and is widely distributed in the US. Notes: apple, citrus.Best cava over $20When is a cava not a cava? When the winemaker doesn't want it to be called that. Some producers wanted to designate what they see as their wines' quality, so they've begun labeling their bottles with Corpinnat instead of cava. Raventós i Blanc, meanwhile, uses its own designation for its sparkling wines, Conca del Riu Anoia. This doesn't mean everything still labeled cava is bad. Corpinnat producers make up only a small percentage of winemakers in the region, so there's still plenty of cava to go around. Gramona III Lustros Brut Nature 2012: A blend of xarel·lo and macabeo grapes, this wine is aged for 70 months and comes from the Penedès region. Notes: apple, pastry.Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut: Aged for 36 months, this Brut wine from the Penedès region is made from 55% xarel·lo grapes, with some macabeo and parellada grapes as well. Notes: apple, citrus.Raventós i Blanc de la Finca Brut 2016: Located in the Penedès region, Raventós i Blanc makes this sparkling wine from macabeo, xarel·lo, and parellada grapes. Notes: apple, citrus.Recaredo Brut Nature Intens Rosat Cava 2014: This cava is made from monastrell and garnatxa grapes in the Penedès region of Spain. Notes: red fruit, toast.Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad Cava Brut: This Brut from Segura Viudas is made from macabeo and parellada grapes and aged for 30 months. Notes: floral, lemon.Best sparkling wineWhile all of the wines mentioned in this guide are, technically, sparkling wines, the ones mentioned here focus on wines mostly from the United States. Best sparkling wine under $25There are sparkling winemakers all across the United States using different methods and grape varieties with unique results. Not only can you find terrific options, but stateside products are also often budget-friendly."Sparkling wines coming out of Oregon or California are always going to be vastly different than any of the others, because we're so young and so new," said Ball of Dirty Radish. "There's very cool stuff happening all around the country in sparkling wine," Arce said. The problem is, it can be difficult to find Michigan's Mawby wines or sparkling wines from New York's Finger Lakes outside of certain areas. You might have a local winery making a sparkling wine that you fall in love with, so they're worth exploring in addition to some of the more widely distributed brands.Besides US wineries, there are nice options from winemaking regions such as Australia and New Zealand. For a bit of prestige, Mumm Napa is an affordable sparkling wine made in the traditional style of its parent company, G.H. Mumm of France.The recommendations for Gruet Sauvage Blanc de Blancs and McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut come from our panel. Sunshine Foss, who owns Happy Cork in Brooklyn, New York, says the McBride Sisters' wine has been popular in her shop because of the name, "but it's also a really, really good sparkling Brut."Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Columbia Valley NV: A blend of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes, this sparkling wine comes from Washington State. Notes: lemon, mineral. Gruet Sauvage Blanc de Blancs: Made only from chardonnay grapes, Gruet's Sauvage is from New Mexico. Notes: lemon, apple. Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2013: From California's Russian River Valley area, this Brut is made from pinot noir and chardonnay, aged for four years. Notes: apple, floral.Mumm Napa Brut Prestige: Chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, and pinot meunier grapes make up this Brut wine from California. Notes: apples, bread.Best sparkling wine over $25It's not just US winemakers that have vineyards in California. Some big Champagne houses, like Taittinger Champagne and Louis Roederer, have land in the state. That's why wines from Roederer Estate, for example, are lower than a typical Champagne. Larger producers will often stick to more traditional methods and grapes, while smaller producers might experiment more. Caraccioli Cellars, for example, is a smaller, family-run vineyard in California."The big difference between a big house and a small house (a big producer and a small producer) is how they're handling the wine," Ball said. Smaller operations often lack machinery, so they hand turn or hand riddle the bottles. That's one reason it took some US winemakers a while to get into sparkling wine, she said: "It takes a lot of work."You can find sparkling wines from the United States that cost over $100, for bottles producers have taken extra time and attention with or that come from a particular vintage. There are many quality wines for closer to $50, though. "Corollary Wines is the husband and wife duo Dan and Jeanne's passion project," Ball said. The Cuvée One is a mix of grapes from five Oregon vineyards, grown in different soils and climates, and that interest in the varying terroirs of the state comes through in the wine, she said. Corollary Wines Cuvée One: An Oregon wine, it's made with 50% pinot noir, 32% chardonnay, and 18% pinot blanc grapes. Notes: lemon, bread. J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Brut: Almost half chardonnay grapes, plus pinot noir and some pinot meunier, make up this California sparkling wine. Notes: peach, green apple.McBride Sisters Black Girl Magic Sparkling Brut: This Brut is made from 90% chardonnay and 10% pinot gris grapes, grown in New Zealand. Notes: lemon, floral.Roederer Estate L'Ermitage 2013: Roederer Estate is the California winery from Champagne maker Louis Roederer; this sparkling wine is made from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes. Notes: apple, toast.Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2018: This blanc de blancs comes from California and is made from 100% chardonnay. Notes: citrus, pastry.Best sparkling wine in a canSometimes you want a glass of bubbles without the glass part, and that's where sparkling wine cans come in. Over the past several years, more and more winemakers have started making more portable versions of their products. You won't find Champagne in a can, but you can still get some great bubbles for on-the-go — or at home. Nomadica Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé: Pinot noir grapes make up this sparkling wine from California. Notes: berries, pomegranate. Underwood Rosé Bubbles: Mostly pinot noir with some chardonnay and pinot gris grapes, this wine from Oregon is available in bottle and can form. Notes: strawberry, cherry.Best brutTo find a drier, less sweet sparkling wine, simply look for the word "brut" on the label. The scale starts at Brut Nature as the driest and becomes increasingly sweet from extra brut, brut, extra dry or extra sec, dry or sec, demi-sec, and doux. Brut Nature contains no added sugar, though there may be some residual sweetness left over. It's not just Champagne. There are brut cavas and proseccos, too.  Adriano Adami Garbel Brut Prosecco: This prosecco from Treviso in Northern Italy is made with glera grapes. Notes: melon, apple.Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé: Chardonnay, pinot meunier, and pinot noir grapes make up this rosé from Champagne. Notes: strawberry, orange.Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV: Forty percent of this wine is from the reserve selection, which are wines aged an average of 10 years. Charles Heidsieck was one of the first Champagnes imported to the US in the 19th Century. Notes: brioche, apple.Juvé y Camps Reserva de la Familia Brut: Aged for 36 months, this Brut wine from the Penedès region is made from 55% xarel·lo grapes, with some macabeo and parellada grapes as well. Notes: apple, citrus.Best CrémantCrémants are sparkling wines from eight regions in France — including Loire, Alsace, and Burgundy — and one in Luxembourg. They're made in a similar style as Champagne but are just a fraction of the cost. Some are made with grapes you won't find in Champagne. It's not easy to describe the taste because there's a lot of variety. The prices of many of these sparkling wines are much, much lower than Champagne. "I feel like you can find great value," Ball said. Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura Brut: This is a chardonnay crémant from the Jura region of France. Notes: apple, citrus.Domaine J. Laurens Crémant de Limoux Brut Rosé: A rosé, this crémant is a blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc, and pinot noir grapes. Notes: cherry, strawberry.Lucien Albrecht Crémant d'Alsace Brut: From Alsace, France, this crémant contains pinot auxerrois, pinot blanc, and chardonnay grapes. Notes: pear, floral. Faire La Fête Crémant de Limoux: Though many crémants from Limoux contain mauzac grapes, this wine is a blend of mostly chardonnay, plus chenin blanc and pinot noir. Notes: green apple, lemon.Pierre Sparr Crémant d'Alsace Brut Reserve: Eighty percent pinot blanc and 20% pinot auxerrois, this crémant comes from the Alsace region. Notes: apple, citrus.Best sparkling roséThere are several ways to make rosé sparkling. Despite its pretty color, rosé doesn't have to be sweet. As with Champagne, you'll find bottles labeled Brut to be on the drier side. "I think a lot of people think that rosé is maybe something that's going to be sweeter or more fruit-forward, which that category, again, has so many variations within it," said Arce of Air's Champagne Parlor. Best sparkling rosé under $20For under $20, you won't find pink-hued Champagne, but there are lots of cavas and other sparkling rosés from around the world (including other parts of France) at that price. The experts we spoke to mentioned Landmass Papi Sparkling Rosé, Lve Rosé by John Legend, and Rivarose Brut Rosé as some of their go-to rosés. "It's really delicate," said Effervescence's Hinds of the Rivarose. "It's not overly sparkling." She also said the modern-looking bottle makes it perfect for gifting. Campo Viejo Cava Gran Brut Rosé: Made from 100% trepat grapes, the rosé was aged in the bottle for nine months. Notes: strawberry, citrus.Graham Beck NV Brut Rosé: This rosé from South African winery Graham Beck, a mix of pinot noir and chardonnay, undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle. Notes: raspberry, apple.Landmass Papi Sparkling Rosé: From the Willamette Valley in Oregon, this sparkling rosé is made from tempranillo grapes. Notes: apple, strawberry.Lve Rosé by John Legend: John Legend's Lve rosé is made in the Charmat Method, like prosecco, from mostly unspecified white grapes, along with some pinot noir and grenache grapes. Notes: strawberry, mineral.Mas Fi Cava Brut Rosé: This Spanish cava is made from trepat grapes and is aged for 11 months in the bottle. Notes: cherry, strawberry.Rivarose Brut Rosé: A rosé from the Provence region of France, Rivarose's sparkling wine is a blend of syrah and grenache grapes. Notes: strawberry, pear.Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosé: Segura Viudas' affordable and ubiquitous cava was made from mostly trepat grapes. Notes: strawberry, raspberry.Best sparkling rosé under $50Closer to $50, you can start to find rosé Champagne, but the majority of sparkling wines under that price are from other regions. There are many rosé crémants from France that are around $25, but you can also get bottles from Italy, the US, and elsewhere for a similar price. "I would definitely hold [the Domaine Franck Besson Rosé Granit] up against any of the other sorts of higher-end wines that you would find out of Champagne," said Ball of Dirty Radish. Raventós i Blanc de Nit Rose 2017: A sparkling wine from the Penedès region of Spain, it's made from xarel·lo, macabeo, and parellada, as well as monastrell, which gives the wine its color. Notes: floral, strawberry.Domaine Franck Besson Rosé Granit: Franck Besson is a unique producer in Beaujolais, France, and this rosé is 100% gamay grapes. Notes: strawberry, cherry.Louis Bouillot Perle d'Aurore Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé: Pinot noir, chardonnay, and gamay grapes are used to make this wine, which is aged for 12 months. Notes: strawberry, toast.Parigot & Richard Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé: Aged for three years, Parigot & Richard's rosé is made from only pinot noir grapes. Notes: raspberry, mineral.Scharffenberger NV Brut Rosé: From California, Scharffenberger's rosé is nearly evenly split between chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, aged for two years in the bottle. Notes: raspberry, citrus.Schramsberg Brut Rosé: Made in California with mostly pinot noir and some chardonnay grapes, this rosé is aged in the bottle for about two years. Note: strawberry, bread.Best sparkling rosé over $50Just like other Champagnes, you can find bottles of rosé that cost hundreds of dollars, including Krug and Dom Perignon. Vintages and some cuvées will cost more, because winemakers take more care with them, and some of them are aged for longer. For under $100, there are lots of delicious choices from Champagne, as well as many sparkling rosés from elsewhere. Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé: Chardonnay, pinot meunier, and pinot noir grapes make up this rosé from Champagne. Notes: strawberry, orange.Henriot Brut Rosé: Henriot's rosé Champagne is aged for three years and is made from pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier grapes. Notes: raspberry, mineral.Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé: A rosé Champagne, this wine is made of 100% pinot noir grapes and aged for five years. Notes: raspberry, brioche.Ruinart NV Brut Rosé: Ruinart's rosé is 55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay and comes from the Champagne region. Notes: raspberry, spice.Soter 2014 Mineral Springs Brut Rosé Sparkling: Mainly pinot noir with some chardonnay grapes, Soter's Oregon rosé is aged for five years in the bottle. Notes: strawberry, almond.Best pét-natPétillant-naturel (pét-nat) wines are bottled while still undergoing their first fermentation. Some winemakers leave the yeast in the bottle, so the final product will be cloudy, with sediment on the bottom. "Pét-nats have become super-big right now because it's on the sparkling side but it's done in such a natural way," said Sunshine Foss of Happy Cork. The results tend to be less predictable than something like a cuveé, which is reliably blended from known reserves. "A lot of wine geeks love that funky taste, like strawberry cola," said Crystal Hinds. "Some taste like sour beers." You can find many pét-nats for between $20 and $50.Hinds recommends both the Kobal Wines rosé and the Les Tètes Nat Igny Rusé ($29): "It's just so beautiful and delicate," she said of the Les Tètes' wine. "You can hardly tell that it's a pét-nat." "Being Italian I'll always have a few prosecco col fondo — the Italian version of pét-nat," said Marchetti of Riverside Wine & Spirits. "Those are old-school, unfiltered prosecco." She suggests offerings from Carolina Gatti and the Col Tamarie, as well as Rodica's sparkling malvasia from Slovenia.Ancarani Indigeno Pétillant Naturel 2019: This pét-nat comes from Italy and is made from trebbiano grapes. Notes: citrus, bread.Bichi Pet Mex Pétillant Naturel Rosé: Bichi is a winery in Mexico that doesn't like to reveal what type of grape goes into this pét-nat. Notes: strawberry, citrus.Cambridge Road Naturalist Pétillant Naturel: A New Zealand wine, this pét-nat has riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. Notes: pear, citrus.Cruse Wine Valdiguié Pétillant Naturel: Made from valdiguié grapes, this pét-nat hails from lauded California winemaker Michael Cruse. Notes: strawberry, tart. Kobal Wines Bajta Blaufränkisch Rosé: This wine from Slovenia is made from blaufränkisch grapes. Notes: strawberry, yeast.Les Tètes Les Parcelles Tète Nat Igny Rusé: From France's Loire Valley, this wine is made from chenin blanc grapes. Notes: floral, cotton candy. Moutard Pet Mout Pétillant Naturel Chardonnay: Moutard makes wines from both Champagne and Burgundy in France, including this chardonnay pét-nat. Notes: citrus, mineral.Onward Wines Pétillant-Naturel Rosé: This pinot noir pét-nat is from California. Notes: strawberry, citrus.Rodica Bela Sparkling Malvasia Brut: From Slovenia's Istrian Peninsula, this pét-nat is 100% malvasia grapes. Notes: white fruit, floral.William Chris Péttilant Naturel Rosé: Texas winery William Chris makes this wine from sangiovese, mourvèdre, cinsault, and trebbiano grapes. Notes: citrus, melon.Advice from our expertsFor our guide, we consulted four experts (from left to right): Sunshine Foss, Ariel Arce, Chevonne Ball, Crystal Hinds, and Laura Marchetti (not shown).Happy Cork/Universe/Dirty Radish/EffervescenceTo help us narrow down some selections of Champagne and sparkling wines, we spoke with five experts and got advice and recommendations for choosing what to drink. Drink what you like: "Prior to even this new wave of making wine more accessible, people thought, 'Okay, well you have to have this vocabulary to be able to speak to the wine and understand the wine.' For me, it's just really about how it tastes and what I like to drink," said Sunshine Foss, owner of Happy Cork in Brooklyn, New York. Sometimes, smaller is better: "I don't think like you have to go to that $150 splurge point to find a good bottle of Champagne," said Ariel Arce, who's been called the "Champagne Empress of Greenwich Village" by the New York Times. For $65 to $80, she said you can get a nice bottle from a smaller producer, who both grows the grapes and makes the wine. She owns Air's Champagne Parlor in New York City and wrote the book "Better with Bubbles: An Effervescent Education in Champagnes & Sparkling Wines."Taste a lot: "There's not really a way to learn about wine other than to try it and to taste it," said Chevonne Ball, who owns Dirty Radish, a travel company that specializes in wine tours. Look outside of Champagne and France: "That's one of the fun things that we do, is look for these different sparkling wines from different countries and give it a try," said Crystal Hinds, who owns Effervescence, a sparkling wine lounge in New Orleans, Louisiana. Try to be a little extroverted: "If visiting a boutique wine shop, I'd ask what the staff is drinking right now," said Laura Marchetti, owner of Riverview Wine & Spirits in Jersey City, New Jersey. "Ask what's new and exciting and what wines their go-to wines are. Once you get the staff pumped up, it's often hard to get them to stop working for you." She knows this can be intimidating for some, but she adds that she's an introvert as well.Champagne vs. sparkling wineFG Trade/Getty ImagesTo gather our lists of recommendations, we consulted our panel of experts and looked at expert lists of best Champagnes, sparkling wines, cavas, proseccos, crémants, and more from Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Food and Wine, Decanter, Wine Folly, The New York Times, and The Chicago Tribune. If you feel overwhelmed in the store or while searching online, here are some things to keep in mind. Start with the price: If you must have Champagne from France, the cheapest bottle is going to cost around $40. Sunshine Foss, who owns Happy Cork in Brooklyn, said she thinks people should also be flexible on price. "You might come in saying, 'Okay, I'm going to spend $50 on a bottle,' but you might get two or three bottles for that price that are all going to be amazing," she said.Buy by brand: If you definitely, definitely want to buy Champagne but are still stumped, you can look at some well-known brands and feel confident about what you're getting. "It's not my first recommendation, but I do think there are certain brands that make an incredibly consistent and quality product," said Arce, owner of Air's Champagne Parlor. She recommends Charles Heidsieck, Bollinger, Philipponnat, Henriot, and Delamotte. "Those are five really beautiful houses, all of which are going to have their non-vintage Brut at an affordable price point," she said.  Look outside Champagne: There's cava from Spain or prosecco from Italy, but South Africa, England, Brazil, Australia, and lots of other countries are also in the sparkling wine business. "You're going to be tasting different grapes, like a malbec or like a blaufränkisch, grapes you've never even heard of, something different than the chardonnay and pinot noir and pinot meunier," said Crystal Hinds, who owns Effervescence. "You won't compare them as much to Champagne if you're tasting a totally different grape." Don't expect all sparkling wine to taste like Champagne: "There's nothing worse, in my opinion, than sparkling wines that are trying to compete with a region that's been making wine for hundreds of years," Arce said. "I think American sparkling is more fun when it's made in its own way, with its own unique grapes." Compared to France, Oregon, California, and other states are newer to making sparkling wine. "It's different soil. It's different terroir," said Ball, who owns Dirty Radish. "It's different grapes, and the rules are different. So we have a lot more freedom here because we have less of the regulations than they do in something like France."But if you do want something similar to Champagne: There are plenty of winemakers that use Champagne-style methods outside of the region. They'll label their bottles with méthode Champenoise or méthode traditionnelle. They'll also use the same grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. "I really liked the wine from Caraccioli Cellars, if you're looking for something to be similar to champagne," said Arce.GlossaryWith a few exceptions, Champagne is sparkling wine that comes from Champagne, France. The Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC) oversees production and enforces the strict regulations that govern virtually every aspect of the process."When you're paying for Champagne, you're paying for some of the techniques that are used," said Crystal Hinds, owner of Effervescence. "They can only pick at a certain time. They can only pick so much per hectare."If you pick up a bottle, and it has the word "Champagne" on it, the wine is almost certainly from this region and was made in accordance with the rules. "California Champagne" is quite different and is essentially the product of a loophole.  Cava, prosecco, and other sparkling wines are made from a variety of methods, with different grapes, and in different regions and countries. Consider this glossary a crash course in Champagne 101.  Assemblage: The process of blending wines from different vineyards, grapes, and years. You might see the assemblage listed as a percentage of each type of grape. Blanc de Blancs: It means "white of whites," so these wines are made from all-white grapes; in the Champagne region, this usually means 100% chardonnay. Blanc de Noirs: Noir is French for black, and only red grapes go into these wines, but the resulting wine is still a pale golden color because it uses the juice and not the skin, which is where the reddish color comes from. Brut: In the traditional method, Champagne goes through two fermentations. After the second, winemakers add sugar, which is known as "dosage." Drier, less sweet sparkling wines will have the word "brut" on the label. Here's the scale, from driest to sweetest:1. Brut Nature2. Extra brut3. Brut4. Extra dry or extra sec5. Dry or sec6. Demi-sec7. Doux Brut Nature: The driest of the dry, brut nature has no added sugar. It may contain some leftover sugar, up to three grams per liter. Cava: Cava is sparkling wine from Spain. However, not all sparkling wine from the country is labeled as such. Compared to prosecco, cava is more similar to Champagne. Winemakers mainly use three varieties of white grapes to make cava: macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo. Champagne, France: This region is in the northeast of the country, about 90 miles from Paris.  Cru: Traditionally, Champagne houses purchased their grapes from growers. There are 319 crus, which are also known as villages or vineyards, in the region. There are some grower-producers that use their own grapes, and so you won't find these designations on some very good bottles of wine. Crémant: Crémants are sparkling wines from France but made outside of the Champagne region. "Crémant is a really great way to go if you're looking for a good glass of sparkling wine, but without the cost of the Champagne tag, if you will," said Chevonne Ball of Dirty Radish.Cuveé: In Champagne-making, the first pressing is considered the best, and it's known as the cuvée. Subsequent pressings are the taille. Some winemakers also call their special blends cuvées, but there's no guarantee that something labeled with that word will be spectacular.   Disgorgement: During riddling, the yeast sediment collects in the neck of the bottle. To get it out, winemakers submerge the neck into a freezing solution. Then they turn the bottles right-side-up, take off the cap, and the carbon dioxide inside pushes the frozen chunk of sediment out. Fermentation: For the second fermentation -- which gives the wine its bubbles -- producers add the liqueur de tirage, a solution of sugar and yeast. Champagne and cava undergo this second fermentation in individual bottles. For prosecco, it happens in a tank, so it's a much less labor-intensive process. Grapes: Some types of sparkling wine use a limited amount of grape varieties. Champagne is most often made from chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes. Cava is mainly macabeo, parellada, and xarel·lo grapes. Glera grapes are typically used for prosecco. Lees: After the second fermentation — once the yeast has consumed all the sugar and died — the wine isn't quite ready. Champagne stays in the bottle for at least 15 months before it's released. Non-vintage cuvées stay in the bottle with the lees, or dead yeast deposits, for at least 12 months. Vintage cuvées must rest on the lees for three years, minimum. Liqueur de tirage: The mix of sugar, yeast, and sometimes a bit of wine that producers add to non-sparkling base wine to start the second fermentation. The yeast consumes the sugar, creating carbon dioxide and alcohol.   Méthode Traditionnelle: The traditional method of making Champagne, where the second fermentation takes place inside an individual bottle. Many sparkling wines outside of Champagne are made in this way.       Non-Vintage: The vast majority of Champagne is non-vintage. It's not about how long the wine was aged. Rather, it means that the wine is a blend of different vintages or types of grapes, or it comes from grapes in different vineyards. Using a mix allows winemakers to create a more consistent wine. Prosecco: Prosecco is made in Northeast Italy, primarily using glera grapes. Unlike Champagne, prosecco is made with the Charmat Method. Instead of the second fermentation taking place in individual bottles, it happens in a tank, in larger batches. The method is faster and less expensive, so the resulting wine costs less than Champagne. Pét-nat: Short for pétillant-naturel, this style of sparkling wine has grown in popularity over the past several years. Non-sparkling wine undergoes a single fermentation when yeast transforms sugar into alcohol. The CO2 is released, so the wine is still instead of bubbly. With pét-nats, winemakers bottle up the wine during this first fermentation, retaining some of the CO2. Riddling: To get the yeast sediment into the neck of the bottle, winemakers slowly tip the bottle so the bottom is up. It can take a week or months, depending on the quality (and eventual price) of the wine.  Rosé: There are a few ways to make sparkling rosé or rosé champagne. Winemakers may add still (unsparkling) red wine to give some color or they may "bleed" juice from tanks of macerating grapes that will be used for red wine. Even when it's described with words like fruity, rosé can still be dry. Sec: On the scale from driest to sweetest, Sec is on the sweeter side, while brut has less sugar.Sparkling wine: Champagne, cava, and prosecco are all sparkling wines. They all have bubbles. You can find sparkling wines from practically anywhere. They may be made with different methods and different grapes, which is why they are priced and taste differently. Terroir: When people discuss terroir, they mean the climate, soil, grape varieties, landscape, and other factors that make wines distinct. Vintage: Vintage wines come from grapes harvested in a single year. That year will be on the label, so it's easy to tell vintages and non-vintages apart. These are the wines people buy and store in cellars. Non-vintages are meant to be drunk right off the shelf.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 20th, 2023

I tried 14 of Aldi"s holiday food items, and I"d buy at least half of them again

From Sundae Shoppe hot-cocoa ice cream to Emporium Selection gingerbread goat cheese, I tried and reviewed all the Aldi holiday foods I could find. I tried 14 of the holiday food items at Aldi.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI taste-tested holiday items from Aldi to see which are worth getting again.I wouldn't buy the Winterliebe cherry mulled wine or Mama Cozzi's star-shaped pizza again.The Choceur candy-cane chocolate-covered almonds and Benton's peppermint cremes were delicious.I love shopping at Aldi, and this year, I figured I'd give the store's holiday items a try.I taste-tested 14 of the chain's limited-edition holiday items.Here's how they stacked up.The Park Street Deli charcuterie tasting board seemed to pack a big punch.The Park Street Deli charcuterie board came with salami, crackers, and more.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI was excited to see the Park Street Deli charcuterie board in Aldi's cooler aisle.The package seemed to contain everything you'd need for a basic board: Calabrese and nugget salami, pitted Greek olives, white cheddar, sesame crackers, and even dark-chocolate-covered almonds.The charcuterie board was just OK.I wasn't too impressed with any of the components in the charcuterie board.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI thought the Calabrese salami, olives, cheese, crackers, and chocolate tasted fine. They paired well together and could certainly be building blocks for a fun holiday tray.But they weren't standouts, and the portions were only large enough for a small charcuterie board.To me, the nugget salami was bland. If I wasn't trying it for a taste test, I would've tossed it.In this case, I think you'd be better off purchasing à la carte items and building your own board.The Specially Selected mini rosemary artisan crackers looked like a great base for any snack.I expected the Specially Selected rosemary crackers to smell herby.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe Specially Selected crackers seemed like a great size and looked sturdy enough to hold up to holiday snacking.I'm a huge fan of rosemary, so I was excited to see how these crackers tasted.I hoped to use them to snazz up my holiday charcuterie boards.The rosemary crackers were delicious, and I'd totally eat them right out of the package.The rosemary crackers had just the right amount of salt.Erika Ebsworth-GooldFor me, these crackers were a perfect, crisp base and had a great snap.They had a subtle rosemary flavor, but certainly not enough to interfere with whatever meat, cheese, dip, or jam you choose to serve them with.The crackers had just enough salt, and I could eat them straight out of the package sans topping.The Specially Selected cheese-pairing spread set came with four different flavor options. Each spread was meant to be paired with a specific type of cheese.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe Specially Selected cheese-pairing spread set caught my eye.Each petite jam jar held a different flavor: pear and cinnamon, apricot and cumin, fig and honey, and cherry and rosemary.Each jar was designed to pair well with a certain type of cheese, which was labeled on the packaging.I’d serve three of the four spreads.I paired the apricot-cumin spread with hard cheddar and crackers.Erika Ebsworth-GooldPer the package's recommendation, I tried the apricot-cumin spread with some hard cheddar. The unique combination had an earthy heat, which I found to be a winning combo.As for the fig-honey spread, I thought the sweetness of the fruit balanced the tang of the plain goat cheese.The cherry-rosemary compote contrasted the saltiness of blue cheese and made for a delicious bite.But the pear-cinnamon spread, which was supposed to be served with Brie, tasted a bit too much like applesauce for my liking.I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the Emporium Selection gingerbread goat cheese.I expected the Emporium Selection goat cheese to be tangy and sweet.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI usually like the Emporium Selection goat cheeses but thought the gingerbread flavor was a bit of a stretch.But hey, it's the holidays.I thought the goat cheese tasted more like a dessert than an appetizer.The Emporium Selection gingerbread goat cheese was very sweet.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe gingerbread log was smooth and crumbled the way you'd expect goat cheese to.It was dense and creamy and tasted more like a spiced cheesecake than anything else.I'd use it in mini tarts but would struggle to place it on a savory holiday charcuterie tray.You'd definitely have to warn your guests that it's on the sweeter side.Lemon curd is a holiday staple in our home, and the Berryhill version looked promising.The Berryhill lemon curd looked creamy in the jar.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI love having a jar or two of lemon curd on hand, so I was interested to see how I'd like this version from Berryhill.The lemon curd passed my test.I liked the Berryhill lemon curd.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe Berryhill spread was nicely tart and not too sweet, with no artifical lemon flavor.I'd happily serve this to my family and guests.The Barissimo mocha-mint ground coffee seemed festive.The reindeer on the packaging of the Barissimo mocha-mint coffee caught my eye.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe Barissimo mocha-mint coffee's green packaging and reindeer caught my eye.I measured enough ground coffee for my reusable K-cup and topped the finished beverage with a bit of cream.The coffee didn't have a very strong flavor at all.I added a little bit of cream to the Barissimo mocha-mint coffee.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI suppose I was expecting the coffee to taste like Thin Mints, but I could barely discern a sweet smell.When I took a sip, I got no chocolate or mint flavor.It was a fine cup of Joe, but I'd go with some hazelnut ground coffee next time.The Specially Selected brioche stuffing mix looked too good to be true.The Specially Selected brioche stuffing mix had garlic and rosemary flavors.Erika Ebsworth-GooldStuffing is one of those once-a-year treats I look forward to, but making stuffing from scratch can take a while.The Specially Selected version uses brioche cubes, and according to its packaging, takes only five minutes to cook.The stuffing tasted pretty good.The Specially Selected stuffing came together in five minutes.Erika Ebsworth-GooldTo make the stuffing, I brought melted butter and water to a boil, added the seasoned bread cubes, covered the pot, and removed it from the heat.Five minutes later, the dish was ready.The stuffing was a little salty, but both the rosemary and garlic notes came through nicely.Though I found it to be a bit gummy, I think it would do for an at-home holiday meal in a pinch.Benton’s fudge-covered peppermint cremes seemed like showstoppers.Benton's peppermint cremes looked delicious.Erika Ebsworth-GooldTo me, Benton's fudge-covered peppermint-creme cookies looked like souped-up Oreos.The chocolate-sandwich cookies dunked in fudge and topped with candy-cane sprinkles sounded amazing.I nearly polished off the entire package of peppermint cremes.Benton's peppermint cremes were covered with candy-cane pieces.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThese were so incredible, I'd serve them alongside my home-baked holiday cookies.They were crunchy, chocolaty, and delicious.Don't hesitate to add Benton's peppermint cremes to your cart.The Choceur hot-cocoa bombs looked like they'd be fun.The pack of Choceur hot-cocoa bombs came with three variations of chocolate.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI thought the Choceur Belgian chocolate hot-cocoa bombs sounded like a fun food to try.The box included three marshmallow-filled bombs in dark, milk, and white chocolate.The bombs made for a messy but sweet cup of hot cocoa.I poured hot almond milk over the hot-cocoa bombs.Erika Ebsworth-GooldWhen I poured hot almond milk over the chocolate bombs, they melted a bit unevenly. However, I wasn't too surprised or concerned.They tasted delicious, and I thought the little pink marshmallows inside were a nice addition.Just be sure to use a large mug to accommodate all the chocolate-bomb goodness.I took a chance on the Winterliebe cherry mulled wine.I was expecting the Winterliebe cherry mulled wine to be delicious.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI know what good mulled wine should taste like, as I've had my fair share of authentic German glühwein.Aldi usually does a great job with international products, so I had high hopes for the Winterliebe cherry mulled wine.I didn't like the cherry mulled wine at all.For me, the Winterliebe cherry wine is a pass.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI followed the heat-and-serve directions, carefully bringing some of the wine to a simmer on my stovetop.As I heated it, I got whiffs of what I thought was an unpleasant, artificial smell.When I poured it into a mug and took a sip, I thought it tasted like cherry cough syrup. I definitely wouldn't buy it again.The Bolthouse Farms holiday nog seemed like a lighter version of eggnog.The Bolthouse Farms holiday nog had colorful packaging.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI was expecting the Bolthouse Farms holiday nog to be similar to the rich and creamy eggnog beverages I've had before.Notably, eggnog must be at least 6% butterfat by weight, compared to holiday nog's 2% minimum.The holiday nog was pretty good.The Bolthouse Farms holiday nog was light yet creamy.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe holiday nog tasted creamy, and I thought it could be a decent, lighter substitute for eggnog.That being said, if you're expecting the rich and creamy flavor of the holiday classic, this is far from real eggnog.Mama Cozzi’s holiday star pizza looked like a cute meal option for kids.Mama Cozzi's star pizza had peppers and mozzarella pearls on top.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe hustle and bustle of the holidays can make a no-fuss meal all the more appealing, and Mama Cozzi's star-shaped pizza seemed like it would be good in a pinch.I usually love a take-and-bake flatbread, especially with mozzarella pearls.It also looked like it had a decent amount of colorful veggie toppings.I thought the pizza fell flat. Mama Cozzi's star-shaped pizza didn't impress me.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe pizza wasn't terrible, but the crust was somewhere between thin and regular. It didn't crisp up or have a good chew, leaving it in a strange middle ground.The tomato sauce tasted bland, the shredded cheddar and mozzarella pearls didn't work well together, and the green and red bell peppers seemed to be an afterthought.In my opinion, the pizza might be fine for toddlers, but not for those with more discerning palates.I was excited to try the Sundae Shoppe hot-cocoa ice cream.I expected the Sundae Shoppe hot-cocoa ice cream to be chocolaty.Erika Ebsworth-GooldDecember is prime time for hot cocoa, and I was looking forward to seeing how the drink translated into Sundae Shoppe's frozen dessert.Per the label, the carton contains chocolate ice cream, a whipped-cream swirl, and milk-chocolate flakes.The texture of the ice cream was kind of funky to me.I was hoping the texture of the Sundae Shoppe ice cream would be smoother.Erika Ebsworth-GooldIn my opinion, the texture of the ice cream was gritty, as if the candy flakes had been crushed down to tiny granules.The whipped cream also took away from the punch of the chocolate. I wouldn't buy this again. I didn't know what to think of the Choceur chocolate-covered almonds with crushed candy cane.The Choceur candy-cane chocolate-covered almonds seemed like a strange combination.Erika Ebsworth-GooldI found the Choceur chocolate-covered almonds with crushed candy cane in the seasonal aisle.Although I love almonds, I thought the white-and-dark-chocolate coatings and crushed candy canes might make for an odd combination.The almonds were probably my favorite item out of all the holiday foods I tried.The Choceur candy-cane chocolate-covered almonds were sweet and crunchy.Erika Ebsworth-GooldThe chocolate-covered almonds with crushed candy cane were delicious.They reminded me of Ghirardelli peppermint-bark squares, except with an almond in the middle. They were crunchy, nutty, and sweet.Out of all the holiday items I tried, these were my favorite. They're so good I'm going to have to hide them from everyone else in my family.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 14th, 2023

Meet your new landlord: Google

Companies like Google, Tesla, Meta, and Disney are building homes designed to attract new employees and ease the housing crisis. After years of running up against housing shortages, companies like Google, Meta, and Disney are taking matters into their own hands.Arantza Pena Popo/Business InsiderThe digital renderings of North Bayshore, a massive proposed development in Mountain View, California, are crowded with glistening buildings and cheerful, animated pedestrians. There's a lot to show off, including 7,000 new homes, three distinct neighborhoods, and nearly 300,000 square feet of retail and community space. Notably, though, the gleaming images don't bear any hints of the company behind the whole endeavor: Google.Companies like Google and Facebook's parent, Meta, conquered the digital realm a long time ago, setting the ground rules for how we search, interact, and shop online. Not content to stop there, however, these firms are now making huge bids to expand their reach. They want to be landlords, too.Across the country, corporations are using their considerable sway and resources to build modern company towns — mini-cities that will feature all the trappings of traditional civic life, including housing, shops, and public spaces. These new projects won't have corporate logos on every building, and many of the units will be available to the general public, not just employees. But in the grand scheme of real estate, they're distinct: After years of running up against housing shortages in their backyards, companies like Google, Meta, and Disney — not exactly known for building new homes — are taking matters into their own hands. Their creations have boring names like Middlefield Park and Willow Village, but they might as well be called Zucktown or Google City, USA. And while the developments promise thousands of new homes, the plans are also a tacit acknowledgment of the bleak state of the American housing market and the roles these companies have played in driving up home prices near their sprawling HQs.The companies behind these projects argue that they can help solve the country's lack of affordable housing, but it's fair to approach the plans with a healthy degree of skepticism. America's single-employer "company towns'' have a long, bloody history of exploitation and labor strife. While the current plans hardly represent a return to those dark days of the 19th and early-20th centuries, they probably won't usher in a new era of futuristic techno-utopias, either. Judging by the plans that have been publicly unveiled so far, the Googles and Metas of the world aren't aiming nearly that high. Instead, their visions of city living spaces look a lot like what we're already used to seeing from modern real-estate developers: glassy office buildings, verdant parks, and walkable main streets with coffee shops, salad bars, and alluring apartment buildings. It's nice, but not exactly groundbreaking stuff.Rather than the floating cities or domed villages once dreamed up by science-fiction writers (and Peter Thiel), these watered-down plans show that what these companies have been after all along is a way to one-up their competitors. They want to attract and retain top employees, and ideally get them back in the office, too. It doesn't hurt that right now, residential real estate looks like a pretty good bet. The noble aim of building more housing, including affordably priced units, is the cherry on top. But make no mistake: These companies will only pursue these plans as long as they fit their business goals.The modern company townsAfter years of planning, teasing, and slogging through local board meetings, the latest iterations of company towns are picking up steam. In June, Mountain View's city council approved the master plan for Google's North Bayshore project, a partnership between the tech giant and the Australian real-estate firm Lendlease. The new community will replace a suburban office park with a sprawling new neighborhood in the heart of Silicon Valley. The plans call for as many as 7,000 new homes across "a mix of income levels," as well as parks, restaurants, shops, and more than 3 million square feet of office space on 153 acres. Roughly 15% of those units will be priced below market rate, although the city hasn't settled upon the exact income thresholds that will determine who can apply for the units. Mountain View also greenlighted the master plan for Middlefield Park, another Google development that proposes to tear down existing office and industrial buildings and construct nearly 2,000 new housing units, as well as more office and retail spaces.Other household names are getting in on the action. Last year, Menlo Park's city council voted unanimously in favor of the plans for Willow Village, Facebook's 59-acre project that's also affectionately, or cynically, referred to as "Zucktown." It promises more than 1,700 homes, as well as office, hotel, and retail, right next to Meta's headquarters at 1 Hacker Way. Walt Disney World also plans to break ground next year on 1,400 affordable housing units across 80 acres a few miles from its flagship theme park in Florida, the company said in the spring. Nearby, the competing resort company Universal is also building 1,000 affordable apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space. While the companies will continue to own the land the homes will be built upon, in each of these cases, they're partnering with traditional real-estate firms to build and operate the buildings. In other words, you wouldn't end up cutting a rent check directly to Google. And anyone who meets the criteria can apply to rent the units — not just employees.An aerial rendering of Catchlight Crossings, the 20-acre affordable-housing development that will be built on land set aside by Universal Destinations & Experiences in Central Florida.Wendover Housing PartnersOther companies are trying a different tack. Remember Amazon's HQ2 hunt? The nationwide search had cities like Hartford, Connecticut, and Toledo, Ohio, tripping over themselves to offer the most generous economic incentives as the e-commerce titan searched for its second home and a place to put roughly 25,000 workers. The project ultimately landed in Arlington, Virginia, and the first phase of HQ2 opened in May, with two 22-story office buildings and a new public park. Amazon isn't building housing directly the way Google and Facebook are, but the $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund has committed to support other housing development in the DC area, Nashville, and Seattle, extending the company's direct influence beyond office space to housing markets that will almost surely feel the effects of its expansion for years to come.Of course, it wouldn't be a proper discussion of techno-utopias if Elon Musk's name didn't enter the chat. The embattled exec is reportedly laying the groundwork for a new town called Snailbrook on thousands of acres near Austin, where employees of his various companies, including the Boring Co., Tesla, and SpaceX, could one day live at below-market prices.It's no surprise that the largest of the new developments are the brainchildren of Silicon Valley giants. The modern tech industry was built on a California-tinted brand of utopianism and the belief that "connecting people" is the answer to many of the world's problems, Grant Bollmer, a senior lecturer in digital media at the University of Queensland in Australia, told me. After all the digital ad dollars have been hoovered up and all the attention squeezed out of our screen-addled eyeballs, the next logical step is building a new city where the founding principles of the tech world can be put into practice. Just look at the pie-in-the-sky plans for California Forever, the proposal from Silicon Valley elites to turn 55,000 acres of rural land into the city of the future. Billionaires with time on their hands, it seems, simply can't help themselves."Faith in democracy is weak, and so you have this view of, 'We can create an ideal city and ideal world,'" Bollmer told me. "'We can structure it according to the principles that are built into these technologies that we've created and the values that we've created.'"But companies are also ruthlessly pragmatic, profit-making machines beholden to shareholders who closely watch their every move. High-minded ideals aside, the modern company towns also make for sound business propositions, Margaret Crawford, a professor of architecture and chair of the urban design program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. These firms are interested in two things: retaining skilled labor and drumming up positive publicity that makes them look civic-minded. Building housing near their HQs checks off both those boxes: Commuting is the top reason employees don't want to go back to the office full time, according to Gallup, while the lack of affordable housing in cities is forcing more people to move further from where offices are often located, research from Fannie Mae found. In a recent piece for Harvard Business Review, the economist Edward Glaeser and the consultant Atta Tarki argued that companies should think of housing assistance as just one part of a broader benefits package, next to on-site chefs or an office gym, that encourages employees to stick around and be more productive. Even if these projects aren't explicitly for employees, it's conceivable that they'll be favored by workers who are eager to skip all that traffic on the way to their desks.Affordable housing near offices makes for good press and also makes good business sense. But the second new housing doesn't fit a business' goals — if a company is slashing jobs or abandoning office space — they'll probably pump the brakes on grand plans for a new neighborhood as well. Crafting new cities is complicated, time-intensive work. And if history has taught us anything, it's that they are often doomed to fail.A worrying historyThe company towns of the 19th and 20th centuries also bore some of that utopian flavor, at least in theory. In many cases, company towns were a practical response to the need for housing near factories or lumber mills, which were typically located in barren locations without the kinds of amenities that would keep workers happy, like churches or libraries. The Hershey Company town in Pennsylvania, founded around 1909, prioritized these kinds of community assets from the start, while also offering affordable homes that workers could rent or own. At one point, 3% of the US population lived in company towns, according to The Economist. People begin to view the company as the golden goose. They don't want to do anything that offends the company. But the idea of a place dominated by a single corporation — where your boss not only owns your home but also runs your church and your kids' schools and sells you everything you need at the company store — was always a fraught proposition. In many company towns, the corporations used the setup to maintain their social control, threatening disgruntled workers with eviction from company housing if they went on strike. When your company is your entire world, the stakes are infinitely higher."One of the things that happens sort of quickly is people begin to view the company as the golden goose," Hardy Green, the author of "The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills that Shaped the American Economy," told me. "They don't want to do anything that offends the company."Company towns gradually disintegrated as workers' wages rose and they gained access to cars, which enabled them to live farther from the factories and achieve more autonomy. Today, the experiment is mostly remembered as a failure, characterized by poor working conditions and frequent clashes with unions.This time is differentGiven the history of company-built housing, it's fair to wonder which way the new iterations will lean: toward the idealized version of cheaper housing and prized amenities, or a more dystopian outcome in which we become more reliant on companies that have already infiltrated every aspect of our lives.The graveyard of abandoned projects may offer some clues as to what comes next. In May 2020, Sidewalk Labs, an offshoot of Google's parent company, Alphabet, walked away from plans to build a new, tech-heavy neighborhood on 12 acres along Toronto's waterfront. The company officially said its partnership with the city folded because of the pandemic, but it turned out that the company had been quietly making plans to acquire 800 acres of adjacent land for an entire Google campus and a testing ground for some of its wilder technologies. When it unveiled those plans, both the public and local elected officials turned against the idea, stymieing and eventually killing the whole project.Google's representatives had pitched the initial neighborhood as "the most innovative district in the entire world," so maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise that its ambitions extended far beyond a mere 12 acres. But the missteps, and the eventual death of the project, reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of how developers work with city governments, Josh O'Kane, a reporter who closely chronicled the plans for Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper and later wrote a book on the whole saga, told me. All the money in the world couldn't turn public opinion, and the local quasi-governmental partners refused to be steamrolled. It's easy to either say the company is benevolent or menacing. But the reality is somewhere in between. Google's plans in Mountain View, by comparison, are much tamer. All that talk about a city of the future has been replaced with language touting affordable housing and more traditional spaces for local businesses and public parks. The project is still huge, to be sure, but Google had once talked about playing "a much bigger role in public life" than what's outlined in the current plans, O'Kane told me.Maybe Google, and other big companies, did learn a lesson from that debacle in Toronto. It certainly looks like they're trying a different tactic now: proposing more traditional projects filled with urban-planning buzzwords like "mixed-use" and "walkable," rather than pitching sci-fi villages where robots pick up your trash and your Facebook profile is your ID card.That's why the question of which extreme these new company towns will settle upon — a tech-forward utopia or a regime of all-powerful overlords — is probably moot. The true outcome will likely fall somewhere in that not-so-exciting middle, Crawford of UC Berkeley, told me. Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that these aren't your average real-estate developers."I guess my motto is, it's complicated," Crawford told me. "It's easy to either say the company is benevolent or menacing. But the reality is somewhere in between."James Rodriguez is a senior reporter on Insider's Discourse team.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 13th, 2023

Meet America"s newest mega-landlords: Google, Facebook, and Elon Musk

Companies like Google and Meta conquered the digital realm a long time ago. Now they want to be your landlord, too. After years of running up against housing shortages, companies like Google, Meta, and Disney are taking matters into their own hands.Arantza Pena Popo/Business InsiderThe digital renderings of North Bayshore, a massive proposed development in Mountain View, California, are crowded with glistening buildings and cheerful, animated pedestrians. There's a lot to show off, including 7,000 new homes, three distinct neighborhoods, and nearly 300,000 square feet of retail and community space. Notably, though, the gleaming images don't bear any hints of the company behind the whole endeavor: Google.Companies like Google and Facebook's parent, Meta, conquered the digital realm a long time ago, setting the ground rules for how we search, interact, and shop online. Not content to stop there, however, these firms are now making huge bids to expand their reach. They want to be landlords, too.Across the country, corporations are using their considerable sway and resources to build modern company towns — mini-cities that will feature all the trappings of traditional civic life, including housing, shops, and public spaces. These new projects won't have corporate logos on every building, and many of the units will be available to the general public, not just employees. But in the grand scheme of real estate, they're distinct: After years of running up against housing shortages in their backyards, companies like Google, Meta, and Disney — not exactly known for building new homes — are taking matters into their own hands. Their creations have boring names like Middlefield Park and Willow Village, but they might as well be called Zucktown or Google City, USA. And while the developments promise thousands of new homes, the plans are also a tacit acknowledgment of the bleak state of the American housing market and the roles these companies have played in driving up home prices near their sprawling HQs.The companies behind these projects argue that they can help solve the country's lack of affordable housing, but it's fair to approach the plans with a healthy degree of skepticism. America's single-employer "company towns'' have a long, bloody history of exploitation and labor strife. While the current plans hardly represent a return to those dark days of the 19th and early-20th centuries, they probably won't usher in a new era of futuristic techno-utopias, either. Judging by the plans that have been publicly unveiled so far, the Googles and Metas of the world aren't aiming nearly that high. Instead, their visions of city living spaces look a lot like what we're already used to seeing from modern real-estate developers: glassy office buildings, verdant parks, and walkable main streets with coffee shops, salad bars, and alluring apartment buildings. It's nice, but not exactly groundbreaking stuff.Rather than the floating cities or domed villages once dreamed up by science-fiction writers (and Peter Thiel), these watered-down plans show that what these companies have been after all along is a way to one-up their competitors. They want to attract and retain top employees, and ideally get them back in the office, too. It doesn't hurt that right now, residential real estate looks like a pretty good bet. The noble aim of building more housing, including affordably priced units, is the cherry on top. But make no mistake: These companies will only pursue these plans as long as they fit their business goals.The modern company townsAfter years of planning, teasing, and slogging through local board meetings, the latest iterations of company towns are picking up steam. In June, Mountain View's city council approved the master plan for Google's North Bayshore project, a partnership between the tech giant and the Australian real-estate firm Lendlease. The new community will replace a suburban office park with a sprawling new neighborhood in the heart of Silicon Valley. The plans call for as many as 7,000 new homes across "a mix of income levels," as well as parks, restaurants, shops, and more than 3 million square feet of office space on 153 acres. Roughly 15% of those units will be priced below market rate, although the city hasn't settled upon the exact income thresholds that will determine who can apply for the units. Mountain View also greenlighted the master plan for Middlefield Park, another Google development that proposes to tear down existing office and industrial buildings and construct nearly 2,000 new housing units, as well as more office and retail spaces.Other household names are getting in on the action. Last year, Menlo Park's city council voted unanimously in favor of the plans for Willow Village, Facebook's 59-acre project that's also affectionately, or cynically, referred to as "Zucktown." It promises more than 1,700 homes, as well as office, hotel, and retail, right next to Meta's headquarters at 1 Hacker Way. Walt Disney World also plans to break ground next year on 1,400 affordable housing units across 80 acres a few miles from its flagship theme park in Florida, the company said in the spring. Nearby, the competing resort company Universal is also building 1,000 affordable apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space. While the companies will continue to own the land the homes will be built upon, in each of these cases, they're partnering with traditional real-estate firms to build and operate the buildings. In other words, you wouldn't end up cutting a rent check directly to Google. And anyone who meets the criteria can apply to rent the units — not just employees.An aerial rendering of Catchlight Crossings, the 20-acre affordable-housing development that will be built on land set aside by Universal Destinations & Experiences in Central Florida.Wendover Housing PartnersOther companies are trying a different tack. Remember Amazon's HQ2 hunt? The nationwide search had cities like Hartford, Connecticut, and Toledo, Ohio, tripping over themselves to offer the most generous economic incentives as the e-commerce titan searched for its second home and a place to put roughly 25,000 workers. The project ultimately landed in Arlington, Virginia, and the first phase of HQ2 opened in May, with two 22-story office buildings and a new public park. Amazon isn't building housing directly the way Google and Facebook are, but the $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund has committed to support other housing development in the DC area, Nashville, and Seattle, extending the company's direct influence beyond office space to housing markets that will almost surely feel the effects of its expansion for years to come.Of course, it wouldn't be a proper discussion of techno-utopias if Elon Musk's name didn't enter the chat. The embattled exec is reportedly laying the groundwork for a new town called Snailbrook on thousands of acres near Austin, where employees of his various companies, including the Boring Co., Tesla, and SpaceX, could one day live at below-market prices.It's no surprise that the largest of the new developments are the brainchildren of Silicon Valley giants. The modern tech industry was built on a California-tinted brand of utopianism and the belief that "connecting people" is the answer to many of the world's problems, Grant Bollmer, a senior lecturer in digital media at the University of Queensland in Australia, told me. After all the digital ad dollars have been hoovered up and all the attention squeezed out of our screen-addled eyeballs, the next logical step is building a new city where the founding principles of the tech world can be put into practice. Just look at the pie-in-the-sky plans for California Forever, the proposal from Silicon Valley elites to turn 55,000 acres of rural land into the city of the future. Billionaires with time on their hands, it seems, simply can't help themselves."Faith in democracy is weak, and so you have this view of, 'We can create an ideal city and ideal world,'" Bollmer told me. "'We can structure it according to the principles that are built into these technologies that we've created and the values that we've created.'"But companies are also ruthlessly pragmatic, profit-making machines beholden to shareholders who closely watch their every move. High-minded ideals aside, the modern company towns also make for sound business propositions, Margaret Crawford, a professor of architecture and chair of the urban design program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. These firms are interested in two things: retaining skilled labor and drumming up positive publicity that makes them look civic-minded. Building housing near their HQs checks off both those boxes: Commuting is the top reason employees don't want to go back to the office full time, according to Gallup, while the lack of affordable housing in cities is forcing more people to move further from where offices are often located, research from Fannie Mae found. In a recent piece for Harvard Business Review, the economist Edward Glaeser and the consultant Atta Tarki argued that companies should think of housing assistance as just one part of a broader benefits package, next to on-site chefs or an office gym, that encourages employees to stick around and be more productive. Even if these projects aren't explicitly for employees, it's conceivable that they'll be favored by workers who are eager to skip all that traffic on the way to their desks.Affordable housing near offices makes for good press and also makes good business sense. But the second new housing doesn't fit a business' goals — if a company is slashing jobs or abandoning office space — they'll probably pump the brakes on grand plans for a new neighborhood as well. Crafting new cities is complicated, time-intensive work. And if history has taught us anything, it's that they are often doomed to fail.A worrying historyThe company towns of the 19th and 20th centuries also bore some of that utopian flavor, at least in theory. In many cases, company towns were a practical response to the need for housing near factories or lumber mills, which were typically located in barren locations without the kinds of amenities that would keep workers happy, like churches or libraries. The Hershey Company town in Pennsylvania, founded around 1909, prioritized these kinds of community assets from the start, while also offering affordable homes that workers could rent or own. At one point, 3% of the US population lived in company towns, according to The Economist. People begin to view the company as the golden goose. They don't want to do anything that offends the company. But the idea of a place dominated by a single corporation — where your boss not only owns your home but also runs your church and your kids' schools and sells you everything you need at the company store — was always a fraught proposition. In many company towns, the corporations used the setup to maintain their social control, threatening disgruntled workers with eviction from company housing if they went on strike. When your company is your entire world, the stakes are infinitely higher."One of the things that happens sort of quickly is people begin to view the company as the golden goose," Hardy Green, the author of "The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills that Shaped the American Economy," told me. "They don't want to do anything that offends the company."Company towns gradually disintegrated as workers' wages rose and they gained access to cars, which enabled them to live farther from the factories and achieve more autonomy. Today, the experiment is mostly remembered as a failure, characterized by poor working conditions and frequent clashes with unions.This time is differentGiven the history of company-built housing, it's fair to wonder which way the new iterations will lean: toward the idealized version of cheaper housing and prized amenities, or a more dystopian outcome in which we become more reliant on companies that have already infiltrated every aspect of our lives.The graveyard of abandoned projects may offer some clues as to what comes next. In May 2020, Sidewalk Labs, an offshoot of Google's parent company, Alphabet, walked away from plans to build a new, tech-heavy neighborhood on 12 acres along Toronto's waterfront. The company officially said its partnership with the city folded because of the pandemic, but it turned out that the company had been quietly making plans to acquire 800 acres of adjacent land for an entire Google campus and a testing ground for some of its wilder technologies. When it unveiled those plans, both the public and local elected officials turned against the idea, stymieing and eventually killing the whole project.Google's representatives had pitched the initial neighborhood as "the most innovative district in the entire world," so maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise that its ambitions extended far beyond a mere 12 acres. But the missteps, and the eventual death of the project, reflected a fundamental misunderstanding of how developers work with city governments, Josh O'Kane, a reporter who closely chronicled the plans for Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper and later wrote a book on the whole saga, told me. All the money in the world couldn't turn public opinion, and the local quasi-governmental partners refused to be steamrolled. It's easy to either say the company is benevolent or menacing. But the reality is somewhere in between. Google's plans in Mountain View, by comparison, are much tamer. All that talk about a city of the future has been replaced with language touting affordable housing and more traditional spaces for local businesses and public parks. The project is still huge, to be sure, but Google had once talked about playing "a much bigger role in public life" than what's outlined in the current plans, O'Kane told me.Maybe Google, and other big companies, did learn a lesson from that debacle in Toronto. It certainly looks like they're trying a different tactic now: proposing more traditional projects filled with urban-planning buzzwords like "mixed-use" and "walkable," rather than pitching sci-fi villages where robots pick up your trash and your Facebook profile is your ID card.That's why the question of which extreme these new company towns will settle upon — a tech-forward utopia or a regime of all-powerful overlords — is probably moot. The true outcome will likely fall somewhere in that not-so-exciting middle, Crawford of UC Berkeley, told me. Nevertheless, it's worth remembering that these aren't your average real-estate developers."I guess my motto is, it's complicated," Crawford told me. "It's easy to either say the company is benevolent or menacing. But the reality is somewhere in between."James Rodriguez is a senior reporter on Insider's Discourse team.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 13th, 2023

I took one of Europe"s most gorgeous, leisurely train rides by adding just $55 to my travel budget

Switzerland's best-kept travel secret may be this awesome deal on the Glacier Express, a stunning panoramic train through the Alps. I took the Glacier Express through the Swiss Alps for just $55.Morgan McFall-JohnsenI took Switzerland's most beautiful, leisurely train ride for just $55.I got on the Glacier Express for just a seat-reservation fee because I'd bought a Swiss Travel Pass.The views and opt-in audio tour were highlights of the ride. I shouldn't have paid extra for food.On a recent trip to Switzerland, I took advantage of a great deal to travel on the Glacier Express, a famously gorgeous train ride through the Swiss Alps.The rail line touts itself as "the slowest express train in the world," taking eight hours to chug from Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, to St. Moritz, a popular ski retreat. The train winds through alpine villages, valleys, and forests while going over 291 bridges, up a 6,670-foot mountain pass, and through 91 tunnels.Here's what it was like on one of Europe's most iconic train rides.I reserved a seat on the Glacier Express for just $55 using my Swiss Travel PassEveryone was taking photos through the train's giant panoramic windows.Morgan McFall-JohnsenMy travel plans took me through several towns in Switzerland, so I purchased an eight-day Swiss Travel Pass, which gives non-residents unlimited travel by train, bus, or boat across the country and within towns. It also gets you into most museums for free.The Switzerland Travel Centre sells a range of passes, but I chose a second-class pass for about $475. Those with a Swiss Travel Pass don't have to buy a ticket for the Glacier Express but they must reserve seats.It cost me 49 Swiss Francs, about $55, to reserve my seat. The Glacier Express takes the scenic, slow route through the Swiss Alps.Morgan McFall-JohnsenWithout my Swiss Travel Pass, I would've paid another 159 Swiss Francs (about $180) to ride in second class, or I could've even upgraded to first class for 272 Swiss Francs.Boarding the train was easyThe sun was in my eyes, but I had to take a selfie with the Glacier Express as it pulled into the station.Morgan McFall-JohnsenI chose to board the cherry-red train at Brig, the second stop on the Glacier Express. That meant my train ride was just six hours and 20 minutes rather than the full eight-hour journey.The views were unbelievableI even had a clear view of the sights on the other side of the train.Morgan McFall-JohnsenThe main feature of the Glacier Express is its panoramic windows. They did not disappoint.I basically had a 360-degree view of every valley, forest, cliffside, and village we passed through.This was just another gorgeous valley I saw from the Glacier Express.Morgan McFall-JohnsenEvery twist, turn, climb, or descent of the tracks brought a new vista into sight. I couldn't tear my eyes away.I also liked that I had the option to listen to a free, occasional audio tour during the ride. The mountain views were endless.Morgan McFall-JohnsenEvery 15 minutes or so, a little noise would play over the PSA system to indicate we were passing a town, church, mountain pass, or river of interest. To hear the narration about it, I just had to plug the provided earbuds into the audio jack on my armrest. One downside was how cramped my seat wasI was shoulder-to-shoulder with the person next to me.Morgan McFall-JohnsenI was surprised to find that the seats in second class had almost exactly as much leg and arm room as an economy airplane seat. Maybe I was naive, but I expected more roominess on a train.There wasn't even anywhere to stow my carry-on-sized backpack within reach. I kept it under my legs, in front of my seat, and I couldn't access it unless the person next to me got up to go to the bathroom.That didn't matter too much, though. I took out my book when I first sat down, but I didn't end up reading at all. I was too busy admiring Switzerland.My favorite part of the ride was the final hours, when the train was much emptier.Morgan McFall-JohnsenDuring the last two hours of the ride, more people began getting off at stops, and the train started to empty out. I ended up spending extra money on food and drinks The three-course meal was mediocre, in my opinion.Morgan McFall-JohnsenWhen I reserved my seat online, I had to choose whether or not I wanted a meal and, if so, how many courses. I chose a three-course meal, which cost another 49 Swiss Francs — just as much as the seat reservation.The courses were salad, a meat and rice entrée, and a coffee-flavored dessert. I found them all kind of boring and not very flavorful. It wasn't as bad as airplane food, but I had much better meals in every restaurant during my trip.The people sitting across from me had brought sandwiches and snacks. I think that's what I'd do next time.Beverages were also available to purchase, which ran up my bill. I ordered a Swiss beer toward the end of the ride.Morgan McFall-JohnsenI wasn't about to sit and look at beautiful views for six hours without having a hot tea or a cold local beer.Overall, the train ride was worth it for the views and I'm glad I got my seat for cheapI loved the view at the train station in St. Moritz, the final destination of the Glacier Express.Morgan McFall-JohnsenYou can always book a separate ticket for the train, but the Swiss Travel Pass is a great deal if you're going to be in Switzerland for more than a couple days.I loved getting to experience incredible views for just the cost of a seat reservation. If you're considering splurging on the first-class Swiss Travel Pass anyway, you can then book a first-class seat on the Glacier Express. That's more leg (and arm) room for the same $55 reservation fee.No matter how you book it, I think a ride on the train is worth it to enjoy some of the most stunning views in Europe.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 9th, 2023

Campus Dysfunction Easy To Recognize, Difficult To Cure

Campus Dysfunction Easy To Recognize, Difficult To Cure Authored by Peter Berkowitz via RealClear Wire, Machiavelli observes in “The Prince” that politics presents challenges akin to those physicians sometimes face: “… in the beginning of the illness it is easy to cure and difficult to recognize, but in the progress of time, when it has not been recognized and treated in the beginning, it becomes easy to recognize and difficult to cure.” So too for higher education in America: At this late date, our universities’ dysfunction – and the damage to the nation it has wrought – has become easy to recognize, but curing the dysfunction has become difficult. The Hamas jihadists’ Oct. 7 atrocities in southern Israel may have provoked a watershed moment for higher education in America. Student and faculty expressions of solidarity with the mass murderers, university administrators’ initial confusion and missteps, and the eruption of antisemitism on campus compelled many who have long averted their eyes to confront our universities’ role in fanning the flames of division and discord. However, since most university administrators, professors, wealthy donors, left-of-center commentators, and politicians of both parties have allowed the dysfunction to progress for decades without calling higher education to account or warning the public, only dramatic and costly interventions provide hope at this point of remedying the cluster of pathologies ravaging America’s universities. Evidence that it is now permissible to speak in polite society about the dire state of our universities comes from the New York Times opinion page. Since Oct. 7, the Times has published several pieces declaring that our universities have gone badly astray and proposing measures to repair them. These opinions are welcome, but tardy by several decades. They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more – largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives – that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum. On Oct. 16, in “The Moral Deficiencies of a Liberal Education,” Ezekiel Emanuel proclaimed, “We have failed.” As vice provost for global initiatives and professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Emanuel sees the failure as personal and professional: The transformation of our universities into boot camps for inculcating progressive opinions about social justice and disdain for other views proceeded under his watch. Students blaming Israel for Hamas’ massacres and praising the terrorists “have revealed their moral obliviousness and the deficiency of their educations,” stated Emanuel. “But the deeper problem is not them. It is what they are being taught – or, more specifically, what they are not being taught.” Universities “have failed to give them the ethical foundation and moral compass to recognize the basics of humanity.” A bioethicist, Emanuel calls for a two-course ethics requirement, and, more generally, the restoration of a curriculum built around required courses (he doesn’t say which ones). Professors must cease their widespread dereliction of duty, he adds, which consists in refraining from challenging students’ opinions for fear of discomfiting or offending them. The aim is to rebuild undergraduate education “around honing critical thinking skills and moral and logical reasoning so students can emerge as engaged citizens.” Emanuel’s measures move in the right direction but are inadequate to the challenge because they overlook how a proper liberal education itself furnishes and refines minds and provides an ethical foundation and moral compass. The center of liberal education in America must consist in the study of the principles of freedom – moral, economic, and political – on which the nation is based and the constitutional structure and virtues of mind and character through which they are institutionalized and preserved. Since those principles and virtues have a history, the broader Western civilization of which they are a part must also be studied. And since Western civilization revolves around the tension between individuality and our shared humanity, liberal education includes study of other civilizations. On Nov. 8, in “How Are Students Expected to Live Like this on Campuses?” New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman observed that the numerous instances “of abhorrent speech by students and faculty members, mostly aimed at Israel, Jews and even Jewish students” raised pressing questions of free speech. “How should a university respond,” asked Wegman, “when members of its community express sentiments that are at odds with the values the school is trying to inculcate, not to mention with human decency?” His answer was good insofar as it goes. “Speech should be presumptively allowed, as a basic principle of free inquiry and academic debate,” he asserted, while drawing the line at expression that concretely threatens, harasses, or incites to violence. But are university administrators and faculty members disposed to vindicate free speech? Are they competent to draw the necessary lines? Are they prepared to face the mob? Wegman skirts these questions. He acknowledges that universities have eroded free speech on campus, not least by instituting speech codes and by affirming campus orthodoxies on controversial political questions. His principal recommendation is mandatory free-speech training for first-year students to build “a culture of basic respect and listening.” But who will educate the educators? Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over – or silently acquiescing in – the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side? On Nov. 16, in “Universities are Failing at Inclusion,” Times columnist David Brooks also took grim, post-Oct. 7 realities as his point of departure: “Jewish students on America’s campuses have found themselves confronted with those who celebrate a terrorist operation that featured the mass murder and reportedly the rape of fellow Jews.” Brooks blamed higher education for betraying its mission. “Universities are supposed to be centers of inquiry and curiosity – places where people are tolerant of difference and learn about other points of view,” he wrote. “Instead, too many have become brutalizing ideological war zones.” “How on earth did this happen?” asked Brooks, who mentioned that he has “been teaching on college campuses off and on for 25 years.” He faulted “a hard-edged ideological framework that has been spreading in high school and college, on social media, in diversity training seminars and in popular culture.” Although he said the framework lacks a name, it reflects a postmodern progressivism. It holds that group identity is more important than shared humanity; the fundamental social and political distinction is between oppressors and oppressed; a person in one group cannot understand a person in another; racism and bigotry are endemic to America; principles of freedom – free speech, due process, meritocracy – are tools of oppression; and affirming these dogmas of postmodern progressivism takes precedence over acquiring knowledge and developing intellectual independence and integrity. It is not feasible, Brooks argued, to jettison the deeply entrenched campus diversity, equity, and inclusion bureaucracies that divide people into racial and ethnic groups, give preferential treatment based on group membership, and exclude dissenting views. Instead, he advocated the teaching of true diversity grounded in the remarkable achievements of American pluralism. To help students understand that they “live in one of the most diverse societies in history” and prepare them to cooperate with others from different backgrounds and with alternative perspectives, courses should “explore diversity, identity and history from a pluralistic framework” and assign “a range of books on the social and moral skills you need to see people across difference.” Brooks rightly espouses study of diversity in America and the means of preserving and enriching it, but he makes the same mistake as Emanuel and Wegman. All three suppose that special classes – on moral reasoning, free speech, and diversity – will provide an antidote to our universities’ ills. Liberal education is itself the best means available for cultivating toleration and civility, virtues conspicuously lacking on campus but essential to freedom and democracy. The sciences and the social sciences mustn’t be neglected. But serious study of literature, history, and philosophy – at once questioning and rigorous, patient and probing, and determined to understand before criticizing or extolling – provides an incomparable tutorial in the complexities and continuities of morality and politics, the competing conceptions of the good life, and the basic rights and fundamental freedoms that are inseparable from human dignity. That campus dysfunction is now easy to recognize but difficult to cure does not revoke the obligation to do what is in our power to repair America’s colleges and universities by providing students with the liberal education they need and deserve. Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. From 2019 to 2021, he served as director of the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. State Department. His writings are posted at PeterBerkowitz.com and he can be followed on Twitter @BerkowitzPeter. Tyler Durden Fri, 12/01/2023 - 22:00.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytDec 2nd, 2023

ReShape Lifesciences Inc. (NASDAQ:RSLS) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

ReShape Lifesciences Inc. (NASDAQ:RSLS) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 10, 2023 Operator: Good afternoon and thanks for joining the ReShape Lifesciences Third Quarter 2023 Conference Call. I would now like to turn the call over to Michael Miller from Rx Communications. Michael Miller: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining the ReShape Lifesciences third […] ReShape Lifesciences Inc. (NASDAQ:RSLS) Q3 2023 Earnings Call Transcript November 10, 2023 Operator: Good afternoon and thanks for joining the ReShape Lifesciences Third Quarter 2023 Conference Call. I would now like to turn the call over to Michael Miller from Rx Communications. Michael Miller: Good afternoon, and thank you for joining the ReShape Lifesciences third quarter 2023 earnings call. I’m pleased to be joined today by Paul Hickey, President and Chief Executive Officer; and Tom Stankovich Chief Financial Officer. Paul will provide an overview and update on the company’s activities, which will include a discussion with Dr. Caroline Apovian, a member of ReShape’s Scientific Advisory Board. Then, Tom will review the financial results for the period. I’ll then turn the call back over to Paul for some closing remarks, after which we’ll open the call to a question-and-answer session. As a reminder, this conference call as well as ReShape Lifesciences’ SEC filings and website, including the Investor Information section of the website, contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. A scientist in a lab coat working with a microscope in a research laboratory. Actual results could differ materially from those discussed due to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors. These and additional risks and uncertainties are described more fully in the company’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including those factors identified as risk factors in the company’s most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K. As an additional reminder, ReShape’s stock is listed on NASDAQ, trading under the symbol RSLS. I’ll now turn the call over to Paul Hickey, President and CEO of ReShape. Paul? Paul Hickey: Thank you, Mike, and thanks to all of you for joining us this afternoon for our third quarter 2023 earnings call. After I provide an overview and update on ReShape’s activities, we will be joined by a member of our Scientific Advisory Board, Dr. Caroline Apovian, Co-Director at the Center for Weight Management and Wellness in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. As an expert in key opinion leader in her field, I’ve asked Dr. Apovian to provide her clinical viewpoint related to GLP-1s and their impact on the care continuum for obesity. So most important takeaway from this call is for all of our investors to understand that we remain dedicated to achieving profitability by executing our growth strategies and maintaining our emphasis on creating a shareholder value. Yesterday, I visited with surgeons from one of our centers of excellence in Louisville Kentucky. Now, next Lap-Band dual vagus. This site has implemented the Hive platform and also is part of our co-op marketing program. Despite the pressures from GLP-1 adoption this center is on pace to have year-over-year Lap-Band procedural growth in 2023, validating that our marketing initiatives are working. There’s much look forward to as we move towards 2024 and we are optimistic about the growth potential for the company. Before I recap our third quarter and subsequent highlights, I’d like to comment on important events occurring within the obesity market today. As most of you already understand the global obesity market is growing, at an alarming rates and carries with it significant medical repercussions and associated economic costs, obesity remains a complex lifelong disease that requires personalized treatment to ensure long-term weight loss goals are achieved. I’m sure you are also aware of the growing popularity of GLP-1 agonists that have brought significant benefits to those suffering from type 2 diabetes and help those who are obese. We believe that GLP-1 adoption is expanding the medical weight loss market by vastly reducing the stigma that often occurs around obesity and medical intervention including bariatric surgery. The GLP-1 related big pharma marketing efforts and resulting adoption has helped increase the numbers of people seeking medical attention for this disease, especially by those who have avoided surgery in the past. Given the increasing body of evidence pointing to the fact that weight loss through the GLP-1 usage has limitations related to comorbidities and accessibility, we believe that the market opportunity for the Lap-Band will increase. From a continuum of care perspective, individuals with obesity and GLP-1 therapy are likely potential candidates for Lap-Band bariatric surgery as the next viable anatomy preserving weight-loss treatment. Certainly, I will have Dr. Apovian speak to her personal experience, which is representing what we are hearing from physicians across the US that the GLP-1 adoption while potentially delaying surgical consults in the short-term is increasing the number of patients who would consider bariatric surgery. In other words, once GLP-1 agonists patients get a taste of weight loss, yet have issues with the drug’s accessibility durability or tolerance, they will contemplate bariatric surgery, especially imminent ways surgery procedures like the Lap-Band. Now before I introduce Dr. Apovian, let me take a few minutes to update you on our progress related to our three primary growth pillars. As I recall, our first pillar is to operate our business with a disciplined metrics-driven approach to drive predictable revenue expansion through a sustainable and scalable business model. The second is to continue to expand our product portfolio and pipeline across the care continuum. And our last or third pillar is to continue to validate our evidence base weight loss solutions leveraging our Scientific Advisory Board for key insights on strategic initiatives. Our first pillar, remains paramount for reshape to deliver shareholder value and ultimately profitability. As we consider the impact of GLP-1 adoption for weight-loss treatment, which has put pressure on several markets including bariatrics, it was necessary to take a hard look at our operations, make significant cost reductions while ensuring growth and that our company adheres to key P&L metrics. Thom will later detail the expense savings, we have identified realized and are planning for. But in summary, we have identified and implemented effective November 1 cost reductions totaling approximately $8 million, representing more than a 40% reduction in operating expenses for 2024. We are optimizing our marketing spending while making additional reductions in consulting services, totaling approximately $2.4 million. We have also executed a reduction in force of approximately $1.2 million. We have decided to temporarily pause our reshape care program, and achieve an estimated savings of $0.8 million while we continued our efforts to secure a self-insured employer to provide ReShape care to their employees. We have also planned for a $0.9 million of reductions for incentive compensation and other payroll-related amounts. All part of streamlining our team significantly, but without affecting revenue. Our Board is aligned with our strategy and will also take a 50% reduction in their compensation. Taken together, these reductions will allow us to focus and invest in our growth drivers while at the same time, extending our cash runway. These changes are bold, necessary and indicative to our commitments to our first growth pillar, I established late in 2022. In point of fact, with these 2024 reductions, the company’s core operating expense reductions between 2022 and 2024 are estimated at $22 million or 70%. In addition to the necessary cost reduction initiatives related to our first growth pillar, we made significant progress with our newly improved digital lead generation and patient engagement campaign. As I mentioned earlier with Lap-Band Louisville, we have seen an increase in the quality of patient needs while successfully reducing costs in targeted markets, for our surgeon advocates operate. In particular, our exclusive partnership with high medical allows us to advance lead optimization software that can enhance patient engagement and increase patient volume. This software utilizes AI SMS patient self-service technology, which in combination with our targeted direct-to-consumer marketing campaign helps individuals effortlessly overcome new patient intake challenges. As a result, patients can easily book appointments with medical professionals at any time. Let’s now discuss our progress executing our second growth pillar. We are well positioned with our current FDA approved Lap-Band system, which provides a minimal invasive long-term treatment for obesity and is safe for surgical alternative to more invasive weight loss surgeries. This past June, we filed a PMA supplement with the FDA for the next-generation Lap-Band 2.0 Flex. This product has been designed with physician feedback in order to improve the patient experience. Like the current Lap-Band the Lap-Band 2.0 Flex can be adjusted post-operatively to increase or decrease the band opening depending on the patient’s tolerance to ban therapy. Additionally, Lap-Band 2.0 Flex has a new feature called Flex technology, which acts as a relief valve enabling larger pieces of food to pass through the narrow passage more easily. Specifically, the Band momentarily relaxes before returning to its resting diameter while minimizing discomfort caused by swallowing large pieces of food. We anticipate approval from the FDA by year end or early 2024. We believe based on surgeon feedback, that our Lap-Band 2.0 Flex will be a growth catalyst for the company’s Lap-Band franchise once approved. Also of note, in September, we signed an exclusive royalty-bearing license agreement with Biorad to manufacture, commercialize and distribute the Obalon Gastric Balloon System in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The license agreement provides for $200,000 in upfront payments from Biorad to ReShape and ongoing license payments of 4% on a gross sales of the Obalon Balloon System in the territories. The agreement is important as it represents the first step towards re-introducing our patented Obalon Balloon System. And we believe that Biorad, with decades of experience manufacturing distributing medical devices in the vast cell-data the Asia market, potentially reaching approximately 20% to 25% of the world’s population, as an ideal partner to expand the reach of our technology. We expect this agreement will lay the groundwork catalyzed the successful relaunch and commercialization of the Balloon System in markets worldwide. By given the scope of our second growth pillar to expand our portfolio and global distribution, we have recently engaged the Maxim Group on an exclusive basis to identify strategic merger and acquisition opportunities that provide synergistic partnerships. Engaging Maxim and executing on this initiative is very high priority for me and the ReShape Lifesciences As for our third growth pillar, we continue to work closely with our Scientific Advisory Board or SAB comprise an internationally recognized experts and surgeons in the obesity and metabolic disease fields. The SAB is fully engaged in helping us develop our launch strategy for our Lap-Band 2.0 Flex and marketing our suite of weight-loss solutions. At this time, I’d like to introduce Caroline Apovian from Brigham Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. As previously mentioned, Dr. Apovian is a member of our Scientific Advisory Board and has been a key opinion leader and an expert in the field of bariatric surgery for decades. She’s also nationally recognized experts on nutrition, metabolism and obesity medicine Caroline, I’d like to ask you given to everyone your background and then discuss your view on the recent changes in the field of obesity treatment including the adoption of GLP-1s and the overall impact you feel they will have on that surgical procedures available today. But also like to hear about your experience with combination therapies comprising GLP-1s and other gastric surgeries including Lap-Band to help those who plateaued with their weight loss. Dr. Apovian. Caroline Apovian: Thanks, Paul. Good afternoon. As Paul mentioned, I am the co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness in the Division of Endocrinology Diabetes and Hypertension is Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And I’m a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. My interest in obesity began 35 years ago, when I was a fellow in Nutrition & Metabolism at the New England Deaconess Hospital after completing my internal medicine residency there. I was lucky and honored to have studied under George Blackburn. So he’s considered the father of nutrition and obesity medicine. And since that time I have focused completely on obesity and nutrition. Obesity is a disease and its many serious complications exert a heavy toll in both human and economic terms. More than a third of adults in the United States have obesity back in 42% of the population and they are subject to elevated rates of type 2 diabetes, Hypertension, Dyslipidemia and Cardiovascular disease. The 42% of Americans who suffer from obesity with a BMI over 30 will likely go on to develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The negative effect on quality of life is enormous. GLP-1 and other, we call them news is nutrient simulated hormonal therapy are having a tremendous positive impact in that more people than ever are asking about treatment for their obesity. We have learned almost all that we know about GLP-1 and other gut hormones from our experience with bariatric surgery, which works by altering the secretion of gut hormone. In addition, we’ve learned from laparoscopic banding that the use of GLP-1 and other new initiatives would be complementary with the Lap-Band to facilitate long lasting weight loss. We’re utilizing as many of the GLP agonists as we can is there analogs of naturally occurring gut hormone that can be helpful in reducing body weight by now up to 20%. And even more since today approval by the FDA of Zap [ph] about. Unfortunately, insurance companies and the government haven’t kept up with the science and don’t really embrace obesity as a disease. So these powerful drugs are not ubiquitously covered and they’re certainly not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. In just the last year at our center for Weight Management Wellness at the Brigham we’ve seen more than 10,000 unique patients just on the medical end. So not bariatric surgery, bariatric endoscopy but the medical weight management and saw 10,000 patients. I believe that the utilization of GLP-1 the new shares will ultimately increase the number of patients who would consider surgery. In other words, well first of all we’re the 10,000 patients are certainly coming and seeking medical treatments but I’m able to convince those patients with BMIs over 40 over 35 but more than I used to that surgery really is a better option for them. And I’m seeing this anecdotally over the past six months. And also once patients are new just yet understand that they can lose weight by altering the gut hormone and they feel so much better. Again yet have issues with accessibility, durability, tolerability thereof. They may contemplate bariatric surgery more often and we are seeing this to be true. And that includes minimally invasive procedures like the lab there. And we have been able to convince many patients with BMIs over 40 that surgery met remains their best option and we’re seeing this again in the last six months or so since certainly – since the advent of Wegovy and Mounjaro. Now even though this is true bariatric surgery is still underutilized in the United States, only 1% of patients eligible for the surgery get the procedure done annually, 250,000 procedures done annually. If the same thing happened with Cardiac surgery, we would say this was negligent, but the problem is overlooked with coping city. Bariatric surgery is like getting your gallbladder out, but patients feel they have the erroneous idea that this is aggressive surgery and that people regain their weight which of course is not true. Many patients also don’t see their obesity as a disease. The nurses are helping patients understand that they have a disease because they take the medication they feel full for the first time in their lives. And if they want to continue feeling that way and losing more weight, they understand now that they are understanding more and more we consider bariatric surgery including the Lap-Band. In order to effectively treat obesity, it’s imperative. The combination of interventions such as diet exercise medications like are nutritious endoscopy and bariatric surgery including the Lap-Band being employed at different stages of a patient’s weight loss through. Combination therapy including GLP-1 and uses for those who plateau with their weight loss from bariatric surgery will help individuals get back on track. That said to ensure patients receive the appropriate treatment, it’s crucial for medical and surgical societies to collaborate on the development of guidelines that stratify patients based on BMI and determine which medications and procedures can be used alone or in combination. I certainly hope that these insights that I have got now from my 35 years of experience and most importantly over the past few years, hope that these insights have been helpful and look forward to answering questions later during the call. I’ll pass the call back to Paul. Paul Hickey: Well, thank you, Caroline [ph]. That was — I think it hit the spot and I think that was appreciated by the listeners and I’m sure there’ll be questions for you. But as a leader in your field, I truly appreciate your participation and hearing your opinions firsthand. So before I turn it over time just a few more thoughts, based on what you heard so far. We do remain very confident that with our Lap-Band and expected future offering in the Lap-Band 2.0 Flex. That we as a company are uniquely positioned with the least invasive safest and most durable weight option for those patients that have historically had an aversion to medically managed weight loss and surgery. Given the growing body of evidence pointing to the fact that weight loss due to GLP-1 usage has limitations related co-morbidities and accessibility. We believe that the market opportunity for Lap-Band will increase. And from a continuum of care perspective, these patients are likely potential candidates for bariatric surgery, as a next viable weight loss treatment. I’d now like to turn the call over to Tom Stankovich to provide a recap of our financial performance. Tom? Tom Stankovich: Thanks, Paul. And once again thank you all for joining our webcast this afternoon. As a reminder, a full discussion of our financials is available in our press release and 10-Q. As Paul mentioned earlier, in November, and in response to continued pressure on the company’s revenue caused by the adoption of GLP-1, we are reorganizing the company. I’ve identified cost reductions of approximately $8 million or more than 40%, just for 2024 alone. Specifically, a reduction in force of approximately $1.2 million in November and December and $300,000 more budgeted cost phasing in early 2024, as well as $900,000 of reductions in incentive compensation and other payroll related amounts have been implemented across all expense categories. Core operating costs in total have been reduced by approximately $5.4 million, which includes reductions in selling and marketing costs of $2.4 million without affecting our continued marketing spend optimization, costs related to the pause of ReShape care about $800,000. Expenses related to G&A totaled $1.3 million, primarily in professional consulting fees and insurance costs. R&D expense grew $900,000, which primarily includes consulting and reduced admin fees. Additionally, third quarter 2023 core operating expenses were 37% lower than the third quarter of 2022. Taken it all together, with actions thus far, we’ve made significant progress reducing our core operating expenses, cutting approximately $22 million or 70% between 2022 and 2024. A full discussion of our actual financials is available in today’s press release and 10-Q. So I will just take over a moment. I will just take a moment to review key financial metrics for the third quarter ended September 30, 2023. Our revenue totaled $2.2 million for the three months ended September 30, 2023, which represents a reduction of $600,000 compared to the same period in 2020. Growing popularity of GLP-1 prescription drugs for weight loss treatment is the primary reason for the decrease in sales volume in the US and internationally. We have focused our new marketing strategies through targeted and AI supported digital media campaigns near bariatric surgery centers, while reducing cost and increasing efficiencies. We expect that these efforts will come to fruition during the fourth quarter of 2023 and beginning of 2024. Our continued focus on increasing demand for the Lap-Band system and recently launched three new sizes of calibration tools will grow revenues. Additionally, we anticipate receiving FDA approval for the Lap-Band 2.0 Flex late this year or early in 2024 followed by a US product launch that should contribute to increased sales going forward. Gross profit for the three months ended September 30, 2023 was $1.3 million compared to $2.1 million for the same period in 2022, a decrease of $800,000. Gross profit as a percentage of total revenue for the three months ended September 30, 2023 was 60% compared to 75% for the same period in 2022. The decrease in gross profit percentage is due to the decrease in sales volume primarily related to GLP-1 drugs coming to market. Nevertheless it is the highest gross margin percentage in any quarter this year as some of our cost reductions have had a positive impact on gross margins during the third quarter. Sales and marketing expenses for the three months ended September 30, 2023 decreased by $800,000 to $1.8 million compared to $2.6 million for the same period in 2022. The decrease of $800,000 is primarily due to a decrease in advertising and marketing expenses as we re-evaluated our marketing approach and have moved to a targeted digital marketing campaign. General and administrative expenses for the three months ended September 30, 2023 decreased by $1.7 million to approximately $2.1 million, compared to $3.8 million for the same period in 2022. The decrease is primarily due to a reduction in payroll-related expenses and personnel changes and reductions in professional services. Additionally other reductions included intangible asset amortization as the company impaired its finite intangible assets during the fourth quarter of 2022 and a decrease in rent and insurance costs for the expired lease of our former Carlsbad California location. Research and development costs for the three months ended September 30, 2023 remained consistent with the same period in 2022 — and Professional Services. Non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA loss was $2.9 million for the three months ended September 30, 2023 compared to a loss of $4.2 million for the same period last year. We ended the quarter with $1.5 million of cash and cash equivalents and remain debt-free on our balance sheet with a $2.8 million in net proceeds from our recent public offering in October and the cost reductions detail during the call, we will preserve cash and extend the company’s cash runway. As we finish 2023 and move into 2024, we anticipate our revenues increasing and a continued reduction in our operating expenses. With that, I will now turn the call back over to Paul. Paul Hickey: Thank you, Tom. Before we open the call up for Q&A, it’s important to reiterate as both Tom and I have detail that we have and will continue to significantly reduce operating expenses across all categories, so we can invest in our growth initiatives. The bold steps we have taken to reorganize the company will help to ensure sustainability and scalability. We continue to prioritize investments, including marketing automation to support scalable lead acquisition, segment and consumer centric messaging be an updated website for improved patient engagement and a frictionless booking system with qualified providers while further reducing lead generation costs. Taken together, we expected to increase Lap-Band procedures and ultimately revenue. We will continue to develop and offer a portfolio that is differentiated from the competition with transformative technologies that consist of selection of patient friendly non-anotomy changing lifestyle enhancing products programs and services that provide alternatives to a more invasive bariatric surgeries to help patients achieve healthy durable weight loss. At the same time, we will continue to work with our world-class scientific advisory board to continue to execute on our plan for success in a global market that is changing in historic fashion to normalize safe and effective treatments for obesity. This concludes our prepared remarks, so now we would like to open the call to your questions. Operator? See also 20 Truly Extraordinary Whiskeys Under $75 and 15 Largest Troop Contributors to UN Peacekeeping. Q&A Session Follow Reshape Weightloss Inc. (NASDAQ:RSLS) Follow Reshape Weightloss Inc. (NASDAQ:RSLS) We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Operator: Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from the line of Anthony Vendetti from Maxim Group. Your line is open. Anthony Vendetti: Thank you. Thanks for that overview Paul and for also Dr. Caroline Apovian. That was very helpful to hear your view. Maybe starting with Dr. Apovian, obviously, there’s a lot of news around the GLP-1 today Lilly’s was approved for weight loss or obesity. And there’s also as you discussed there’s comorbidities, there is a potential adverse side effects we don’t know at what level at this point, right, other than what the studies are showing. And we’ll I guess, we’ll find out over the next 12 months or 24 months as this rolls out. What is your expectation? It’s obviously impacting sales for the Lap-Band from bariatric procedures as patients and consumers decide tried something new. Do you think it’s a 12 month process before they realize maybe a the cost or the side effects for some of them are not worth it is it two to three years before some of that sort of data starts to set in or are some of the apathy for GLP-1? Maybe it starts to set in or the initial, sort of, shiny new toy starts to wear off it. What’s your best guess on have certainly your guess is much better than mine, but what’s your best estimate as to when all this sort of plays out? And then just trying to get a good understanding of that. Caroline Apovian: Yeah. Well what I’m seeing we have five doctors, three nurse practitioners, two PAs and RD in our medical practice obesity medicine. We saw 10,000 new patients last year. What’s coming via the decrease in bariatric surgery came from COVID first of all. The COVID numbers went down as you all know are starting to recover and but part of it is most I don’t see the decrease in bariatric surgery. I am seeing an increase. Well bariatric surgeons in my practice are telling me there’s a decrease, but it takes a while for that 10000 patients we saw last week just in the medical arm. We’ll get through the program. We have 4,500 patients on our waiting list just for medical treatment. They’re trying to get in and they have to wait eight months to one year. You see one of our medical practice providers. Why is that? There aren’t enough obesity medicines specialist in the United States to the quell this is demand. Therefore, all the great new newshes that’s fantastic, but the primary care providers can’t — they don’t have the resources in your practices to prescribe. Because of the prior authorization headache, which requires new FTE just to process the prior obligations. And then they don’t know how to give the drug. They don’t know how to provide diet and exercise. So it’s a big — the primary care is just don’t have resource. So it’s relegated to obesity medicine specialist. There only 6,500, 7,000 obesity medicine specialists in the United States. So what I’m trying to say here is that we all have a backlog. And once the patient gets in over the past six months what I have seen and my colleagues have seen is that we are able to get them in as a new patient and we give them the patients with a BMI over 40 or over 35. We’re looking them in the face and saying I know you want to go on Wegovy, I can’t give you Wegovy. There’s a shortage. Plus when the shortage is relieved. Yes I can give you Wegovy you realize you’re going to have to be on it for the rest of your life and you’re going to get a 16% weight loss. Or I guess I lost 15 pounds on Wegovy and I want to lose more. Your BMI 50. The way you’re going to lose more is bariatric surgery until I’m able with all of these patients because of a shortage because of the fact that they realize that they need to be on an injection for the rest of their life or because of they got weight loss. And they got the 16% weight loss that Wegovy can give but not more, and in a patient needs to lose 100 to 150 pounds that’s not going to work. So I’m able now to convince the patient to get a consultation with one of our bariatric surgeons and we have 10 of them and they have appointments next week where is I have an eight months to 12 months waiting list. Anthony Vendetti: Okay. Caroline Apovian: All right. So what’s happening, but it’s good – yes, you’re right it’s going to take some time to get the patient through. On top of that we have the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band. I have always wanted to combine the Lap-Band with a GLP-1 and now a news because now we have Zepbound and we have double duals and triples coming down the pike. Because then you get the restriction of the Lap-Band with the change in gut hormone [indiscernible] with the multitude of new shows that are coming down the pike. So this is going to provide a less, let’s say, less aggressive form of surgery with a medication that can hopefully achieve weight losses of more than 20% or more than 25%. Anthony Vendetti: That’s very helpful. So, in the situations where they want to lose — the patient’s goal is to lose more than 16% or 20%, do you — how often do you recommend bariatric surgery versus the Lap-Band with the GLP-1? And are there instances right now where you’re just recommending the Lap-Band without the GLP and then you can do the GLP-1 later. I’m just wondering how are you right now guiding or advising your patients? Caroline Apovian: It runs the gamut. Because what you need to understand about our center is we have bariatric surgery, but we also have bariatric endoscopy with Chris Thompson, the world leader in endoscopic devices and procedures. So, — but within bariatric endoscopy, we are definitely — and with bariatric surgery, we’re definitely adding GLP-1 to both of endoscopic and bariatric surgery procedures. What we are what — and the Lap-Band. What I do recommend initially is if you’re going for bariatric surgery uses a sleeve gastrectomy or the electrostatic adjustable band and certainly not — or even the endoscopic procedures, we don’t add a new right away. We wanted — because we don’t want to get excessive weight loss because you’re going to lose muscle and fat. You lose muscle and fat anyway especially with the more aggressive bariatric surgery procedures like the bypass even the sleeve. The sleeve the bypass and the [Indiscernible] diversion, you’re losing almost half muscle. Because you’re losing it so fast. You don’t want to do that that causes sarcopenia and a lower resting energy expenditure and it’s there. And those patients don’t do well what you want to do is get a good amount of weight loss with one procedure if you’re going to use the procedure. And then when you plateau — either plateau or you don’t lose as much as you want it, which is often the case or you do great, but then a year later you regain some weight then you add the news. Okay. So, you don’t want to do anything at once. Paul Hickey: Anthony, this is Paul and Dr. Apovian, thank you for that — all the answers you provided. I wanted to add one more point. Maybe you can add to it as well. When — in terms of the numbers of people that you’re saying just kind of reminding and I know we’ve talked about this before where there’s as mentioned during the call, there’s only 1% of the people that in prior years, decades, 1% that could have surgery — are seeking out surgery. And our belief is and I think that’s what Dr. Apovian was a firming that there’s more people now beyond that 1% that are seeking care, specific with the GLP-1 being as popular with the big marketing push from big pharma. And then it’s the timing I know that I love to have an answer to right, but the timing for nationwide on average centers that are unlike Brigham and Women’s and the Center of Excellence that Dr. Apovian has formed over the years I’m sure has ways of managing their timetable that are completely different across the board......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkeyNov 12th, 2023

Is Gavin Newsom Running A Shadow Presidential Campaign?

Is Gavin Newsom Running A Shadow Presidential Campaign? Authored by Nathan Worcester  via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), His vetoes, his foreign trips, his upcoming debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: It all adds up to something like a shadow presidential campaign by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Freepik) It’s hard to predict how Mr. Newsom might pull it off, at least during this cycle—he has remained a steadfast supporter of incumbent President Joe Biden, and as the filing deadlines for multiple Democratic primaries have passed, he hasn’t flinched. He could be gunning for 2028, two years after state term limits will force him out of the governor’s mansion. Or, if events line up just right, he could make his move sooner. “I think it's been pretty obvious that Newsom has been positioning himself for a run in 2028 and to be available in 2024 should Biden's health or capacities deteriorate to the point that Democrats decide that they need another candidate,” Morris Fiorina, professor of political science and Hoover Institution fellow at Stanford University, told The Epoch Times. California Assemblyman James Gallagher, who leads the Republicans in that chamber of the California Legislature, also cast doubt on President Biden's ability to campaign for another term. “Right now, everybody in public is saying they’re rallying behind Joe Biden, but it’s very clear that he is deteriorating,” Mr. Gallagher told The Epoch Times. Gloria Romero, a Democrat who was formerly majority leader of the California State Senate, said “the conundrum is the vice president," and dubbed Mr. Newsom “the replacement candidate.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom (L) walks with President Joe Biden after delivering remarks at the airport in Mather, Calif., on Sept. 13, 2021. President Biden toured the wildfire-damaged area near Sacramento with Mr. Newsom before heading to Los Angeles to participate in a "No on Recall" campaign event. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) 2024 as 1968 President Biden’s detractors have sometimes compared him to former President Jimmy Carter, who presided over high inflation and his own hostage crisis. But an even more war-clouded incumbent—Capitol Hill dealmaker President Lyndon B. Johnson—could offer another parallel as the United States steps up support for Israel against Hamas. Like the Vietnam War, the conflict is unpopular with much of the Democrats’ base, in part because of civilian casualties. A protester holds up a sign calling for U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson to face retribution for U.S. actions in the Vietnam War, at a protest in Sydney on Feb. 1, 1966. (The Tribune/SEARCH Foundation, CC BY 4.0) Amid protests over Vietnam, the unpopular President Johnson dropped out of the race early in 1968. Months of intraparty division, including the assassination of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, culminated in the chaotic and violent Democratic convention, which was held in August in Chicago. The party establishment’s favorite, then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey, ultimately carried off the nomination, defeating a fellow Minnesotan, the anti-war Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-Minn.), and various others. Mr. Humphrey then fell in the general election to Richard Nixon, the man who was once counted out of national politics after he lost the 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy. There are other striking similarities between 2024 and 1968. The Democratic National Convention will again take place in Chicago. Robert F. Kennedy’s son is in the running, too, albeit as an independent. And President Biden’s new Democratic primary challenger, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), is, like Mr. Humphrey and Mr. McCarthy, a Minnesotan (though, unlike them, he isn’t running against an unpopular war). Chuck DeVore, a former California State Assembly member now with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Epoch Times that President Johnson’s departure from the field “opened up the delegates that he may have already won at that point to be able to vote as they pleased on the floor of the Democratic convention.” “Essentially, you end up with this brokered convention. We may end up seeing something very similar in 2024,” he said. Seeking the Center on Domestic Issues The 2024 Chicago convention is many months away. For now, an observer can only assess what California’s governor has already done that may boost his presidential profile. During the last legislative session, some of Mr. Newsom’s vetoes attracted media attention. For instance, he shot down legislation that would have decriminalized possession of psychedelic mushrooms. He also vetoed a bill that would have seen condoms distributed for free in California’s public high schools as well as legislation that would have altered child custody proceedings by making judges favor parents who “affirm” a minor’s transgender identity. In a CNN opinion piece, liberal commentator Jill Filipovic called some of those vetoes “disappointing,” arguing that the governor is “a man who puts his own political future ahead of the will of the people.” While some observers may sense a shift to the center, Ms. Romero doesn’t quite see it that way. “It’s really political calculation,” she said. She lambasted some of the bills emanating from California’s Legislature, calling them “almost Babylon Bee-ish.” They are, in short, hard for the governor to greenlight if he wants to become competitive across a country where California values aren’t always and everywhere welcome. She speculated that some of the vetoes show the governor trying to regain the trust of nonleftist Democrats like her, many of whom have become disillusioned with Mr. Newsom’s leadership style. Ms. Romero described California’s leader as a chameleon-like figure who benefits from a relatively sympathetic treatment by the legacy media. Like Ms. Romero, Mr. Gallagher characterized the vetoes as a political maneuver meant to make the governor seem less left-wing. “The problem is, he’s still passing pretty radical policy,” Mr. Gallagher said. He cited bills such as Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener’s S.B. 253, which will require large companies to report greenhouse gas emissions. He said Mr. Newsom’s vetoes may allow him to look tougher on drugs while preserving his environmental agenda—a signature issue for him domestically and during his recent trip to China, where climate policy was a central concern. Vetoes by the Numbers Mr. DeVore suggested the vetoes may be less exceptional than they seem. “Every governor of California, or really any governor across the country, will veto a certain number of bills that they see as just poor bills,” he said. “I think there is a danger in reading a little too much into that,” he added, noting that the state’s past Democratic governors have also vetoed bills from the Legislature, which has skewed left for many decades. Indeed, while some media coverage suggests Mr. Newsom’s recent vetoes take him closer to the American center, the big picture is foggier. Mr. Newsom vetoed 156 bills and signed 890 bills during the latest legislative session. That means he shot down a little less than 15 percent of the legislation that reached him from the state’s Legislature, both chambers of which are controlled by commanding Democratic supermajorities. That’s in keeping with what he has done before, according to an analysis by the California Senate’s Office of Research. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and British Columbia Premier John Horgan sign climate agreements in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Tyler Durden Tue, 11/07/2023 - 17:05.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 7th, 2023

Young, Bold, & Angry: The Youth-Led Revival Of The Palestinian Cause

Young, Bold, & Angry: The Youth-Led Revival Of The Palestinian Cause Authored by Mohamad Hasan Sweidan, op-ed via The Cradle, Global youth are smashing Israeli propaganda constructs to champion justice and humanity as they throw their support behind the armed struggle for Palestinian national liberation. For years, there's been a prevailing notion that the Palestinian cause is losing its grip on the younger generations. This perception stems from the belief that, as globalization tightens its hold, the youth in West Asia, particularly in occupied Palestine, might become more disconnected from their historical roots and national affiliations.  With the spread of liberal ideas, many speculated that economic opportunities, technological advancements, and global exposure would shift their focus away from the Palestinian cause. Some even anticipated that the younger generation would turn against armed resistance to the Zionist occupation, owing to the small tide of Arab-Israeli normalization. But recent events, especially the US-backed Israeli genocidal war against Gaza, have shown a different story. Three weeks of nonstop atrocities have rekindled the flame of Palestinian identity, ensuring that at least three generations stand united against the west's 'rules-based order' and in support of any resistance against the occupation state. Youth in West Asia Prior to the Hamas-led Al-Aqsa Flood military operation on 7 October, many believed that young Arabs were leaning more toward normalizing relations with Israel, prioritizing economic prosperity over solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians.  However, the stark contrast between Iranian-aligned Arab states, which struggle with sanctions and insecurity, and those Arab countries that have normalized relations and enjoy a better quality of life has made the youth question the old assumptions about resistance. The role played by Arab youth after the events of 7 October has reinforced the need to confront Israel. Tel Aviv's behaviors, rife with criminality, aggression, and lies, have embarrassed its Arab partners, and now challenge the narrative that sought to separate Hamas from the rest of the Palestinian population. According to Pew Research Center's generational divisions based on age, today's younger generations can be categorized into two groups, and current children can be classified into a single category: After the launch of Al-Aqsa Flood, the west attempted to frame the narrative around the specific event - leaving out historical context - sought to characterize Hamas as ISIS, and emphasized Israel's “right to self-defense” against "terrorism." Ironically, it has been Israel's brutal actions that countered these efforts, leading to the deaths of over 8,525 Palestinians, including 3,542 children and over 2,000 women.  This devastating toll was enough to label Israel as the real perpetrator of terrorism, and the images of innocent martyrs, especially children, became a powerful symbol in the defense of Palestinian rights. Agents of change  What's truly remarkable is that the leaders of the new narratives are the youth of Generation Z, Y, and Alpha. Leveraging social media, and speaking directly to their peer groups, they conveyed the grievances of the Palestinian people to the world. Many had limited knowledge of Palestine, but their unfiltered sense of justice fueled their collective anger against Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Social media has also given rise to a new form of journalism, known as citizen journalism. Ordinary individuals on the ground have become frontline reporters, sharing live audio and video updates that effectively sideline mainstream news reporting. When traditional media fails to provide the full picture, platforms like X and Instagram became invaluable sources of information. For instance, during the first two days of the Gaza offensive, over 50 million posts flooded the X platform and provided real-time coverage of events on the ground. On social media, the younger generation is playing a crucial role in raising awareness about the Palestinian cause, galvanizing people across the globe to mirror their outrage. Today, in many countries, populations are taking to the streets in protest, boycotting companies supporting Israel, and expressing their solidarity across a wide variety of social media platforms.  Videos advocating for Palestinian rights appear in dozens of languages, reaching millions. Weeks after the aggression, hashtags like #فلسطين and #إسرائيل had billions of views on TikTok, leading the US to pressure Meta to ban influential accounts supporting the Palestinian cause. Crucially, the scenes of Israeli brutality on social media have led to widespread, unprecedented criticism of the US, a key partner in Tel Aviv's war plans, oddly, from Jewish American youth. Thousands of critical Jewish voices have emerged, condemning Washington's policies. Instead of fading, the Palestinian cause is regaining momentum worldwide, defying the intentions of both Washington and Tel Aviv. Influence on western youth According to a recent poll published by the Daily Mail, only 40 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 have a negative view of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas. Despite Israel's efforts to label Hamas as ISIS, more than half of young respondents do not share this view. The same poll indicates that 32 percent have a negative view of Israel instead, while only 24 percent have a positive outlook. Significantly, among young people, those with a negative view of Israel outnumber those with a positive view. An Axios poll in the US reveals that less than half of young respondents (48 percent) believe that the country should support Israel. In contrast, this percentage rises significantly among older respondents, reaching 83 percent among those born between 1946 and 1964. Another poll by Generation Lab shows that 48 percent of US college students surveyed do not blame Hamas for the events of 7 October. A Quinnipiac poll shows that 51 percent of voters under the age of 35 do not support sending weapons and military equipment to Israel in response to the Hamas operation, compared to 77 percent for those aged 50 or older. Additionally, Harvard University's Center for American Political Studies conducted a survey on the war in Palestine among respondents aged 18 to 24, with the following key findings: 47 percent believe that Hamas targeted the occupation army during Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and not civilians. 41 percent believe that Hamas fighters are military operatives and not terrorists. 48 percent side with Hamas and not with Israel. (This rises to 91 percent for those aged 55-64) Although 62 percent believe that Hamas' actions are criminal, 52 percent believe that Hamas ' killing of 1,200 Israeli civilians can be justified because of the injustice inflicted on Palestinians. 46 percent believe that law firms should not refuse to hire law students who supported Hamas and attacks on Israeli civilians. 48 percent oppose the Biden administration’s policies toward Israel. 54 percent believe that Iran has nothing to do with the Hamas attack on 7 October. 59 percent believe that it was wrong for Israel to cut off electricity, water, and food to the Gaza Strip in order to retrieve its prisoners. Only 30 percent believe that the US should support Israel in the war on Gaza. 45 percent believe that Israel bombed the Baptist Hospital in the Gaza Strip. Only 24 percent believe that the US media reports events in Gaza in a fair manner. 60 percent believe that the US should not intervene militarily if Iran strikes Israel. Commenting on these figures, Mark Penn, CEO of Stagwell and president of the Harris-Ball Foundation, says that "the war between Israel and Hamas is not an issue divided along party lines, but on the basis of age."  Rachel Janvaza, an expert on the political culture of the younger generation, suggests that "seniors are deeply traumatized by the generational divide, but this tension has been brewing on social media and in universities for a while – both of which play a very powerful role in how young people see the world." Others disparage this development - Brad Polombo, in an article for Newsweek, opines: "Gen Z is not okay."  Recent events highlight the resilience of Palestinian youth in preserving their identity and defending their rights. They have leveraged innovative ways to keep the Palestinian narrative relevant globally, with youth solidarity in West Asia bringing Palestinian grievances to a worldwide audience via various social media platforms, in all languages.  The impact of these events on the younger generation will likely continue to shape their views and influence future decisions, and today has the potential to affect international opinion and shift foreign policy.  Tyler Durden Mon, 11/06/2023 - 23:40.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 7th, 2023