Rein In The FBI: Put An End To Their Gestapo Tactics

Rein In The FBI: Put An End To Their Gestapo Tactics Authored by John and Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “One of the creeping hands of totalitarianism running through the democracy is the Federal Bureau of Investigation… Because why does the FBI do all this? To scare the hell out of people… They work for the establishment and the corporations and the politicos to keep things as they are. And they want to frighten and chill the people who are trying to change things.” - Howard Zinn, historian Power corrupts. We know this. In fact, we know this from experience learned the hard way at the hands of our own government. So why is anyone surprised to learn that the FBI, one of the most power-hungry and corrupt agencies within the police state’s vast complex of power-hungry and corrupt agencies, misused a massive government surveillance database more than 300,000 times in order to target American citizens? This is how the government operates, after all. First, they seek out extraordinary powers acquired in the wake of some national crisis—in this case, warrantless surveillance powers intended to help the government spy on foreign targets suspected of engaging in terrorism—and then they use those powers against the American people. According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the FBI repeatedly misused Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to spy on the communications of two vastly disparate groups of Americans: those involved in the George Floyd protests and those who may have taken part in the Jan. 6, 2021, protests at the Capitol. This is par for the course for the FBI, whose modus operandi has historically been to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” perceived threats to the government’s power. Indeed, the FBI has a long history of persecuting, prosecuting and generally harassing activists, politicians, and cultural figures. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, the FBI’s targets were civil rights activists, those suspected of having Communist ties, and anti-war activists. In more recent decades, the FBI has expanded its reach to target so-called domestic extremists, environmental activists, and those who oppose the police state. In 2019, President Trump promised to give the FBI “whatever they need” to investigate and disrupt hate crimes and domestic terrorism, without any apparent thought for the Constitution’s prohibitions on such overreach. That misguided pledge sheds a curious light on the FBI’s ongoing spree of SWAT team raids, surveillance, disinformation campaigns, fear-mongering, paranoia, and strong-arm tactics meted out to dissidents on both the right and the left. Yet while these overreaching, heavy-handed lessons in how to rule by force have become standard operating procedure for a government that communicates with its citizenry primarily through the language of brutality, intimidation and fear, none of this is new. Indeed, the FBI’s love affair with totalitarianism can be traced back to the Nazi police state. As historian Robert Gellately recounts, the Nazi police state was so admired for its efficiency and order by the world powers of the day that in the decades after World War II, the FBI, along with other government agencies, aggressively recruited at least a thousand Nazis, including some of Hitler’s highest henchmen. Since then, U.S. government agencies—the FBI, CIA and the military—have fully embraced many of the Nazi’s well-honed policing tactics, and used them repeatedly against American citizens. With every passing day, the United States government borrows yet another leaf from Nazi Germany’s playbook: Secret police. Secret courts. Secret government agencies. Surveillance. Censorship. Intimidation. Harassment. Torture. Brutality. Widespread corruption. Entrapment. Indoctrination. Indefinite detention. These are not tactics used by constitutional republics, where the rule of law and the rights of the citizenry reign supreme. Rather, they are the hallmarks of authoritarian regimes, where secret police control the populace through intimidation, fear and official lawlessness on the part of government agents. Consider the extent to which the FBI’s far-reaching powers to surveil, detain, interrogate, investigate, prosecute, punish, police and generally act as a law unto themselves resemble those of their Nazi cousins, the Gestapo. Just like the Gestapo, the FBI has vast resources, vast investigatory powers, and vast discretion to determine who is an enemy of the state. Much like the Gestapo spied on mail and phone calls, FBI agents have carte blanche access to the citizenry’s most personal information. Much like the Gestapo’s sophisticated surveillance programs, the FBI’s spying capabilities can delve into Americans’ most intimate details (and allow local police to do so, as well). Much like the Gestapo’s ability to profile based on race and religion, and its assumption of guilt by association, the FBI’s approach to pre-crime allows it to profile Americans based on a broad range of characteristics including race and religion. Much like the Gestapo’s power to render anyone an enemy of the state, the FBI has the power to label anyone a domestic terrorist. Much like the Gestapo infiltrated communities in order to spy on the German citizenry, the FBI routinely infiltrates political and religious groups, as well as businesses. Just as the Gestapo united and militarized Germany’s police forces into a national police force, America’s police forces have largely been federalized and turned into a national police force. Just as the Gestapo carried out entrapment operations, the FBI has become a master in the art of entrapment. Just as the Gestapo’s secret files on political leaders were used to intimidate and coerce, the FBI’s attempts to target and spy on anyone suspected of “anti-government” sentiment have been similarly abused. The Gestapo became the terror of the Third Reich by creating a sophisticated surveillance and law enforcement system that relied for its success on the cooperation of the military, the police, the intelligence community, neighborhood watchdogs, government workers for the post office and railroads, ordinary civil servants, and a nation of snitches inclined to report “rumors, deviant behavior, or even just loose talk.” Likewise, as countless documents make clear, the FBI has had no qualms about using its extensive powers in order to blackmail politicians, spy on celebrities and high-ranking government officials, and intimidate and attempt to discredit dissidents of all stripes. In fact, borrowing heavily from the Gestapo, between 1956 and 1971, the FBI conducted an intensive domestic intelligence program, termed COINTELPRO, intended to neutralize domestic political dissidents. As Congressman Steve Cohen explains, “COINTELPRO was set up to surveil and disrupt groups and movements that the FBI found threatening… many groups, including anti-war, student, and environmental activists, and the New Left were harassed, infiltrated, falsely accused of criminal activity          .” Sound familiar? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Those targeted by the FBI under COINTELPRO for its intimidation, surveillance and smear campaigns included: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, the Black Panther Party, Billie Holiday, Emma Goldman, Aretha Franklin, Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Felix Frankfurter, John Lennon, and hundreds more. The Church Committee, the Senate task force charged with investigating COINTELPRO abuses in 1975, denounced the government’s abuses: “Too many people have been spied upon by too many Government agencies and too much information has been collected. The Government has often undertaken the secret surveillance of citizens on the basis of their political beliefs, even when those beliefs posed no threat of violence or illegal acts on behalf of a hostile foreign power.” The report continued: “Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views and their lifestyles. Investigations have been based upon vague standards whose breadth made excessive collection inevitable. Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed—including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths. Intelligence agencies have served the political and personal objectives of presidents and other high officials.” Whether 50 years ago or in the present day, the treatment being doled out by the government’s lethal enforcers has remained consistent, no matter the threat. The FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity, and damaging private property, and that’s just based on what we know. Whether the FBI is planting undercover agents in churches, synagogues and mosques; issuing fake emergency letters to gain access to Americans’ phone records; using intimidation tactics to silence Americans who are critical of the government; recruiting high school students to spy on and report fellow students who show signs of being future terrorists; or persuading impressionable individuals to plot acts of terror and then entrapping them, the overall impression of the nation’s secret police force is that of a well-dressed thug, flexing its muscles and doing the boss’ dirty work of ensuring compliance, keeping tabs on potential dissidents, and punishing those who dare to challenge the status quo. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, it’s time to rein in the Federal Bureau of Intimidation’s war on political freedom. Tyler Durden Thu, 05/25/2023 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 26th, 2023

The SEC"s crypto crackdown is escalating as it goes after the Winklevoss twins" firm over "unregistered securities." Here"s what they are.

SEC Chair Gary Gensler has gone after the Winklevoss twins and Kraken with an attack on supposedly unregistered securities, but what does that mean? Gary Gensler became chair of the SEC in April.Alex Wong/Getty Images The SEC has stepped up its campaign to reign in what its Chair has called the "Wild West" of crypto. Gary Gensler has gone after the Winklevoss twins and Kraken, the world's third-biggest crypto exchange. But its targeting of unregistered assets has left some in the crypto sector with one response: it's war. After lots of calls to clean up the wild west of crypto, it looks like the SEC is finally getting stuck in.It's gone after big names like Gemini and Kraken - and it's using rules on unregistered securities as its key hammer.We explain what those are and what the industry makes of the regulatory crackdown.What has been targeted?The SEC has been swift in recent weeks in its push to reprimand crypto offerings it regards as breaking the rules, leaning on the argument that they are unregistered securities.The highest-profile suit came against the crypto giant Genesis and the Winklevoss twins' Gemini in January, after the SEC accused its disastrous "Gemini Earn" program of being an offering of unregistered securities.Then Kraken, the world's third biggest crypto exchange, last week paid a $30 million settlement to the SEC and agreed to stop its "staking" program, where investors lock in their holdings of digital assets for a interest-based reward.And this week, crypto firm Paxos was forced by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) to stop minting its Binance-branded stablecoin after a planned lawsuit from the SEC over the sale of unregistered securities. This differs from previous staking suits. A spokesperson told Insider it categorically disagreed with SEC staff, arguing its BUSD coin was not a security.Why now?The collapse of FTX in November, locking out billions of dollars in customer deposits, has undoubtedly increased the urgency to rein in potentially risky offerings, as did that event's contagion effects on Genesis and Gemini.But regulators' discomfort with crypto stretches back years - as far as the asset has been popular. In October 2021, SEC Chair Gary Gensler referred to the crypto sector as "a bit of the Wild West."Emerging evidence suggests programs like staking have become a means for crypto firms to inflate the value of their assets using consumer funds. An investigation into now-bankrupt crypto giant Celsius found the company had used customer funds to prop up the value its native coin in a bid to return high yields to investors.What is an unregistered security?A security, most simply, is a financial instrument traded for profit. They form the basis of investment contracts for thinks like equities, debt, and derivatives.The SEC points to the Howey Test to determine if an asset can be classed as a security. This test has four prongs, all of which need to be passed to be determined a security: [1] An investment of money [2] in a common enterprise [3] with expectations of a profit [4] to be derived from the efforts of others.In the US, if an asset is deemed to be a security it needs to be registered with the SEC. For example, an initial public offering (IPO) of a stock newly listed on the stock exchange represents the first offering of its freshly registered securities. Securities need to be registered as it gives the issuing company the relevant shareholder information to pay dividends and provide relevant stock-related information. It also helps reduce fraud by keeping on record the legitimate owner of the security.According to the SEC, an unregistered security is simply one that hasn't been rubber-stamped by the regulator. Unregistered securities have been the subject of several scams, with the SEC saying their hallmarks include the promise of high yields with no risk, aggressive sales tactics, and are backed by unqualified investment professionals. As such, their use is limited.Only accredited investors, defined as those with a net worth higher than $1 million or an annual income exceeding $200,000, can trade unregistered securities, essentially locking out most retail investors. The threshold is seen as a gauge of financial sophistication and suggests a buffer for eligible investors against potential losses.The debate in the crypto world, though, doesn't fall on whether the assets should or shouldn't be registered, but more fundamentally on whether they should be classed as securities at all.So, what is the confusion?There's long been a debate whether a digital asset - essentially, software - is a commodity like gold, or a security like an ETF. To this end, crypto is typically regulated by the Commodities and Futures Trade Commission (CFTC), indicating its status as a commodity. Gensler though, has argued most cryptocurrencies meet the legal definition of a security, and should be registered with the SEC.But the evolution of the crypto sector, namely through programs like staking and initial coin offerings (ICOs), are blurring the lines and giving the SEC ammunition to pursue a clampdown. The crackdown focuses on firms that promised returns to clients, whether for staking their crypto for a blockchain or for lending their crypto with a guaranteed percentage return, as with Kraken and Gemini's Earn program respectively. These could be seen as investment contracts.Crypto enthusiasts tend to argue that the asset doesn't pass all four prongs of the Howey test to determine a security or investment contract, as it doesn't generate value through the effort of others.Meanwhile, last week Coinbase's chief legal officer Paul Grewal also rebuffed the idea of staking being a security. In a note, he argued that staking failed all four prongs of the Howey Test, not just the fourth one of value creation."Trying to superimpose securities law onto a process like staking doesn't help consumers at all," Grewal wrote. "Instead, unnecessarily aggressive mandates will prevent US consumers from accessing basic crypto services in the US and push users to offshore, unregulated platforms."More fundamentally, the crypto industry's bigwigs, from Brian Armstrong to Anthony Scaramucci, have piled in on the SEC's ruling on Kraken's "staking" program, describing it as an attack on economic freedoms.What's next?Crypto firms and the SEC will have to wait on the outcome of various lawsuits to set a precedent. The outcome could mean crypto firms having to register offerings and assets as securities, but some argue this has left them in no man's land."Regulation by enforcement is puzzling for crypto enthusiasts," Globalblock Crypto, a digital asset brokerage, said in a note."The SEC claim that "all crypto projects have to do is come in and register," yet when they do, they are just told "no". People are desperately trying to figure out how to offer a product legally whilst getting zero guidance."Scott Melker, "The Wolf of All Streets" crypto trader, had more choice language.""It is clear that the US is going to war with the crypto industry," he tweeted."If it's war they want, it's war they'll get."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytFeb 19th, 2023

Conservative senators hail member-led strategy session as "good first step" in dealing with mounting frustrations about Mitch McConnell"s leadership

Senate Republicans who want a seat at the leadership table next year hosted the first of what may be regular member-led policy talks. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the media during the weekly Senate Republican Leadership press conference at the US Capitol on December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC.Nathan Howard/Getty Images A group of Senate Republicans hosted their first member-led policy discussion on Wednesday. Organizers said nothing concrete came out of the spitballing session but vowed to keep talks going. Attendees said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was in the room but didn't participate. While they doubt they have the votes to derail a bipartisan year-end spending deal appropriators are racing to finish, several Senate Republicans who pressed for a conference-wide meeting on Wednesday said they'd gotten the ball rolling on having more say in the next Congress. "It's the first time since I've been here that we've had a broad discussion on coming up with a mission statement for what we're for," Sen. Mike Braun said upon emerging from the meeting he called along with others determined to pry power from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the party's midterm elections flop. After quashing Sen. Rick Scott's attempt to wrest control of the caucus from him a few weeks back, McConnell said Braun and the others were free to pull together as many meetings as they see fit — so long as at least five Republicans sign on. As for any changes he might make, McConnell said, rather bluntly, "There's nothing to negotiate." Braun, who is eyeing the exits after jumping into the Hoosier State's 2024 race for governor, billed the midday discussion as very preliminary in terms of ironing out what Republicans feel like they'll be able to accomplish leading into 2024. Insider saw fellow Republicans Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and Josh Hawley of Missouri pop in and out of the hour-plus long meeting to field phone calls or tend to other personal business."Nothing was fleshed out," Braun told reporters at the US Capitol, adding that "I think it's the beginning, maybe, of a more participatory process." He noted, however, that McConnell did not speak during the meeting. Senate GOP leader John Cornyn said this gathering seemed collegial enough — this time.  "We're all very busy people with a lot of demands: family, campaigns, fundraising, our constituents. And everybody's spread pretty thin," the Texas Republican said of the time constraints lawmakers already wrestle with on a daily basis. He gave the meeting organizers credit for trying to find ways for Republicans to come together in the new year after falling short on election day. "We can probably do a better job of being more unified, more strategic. And I think that's what this is about," Cornyn said outside the Senate chamber. Still, convening more meetings, which Cornyn said this group seemed inclined to do, is preferable to the scorched-earth tactics others have embraced in the past. "We've tried government shutdowns. There've been threats to undercut the full faith and credit of the country on things like raising the debt ceiling. So we just need to keep talking," Cornyn said. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who Braun said made a case for needing to rein in government spending, told reporters he'd only just begun to fight. "I think we agreed on having more sessions like that," Johnson said, adding that he's making it his mission to "start looking at more information like this on a regular basis." "This is only just a first step," Johnson said. Co-organizer Sen. Rand Paul said there were no immediate plans to call another meeting, but left the door open to getting together in January since they'll need to work out their internal rules for the 118th Congress anyway.   Sen. Marco Rubio endorsed dragging leadership to the table more often.  "I think they're good meetings to have," Rubio told Insider. And he added that he's looking forward to more. "Every time they call one, I'll be at 'em," he said.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 14th, 2022

High School Girl"s Volleyball Team Banned From Own Locker Room After Complaining About Trans Athlete

High School Girl's Volleyball Team Banned From Own Locker Room After Complaining About Trans Athlete Female high school athletes in Burlington, Vermont have been banned from their own locker room after making complaints to school officials about the inappropriate behavior of a biological male teammate that identifies as trans.  Conflict among the girl's volleyball team at Randolph High School began after a trans team member was allowed into the girl's locker room, where students say he began to make comments that caused the females discomfort.  Despite aggressive school policies defending the preferences of trans students, the girls decided to make a formal complaint about the locker room arrangement.   Rather than taking them seriously or establishing practical measures including giving the trans team member a private changing area, school officials banned the girls from their own locker room instead, hinting that “bullying and harassment charges” could follow.   “It’s a huge thing. Everyone’s asking, ‘So, why aren’t you allowed in the locker room?’” said Blake Allen, who along with her fellow teammates are currently barred from using the locker room after some of the girls on the team objected to allowing a transgender player in the girl’s locker room. “My mom wants me to do this interview to try to make a change,” Allen said. “I feel like for stating my opinion -- that I don’t want a biological man changing with me -- that I should not have harassment charges or bullying charges. They should all be dropped.” In a bizarre twist, the girls (at least 10 of them) are now required to take turns changing in a single stall bathroom while the trans student is allowed free rein to change wherever he pleases. We cannot have biological boys with penises changing next to our daughters in locker rooms, and then have our daughters scolded by the school. This is so backwards. Shame on Vermont! — Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) October 3, 2022 Randolph High School has a history of decidedly leftist political bias, with the school changing their own logo (The Galloping Ghost) in 2020 after complaints that it could be construed as a "KKK reference."  The school superintendent cited "racial justice" as a rationale for changing the mascot, even though it had no relation to racism. The locker room incident in Vermont is just one in an endless array of “trans rights” in public schools taking precedence over the privacy and safety of the vast majority of other students.  In particular, biological men participating in women's school sports has become a major point of contention as endless accommodations are given to trans athletes.  Trans participants have been consistently breaking women's sports records and crushing any hope female athletes have of gaining recognition or scholarships.   School districts in predominantly blue counties and states have responded to student complaints by going on the attack, with accusations of discrimination and bigotry as a means to silence dissent.  This has created an artificial narrative for the past few years, suggesting that there is very little opposition to the presence of biological men in girl's bathrooms and locker rooms.  This narrative was partly what led to a student claiming to be trans entering a girls bathroom in a school in Loudoun Country, Virginia where he raped a female student.   The trans student was reportedly moved to another school after the incident, where he allegedly raped another female student a few months later.  The trans student was found guilty of sexual assault by the Virginia Juvenile Court.    School boards have proven consistently hostile to parental concerns over trans policies while using intimidation tactics to frighten students who ask for privacy.  They have also ignored the vast differences in physical prowess between male and female athletes and allowed biological males to dominate female sports in the name of so-called “equity.” State and county officials have essentially created a special designation among people that identify as trans.  Far beyond concerns of “equal treatment,” entire school policies and functions now revolve around making trans students happy regardless of the impracticality of their demands or any violations of privacy for other children.    They have become a protected class; with incentives and fake applause and a legal shield from criticism.  Such a large societal shift for such a tiny minority of people can only end badly for everyone.       Tyler Durden Mon, 10/03/2022 - 18:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 4th, 2022

The Twitter Whistleblower Needs You to Trust Him

An exclusive interview with Twitter whistleblower Peiter 'Mudge' Zatko, the famous hacker fighting a messy battle with the platform Peiter Zatko, the Twitter whistle-blower, is a black belt in jiu-jitsu. The day before his complaint against the social media company was published, Zatko was sitting in his lawyer’s office in Washington, scrolling through his camera roll to find a photo of his legs locked around someone’s neck. The move is called a side-triangle. It’s totally safe, he says, because the opponent will black out before a lack of blood flow to the brain can cause any lasting damage. One of the things Zatko likes about the martial art, he explains, is that it’s less about brute strength than finding creative ways to maneuver your opponent into a weaker position. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] That talent translates to cybersecurity. In Nov. 2020, Zatko, the hacker known as “Mudge,” was hired as Twitter’s security lead, with a global remit to fix gaping vulnerabilities in one of the world’s most important communications platforms. But 14 months later, he was fired. Six months after that, he filed a sweeping whistle-blower complaint that paints a damning portrait of a company in crisis. In an 84-page complaint to federal regulatory agencies and the Department of Justice, which was first reported by the Washington Post and CNN and which TIME obtained from a congressional source, he describes Twitter as crippled by rudderless and dishonest leadership, beset by “egregious” privacy and security flaws, tainted by foreign influence, a danger to national security, and susceptible even to total collapse. Zatko says he felt an ethical duty to come forward. “Being a public whistle-blower is the last resort, something that I would only ever do after I had exhausted all other means,” he told TIME in a lengthy interview on Aug. 22. “It is not an easy path, but I view it as continuing to help improve the place where I was employed.” Twitter quickly hit back. Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance,” CEO Parag Agrawal wrote in an email to employees, calling the disclosures a “false narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and presented out of context. “Mudge was accountable for many aspects of this work that he is now inaccurately portraying more than six months after his termination,” Agrawal said. The story of how a top Twitter official turned whistle-blower is not a straightforward saga. In more than a dozen interviews with Zatko’s friends, family, and current and former colleagues, the portrait that emerges is more complicated. Eight current and former Twitter employees, who spoke with TIME on condition of anonymity in order to discuss issues they were not authorized to speak publicly about, said that many aspects of Zatko’s disclosures rang true to their experience, particularly his allegations of security deficiencies and shortcomings in company leadership. Some of the same sources, many of whom professed to like and admire Zatko, suggested that various allegations were misleading, overblown, or lacking context—in part because Zatko was straying into areas of the company into which he had only basic insight. Read More: ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Bots, and Foreign Agents: The Biggest Allegations From the Twitter Whistle-Blower Zatko’s allegations have emerged at a pivotal moment for Twitter, which is locked in a legal battle over an agreement to sell the company to Elon Musk. That makes the accuracy and credibility of Zatko’s claims a multibillion-dollar issue, and the object of considerable debate by his former colleagues. “Is Mudge generally correct? Yes,” says one current Twitter employee who worked with Zatko. “Where he is correct is that Twitter has absolutely been negligent in creating the appropriate security infrastructure for a company that has the level of impact it has … Is Mudge wrong about lots of things? Also yes. I think there’s a lot of sour grapes.” Zatko had come from a long line of jobs where he had free rein to tear up organizational structures and prioritize security above all else. But at Twitter, current and former colleagues say, he found himself in a different environment: navigating tense internal politics at a corporation bent on boosting revenue, without support from his superiors. Some employees caught up in the tumult perceived Zatko to be a figure hired by then CEO Jack Dorsey for publicity reasons, stepping on the toes of qualified colleagues with more institutional knowledge. Technically brilliant and morally rigid, Zatko was an iconoclast stepping into a corporate bureaucracy. “It’s like asking a doctor who’s been trained to do brain surgery to suddenly become a podiatrist,” says a former Twitter colleague. The polarized reactions to Zatko’s disclosures illustrate just how atypical a tech whistle-blower he is. Last year, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, disclosed tens of thousands of pages of internal company documents that revealed a company prioritizing profits over user safety. But readers didn’t have to take Haugen’s word for it; they could read the words of Facebook’s own safety teams. Zatko is different. As a former senior executive, he had a bird’s-eye view into Twitter’s decisionmaking, ultimately responsible for hundreds of staff in some of Twitter’s most high-priority work streams. But he didn’t release the same breadth of documentation as Haugen; while Zatko supplied some exhibits to support his claims, including internal emails, his partially redacted disclosures rely largely on his own credibility as one of the most celebrated figures in cybersecurity. He is implicitly asking the public to trust that his version of events is the correct one, and that Twitter is lying. Zatko may lose money by coming forward. Half of his compensation at Twitter was in cash, but the rest came in stock, says John Tye of the law firm Whistleblower Aid, which is representing Zatko. The value of those shares dropped by about 9% when news of Zatko’s allegations broke. Tye insists Zatko’s motivations are rooted in a desire to see the company succeed in the long term, not his own financial self-interest. The fate of Twitter’s stock price may be just the first of a cascading series of consequences from Zatko’s disclosures. His contention that Twitter has a bigger bot problem than executives admit may prevent them from forcing completion of the Musk deal. Tye says that his client prefers Twitter to remain a public company, for the public good. “We have concerns if the SEC were to lose jurisdiction if the company goes private, because there’s one less law-enforcement lever,” Tye says. “That’s a problem for accountability.” Zatko told TIME he has never met Musk and did not provide any information to him in advance of his disclosures becoming public knowledge. Zatko’s allegations could ripple out even further, in Washington and beyond. On Sept. 13, he is set to testify in Congress about the allegations, which could spur investigations by the SEC and FTC. That could in turn further erode public faith in social media companies generally, as they face escalating questions about their influence on politics and society, as well as global efforts to rein them in. All of which means the question of what kind of whistle-blower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko is has consequences well beyond Twitter’s future. In his Twitter profile picture, Zatko has flowing, shoulder-length brown hair, with a ring of light hovering above his head like a halo. But it’s been more than two decades since he traded this long-haired look—“hacker Jesus,” his wife Sarah Zatko jokes—for a clean-cut mien befitting a man who’s done tours at the highest levels of government. As Zatko sat down for his interview with TIME on the eve of the allegations becoming public, he sported a crisp goatee flecked with gray, wired spectacles, and a lapel pin depicting the logo of his lawyers, Whistleblower Aid. The profile picture is no accident. Zatko cites his famous work in the 1990s as both the defining era of his life and the grounding for his present morality. “I always ask myself: What would the Mudge of the late ‘90s think about what I’m doing now?” he says of his decision to blow the whistle on Twitter. “I want to make sure I haven’t lost that drive, that my ethics are still just as strong, that I’m fighting for people just as hard.” Dina Litovsky for TIMESarah Zatko at home on Aug. 23, 2022 Zatko is both attuned to and skilled at nurturing the mythology surrounding him. When he was a toddler, his father hung over his crib a mobile made of circuit boards. “He wanted me not to be afraid of technology,” he said in a 2011 interview with a trade magazine. He says he began hacking at the age of 5, picking locks and reverse-engineering computer games with his dad on a late-1970s Apple II computer to get around copyright protections. As a teenager, he spent his time surfing ARPANET, the predecessor to the modern internet, along with the bulletin boards where communities of online hackers were taking shape. Growing up in Alabama and Pennsylvania in the 1980s, his childhood heroes were the social activist Abbie Hoffman and the musician Frank Zappa. Zatko studied the guitar and the violin, and chose music over computer science, attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After graduating, he split his time between playing at clubs with his progressive metal band Raymaker, part-time tech-support work, and working with a high-profile hacker “think tank” called the L0pht (pronounced Loft) to expose corporate security flaws. He would soon become its most prominent member and went on to join a hacking cooperative known as the Cult of the Dead Cow. At the L0pht, Zatko pioneered a strategy of publicly embarrassing companies that refused to patch vulnerabilities that he and his fellow hackers had flagged to them. His biggest nemesis in the 1990s was Microsoft. When Zatko and his colleagues showed it was possible to insert malicious code to run secretly on any machine, Microsoft ignored it. So the L0pht released a user-friendly tool that allowed anybody to break into Windows users’ personal accounts, reasoning that it was the only way to force the company to finally fix its vulnerabilities. It worked. Today, Zatko says, Microsoft has one of the most advanced security programs in the world. Still, “responsible disclosure,” as the tactic of public embarrassment became known, is a bit of a misnomer. Criminals could use the hacking program he released to crack passwords in less than 24 hours, enabling them to steal credit-card or medical data from innocent users using unpatched machines. Zatko says that he thought “long and hard” before deciding that releasing the tool was the only way to make Microsoft change its ways and protect its users, even if some people got hurt in the short term. “Dishonesty is definitely something that frustrates him,” says his wife Sarah, a former mathematician at the National Security Agency. “It doesn’t mean he’s always trying to make a big public fuss, because if you can get things fixed … through proper channels it’s always easier on everybody. But if that’s not possible, there’s always this fallback.” Zatko and other members of the L0pht agreed to testify about internet security on Capitol Hill in May 1998. In the congressional hearing room, they were identified on their placards only by their hacker names. Zatko sat in the center of the group of seven hackers and did most of the talking. Even then, he flashed a flair for the dramatic, getting lawmakers’ attention by infamously claiming he could take down the internet in 30 minutes. “How can we be expected to protect the system and the network,” Zatko asked the assembled Senators, “when all of the seven individuals seated before you can tear down the foundation that the network was built upon?” Douglas Graham—Congressional Quarterly/Getty ImagesComputer hackers from the L0pht testify before a Senate Governmental Affairs hearing on government computer security on May 19, 1998 Still in his 20s, he began to work as an unofficial adviser on internet-security issues to Richard Clarke, who would become the cybersecurity czar for three different U.S. Presidents. A photo from 2000 shows Zatko at the first White House meeting on cybersecurity, talking to then President Bill Clinton. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, cybersecurity suddenly became an urgent part of counterterrorism strategy. Bad actors and “spam gangs” run out of Russia and Eastern Europe were releasing viruses and other malware, wreaking havoc on systems unprepared to counter them. Zatko began advising U.S. intelligence agencies and the military for free. Zatko was shaken by what he uncovered when he started digging. “I started to figure out numerous ways of knocking the financial sector down,” he says. “It just started to dawn on me that I, as an individual actor, could wreak serious havoc. And this is shortly after 9/11.” He had a bad reaction to drugs that his psychiatrist prescribed to deal with his rising anxiety, which only made things worse. It took a long time for him to emotionally recover. “Every security professional has the moment where they have started to learn enough about the field that all of a sudden they have this existential crisis,” says Zatko’s wife Sarah. “Then you either become [nihilistic] and everything’s hopeless, or else you have to figure out a way to get past it and try to fix your corner of things.” Out of his rut and adopting that new mindset, Zatko was tapped in 2010 to lead cybersecurity efforts at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). “I didn’t go there because I thought it was cool. I didn’t go there because I wanted to be a part of the government,” he told the audience at the DEF CON hacker conference in 2013. “I actually went there because I thought they and other parts of government had kind of lost their way, and I had an opportunity to go in and fix it.” One of his first moves was bringing in hackers and forcing career officials at the military office to spend three days in a conference room with them, says Renee Rush, a U.S. Air Force veteran who worked with him at the agency. “Mudge could go anywhere and get a big paycheck,” Rush says, “but you’ll never find him in a job that doesn’t have a distinctive mission.” AlamyPresident Clinton meets with technology leaders, including Peiter “ Zatko’s sense of principle has a way of engendering loyalty among his many mentees, both inside and outside his field. Ryan Hall, a champion mixed martial artist, became close friends with Zatko after Zatko joined Hall’s gym in Arlington, Va., in 2010 to practice jiu-jitsu. He recalls seeing Zatko at a coffee shop a block from the gym, sporting jeans and a T-shirt, surrounded by men in well-cut suits. “Peiter has very little time for moral waffling,” Hall says. After 3½ years, Zatko left DARPA for stints doing security research at Google and the payment processor Stripe. He cast both as companies that took security advice seriously. “The executives actually back security and let us do things differently (otherwise I wouldn’t be there!),” he tweeted approvingly in 2018 while at Stripe. Over the years, internet security has grown more complicated as its impact expands beyond scams, cyberattacks, and corporate or government security hacks. Zatko publicly expressed his frustration that veteran security experts’ advice was being ignored in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The Democratic National Committee reached out to him for help to improve its network and information security, but even his most basic suggestions were considered too “annoying,” he said. “DNC creates Cybersecurity board made up of well-meaning people with no cybersecurity expertise,” he tweeted in August 2016. “Your move Russia…” Four years later, after the Trump era showed just how essential the security of social media platforms was for safeguarding democracy, Zatko was sitting in his home office in New Jersey. The room is in an extension with no central heating or cooling system. In the winter, it is warmed by “way too many” computer cores—over 100, he estimates. It’s a messy space, with dog-eared textbooks strewn across the floor and framed letters of praise from national security luminaries on the walls. Zatko’s phone rang. On the other end was Dorsey. The man who had co-founded Twitter addressed him as Mudge, and told Zatko the hacker’s work during the 1990s was one of the reasons he pursued a tech career. “That just blew my mind,” Zatko recalls. “I’m talking to the guy who created, let’s face it, a platform that is critical worldwide. It influences governments, social change, it is the perception many people have of the world. And he was telling me that he was interested in me.” Zatko eventually decided to accept the unorthodox job Dorsey was offering, overseeing Twitter’s entire security operations, both data and physical. Zatko saw the protection of a platform as influential as Twitter as perhaps his most effective way to “make a dent in the universe”—a personal motto originating from his time at the L0pht. The move was hailed by experts as a sign of Twitter’s serious commitment to fixing long-standing security issues. As one security analyst put it, “A rare moment of cybersecurity sunshine where it seems the right person is put in the lead on addressing a major issue.” Twitter needed him. The company was reeling from one of the most embarrassing incidents in its 16-year history. In July 2020, a trio that included two teenagers used extremely basic phishing methods to gain access to the accounts of Twitter employees. They were then able to send tweets from the accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and a slew of other blue-checked accounts, setting up a scam that netted them over $100,000 in Bitcoin. The incident was hardly the company’s first major security lapse. The year before, the U.S. government had accused two Twitter employees of being moles for the Saudi Arabian government. This month, one of them was found guilty in federal court. Back in 2011, the FTC had filed a complaint against Twitter for failing to protect consumer information. That complaint was supposed to result in Twitter implementing a robust security program resistant to cyberattacks. Yet the success of the July 2020 hackers showed how vulnerable the platform remained. “While Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Meta consistently put out new features to help people protect their accounts and information, Twitter’s focus seemed to be a bit stale,” says Runa Sandvik, a privacy and security researcher. “It’s unclear what Twitter was doing in that space, if anything at all.” Zatko’s whistle-blower complaint says he expected to spend the remainder of his career working at Twitter. But it quickly became apparent that the company was “a decade behind” its competitors, he wrote in a staff memo included in the disclosures. Teams fighting bots were understaffed and overworked, he alleges, and internal security measures Twitter promised to develop in the wake of the 2011 FTC mandate had yet to be rolled out. Zatko’s complaint claims that a serious security breach was occurring at Twitter on average every week. Read More: What the Twitter Whistle-blower Disclosure Means for Elon Musk. On Jan. 6, 2021, Zatko was watching the Capitol insurrection unfold online and asked a Twitter engineering executive to curtail employees’ access to internal systems. He learned that too many employees had irrevocable access. One rogue engineer with the right system privileges could have sabotaged the platform, sowing misinformation and discord, Zatko alleges in his disclosure. Zatko tried to patch these holes. He shuttered several existing security and privacy programs in favor of a new department, optimistically named Confidence. He drew up a three-year plan to improve defense efforts and measure spam bots, which he alleges were running rampant and unchecked across the platform. According to his disclosure, he was met with continual pushback at senior levels of the company, and when it came to security issues, he says, “deliberate ignorance” was the norm. Some product managers were “encouraged” to override security and privacy issues in order to release new products more quickly, his complaint alleges. Current and former Twitter employees who spoke with TIME corroborated the general sweep of Zatko’s allegations that Twitter often prioritized profit over security. “Unless you can make a compelling trade-off argument for why improved security or privacy will benefit the business more than their cost,” says one former Twitter employee, “it’s very hard to enforce change.” Zatko’s complaint adds that his efforts to inform Twitter’s board about various security issues were met with alarm or anger, and that at least twice he was asked by executives to withhold information from the board. Twitter declined multiple requests from TIME to address specific parts of Zatko’s allegations. In his email dated Aug. 23, Agrawal said Zatko’s disclosures as a whole had many inaccuracies in them. Meanwhile, Dorsey, the man who Zatko thought would be his main ally, was increasingly absent and unfocused, Zatko’s disclosure says. A representative for Dorsey’s company, Block, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The situation began to come to a head in November 2021, when Dorsey resigned. His replacement was Agrawal, who had formerly been the most senior executive in charge of security issues before Zatko arrived. Tensions between the two quickly escalated. Zatko says in his disclosures that he became concerned that Agrawal was going to use the first board meeting of his tenure to diminish the severity of security issues. He wrote to Agrawal on Dec. 15, arguing that there were “numerous, and some significant, misrepresentations” in materials for an upcoming presentation, according to emails contained in the complaint. Agrawal brushed him off, Zatko’s complaint alleges, and the next day, the documents were presented at a high-level Risk Committee board meeting. In a Jan. 4, 2022, email to Agrawal, Zatko called the documents “at worst fraudulent,” and wrote, “I was hired to achieve certain goals and to fix problems here at Twitter. In order to do that, we need to recognize the actual state of affairs at the company.” A few days later, Agrawal wrote back to Zatko, saying that the company had launched an internal investigation into Zatko’s allegations of “fraud.” Zatko was asked for a detailed report to back up his claims, which he began to pull together. Less than two weeks later, before he was able to file the report, he was fired. Zatko retained Whistleblower Aid on March 17, a month before Musk offered to buy Twitter. He concluded he had no choice but to blow the whistle. “Change sometimes requires, you know, kicking the hornet’s nest a little bit,” he says. “Ethically and morally, I had to pursue this.” In interviews, current and former Twitter officials had differing perspectives on Zatko’s allegations. Several said that Zatko was right about many things, including data-management issues, chaotic leadership, and platform vulnerabilities. But some felt he mischaracterized or exaggerated certain details in the disclosure, particularly when it came to issues that he himself did not work on. “He didn’t know what was happening with the bots stuff,” says a current employee who worked with Zatko. “That did not fall under his security purview.” Zatko’s attorneys dispute this, arguing that he did in fact have insight into and authority over the bots issue as the ultimate supervisor of Twitter Services, which oversees global content moderation at scale. The disagreement can be chalked up to Twitter’s messy organizational structure, in which different arms of the company have competing claims to ownership of the bots issue. Hannah McKay—AFP/Getty ImagesJack Dorsey, chief executive officer of Twitter, testifies remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “ Other parts of Zatko’s disclosures simply pit his word against Twitter’s. One of his most explosive claims is that Twitter “knowingly” hired “agents” of the Indian government. Because of access privileges afforded to many Twitter employees, Zatko says in his disclosure, these alleged agents could access sensitive user data. The hires came at a time when the Indian government was bristling at Twitter’s refusal to identify details about people using the platform to criticize the nation’s ruling party. Zatko had direct responsibility for the physical security of employees at Twitter, and would likely have been directly briefed on alleged espionage efforts. The disclosures state that Zatko has given more details about this incident to the Department of Justice and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Twitter declined multiple requests from TIME to address Zatko’s claims about Indian agents on the record. One person with direct knowledge of Twitter’s internal affairs in India told TIME they had no knowledge of the supposed agent, but said they would not be surprised if the Indian government had at least tried to covertly appoint an agent to Twitter’s payroll, similar to the Saudi case. Some of Zatko’s other claims strike experts as overstated. His disclosure argues that Twitter’s failure to own the rights to training data of machine-learning models constitutes “fraud,” for example. That shortcoming is an industry-wide practice, according to two former Twitter employees and others familiar with industry standards. As the pushback mounts, Zatko tells TIME he stands by his allegations and for legal reasons is unable to talk about his time at Twitter beyond what’s in the disclosures. “I was aware of the most common tactics that would happen, that there would be attempts to character assassinate me or make things personal—anything that would distract from the data and the problem at hand,” Zatko says. While Zatko describes his decision to go public in idealistic terms, the timing of the disclosures is notable. The trial to decide whether Musk must go through with his initial agreement to buy Twitter is set to start in Delaware on Oct. 17. Zatko inserts himself into this battle from the opening pages of his disclosure, claiming that Twitter is “lying about bots to Elon Musk.” Zatko may be drawn directly into the court case: Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, tells TIME his team has subpoenaed Zatko, although Zatko’s lawyers say he has received no such subpoena. Two legal experts say they’re skeptical Zatko’s claims will have a major impact on the lawsuit. He provides scant new information about spam bots, and what he does claim about them has little to do with the merger agreement. Ann Lipton, a law professor at Tulane University, says that Zatko’s claims that Twitter lied in its SEC filings will be hard to prove. “When a disgruntled employee disagrees with management decisions,” Lipton says, “that’s frequently not taken as a sufficient basis for treating an SEC filing as false.” “The question ultimately boils down to the credibility of the assertions made by the whistle-blower, and that is usually determined by the existence of hard evidence,” says Howard Fischer, a former SEC attorney. “Twitter’s real regulatory risk lies in whether or not the documentary evidence, and not the potentially self-serving statements of a former employee, shows knowing or reckless misleading of regulators or investors in public filings and statements.” Greg Kahn for TIMEZatko attending meetings in Washington on Aug. 23, 2022 The disclosures could have other long-lasting financial and political ramifications. The company’s stock price dropped by around 9% in the wake of the disclosures’ publication. The same day, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Democratic Representative Frank Pallone announced they were investigating Zatko’s claims, with Pallone calling for “the need to pass comprehensive privacy legislation.” Zatko’s allegations have demoralized Twitter employees, some current staffers say, and may exacerbate a brain drain at a company that has lost many of its leaders and significantly slowed its spending while in Musk-induced limbo. Twitter still has a significant impact on elections and political discourse around the world, and those who are still working on its security and privacy teams will “have to work three or four times harder,” says a former Twitter employee. Knowing that his actions would cause corporate chaos and catalyze government investigations, Zatko says he made his decision with one goal in mind: to make Twitter, and thus the world, safer. Although right now the public can only take him at his word, that may not hold true for long. When he testifies before Congress in September, Zatko—who refused to discuss the meat of his complaint in his interview with TIME—will have the legal cover to expand on the allegations, potentially revealing new and damaging details about what happened within Twitter. Zatko is not the youthful star hacker he used to be. Two days before his interview with TIME, he broke a toe while sparring with a jiu-jitsu opponent, an accident he chalks up in part to partial paralysis of his back, which he says his doctor told him has been brought on by the stress of the past few months. Injury, however, may be necessary if you’re going to engage in the fight. “If you’re just reacting to what an adversary is doing, they’re the ones that are moving you around and manipulating you,” he says. “That’s all too common in this industry.” —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein, Nik Popli, Simmone Shah, and Julia Zorthian.....»»

Category: topSource: timeAug 25th, 2022

Worries About Scorching Inflation And A Global Slowdown Keep Investors Nervous

Uncertain outlook keeps stock markets volatile. FTSE 100 opens down 1% with miners on the back foot. Covid horror story not yet over as China lockdowns continue. Strong US jobs figures add to expectations of aggressive rate hikes. Recession warning lights blink in bond markets. Scorching Inflation “The uncertain outlook is keeping stock markets volatile […] Uncertain outlook keeps stock markets volatile. FTSE 100 opens down 1% with miners on the back foot. Covid horror story not yet over as China lockdowns continue. Strong US jobs figures add to expectations of aggressive rate hikes. Recession warning lights blink in bond markets. Scorching Inflation “The uncertain outlook is keeping stock markets volatile as worries wax and wane about scorching inflation and a global slowdown while Covid fears rear up again. Nerves are also frayed given that earnings season is also kicking off this week and US multinationals will be giving updates about how slowing consumer and businesses sentiment and rising costs may be affecting the bottom line. Q2 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Find A Qualified Financial Advisor Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. The FTSE 100 has fallen 1% in early trade, with mining giants topping the lists of fallers. Worries are ratcheting up about the global downturn hitting demand for commodities. Iron ore prices have fallen to levels not seen since December, as stockpiles of steel build up following a slump in the Chinese property sector, while companies tread water impatient for Beijing’s promised infrastructure boost to materialise. Signs that the Covid horror story is still not quite over are rattling nerves. China has re-imposed strict rules with 30 million people back in lockdown in six cities and region, including parts of Shanghai. Residents are being urged to share heart-warming tales to make isolation more bearable, but the latest crackdown has sent a cold chill across financial markets amid worries fresh supply chain issues and weakening demand will hit, just as hopes of recovery had crept up. What’s particularly perturbing is the discovery of a new variant of Omicron, adding to fears it could spread rapidly to other regions in China. Stock Market Worries The central worry affecting stock markets right now is that as central banks around the world take more aggressive steps to dampen down inflation, it will cause demand to fall rapidly pushing economies into reverse. With the American labour market looking so buoyant right now, expectations have risen that the US Federal Reserve will try and deflate red hot prices by hiking interest rates by 0.75% at the next meeting and keep the pressure on in the months to come. Forecasts that this will squeeze out growth in the economy are coming thick and fast, and that’s reflected in the bond markets which are now pricing in a sharp deceleration of inflation over the next few years. A recession warning light is blinking with the two year bond yields, commanding higher yields than ten year bonds, given that this inversion is often seen as a sign that recession could be looming. Investors who tie up their money for longer periods of time usually are rewarded with higher yields. Right now the curve is indicating that investors expect the Federal Reserve will put its foot down hard on the accelerator of rate rises to rein inflation but then put on the brakes to stop the economy slamming into a brick wall of a deep recession. In Europe, energy security concerns also rising with the biggest pipeline supplying Russian gas to Germany closing for maintenance. Speculation has swirled that the closure could end up being extended by Russia as part of strong arm tactics to punish European nations for the sanctions imposed for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The progress of repair work will be watched closely and any indication that delays are looming could see a fresh scurry upwards in European gas prices.” Article by Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown About Hargreaves Lansdown Over 1.7 million clients trust us with £132.2 billion (as at 30 April 2022), making us the UK’s number one platform for private investors. More than 98% of client activity is done through our digital channels and over 600,000 access our mobile app each month. Updated on Jul 11, 2022, 3:41 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkJul 11th, 2022

Crisis Of Faith: Politicians & Press Escalate Attacks On Legitimacy Of Supreme Court

Crisis Of Faith: Politicians & Press Escalate Attacks On Legitimacy Of Supreme Court Authored by Jonathan Turley, Below is my column on the growing attacks on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court after the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. As the Court ends its term, Democratic leaders are calling for removing justices, packing the Court, and other extreme reactions to the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Here is the column: For justices, the end of a Supreme Court term usually brings welcomed vacations and speaking engagements out of town. This week it seemed more like the justices were fleeing the jurisdiction with a mob at their heels. Six justices (and their homes) are targeted because they dared to interpret the Constitution in a way that is opposed by many in the political, media, and academic establishment. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, many called for impeachments, court packing, and “disciplining” justices. What is chilling, however, is that these calls have not come from extremist groups but political and media figures who are challenging the very  “legitimacy” of the Supreme Court. The Madisonian democracy is based on the premise that, despite our factional divisions, the Constitution creates an interest in all groups in preserving the system. While the Constitution does not guarantee that your views will prevail in Congress or the courts, it has proven the most stable and successful democratic system in history.  We are all invested in that system which has achieved transformative changes over time in our laws and our society. The Constitution is neither poetic nor pretentious in its language. It was written by the ultimate wonk in Madison. It has only one thing to recommend it: we are still here.  We have survived periods of war, economic collapse, and social discord that broke other systems. Politicians and the press have thrived under this system and have historically defended its legitimacy even when demanding major changes in our laws. We are now witnessing a crisis of faith with the political and media establishment declaring the highest court to be illegitimate. All because they disagree with a constitutional interpretation adopted by the majority of its members. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, has declared the Supreme Court illegitimate and has called to pack the Court for rending opinions against “widely held public opinion.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., even questioned the institution’s value: “How much does the current structure benefit us? And I don’t think it does.” She has now demanded the impeachment of Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch based on the entirely false claim that they lied under oath in their confirmation hearings. After the Dobbs decision, Ocasio-Cortez demanded “there must be consequences” for the Court. Other leaders like Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., issued a warning to the Supreme Court: Reaffirm Roe v. Wade or face a “revolution.” The media has amplified these extreme calls. In the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote an outline of how Democrats could rein in the high court in a piece titled, “How to Discipline a Rogue Supreme Court.” He wrote that the Supreme Court does not exist above the constitutional system and added that the “rogue” court “cannot shield itself from the power of other branches.” Bouie’s discipline includes impeaching or removing justices as well as packing the court. Notably, like many others demanding radical changes to the Court, Bouie previously advocated the change that is most responsible for creating the Court’s current composition. Like many liberals, Bouie demanded that the Senate kill the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees. At the time, some of us warned the Democrats that the move was uniquely short-sighted and that they would rue the day that they took such a moronic step. As predicted, the Democrats soon found themselves in the minority without the protection of the filibuster rule and could not block nominees. They gained comparably little from the change given what they lost, including ultimately Roe v. Wade. Rather than admit that their prior attack on the filibuster backfired, liberals are now demanding even more radical moves like a bad gambler at Vegas who just keeps doubling down in the hopes of winning a hand. It does not matter that the Court is not as rigidly ideological or dysfunctionally divided as widely claimed. If anything, it has shown fewer divisions in most cases. Before the opinion, ABC admitted that “67% of the court’s opinions in cases argued during the term that ends this month have been unanimous or near-unanimous with just one justice dissenting.That compares to just 46% of unanimous or near-unanimous decisions during the 2019 term and the 48% average unanimous decision rate of the past decade.” Yet, after the decision, ABC’s legal analyst Terry Moran described the term as a “new era” of the “activist court.” This crisis of faith is evident in other key constituencies in our system, including in our law schools. Law professors like Berkeley Dean Erwin Chemerinksy have called the justices “partisan hacks” while others have supported targeting the individual justices at their home. Georgetown Law Professor Josh Chafetz declared that “when the mob is right, some (but not all!) more aggressive tactics are justified.” Most recently, the dean and chancellor of University of California Hastings College of the Law David Faigman questioned the legitimacy of the Court after the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.   Writing in his official capacity, Faigman went as far as to claim that “this decision turns back the clock not just to 1973, but to a century when women did not have the right to vote and were, largely, treated as property . .  . the world today is so much less generous and inclusive than it was just yesterday. I tremble for my granddaughters.” Faigman declared that the “the Court itself, which is a product of political gerrymandering—raises basic questions regarding the legitimacy of the Court itself.” From Congress to the press to academia, the very foundation of the Court is being challenged. What is notable is that these are also the voices of some of the most powerful figures in our society. Rather than seek to moderate the mob, they are fueling the rage with such reckless rhetoric. There are good-faith objections to this decision but those objections challenge the legitimacy of the holding, not the institution itself. As Benjamin Franklin noted “The U. S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Tyler Durden Wed, 06/29/2022 - 17:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJun 29th, 2022

The Illusion Of Freedom: We"re Only As Free As The Government Allows

The Illusion Of Freedom: We're Only As Free As The Government Allows Authored by John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “Rights aren’t rights if someone can take them away. They’re privileges. That’s all we’ve ever had in this country, is a bill of temporary privileges. And if you read the news even badly, you know that every year the list gets shorter and shorter. Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government … doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety… It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.” - George Carlin We’re in a national state of denial. For years now, the government has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with the American people, letting us enjoy just enough freedom to think we are free but not enough to actually allow us to live as a free people. Case in point: on the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court appeared inclined to favor a high school football coach’s right to pray on the field after a game, the high court let stand a lower court ruling that allows police to warrantlessly track people’s location and movements through their personal cell phones, sweeping Americans up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals. Likewise, although the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for a death row inmate to have his pastor audibly pray and lay hands on him in the execution chamber, it refused to stop police from using hidden cameras to secretly and warrantlessly record and monitor a person’s activities outside their home over an extended period of time. For those who have been paying attention, there’s a curious pattern emerging: the government appears reasonably tolerant of those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights in a manner that doesn’t challenge the police state’s hold on power, for example, by praying on a football field or in an execution chamber. On the other hand, dare to disagree with the government about its war crimes, COVID-19, election outcomes or police brutality, and you’ll find yourself silenced, cited, shut down and/or branded an extremist. The U.S. government is particularly intolerant of speech that reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices. For instance, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the latest victim of the government’s war on dissidents and whistleblowers, is in the process of being extradited to the U.S. to be tried under the Espionage Act for daring to access and disclose military documents that portray the U.S. government and its endless wars abroad as reckless, irresponsible, immoral and responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. Even political protests are fair game for prosecution. In Florida, two protesters are being fined $3000 for political signs proclaiming stating “F—k Biden,” “F—k Trump,” and “F—k Policing 4 Profit” that violate a city ban on “indecent” speech on signs, clothing and other graphic displays. The trade-off is clear: pray all you want, but don’t mess with the U.S. government. In this way, the government, having appointed itself a Supreme and Sovereign Ruler, allows us to bask in the illusion of religious freedom while stripping us of every other freedom afforded by the Constitution. We’re in trouble, folks. Freedom no longer means what it once did. This holds true whether you’re talking about the right to criticize the government in word or deed, the right to be free from government surveillance, the right to not have your person or your property subjected to warrantless searches by government agents, the right to due process, the right to be safe from militarized police invading your home, the right to be innocent until proven guilty and every other right that once reinforced the founders’ belief that this would be “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Not only do we no longer have dominion over our bodies, our families, our property and our lives, but the government continues to chip away at what few rights we still have to speak freely and think for ourselves. My friends, we’re being played for fools. On paper, we may be technically free. In reality, however, we are only as free as a government official may allow. We only think we live in a constitutional republic, governed by just laws created for our benefit. Truth be told, we live in a dictatorship disguised as a democracy where all that we own, all that we earn, all that we say and do—our very lives—depends on the benevolence of government agents and corporate shareholders for whom profit and power will always trump principle. And now the government is litigating and legislating its way into a new framework where the dictates of petty bureaucrats carry greater weight than the inalienable rights of the citizenry. With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives. As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.” Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on. In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom. Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse. Freedom, or what’s left of it, is being threatened from every direction. The threats are of many kinds: political, cultural, educational, media, and psychological. However, as history shows us, freedom is not, on the whole, wrested from a citizenry. It is all too often given over voluntarily and for such a cheap price: safety, security, bread, and circuses. This is part and parcel of the propaganda churned out by the government machine. That said, what we face today—mind manipulation and systemic violence—is not new. What is different are the techniques used and the large-scale control of mass humanity, coercive police tactics and pervasive surveillance. We are overdue for a systemic check on the government’s overreaches and power grabs. By “government,” I’m not referring to the highly partisan, two-party bureaucracy of the Republicans and Democrats. Rather, I’m referring to “government” with a capital “G,” the entrenched Deep State that is unaffected by elections, unaltered by populist movements, and has set itself beyond the reach of the law. For years now, we have suffered the injustices, cruelties, corruption and abuse of an entrenched government bureaucracy that has no regard for the Constitution or the rights of the citizenry. We have lingered too long in this strange twilight zone where ego trumps justice, propaganda perverts truth, and imperial presidents—empowered to indulge their authoritarian tendencies by legalistic courts, corrupt legislatures and a disinterested, distracted populace—rule by fiat rather than by the rule of law. Where we find ourselves now is in the unenviable position of needing to rein in all three branches of government—the Executive, the Judicial, and the Legislative—that have exceeded their authority and grown drunk on power. We are the unwitting victims of a system so corrupt that those who stand up for the rule of law and aspire to transparency in government are in the minority. This corruption is so vast it spans all branches of government: from the power-hungry agencies under the executive branch and the corporate puppets within the legislative branch to a judiciary that is, more often than not, elitist and biased towards government entities and corporations. The predators of the police state are wreaking havoc on our freedoms, our communities, and our lives. The government doesn’t listen to the citizenry, it refuses to abide by the Constitution, which is our rule of law, and it treats the citizenry as a source of funding and little else. The American kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) has sucked the American people down a rabbit hole into a parallel universe in which the Constitution is meaningless, the government is all-powerful, and the citizenry is powerless to defend itself against government agents who steal, spy, lie, plunder, kill, abuse and generally inflict mayhem and sow madness on everyone and everything in their sphere. This dissolution of that sacred covenant between the citizenry and the government—establishing “we the people” as the masters and the government as the servant—didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen because of one particular incident or one particular president. It is a process, one that began long ago and continues in the present day, aided and abetted by politicians who have mastered the polarizing art of how to “divide and conquer.” Unfortunately, there is no magic spell to transport us back to a place and time where “we the people” weren’t merely fodder for a corporate gristmill, operated by government hired hands, whose priorities are money and power. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, our freedoms have become casualties in an all-out war on the American people. If we continue down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at the end. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/27/2022 - 23:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeApr 27th, 2022

Scammers are using video games to fake footage of war in Ukraine and the China Eastern Airlines plane crash

One video that was viewed thousands of times claimed to show the moment a plane crashed in China. It was a flight simulation first uploaded in 2019. A screen capture of a flight simulation software.Michael Dunning/Getty Images Video shared on Twitter on Monday claimed to show video from inside the plane that crashed in China. But the video was from a flight simulator and had been uploaded to YouTube years prior. Similar deceptive recordings from video games have been shared about war in Ukraine.  A viral video that has racked up hundreds of thousands of views across social media claims to show the last moments aboard China Eastern Airlines' Flight MU-5735, seconds before the plane crashed on Monday killing all 132 passengers. In reality, the footage is from a video game and shows no such thing.The 10-second video clip shows a plane appearing to turn upside down before it seems to meet the ground with a loud crash, silencing the screaming heard throughout the clip. One version of the video, which was still posted to Twitter on Tuesday and claimed to show "the last moment recorded on the plane," had more than 210,000 views and was retweeted hundreds of times. Another since-deleted tweet featuring the video received nearly 400,000 views.The video that circulated was actually first uploaded to YouTube a little more than three years ago, and its description explicitly states it is a computer simulation of a 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash. Despite only being a speculative amateur simulation, the video has been viewed more than 33 million times since it was posted in March 2019. The clip's migration to Twitter on Monday is the latest example of footage from a video game or computer simulation being used in an effort to rack up likes on social media by claiming it represents footage from a real-world event. As graphics have gotten more realistic in recent years, experts say these types of videos have become a cheap and easy form of spreading misinformation.Similar tactics have also been utilized to spread misinformation and disinformation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24. One video that spread on Facebook in late February purported to show a video of an ace Ukrainian fighter pilot known as "the Ghost of Kyiv" shooting down Russian aircraft. The footage was actually from a free online video game called Digital Combat Simulator, PolitiFact reported, and it's likely that the "Ghost of Kyiv" is a viral myth that has propagated during the war."This footage is from DCS, but is nevertheless made out of respect for 'The Ghost of Kiev,'" the YouTube video's description stated.Fact-checkers have been dealing with video game footage for yearsThese types of misinformation videos appeared to gain traction in the early years of the Syrian civil war, Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told Insider. The quality of video games visuals has increased exponentially in a relatively short span, and it's become easier for social-media clout chasers and others with more nefarious intentions to pass them off as real footage.Fake footage cribbed from simulations and videos has had varying degrees of success in deceiving people. The video claiming to be from Monday's plane crash was extremely easy to disprove, Brooking said, because it didn't take much to determine passengers hadn't actually filmed and uploaded any videos leading up to the crash.But in other instances, Brooking said, disproving these videos has been more difficult. It's been an issue that researchers and fact-checkers have been dealing with for almost a decade."I don't know exactly when this started, but it was certainly at least concurrent with the release of ARMA 3," he said of the fake videos, particularly ones depicting scenes from conflict zones. ARMA 3, a military tactical shooter game that was released in 2013, marked one of the first instances where screen-recorded video game captures could look like footage from a "contemporary battlefield," according to Brooking. Other video games that have been used to spread fake videos and photos online include Call of Duty and Digital Combat Simulator World, he added."There are moments of conflict coverage during the Syrian civil war or during the aftermath of the 2014 invasion of Ukraine by Russia where you would have these — often ARMA — screenshots and video circulating," Brooking said.In 2017, the Russian Ministry of Defense posted a photo of what it said showed "irrefutable proof" of the US aiding an ISIS convoy in Syria. In reality, the picture was a screenshot from the mobile game AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron, the BBC reported.A year earlier, the Russian embassy tweeted a low-resolution screenshot from the game Command & Conquer: Generals to illustrate its claim about "extremists" receiving "several truckloads of chemical ammo" in Aleppo, according to the CBC. "In the absence of real photos or videos to back up their claims, they turn to these computer-generated screenshots, and maybe the wider world wasn't fooled, but people who were susceptible to Russian or Syrian regime propaganda in the first place might take that as an article of faith," Brooking said.Once the clips go viral they can quickly become disassociated from their original source and hard to rein in. When the same Twitter account that posted the fake footage of the China Eastern Airlines crash clarified they were unable to "verify the authenticity" of the video, their follow-up tweet was shared just six times compared with the hundreds of thousands who saw the initial clip.These videos can also spread, in part, because modern warfare has become nearly indistinguishable with clips from war video games, Brooking said. The rise in drone footage has also created videos from the real world that mirror aerial footage from video games, he added.As video games have gotten better at resembling actual war, the footage from conflicts has also begun to mimic video games."The spectacle of war video games has in many ways merged with modern war imagery," Brooking said. "The fact is that now we see numerous cases where soldiers are wearing GoPros and shooting from a first-person perspective."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderMar 23rd, 2022

What Is The Relationship Between The Political Left And Globalism?

What Is The Relationship Between The Political Left And Globalism? Authored by Brandon Smith via, No one educated and sane likes the political left. This is not a shocking revelation. As I have been outlining for many years (but specifically in the past few years), leftists are the ONLY people in the country that consistently support draconian government policies and oppressive corporate monopoly. They are the only people that support mass censorship of opposing viewpoints through Big Tech and social media. They are the only people demanding the deplatforming and “canceling” of public personalities that dare to utter any views that are contrary to the leftist narrative. They are the only group that has a vast majority in support of the authoritarian covid lockdowns and mandates. They are the only people that aggressively call for forced vaccinations of the populace. They are the only people demanding that the unvaxxed be removed from their jobs or face potential criminal charges. They are the only people that push for the indoctrination of school children with Critical Race Theory (which is essentially racism repackaged as academic activism). And, they are also the only people that are hyper-obsessive about propagating sexual politics in public schools. These folks are exceedingly unlikable. One would think that they would remain on the very fringes of society where they can do little harm, but this has not been the case. Why? Well, it’s not because they are the majority, at least not in any traditional way. They are actually a minority on most issues with a few exceptions. However, they are highly organized, single minded (some would say hive-minded), and, they have the full support of our national power structures. Here’s the thing – A lot of conservatives wrongly assume that the political left has become some kind of autonomous force within our culture that has the power to influence massive government and corporate interests, bending these interests to their will. This is simply not true and these groups do not think for themselves. The reality is that it’s the opposite dynamic; it is government, corporate and decidedly GLOBALIST institutions which have direct influence and control over the political left. Leftists are tools of the globalist system, they are not some “grassroots” movement “sticking it to the patriarchy.” They are all slaves on the globalist plantation. Where do the leftists of the social justice cult actually derive their power from? Is it the pervasive threat of mob violence? No, it’s not. Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw an organized police presence and riot response to leftist mobs looting and burning down cities? In almost every case the police are told to stand down by city and state officials; they are told to do nothing. I have seen actual riot control used against actual peaceful protesters at events like G20. I have witnessed it personally, and it’s not pretty. When cops actually want to control and disperse a crowd, they have a lot of weapons in their arsenal to make this happen. The fact is, leftist riots continue for several days at a time exactly because they are ALLOWED to continue for several days at a time. When they do get arrested for their activities they are usually released without charge. What about the prevalence of “cancel culture” and the use of online mobs to discredit or deplatform people that leftists don’t like? This has been working less and less because the rest of the public has been made aware of the tactic through the tireless efforts of the alternative and liberty media, but for around four years the leftists had free rein to destroy the lives and careers of anyone they pleased. Just look at Actress Gina Carano or Virginia police officer William Kelly as a prime examples of cancel culture in action. The problem is, leftists would have no power to cancel anyone without the constant support of Big Tech, Hollywood, the mainstream media and international corporations. These companies don’t actually care what social justice warriors think, and they’re certainly not afraid of a tiny minority of lunatics with zero consumer leverage. Yet, they are the base of control that allows leftists to wield legitimate tools for deconstructing people’s lives. The corporate world aids the leftists because leftist goals serve corporate interests (for now). And what about government overall? I remember a few years ago I warned people that the extreme end of the leftist spectrum would become the norm for the Democratic Party by the time Trump was out of office. I noted that people like AOC and Ilhan Omar were the intended future successors of the party and that cultists like them would dictate the Democrat platform. Many people said that I was crazy and that the rise of Trump indicated that the opposite would happen. Now look at them. Biden and half of all Democratic leaders spout off about white supremacy and social justice on a regular basis. The party has become exactly what is was always intended to become – a vehicle for communist subversion. Regular democrats and moderates might not agree with this kind of extreme ideological zealotry, but most of them keep their mouths shut because they are fearful of being labeled heretics and cast out. Many say they support the cause just to avoid standing out from the herd. Being called a “bigot” or “misogynist” or “racist” only works on people that actually care and think those words still have meaning. That is to say, most social justice control mechanisms are designed to entrap other leftists, not free thinking conservatives. Leftist activists would have no political influence at all without the avid support of leaders within the Democratic party. The politicians give leftists the teeth they use to bite the ankles of their opponents. This brings us to the underlying center of all sociopolitical influence – The globalist foundations. Where do leftist groups get all the funding to launch organizations like Black Lives Matter? How do programs like social justice and Critical Race Theory find their way into college academia and all the way down to the public school system? What is the source for cultural Marxism and how did it become so pervasive in the first place? Globalist foundations like Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Tavistock Institute, George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, etc. are usually the source of the seed money and often the curriculum for most leftist movements. For example, Open Society and Ford Foundation, partnered with Borealis Philanthropy, were key in the creation of BLM, funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into the movement in its early days. Ford Foundation, Open Society, Rockefeller Foundation and dozens of other globalist institutions are also deeply involved in the funding and proliferation of Critical Race Theory and gender studies programs. Once again pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into social justice groups as well as university indoctrination. By extension, globalist institutions and international corporations have invested around $50 billion total in the development of social justice programs. Corporations implement indoctrination courses for their employees, but they also spread SJW propaganda to the public subconscious through commercials and popular media. This has actually been going on a very long time by more subversive and secretive means. It was globalist institutions like the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation that funded different elements of the feminist movement and “gender studies” movements from the late 1960’s onward. We can’t forget to include the Rockefeller Foundation’s large donations to ‘The Feminist Press’ and the Ford Foundation’s programs to groom teachers for inserting social justice talking points in their curriculum. This is openly admitted in Alison R. Bernstein’s book ‘Funding The Future: Philanthropy’s Influence On America’s Higher Education’. Bernstein is the vice president of Education at the Ford Foundation and the former Associate Dean of Faculty at Princeton. It is no coincidence that almost every facet and goal of leftist activism is also listed within the goals of the UN’s Agenda 2030 initiative, which mixes some very nice sentiments about “equality” and ending poverty into a disturbing mission statement about “transforming the world” through global “inclusivity”, aggressive “sustainability” and racial and gender “equity.” If you are not familiar with these buzzwords you should be; they represent an Orwellian program of social engineering which the UN is seeking to spearhead. I have been asking this question of leftists lately and I have yet to receive any concrete or meaningful answer: If you are supposed to be the underdogs and the revolutionaries, then why is it that all of the evil money elites are on your side? Why are the all the people you say you are fighting against giving you billions of dollars and enforcing your political will? Is it possible that corporatists, globalists and you leftists are all part of the same machine? Think about it… The relationship between the agenda of globalists and the agenda of the political left is growing increasingly obvious and intertwined. The globalists want to dismantle traditional western structures, and so do leftists. Globalists want to dictate economic growth through carbon controls and climate change doom mongering, and so do leftists. Globalists promote a decidedly communistic approach to private property and economy, arguing in favor of the “Sharing Economy”, Universal Basic Income (UBI) and a world in which “we own nothing and are happy.” Leftist are embracing this concept because many of them are self serving and they prefer to take what others have worked for rather than earning it for themselves. Of course, the money elites will continue to keep their wealth and influence while the rest of us are made “equal” through the equality of poverty, but let’s not dwell on that… What I see moving forward is that the left is becoming the Cheka, or the political commissars of the globalist “Great Reset.” They have been molded for decades for this role and their purpose is to provide an element of social force and the illusion of consensus. The interesting thing about this strategy is that it seeks to exploit people who feel as if they are “oppressed” by the existing system, or they have been taught to feel oppressed. As with any Marxist takeover, Globalists use the “have-nots” as a shield while they grab more power. Every time any conservative criticizes the lies and manipulation of the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, we are accused of “racism.” And this is the big trick: We all know that BLM (founded by devout Marxists and funded by globalists) has nothing to do with civil rights or racial justice, it’s just a means to destroy western society and replace it with a dystopian nightmare. That’s what we are criticizing. Black lives are not the issue, globalism and communism are the issue. Social justice and leftists movements are a smokescreen for a bigger agenda, and the leftists love to be used. Why do they do this? It’s a mistake to assume they are merely “useful idiots.” Yes, some of them are, however, I think the people that fall into the leftist cult are people that are naturally inclined to do so. They are narcissists, psychopaths, degenerates, lazy, spoiled, and weak. They are people that are generally not capable of surviving independently and they know it, so they seek out collectivist frameworks to join and feed off of. Question: How does a mob of BLM leftists attack Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha and EVERY SINGLE PERSON he shoots or tries to shoot ends up having an extensive and violent criminal record? It is because leftist movements attract such people in droves (look are what a BLM advocate and career criminal just did in Waukesha, Wisconsin). They are not innocent in all of this. They don’t care if they are being exploited by the elites because they think it’s a trade for power and control they would not have otherwise. They are partners with globalism, and globalism breeds and encourages evil. It is important to understand this dynamic going forward because I see the argument often that the globalists are trying to “divide and conquer” America. In truth, we are ALREADY divided and have been for some time. Trying to talk with and educate moderates on the facts is one thing, but there is very little point in trying to engage in diplomacy with leftists. They have already chosen a side, and it’s not the side of reason or freedom. *  *  * If you would like to support the work that Alt-Market does while also receiving content on advanced tactics for defeating the globalist agenda, subscribe to our exclusive newsletter The Wild Bunch Dispatch.  Learn more about it HERE. Tyler Durden Sat, 11/27/2021 - 00:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 27th, 2021

US Announces Coordinated, Global Oil Release Of Up To 50 Million Barrels, As Expected

US Announces Coordinated, Global Oil Release Of Up To 50 Million Barrels, As Expected As was widely leaked yesterday, moments ago the White House announced that it will release 50 million barrels of crude from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve in concert with China, Japan, India and South Korea, the White House said in a statement, an unprecedented, coordinated attempt by three of the world’s largest oil consumers to tame prices that could prompt a backlash by OPEC+. The release, which as we noted will come in the form of an SPR Volume Exchange meaning "in the years ahead" the SPR will have to replenish the release almost certainly at much higher prices, will amount to 32 million barrels, and is in line with expectations of 30-35 million; as a reminder, 18 million has already been authorized by Congress and will be sped up. The news of a coordinated release comes just hours after Bloomberg reported that India plans to sell about 5 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum stockpiles as part of a coordinated move with the U.S. and other allies to pressure prices. India’s crude will be sold to refiners including those operated by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corp., which sent their stock price higher due to the implied arb. While the volume is the equivalent of less than half of India’s daily crude consumption, the release is symbolic as it shows oil consumers are willing to band together against OPEC’s rein over markets. Here is the full White House Release: President Biden Announces Release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve As Part of Ongoing Efforts to Lower Prices and Address Lack of Supply Around the World Announcement is in parallel with other major energy consuming nations, including China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom Over the last 18 months, the COVID-19 pandemic forced an unprecedented global economic shutdown. As the world is re-opening from a near economic standstill, countries across the globe are grappling with the challenges that arise as consumer demand for goods outpaces supply. But here in the United States, the economic recovery is stronger and faster than anywhere else in the world – according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the US is the only one of the major economies to have returned to pre-pandemic gross domestic product levels – in large part due to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which funded and facilitated a nationwide vaccination program, provided resources to schools and small businesses to keep them open in the face of COVID waves and put money in the pockets of those hit hardest by the pandemic. As a result of the strong recovery in the United States, Americans have nearly $100 more per month in disposable income in their pockets this year, even as COVID has continued to complicate the economic recovery around the world. Even so, American consumers are feeling the impact of elevated gas prices at the pump and in their home heating bills, and American businesses are, too, because oil supply has not kept up with demand as the global economy emerges from the pandemic. That’s why President Biden is using every tool available to him to work to lower prices and address the lack of supply. Today, the President is announcing that the Department of Energy will make available releases of 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower prices for Americans and address the mismatch between demand exiting the pandemic and supply. The President has been working with countries across the world to address the lack of supply as the world exits the pandemic. And, as a result of President Biden’s leadership and our diplomatic efforts, this release will be taken in parallel with other major energy consuming nations including China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. This culminates weeks of consultations with countries around the world, and we are already seeing the effect of this work on oil prices. Over the last several weeks as reports of this work became public, oil prices are down nearly 10 percent. The U.S. Department of Energy will make available releases of 50 million barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in two ways: 32 million barrels will be an exchange over the next several months, releasing oil that will eventually return to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the years ahead. The exchange is a tool matched to today’s specific economic environment, where markets expect future oil prices to be lower than they are today, and helps provide relief to Americans immediately and bridge to that period of expected lower oil prices. The exchange also automatically provides for re-stocking of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over time to meet future needs. 18 million barrels will be an acceleration into the next several months of a sale of oil that Congress had previously authorized. The President stands ready to take additional action, if needed, and is prepared to use his full authorities working in coordination with the rest of the world to maintain adequate supply as we exit the pandemic. Even as the President is helping to lead the world in addressing oil supply imbalances, he is also focused on how consolidation in the oil and gas sector may be resulting in anti-competitive practices that keep American consumers from benefitting when oil prices fall. There is mounting evidence that declines in oil prices are not translating into lower prices at the pump. Last week, the President asked the Federal Trade Commission to examine what is going on in oil and gas markets and to consider “whether illegal conduct is costing families at the pump.” Today’s announcement reflects the President’s commitment to do everything in his power to bring down costs for the American people and continue our strong economic recovery. At the same time, the Administration remains committed to the President’s ambitious clean energy goals, as reflected in the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed last week and the House-passed Build Back Better Act that together represent the largest investment in combatting climate change in American history and is a critical step towards reaching a net-zero emissions economy by 2050 and reducing our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. The irony here is that Joe is indeed doing "everything in his power to bring down costs", and yet while oil prices may dip for a few minutes after the news, it's all uphill from there as Biden is now out of price-cut catalysts, and the runway to $100+ oil in 2022 is now clear. As Bloomberg notes, the decision to collectively discharge stockpiled crude after OPEC+ countries rebuffed calls to significantly boost production marks a diplomatic win for the U.S. and a challenge to the grip that Saudi Arabia, Russia and other OPEC+ producers have on the market. The question now is whether OPEC+, which will see the release as a direct assault on its tactics, will now reverse on its previous plan of gradually boosting output, especially since the price of oil is sliding on the news, if not for much longer. In response to the news which was fully priced in (according to Goldman), oil dipped modestly with WTI and Brent Jan’22 futures kneejerking reaction lower, but the move was almost immediately pared. At last check, WTI traded around $75.30/bbl and Brent was at $79.11. The bigger problem for Biden is that all available price-cut catalysts have now been used, and the only way is up. Tyler Durden Tue, 11/23/2021 - 07:24.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 23rd, 2021

Texas Party Switcher Is Latest Ominous Sign For Democrats

Texas Party Switcher Is Latest Ominous Sign For Democrats Authored by Susan Crabtree via, Ryan Guillen had been a Democratic member of the Texas legislature, representing a sprawling district south of San Antonio, for nearly two decades. This week he jumped ship for the Republican Party, blaming Democrats for leaving him, not the other way around. Normally such a move would make local and state news, but certainly not prime-time national coverage. Yet, on Wednesday night, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham gleefully cited the defection as further proof that “truly smart” Democrats are abandoning a sinking ship. While Guillen is a state lawmaker whose switch won’t impact which party holds power in Washington, there’s one sign that this may not be an isolated example: At least nine congressional House Democrats have  announced they are not seeking reelection next year. More are expected to follow. Highlighting the shifting political terrain in South Texas isn’t just a partisan exercise. The New York Times’ Tom Edsall this week cited evidence that President Biden’s immigration record and Democrats’ progressive agenda is hurting them with traditional-base voters, especially Hispanics in Texas border counties. “Democrats shouldn’t panic,” Edsall wrote. “They should go into shock.” Explaining his switch to the GOP, Guillen provided more fodder for veteran campaign consultant James Carville and others warning Democrats to rein in their left wing. The 44-year-old anti-abortion and pro-gun lawmaker cited the defund-the-police push and the climate change movement, which he said is “destroying” the Lone Star state’s oil and gas industry, along with the “chaos at the border.” “Friends, something is happening in South Texas, and many of us are waking up to the fact that the values of those in Washington, D.C., are not our values, not the values of most Texans,” he said at a press conference Monday with Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, both Republicans. Democrats quickly pointed out that Guillen made the switch only after the GOP-led redistricting process turned his already Republican-leaning district scarlet. Texas is the only state to gain two congressional seats after the 2020 census, and Republicans control the state legislature and governor’s mansion, and thus the redistricting process.   Yet Guillen wasn’t exaggerating when he said there’s a significant political sea change taking place in South Texas. His move was the latest sign of a rightward shift in the Rio Grande region in recent years. Donald Trump won Guillen’s district by 13 percentage points in 2020; just four years earlier, Hillary Clinton carried it by the same margin. The voters still chose Guillen by 17 points last year, but the new map could have threatened such margins for him in the future. The newly formed district voted for Trump by 25 points. Republicans are heavily targeting three South Texas congressional seats held by Democrats and are encouraged by Guillen’s switch and other signs of GOP inroads in traditionally more liberal areas of the state. That trio of districts voted for Joe Biden by just two to four percentage points in 2020, down from the 17-to-22-point margins Clinton garnered in 2016. The first signs of Democratic vulnerability in districts along the U.S.-Mexico border came earlier this year when Rep. Filemon Vela, who represents Texas’ 34th Congressional District, announced his retirement. Then, in June, the traditionally Democratic border city of McAllen elected a Republican mayor in Javier Villalobos, a former Hidalgo County GOP chairman. (The county had gone for Biden by 17 percentage points over Trump.) Another warning for Democrats came a few weeks ago when Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez announced he would run in the adjacent 34th district because he no longer felt confident about holding onto Texas’ 15th. Gonzalez won the 15th by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 but by just 2.9 points last year. Gonzalez publicly claimed he didn’t have much of a choice after Republicans made his district redder, but the Texas Tribune reported the decision was more deliberate than Gonzalez let on. A Democratic amendment to the redistricting process moved his home into the 34th district. In early November, Republicans also picked up an additional Democratic-friendly state House seat in San Antonio, an area where Biden won comfortably but still underperformed expectations last year. After Guillen’s jump to the GOP this week, liberal groups assailed aggressive GOP redistricting tactics as a prime motivating factor. Common Cause, a liberal nonprofit that advocates for easier voting access, accused Texas Republicans of “whitewashing” state legislative and congressional districts to dilute the power of minority voters. Anthony Gutierrez, who heads Common Cause’s Texas office, said Republicans revealed the new maps just three days before a scheduled vote on them, “providing almost no time for people to assess the maps or go talk to impacted communities.” Democrats are now fighting the redrawn districts in court. Eric Holder, who served as attorney general in the Obama administration, now chairs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The committee filed a suit arguing the new congressional districts lines violate Voting Rights Act protections for minority populations and are gerrymandered to give Republicans an advantage. It’s a familiar refrain. In most states, the power to create new congressional maps lies with the state legislature after the decennial U.S. Census, and the majority party in power often attempts to redraw them to benefit their members. But election experts counter that Democrats are trying offset Republican redistricting gains in Texas and Florida in areas where they control the state legislatures, such as California, New York and Illinois. In these states and in most areas across the country, heavily Democratic urban areas are growing while rural GOP areas are losing population. The stakes this year are particularly high with Republicans only needing to gain five seats in 2022 to win control of the House. Republicans are hoping the path to regaining the majority runs through South Texas and they point to Guillen’s decision to switch parties as the latest bad omen for Democrats. “Texas Democrats are retiring or becoming Republicans because they know they’re doomed in in 2022,” said Torunn Sinclair, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t respond to a request for comment. It’s not surprising that Biden’s plummeting poll numbers are worse in Texas than they are nationally. A recent University of Texas and Texas Tribune survey, released Nov. 8, found only 35% of Texans approve of the way Biden is handling his job while 55% of voters disapprove. The survey showed that Texas voters, more than a third of whom are Hispanic, rank Biden the lowest on his handling of immigration and border security with only 22% of respondents saying they approve of his record on that issue and 63% saying they disapprove. Democrats are hoping to bolster Biden’s sinking popularity by pushing through a massive $1.85 trillion climate and social spending bill known as Build Back Better. Last month, Biden warned Democrats that their “House and Senate majorities and my presidency” will be determined “by what happens” to the latest version of the measure. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole,” he said, referring to polls indicating many of the individual provisions are popular with voters. The legislation, which White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has described as “twice as big in real dollars as the New Deal,” would provide free preschool for all children, expand the child tax credit and bolster liberals’ green agenda with numerous consumer rebates and tax credits for clean energy investments. To help pay for the spending package, Democrats are proposing to increase taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations, including new taxes on oil and gas producers. It’s a  controversial move in Texas, even among some Democrats. At least 620,000 jobs are connected to the oil and gas industry across the state, and oil production in South Texas has helped transform the relatively poor region into a boom area over the past decade. The plan would penalize oil and gas companies for leaks of methane from wellheads, pipelines, storage and other facilities to the tune of $1 billion to $10 billion annually. Proponents say the tax would serve as incentive for companies to stop leaks and avoid wasting methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Vela and Gonzalez, who founded the House Oil and Gas Caucus, as well as Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in late September asking them not to include the methane tax. Another controversial piece of the House version of the bill would allow illegal immigrants to obtain child tax credits. The final House version of the Build Back Better bill, which the House could vote on as soon as Friday, still includes these two provisions. Despite this, Gonzalez and Cuellar have signaled they will vote in favor of it, a point Republicans will inevitably hammer home in ads to voters for months to come. Tyler Durden Fri, 11/19/2021 - 21:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 20th, 2021

New Jersey has cracked down on 5 crypto sites for running fraudulent investment schemes

All platforms, according to authorities, used tactics common in investment scams to lure investors into fraudulent crypto-investment schemes. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration/File Photo New Jersey has cracked down on five crypto sites for running fraudulent investment schemes. The state has directed them to stop operating in the state, according to a statement. Cease and desist orders were issued to Bulk Investments, Forte Trade, Dilna Investments d/b/a Fidelity Revenue, RealBitcore Mining, and FilefxOption. Sign up here for our daily newsletter, 10 Things Before the Opening Bell. New Jersey has cracked down on five crypto sites for running fraudulent investment schemes and has directed them to stop operating in the state, according to a statement released by the New Jersey Attorney General and the New Jersey Bureau of Securities.Five summary cease and desist orders were issued to Bulk Investments, Forte Trade, Dilna Investments (doing business as Fidelity Revenue), RealBitcore Mining, and FilefxOption.All platforms, according to authorities, "used a variety of tactics common in investment scams to lure investors into fraudulent cryptocurrency-investment schemes." This included issuing vague promises of profit, bogus client endorsements, limited and misleading disclosures, and failure to identify the company's principals.None of the entities was registered with the Bureau to offer or sell securities or act as a broker-dealer in New Jersey, the statement said.The order cited three New Jersey investors who were swindled out of a cumulative $90,000.Collectively, the fraud perpetrated by the websites, according to the statement, include: Omitting material facts to potential investorsListing fake addresses for their places of businessClaiming to be "registered, licensed, insured, or authorizedPosting fabricated testimonials from previous clients"Online scammers are exploiting the public's interest in cryptocurrency investment opportunities," said Acting Attorney General Bruck in a statement. "But we're fighting back."Cryptocurrencies have been in a tense period as global regulators think on how best to increase oversight of the $2.6 billion industry.Multiple efforts to rein in various products have been imposed as the market capitalization of digital assets continues to balloon.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 29th, 2021

Top Border Official Blasts Psaki - Says Admin Approved "Twirling" Reins To Keep Migrants Away From Horses

Top Border Official Blasts Psaki - Says Admin Approved 'Twirling' Reins To Keep Migrants Away From Horses A top Border Patrol official slammed the Biden administration over their kneejerk reaction to reports that border patrol agents in Del Rio, Texas have been "whipping" Haitian migrants who materialized roughly 1,800 miles from home across the Gulf of Mexico, where they've gathered in large numbers at the southern US border in recent days. In two separate interviews, Border Patrol agent and head of the National Border Patrol Council, Brandon Judd singled out White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki for condemning the agents' conduct as "horrible to watch," and something "they should never be able to do again," accusing Psaki of "perpetuating the narrative that police are bad." "There are very few things that will boil my blood as bad as the White House directly coming out and condemning an action before they know what happened," Judd told Just the News. "Jen Psaki came out yesterday, and she condemned these actions, when in reality, it is a legitimate law enforcement action. This was meant to protect the illegal aliens." Judd explained agents are trained for crowd control by the Homeland Security Department to "twirl the reins" if humans start approaching their horses to keep them away from getting injured, and the reins are never used to strike or harm people. "We have to keep those individuals away from the horses," he explained. "If they get too close to the horses, the horses could step on them and they could break bones. They could kick them. They can get kicked in the head. It could cause death. -JTN "Nobody was hit by those reins; they are not whips. The reins are used to control the horses. And so the reins will be twirled to keep people away from the horses for their protection," Judd added, comparing Psaki's comments and corresponding coverage by the MSM to deceptive tactics used by liberal activists who want to defund the police.  "Of course, this is exactly how the defund police movement works," said Judd. "You take photos, you take a 15-second video of something that happened over a period of 10 minutes. And you take those very small clips, and you blow them up and say, 'Well, look what's happening.' When in reality it was a law enforcement movement that agents are trained to use the reins to keep people away, not hit people with those reins." According to Judd, twirling of the reigns is standard practice. "This is a training module that they set up, that they go through and they approve, and even this administration, every single administration, when they come in, they will look at all training that is being given, and they will decide whether the way they want to continue on with training," he said, adding "And this administration even decided that they would continue on with the training of using the reins, to keep people away from the horses for their own protection." Judd told the Epoch Times that the White House is perpetuating a false narrative. Misinformation Judd said agents on horseback in the area have not been rounding up Haitian refugees with whips after they were accused of doing so by multiple media outlets and officials. On Monday, Sawyer Hackett, executive director of People First Future, a political action committee set up by Democrat Julián Castro, went viral on Twitter when he shared photos of border patrol agents on horseback as they held their “whips” while Haitian refugees stood near them on foot. Hackett wrote on Twitter, “This is unfathomable cruelty towards people fleeing disaster and political ruin. The administration must stop this.” He also shared video footage showing border agents on horseback attempting to prevent migrants from wading back and forth across a river. The post was quickly shared over 27,000 times, including by members of Congress Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senator Jeff Merkley. A report from the El Paso Times regarding the situation in Del Rio also went viral. An exert from it claims a border agent “swung his whip menacingly” at Haitian men who were trying to cross the river again after buying food and water in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. "That’s your ‘defund the police’ movement right there," Judd said of the video. "They only show a short segment of a video. The horse patrol agents under the administration are trained to ensure the safety of the migrants, to keep them away from the horses, because the horses can harm people—they can inadvertently step on them, they can rear up, they can kick them. And so agents have to keep the migrants away from the horses for their own protection. And so they will use the reins, to twirl the reins, so that they will stay away from the horses. But they do not use those reins to lash out, to try to strike people. Those agents did not use those reins in any way, shape, or form to try to strike anybody." More via The Epoch Times: Judd added that the horses are also used as a “deterrent technique” to prevent illegal immigrants from coming into the United States. The claims of whipping soon reached the White House, with press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters during a briefing Monday, that she had seen some of the footage but didn’t yet have all the context. “I can’t imagine what context would make that appropriate,” Psaki said. “But I don’t have additional details.” When asked if the agents who were accused of whipping the Haitian immigrants should be fired, Psaki responded, “And, certainly—I don’t have additional context.  I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it was acceptable or appropriate.” Judd says Psaki ‘s comments were “horrific” and only serve to perpetuate the narrative that law enforcement is bad. “And that just feeds into the larger, very liberal, narrative of defund the police,” he said. The head of the National Border Patrol Council said his agents also feel abandoned by the administration, noting that the Haitian camp has turned into a “warzone refugee camp” and pointing out a key difference between former President Donald Trump’s administration and the current Biden administration. “They [border patrol agents] have been abandoned by the administration. I mean, I get that all the time. My agents are constantly reaching out to me asking, ‘Why isn’t this administration standing up and doing something to secure the border?’ ‘Why is this administration allowing cartels to have free rein of the border?’ ‘Why is this administration [doing nothing] when they said that they were going to have humane immigration practices? I don’t know,” Judd said. “You tell me, does this look like it’s humane right here?” he asked standing in front of the Haitian camp. “This looks like a warzone refugee camp. That’s what this looks like. And if anybody says that this is humane, I would love for them to come and explain to me how this, right here, is humane. But this is the Biden administration. This never happened with the Trump administration.” Tyler Durden Wed, 09/22/2021 - 12:25.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 22nd, 2021

Ukraine is kicking off its big offensive armed with powerful Western tanks and weapons, but breaking Russian lines may be anything but easy

Ukraine is facing stiff resistance and losses as its counteroffensive begins. War experts say the initial operations may be the "most dangerous." Ukrainian crews operate and fire the tanks on ranges in tough terrain conditions as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on April 26, 2023.Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images Ukraine's much-anticipated counteroffensive has finally begun. The Ukrainians are armed with Western weapons, including tanks and armored vehicles, but they are facing tough Russian defenses. The initial phases of this operation may be the most dangerous and costly, war experts say. The Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun, kicking off a particularly dangerous time for Ukraine's armed forces, even with its newly acquired arsenal of Western-made tanks, armored vehicles, and other weaponry that has been pouring in over months."Amidst a highly complex operational picture, heavy fighting continues along multiple sectors of the front," the British defense ministry said in a Thursday update, noting that "in most areas Ukraine holds the initiative."Ukrainian forces, including combat units trained in Western tactics and armed with Western weaponry, are pushing against various parts of the front line, The Washington Post reported as The Financial Times reported Ukraine has committed Western-made tanks, which experts have said would signal the start of the offensive.Kyiv hasn't announced it, as it said it wouldn't, but Ukrainian officials confirmed to ABC News that the counteroffensive is actively underway. An officer and a soldier told NBC the same, and the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank that has carefully tracked Russia's war in Ukraine, said Thursday "the Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun."There appear to be Ukrainian offensive operations against Russian defenses in the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, among other locations along the front lines.The fog of war makes determining a main line of effort difficult, but the objective of the counteroffensive given Ukrainian activities may be severing the so-called "land bridge" connecting Russia and Russian-controlled territories in the southeast, cutting critical supply lines for Russian forces.But that's a tough fight, and failure to make progress risks threatening the aid that fuels Kyiv's war effort and could potentially push Ukraine to negotiate. The stakes for this offensive are high.Ukrainian soldiers work on the gun of a Leopard 1 A5 tank at a Bundeswehr site in Klietz, Germany on May 5, 2023.Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty ImagesPartner nations provided Ukraine with mountains of military hardware, such as formidable third-generation German-made main battle tanks, armored infantry fighting vehicles, and massive amounts of ammunition, ahead of its counteroffensive punch.Ukraine also received training in Western tactics and best practices for employing the new additions to the Ukrainian arsenal.US Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN this week that Ukraine's armed forces are "very well prepared" for the counteroffensive but also said that it's "too early to tell what outcomes are going to happen." Offense is hard, and fighting tends to favor the defenders.Russia has spent months digging extensive trench networks and building barriers and reinforcing its lines in preparation for Ukraine's much-anticipated offensive. Unlike last summer's sweeping offensive around Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces are facing much more heavily defended positions.Capturing a trench, as The New York Times reported earlier this week, is considered "difficult soldiering" that requires careful planning, coordination of combat assets, and significant amounts of ammunition and firepower. In a push to capture an enemy trench in May, assault forces fired 3,000 rounds from just two machine guns.Paratroopers from the 81st Airmobile Battalion come out from a trench after a attack from a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher on July 5,2022 in Seversk, Ukraine.Laurent van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images"The initial counteroffensive operations may be the most difficult and slowest, as they involve penetrating prepared defensive positions," ISW said Thursday. "Initial setbacks are to be expected. This phase may also see the highest Ukrainian losses."Citing two senior US officials, CNN reported Thursday that Ukrainian forces have met greater resistance than expected and have suffered heavy equipment and personnel losses trying to break through Russian lines in the eastern part of the country.One official said the losses, which included armored vehicles, as "significant."The Russian Ministry of Defense has released a video, which Insider was not able to independently verify, that purportedly shows the loss of a German-made Leopard tank in a battle near Novopokrovka. Russia was recently mocked for presenting a strike on farm equipment as a tank kill, but the newest video does appear to show a loss, according to open-source intelligence channels.But losses, within limits, are an expected part of combat, especially high-intensity warfare like that in Ukraine, where both sides have suffered horrific numbers of casualties since the start of the conflict."We strongly believe that we will succeed," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told The Wall Street Journal last weekend, but he also said he expects "a large number of soldiers will die." ISW said Thursday that "militaries have long identified the penetration phase of a mechanized offensive as the most dangerous and costly."The think tank added, as Russia makes claims of thwarting Ukraine's offensive, that "the success or failure of this phase may not be apparent for some time."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsider6 hr. 32 min. ago

JOANN Inc. (NASDAQ:JOAN) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

JOANN Inc. (NASDAQ:JOAN) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript June 5, 2023 JOANN Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-0.93 EPS, expectations were $-0.66. Operator: Good day, and welcome to the JOANN’s First Quarter Fiscal 2024 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today’s presentation there will […] JOANN Inc. (NASDAQ:JOAN) Q1 2024 Earnings Call Transcript June 5, 2023 JOANN Inc. misses on earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $-0.93 EPS, expectations were $-0.66. Operator: Good day, and welcome to the JOANN’s First Quarter Fiscal 2024 Earnings Conference Call. All participants will be in a listen-only mode. [Operator Instructions] After today’s presentation there will be an opportunity to ask questions. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Jason Wood, Vice President Strategy and Corporate Responsibility. Please go ahead. Jason Wood: Thank you and good afternoon. I’d like to remind everyone that the comments made today may include forward-looking statements, which are subject to significant risks and uncertainties that could cause the company’s actual results to differ materially from management’s current expectations. These statements speak as of today, and the company undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events, new information or future circumstances. Please review the cautionary statements and risk factors contained in the company’s earnings press release and the recent filings with the SEC. During the call today, management may refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures. A reconciliation between GAAP and non-GAAP financial measures can be found in the company’s earnings press release, which was filed today with the SEC and posted to our Investor Relations section JOANN’s website at On the call today from JOANN are the co-leaders of the Interim Office of the CEO, Chris DiTullio, Executive Vice President And Chief Customer Officer; and Scott Sekella, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. During the question-and-answer portion of the call, we will also be joined by Rob Will, Executive Vice President And Chief Merchant for JOANN. I will now turn the call over to Chris for his prepared comments. Chris DiTullio: Thank you, Jason. Good afternoon, and welcome to JOANN’s first quarter fiscal 2024 earnings call. I want to start today by acknowledging the recent retirement of Wade Miquelon as JOANN’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Wade spent seven years at JOANN serving as CFO before becoming President and Chief Executive Officer in 2019. During his time as CEO, Wade helped JOANN navigate periods of growth and challenge, including our initial public offering and our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On behalf of JOANN, I would like to thank Wade for his leadership during this time here and wish him the best as he moves on to his next chapter. Our Board of Directors has commenced a search to find a permanent replacement and that effort is well underway. While that search is ongoing, Scott Sekella, our Chief Financial Officer and I have been appointed to lead the interim office of Chief Executive Officer. In our role leading this office, we remain focused on delivering value for our shareholders. To do this, our focus in fiscal year 2024 is to deliver significant cash flow improvement and strengthen our top line by emphasizing the fundamentals that have made JOANN the nation’s category leader in fabric and sewing and a strong competitor in the arts and crafts space. This approach represents a back to basics mindset in which we are strengthening our focus on winning in our core sewing and crafting categories [indiscernible] high-quality in-store and online experience with emphasis on driving operational excellence and efficiency. To support this approach, we are leaning in on delivering innovative assortments with a strategic mix of owned, national and partner brands. A significant piece of this strategy is a continued investment in our owned brands. By building our portfolio of owned brands, we can customize our product assortment using a customer first lens, improve margins through direct sourcing and value engineering, all while exercising greater control over product quality and supply chain efficiency. Our investment over the past few years in owned brands such as Place & Time, Big Twist, Top Notch and Pop! is already delivering value. Owned brand sales, which represent nearly half of our total outperformed the total company sales in the first quarter by nearly 500 basis points, with gross margin impact between 400 basis points to 600 basis points higher than the balance of our products. Owned brand penetration also increased 2% in the first quarter and we expect this trend to build in the back half of fiscal year 2024. As we move forward, we believe our continued investment in owned brands combined with strategic national brand partnerships will enhance our innovative assortment of products and strengthen our position in both our core selling and craft categories. As we look next at how we provide a differentiated in-store experience, we are focused on developing creative approaches to driving store productivity. This involves the holistic look at our stores to identify opportunities where a new or relocated location makes sense or where store refresh can help improve brand and customer experience, including better utilizing space for our core selling and craft categories. That said, we recognize that physical space is only one part of a great in-store experience. As a result, we continue to look for ways to make it easier for our team members to deliver great service and truly be friendly clever allies to everyone who shops in our stores. This includes looking at ways to optimize our store labor hours to the key selling periods, delivering training support and simplifying the execution of our visual merchandising tactics so that our team members are ready and available to engage with our customers and drive sales. Recognizing that the way people shop our assortments also continues to evolve, our broader strategic priorities in fiscal 2024 also include working to make the JOANN brand ubiquitous through seamless and engaging digital touch points and compelling omni-channel offerings. We are committed to reducing friction across all customer touch points which includes working to optimize customer fulfillment by leveraging our network of stores and distribution centers more efficiently to maximize our e-commerce fill rates and accelerate delivery time to customer. Additionally, our customer continues to love our buy online and pick up in store or curbside options as we enable the Shop Your Way service model. Our customer is responding and is evidenced by increasing engagement and shopping through our mobile app, which has over 15 million downloads and provides a fully omni-channel effectively. Underlying this strategic focus is our continued effort to operate as effetely and efficiently as possible. This starts with our focus, simplify and grow initiative. Launched in the back half of fiscal year 2023, this initiative is a critical tool as we look to reduce costs and drive cash flow improvements. When combined with other ongoing operational efficiency efforts, such as our continued emphasis on and utilization of a data driven decision making infrastructure, focused simplifying growth is an important driver of our ability to build for the future by reinvesting in our core strengths and growth strategies. Our focus, simplify and grow initiative targets, as a reminder, approximately $200 million of annualized cost savings in three general buckets, including approximately $100 million in supply chain costs, $60 million in our cost of goods sold and another $40 in SG&A costs. Initially, we had planned for the identification of these cost savings to be completed by early fiscal year 2025. While Scott will speak to the specifics in greater detail, we have begun capturing significant supply chain cost savings through decreased domestic and international freight and through our vendor negotiations have clawed back some inflationary increases in our cost of goods with more to come. Additionally, our investment in owned brands continues to help reduce product costs as well. Through this work and our ongoing efforts to reduce SG&A expenses, we now have full line of sight to the $200 million total and are leaving no stone unturned as we look for further cost reductions. As anticipated, these cost savings have supported significant improvement of $89 million in year-over-year free cash flow improvement in the first quarter of fiscal 2024 and will help move our adjusted EBITDA back towards historical levels in fiscal year 2025. We believe that by delivering on these foundational strategic priorities, creating a differentiated in-store experience making the JOANN brand ubiquitous across customer channels and continuing to drive operational efficiency and effeteness. JOANN will be well positioned to create value in the near term and reinvest in the things that will drive long term growth. Before getting into more detail about our first quarter performance, I do want to take a moment to recognize our team members. I could not be prouder the dedicated professionals who work across all aspects of our company. The team members in our stores, distribution centers, omni fulfillment center and across our corporate offices truly are our greatest asset. As we move forward through fiscal year 2024 implementing our strategic priorities will require our more than 20,000 team members to display a passion, commitment and flexibility they are known for as we work to inspire creativity in our customers and ourselves and help everyone find their happy place with JOANN. With this approach as a foundation, I will now provide some highlights from our first quarter fiscal year 2024 performance. For the first quarter, we delivered net sales of $478.1 million, decline of 4% compared to the same period last year. Gross margin on a GAAP basis was 52.1%, an increase of 380 basis points compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2023. Top line sales started strong in the quarter in February and early March. However, like many other retailers we saw a decrease as we moved into and through April. This deceleration coincided with the decline in consumer confidence driven by continuing inflationary pressures, rising interest rates and the accompanying concerns over potential recession. We will obviously continue to monitor consumer sentiment and the pressure it is putting on the discretionary portion of the economy and we will strategically adjust as necessary. That said, we remain optimistic. We will be able to deliver on our full year outlook, which Scott will walk through in a few minutes, due to healthy customer engagement in our core sewing and craft categories and our strategic focus on baseline cost reductions. Our merchandise category performance across the quarter was mixed. On the positive side, our core sewing and craft businesses performed well during the first quarter. We are seeing strength in our textiles related sewing and craft businesses, along with the supplies that support those activities. This is critically important as it illustrates the effectiveness of our strategic focus on winning in our core categories and demonstrates that our core customer is also reengaged in the space. It was also supported by the launch of DITTO in the first quarter. DITTO, to remind everyone, is our 50-50 joint venture with SINGER, Viking, PFAFF. This innovative product which brings the pattern business into the digital age is in its early stages of rollout at both JOANN and Singer, Viking gallery locations and is gaining attention with sewing enthusiasts across the country. On the merchandise headwind side, we do continue to see craft technology as our primary challenge to positive comparable sales. While our data indicates we’re outperforming the industry, sales pressure from craft technology was significant in the quarter, accounting for a decline in comparable sales of 150 basis points. We expect this headwind to continue as we move deeper into fiscal year 2024. Additionally, we have also made strategic pullbacks in higher risk seasonal categories and while currently a headwind to the top line is supporting higher overall gross margin and company profitability. We also continue to see strength in our e-commerce business. In terms of performance in the first quarter, our year-over-year change in e-commerce sales outpaced walk-in sales and the company overall, declining at a more moderate rate of 1% compared to last year. Overall, e-commerce sales accounted for 11.8% of revenue in the first quarter, a 30 basis point increase in the penetration rate over the same period last year. Much like the overall business, we saw positive sales growth in our core sewing and craft categories across the quarter, while craft technology, a business that is highly penetrated online was our primary headwind accounting for 390 basis point decline in comparable e-commerce sales. With all of this in mind, we recognize there is work to be done. While we can’t control macroeconomic uncertainty, we will remain focused on driving value for our shareholders. Through executing on the strategic priorities I’ve outlined today, including the execution of our focus, simplify and grow initiative, along with our first quarter performance gives us clear line of sight to not only delivering significant full year-over-year cash flow improvement, but also to hitting our fiscal year 2024 outlook. With the great capabilities, commitment and passion of our team members, I’m confident we can build on our first quarter results and position JOANN for long term success moving forward. With that, I will turn it over to our CFO, Scott Sekella to give a more detailed rundown of our first quarter financial results and a forward look at fiscal 2024 before we wrap up with answer your questions. Scott Sekella: Thank you, Chris. As Chris discussed in his remarks, our strategic priorities in fiscal year 2024 remains centered on winning in our core sewing and craft categories, providing a great customer experience in our stores and online and continuing to find new ways to operate as efficiently as possible. By emphasizing these fundamentals, which help make JOANN the nation’s category leader in sewing, we believe that over the course of fiscal 2024, we will be able to meaningfully improve cash flow, strengthen our top line, and begin expanding adjusted EBITDA towards more historical levels. With that in mind, today I’ll provide a deeper recap of our first quarter results and provide details about our full year outlook for fiscal 2024. In the first quarter, net sales totaled $478.1 million, a decline of 4% compared to last year with total comparable sales also decreasing by 4%. Through the quarter, sales were strong in February and March but decelerated in April. While this coincided with declining consumer confidence, we remain optimistic about our fiscal 2024 sales outlook due to healthy customer engagement in our core sewing and crafting businesses, our increased emphasis on our strategic priorities which Chris discussed and the ability to optimize our promotional cadence to meet customer demand in the face of an uncertain macroeconomic environment. On a GAAP basis, our gross profit in the first quarter was $249 million, an increase of 3.4% from the first quarter of last year. This year-over-year increase was driven largely by continuing improvement in import freight cost which had a 500 basis point positive impact on our gross margin. We recognized $3.9 million of excess import freight costs during the first quarter. This figure reflects a $25 million decrease to the same period last year as we continue to benefit from the improving conditions in the spot market. On a cash basis, in Q1 we realized $21.7 million of cash benefit from lower ocean freight rates. This was one of the drivers of our $89 million year-over-year free cash flow improvement in the quarter. On a year-over-year basis, for the full fiscal year 2024, we anticipate excess import freight costs, which are treated as an add back for non-GAAP measures to be approximately $90 million less than last year and fully cycle out by the end of the second quarter. Our gross margin on a GAAP basis was 52.1% in the first quarter, an increase of 380 basis points from the first quarter of last year. This continued the trend of sequential improvement in our year-over-year GAAP basis gross margin comparisons. As described a moment ago, we continue to benefit from cycling the extremely high ocean freight costs that we faced last year. The year-over-year 380 basis point improvement was driven by the 500 basis point increase from continuing improvement in ocean freight costs and a 40 basis point increase from improved clearance activity. These increases were partially offset by a 100 basis point decline in our merchandising margin, a 40 basis point decline due to the timing and cycling of capitalized domestic freight costs, partially offset by improved carrier rates and a 20 basis points of higher shrink, primarily in our stores, which has sequentially improved from the previous quarter. To provide additional color on our first quarter merchandising margin, the decline of 100 basis points compared to the same period last year can be attributed to the continued lapping of some of the inflationary cost increases we experienced during the prior year. Our average unit costs were up 5.1% compared to the prior year period. We do expect our average unit cost comparisons to sequentially improve throughout the course of the year as we cycle these inflationary increases and begin to reap the benefits of the reduction and cost of goods sold negotiated with our vendors as part of the focus, simplify and grow initiative. Average unit retail increased 2.7% relative to the same period last year. Turning to expenses. Our first quarter fiscal 2024 SG&A expenses increased by 1.5% from the first quarter of last year. This increase was driven by incremental costs related to incentive and stock based compensation as well as inflationary pressures on labor, particularly at our store locations and other costs. With that being said, we were pleased with our ability to manage SG&A expenses despite these pressures through actions such as the strategic management of labor hours in our stores and our continued optimization of advertising spend as we shift to more digital channels as well as lower medical benefit costs. We continue to assess for opportunities to optimize our SG&A expenses as part of our focus, simplify and growth cost reduction initiative, and I will give more color on that shortly. Our net loss in the first quarter was $54.2 million compared to a net loss of $35.1 million in the same period last year. Adjusted EBITDA in the first quarter was $3.5 million compared to $18.6 million in the first quarter of last year. Moving on to our balance sheet. Our cash and cash equivalents were $19.7 million at the end of the first quarter. As of April 29, 2023, we had $61.3 million of availability on our revolving credit facility, which is tied to a lower borrowing base due to our inventory optimization efforts, including cycling higher excess import freight costs and our actions to strategically lower inventory receipts. Our face value of debt net of cash at the end of the fourth quarter was $1.033 billion. This reflects an increase of $109.4 million from the same period last year and a leverage ratio of 4.8 times as measured by net debt and finance lease obligations relative to credit facility adjusted EBITDA on a trailing 12 month basis. Our inventory at the end of the first quarter was down 13% compared to the same period last year. This decline was driven by a $32.3 million year-over-year reduction in capitalized excess import freight costs, as well as our plan to strategically lower inventory receipts. This approach allowed us to de risk in the right areas, primarily our seasonal categories so that we can lean in on receipts to support our emphasis on winning in our core sewing and crafting businesses. Fueled in part by the strategic inventory receipt reduction, we continue to maintain a low clearance inventory of less than 5% of total. Our inventory position remains clean leading us well positioned to capitalize in the evolving demand environment as we leverage test, read and react capabilities. In conjunction with all this work, we remain laser focused on meaningful cash improvement in fiscal year 2024. We have initiated multiple actions to support this focus and these efforts have supported a significant $89 million year-over-year improvement in our first quarter free cash flow. This includes our focus, simplify and growth cost reduction initiative, which, as Chris mentioned, targets $200 million of annual cost reductions in three broad categories across all areas of our business, including approximately $100 million of supply chain costs, approximately $60 million of product costs and another approximately $40 million of SG&A. Since launching this effort late in fiscal year 2023, we have worked diligently to identify cost reductions in all three buckets. We can safely say that we have identified the full targeted $200 million of annual cost reductions and we are now focusing on implementing and executing these initiatives. This implementation includes taking proactive steps to solidify and as possible, build on the significant positive impact of reduced ocean freight costs. We are finalizing new agreements with our ocean freight vendors that include favorable contract rate, putting us in a strong position to continue to benefit from these savings and potentially over deliver our $100 million supply chain cost target. Additionally, we continue to identify product cost savings. Many of our RFPs are still in process, but we are confident about our ability to claw the inflationary increases we saw last year. In terms of SG&A, we are identifying ways to more efficiently deploy our resources to support value creation and drive top line activity. This includes optimizing store labor through four wall work simplifications, optimizing our labor mix and reducing administrative hours. As well as driving greater efficiency in our information technology spend. As we take this approach, we are staying grounded in our strategic priority of delivering a differentiated in-store experience by looking at identifying efficiency gains that not only lower costs, but make it easier for our in-store team members to deliver the quality service our customers expect. While we have already identified the targeted $200 million of annual cost reductions and are now implementing these initiatives. As Chris said, we are leaving no stone unturned as we look for additional potential savings. With these identified cost reductions, a significant first quarter year-over-year improvement in free cash flow and the operational results we saw in the first quarter, we believe we have a clear line of sight to delivering on our full fiscal year 2024 outlook. In terms of our top line performance, we anticipate that net sales relative to fiscal year 2023 will be down between 1% and 4%. This range is inclusive of a 53rd fiscal week in fiscal year 2024, which is worth approximately 2%. We believe the healthy customer engagement we are seeing in our core sewing and craft categories will aid in providing a buffer to our top line in light of the challenging and uncertain macroeconomic environment our customers continue to face. As we previously mentioned, driving meaningful cash improvement is one of our key focuses for fiscal year 2024. In the first quarter, we delivered a significant year-over-year improvement in free cash flow, and we anticipate additional improvement as we move through the full fiscal year. We are projecting that over the full fiscal year 2024, we will see a year-over-year improvement in free cash flow between $150 million $170 million. The significant drivers of this forecasted improvement include the continued implementation of our focus, simplify and growth cost reduction initiative, as well as working capital and capital expenditure optimization actions. For fiscal year 2024 we are projecting capital expenditures net of landlord contributions between $40 million $45 million. While the cash benefit of focus, simplify and grow initiative will be felt heavily in fiscal year 2024, the mostly annualized P&L benefit will be realized until fiscal year 2025 due to the time it takes for inventory and related costs to cycle through our balance sheet. With that being said, we do anticipate adjusted EBITDA between $85 million $95 million. Note that, fiscal 2024 includes a headwind from reinstituting our incentive compensation program which is partially offset by the benefit of the 53rd fiscal week. In conclusion, we remain focused on delivering value for our shareholders. As we move through fiscal year 2024, we are focused on delivering significant cash flow improvements and strengthening our top line by emphasizing the fundamentals that have made JOANN the nation’s category leader in fabric and sewing with one of the largest assortments of arts and crafts products. While still facing an uncertain macroeconomic environment, we are executing on a series of strategic priorities that will help us deliver that value. Based on the factors we have discussed today, including the significant year-over-year improvement in our free cash flow, the continued implementation of our focus, simplify and grow cost reduction initiative and our operational performance in the first quarter, we believe we have a clear line of sight to delivering on our full fiscal year 2024 outlook. With that, we’d be happy to take your questions. Operator? Operator: Thank you. We will now begin the question-and- session. [Operator Instructions] [ Technical Difficulty] I believe David’s line is muted. I still can’t hear him. Can I move on to the next question. Q&A Session Follow Joann Inc. Follow Joann Inc. We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy. Chris DiTullio: Yes. Please. Operator: Our next question comes from [indiscernible] with Guggenheim. Please go ahead. Unidentified Participant: Good afternoon. This is [Ray Marin] (ph) on for Steve Forbes. I wanted to focus on the 2 million reactivated customers during 2022. Curious if you can discuss any incremental learnings from this cohort year-to-date? What strategies are in place to keep this consumer engaged for the remainder of the year? Chris DiTullio: Hi. This is Chris. I can take that answer. We’re seeing really good engagement across our known customer database, including those reactivated last year, but also those that have been year-over-year. That — our known customer database is the strongest portion of the response we’re seeing right now. Transactions, sales and customer counts are up across the board within our various known customer database segments. Unidentified Participant: Great. And for my follow-up, I wanted to touch on the DITTO launch. Can you provide some additional color on the feedback you are getting from your dealer network and customers? We understand this is early in the stages, but perhaps you can discuss how this initiative is performing versus internal expectations? Are new customers engaging with DITTO as much as your core customer? Any additional color would be helpful. Thank you. Robert Will: Hi. This is Rob. I want to be careful a little bit as this is a joint venture with Singer, but I’m happy to report that in the early days, we’ve now launched DITTO in just over 300 of our JOANN stores, including 180 Viking galleries that are lease owned within our stores by Singer. We have been very happy with the results so far on the customer engagement. We’re seeing really great results with downloads of individual patterns as well as the subscription service, and we’re averaging about 4.5 to 4.8 stars on our reviews of the DITTO across both sites. The dealer network is starting to pick up. We have about 100 dealers that have picked up DITTO as well. But again, that’s just launched in stores about 1.5 months ago. Unidentified Participant: Great. Thank you. Operator: Our next question comes from Peter Keith with Piper Sandler. Peter Keith: Hi. Thanks. Good afternoon everyone. I appreciate you guys putting out some context for guidance. So I was going to ask a question around that. I guess just thinking about the rest of the year, it looks like the sort of implied same-store sales is kind of [indiscernible] maybe a little bit worse than Q1. But at least in our model to get to the midpoint of the EBITDA guidance, you really need to start seeing that EBITDA margin run kind of even year-on-year or even up year-on-year. So I was hoping if you could just kind of shape that dynamic for us as the year progresses. And help us understand the key drivers of the improvement. I think it’s going to be freight in the merchandise margin, but I want to make sure we’re catching everything. Scott Sekella: Hi, Peter, it’s Scott. Yes, I think it’s coming from a number of places. One, a little bit on the top line is where we saw sequential improvement in Q1, and we’re confident that it’s going to continue there, potentially be a little bit better as we go forward. But on top of that, to your point, freight is going to continue to be a tailwind. I do think merchandising margin is going to get a little bit better as the year goes. But then the real big pieces that I’m excited about is on the SG&A side that as we touched on with the focus, simplify and grow initiative, that’s where in the back half, we’re really going to start to see some of the SG&A savings as we implement these ideas. And it’s also the biggest area in the last 90 days from when we talked to you before that we’ve gotten the most traction on some of those initiatives. So really excited with what that’s going to deliver to — deliver our full year adjusted EBITDA outlook. Peter Keith: Okay. Thank you. And then just looking at that dynamic of cost inflation versus I guess — I think you said a little over 2% in average unit retail, 2.7% to be specific. So your costs have been up about 5%, but you’ve only taken up the prices by about 2.7%. And I guess your point is, as the year progresses the cost will kind of smooth out and that will no longer be a headwind? Scott Sekella: Yes. So keep in mind, when the costs first started increasing with our vendor base, we took the price up. So you saw the average unit retail increase first last year. Now we’re cycling through those increases. We sell the product now, the higher cost that we started absorbing last year. But as the year goes, this is going to get sequentially better as we start lapping that. So our average unit cost increases will be a lot less in the back half than what we just saw in Q1. Peter Keith: Okay. Great. And then maybe just lastly on that. So at what point does your AUR, in effect, sort of smooth out from the inflationary pressures during the year? Scott Sekella: I think you’re going to continue to see it smooth out through the balance of the year. So there’s — there haven’t been really any new AUR sort of price increases. It’s a little bit of just mix movement. So you’ll start to see it smooth out for the balance of the year. Peter Keith: Okay. Very good. Thank you very much. Operator: Our next question comes from Laura Champine with Loop Capital. Please go ahead. Laura Champine: Thank for taking my question. If we look at the guide for comp to be down this year or sales to be down this year, are the factor is more macro? Is it category related? Is it competition? Like at this stage, kind of three years into the decline, so what’s driving that this year? Chris DiTullio: Hi, Laura, it’s Chris. We’re really seeing that the craft tech component of our business is the primary headwind right now. I think we talked about that in the last quarter as well. And so, that’s going to continue to be a headwind. It was 150 basis points in the first quarter. We believe it will be upwards of 100 basis points for the balance of the year. So that’s one factor. And then we are seeing great strength, improving strength in our core sewing and craft categories. So that’s really driving us to lean in there, which are the categories that we know the best and have the best history in. So that’s really what we’re seeing in the market competitively. Really pretty rational environment, I would say, but really driving to our core customer and our core sewing and craft businesses. Laura Champine: Got it. So to summarize, it doesn’t seem as if there’s a deterioration in the macro. And I think that’s — is that fair to say given the sequential improvement that you called out? Chris DiTullio: Yes, I would say that’s right. Laura Champine: Got it. Thank you. Operator: Our next question comes from Cristina Fernandez with Telsey Advisory Group. Please go ahead. Cristina Fernandez: Hi. Good afternoon. So I wanted to follow up on Laura’s question. I mean, you mentioned that the core categories are strong, and it seems like they were positive and then the negative 150 basis points from consumer tech. So there’s still a gap. Is that just a seasonal being down? Or I guess what else are you seeing? Like what else is the bigger source of the headwind on the reported comp? Chris DiTullio: Yes. The seasonal business, we strategically pulled back our purchases there because that is inventory that has the most risk historically to margin and sell-through. So we did strategically pull back. That is a current headwind, but we believe it’s one that won’t be as significant later in this fiscal year. The good news is, with those receipt reductions that we’ve made in seasonal, we now have the ability to be — play more offense in terms of those core sewing and craft categories that are working well for us. Cristina Fernandez: That makes sense. And then a second question is on the — with the consumer seemingly being more value-oriented, how are you thinking about pricing for your goods? Do you feel competitive? And is there opportunity to lower prices as the year goes on? Robert Will: Sure. It’s Rob. I’ll take that one. So as we had mentioned, we’re continuing to see success across our owned or private brands. And that is part of the work that we’ve been doing on COGS with our focus, simplify and grow initiative as well. So we are seeing the cost of those products coming down, which will allow us to price some of that in as much of the assortment is focused on the good and better side of what we bring to market in those core categories. Chris DiTullio: The one other thing I would just add in is, bear in mind that our average unit retail is roughly $5 as well. So we really do believe that we provide a very competitive option in the retail environment for customers regardless of the income tier or where they stand within the economy. Scott Sekella: Cristina, it’s Scott. I would just add, we’ve set up some processes here internally to really be able to read and react how the consumer’s behaving and so that we can meet them where they’re looking for at the right price point. So we’re trying to stay very nimble in this environment to be able to read and react. Cristina Fernandez: Thanks. And then last question is, I appreciate the financial guidance for this year. Any comment on where you expect to end the year as far as your debt balance? And if the interest rate — or the interest expense assumption of $100 million that you gave on the last call, still a good number for this year? Scott Sekella: Yes. From an interest expense standpoint, that’s right around where we are. We kind of still think interest rates are going to tick up and that takes that into account and then maybe start to hopefully come back a little later in the year. In terms of net debt, not really giving any guidance, but I don’t really see a meaningful change this year as we work to really improve our year-over-year cash flow and then really start to get positive cash flow in the out years. Cristina Fernandez: Thanks again. Best of luck this quarter. Operator: This concludes our question-and- session, and the conference is also now concluded. Thank you for attending today’s presentation. You may all now disconnect. Follow Joann Inc. Follow Joann Inc. We may use your email to send marketing emails about our services. Click here to read our privacy policy......»»

Category: topSource: insidermonkey7 hr. 19 min. ago

Orcas observed devouring the tongue of a blue whale just before it dies in first documented hunt of the largest animal on the planet

The Western Australia study filmed orcas — also known as killer whales — preying on blue whales, the largest animal on Earth, for the first time. Researchers approach a blue whale to attach a suction-cup tag.Elliott Hazen under NOAA/NMFS permit 16111 A study from Australia is the first to scientifically document blue whales' killings by orcas.  Orcas were observed devouring the nutrient-rich tongues of the giant blue whales. "This is the biggest predation event on this planet," a marine scientist said. Orcas aren't the largest animal in the sea but they're certainly one of the smartest, making them the ocean's apex predator.They'll hunt virtually anything from great white sharks to boats, throwing yachts around like rag dolls.However, the scientific community has long debated whether orcas can hunt blue whales, the largest animal on the planet. The debate was finally settled in a report published in Marine Mammal Science in 2022.Orcas can hunt and kill blue whalesThe report documented the first recorded observations of a pod of orcas — also known as killer whales — attacking blue whales off the coast of Western Australia.The attacks were recorded by marine scientists from Cetrec WA (Cetacean Research). The report includes details of how the killer whales swam inside the mouth of the enormous whales to eat their nutritionally rich tongue just before they died."Here we provide the first documentation of killer whales killing and eating blue whales: two individuals killed, 16 days apart in 2019, and a third in 2021," the researchers wrote in the paper. "Notably, the first whale taken appeared to be a healthy adult."Researchers arrived at the first killing of a 72-foot-long blue whale to see large chunks of skin and blubber having been gouged from its body and with most of the dorsal fin having been bitten off. It was followed by relentless attacks by the orcas, where three lined up against the blue whale and pushed it underwater, while two attacked its head. The study explains that 50 orcas joined the pack for six hours to feed on the carcass. Hunting in large numbers like this is not all that uncommon for orcas. They have highly-developed methods of communication which enables them to orchestrate hunting tactics as well as imitate each other.A few weeks later, the next attack occurred when a blue whale calf was targeted. Twenty-five orcas attacked the 40-foot-long animal. The final attack recorded by the study was on a 45-foot-long blue whale, chased for 15 miles in a 90-minute hunt. Again, the orcas' hunting strategy was to push and ram the whale under the water while others attacked its head and tongue. A 50-strong pod devoured the remains of the kill.An orca and its calf.Jeff Foott/Getty ImagesMother orcas are the lead aggressorsPrevious studies had concluded that orca attacks had to be executed by the biggest killer whales — who are male and can grow to 30 feet in length — to be successful. But the new research documented that these killings were led by female orcas, with the study saying that the drive to feed their offspring could make them more aggressive. "This is the biggest predation event on this planet: the biggest apex predator taking down the biggest prey," study coauthor Robert Pitman, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University's Marine Mammal Institute, told National Geographic. "We don't have dinosaurs anymore, so for me as a whale biologist and a zoologist. It's an amazing thing."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nyt7 hr. 32 min. ago

This Country Has the Most Attack Helicopters

Attack helicopters have played a huge role in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Russia boasts one of the largest attack helicopter fleets in the world, but despite this size advantage, it has been dealt setbacks, losing an eighth of its helicopters and being forced to change tactics. Even though attack helicopters have changed the face of […] Attack helicopters have played a huge role in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Russia boasts one of the largest attack helicopter fleets in the world, but despite this size advantage, it has been dealt setbacks, losing an eighth of its helicopters and being forced to change tactics. Even though attack helicopters have changed the face of modern war, there is still more to war than air superiority. (Here is every plane in Russia’s air force.) Among military assets, combat helicopters play a pivotal role in modern warfare. They combine reconnaissance, logistics, and combat capabilities, aiding in various operational roles on the battlefield.  To determine the 22 countries with the largest attack helicopter fleets, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed GlobalFirepower, an annually-updated website tracking defense-related statistics of 145 nations. Countries were ranked by the number of attack helicopters in active service. Supplemental data regarding total aircraft fleet size and the most common combat helicopters came from FlightGlobal. Military expenditure data for 2022 came from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Military Expenditure Database. The United States of America indisputably leads the charge with the most extensive attack helicopter fleet globally with over 980 helicopters. With a focus on power projection and force mobility, the U.S. military operates an impressive number of helicopters such as the Apache, Black Hawk, and Chinook CH-47. The Apache is particularly noteworthy for its lethal firepower and sophisticated technology. (Here is every helicopter used by the U.S. armed forces.) Though much smaller than the U.S. fleet, Russia follows the United States, owning the second-largest fleet of attack helicopters at over 530. Russia’s combat fleet is chiefly composed of helicopters such as the Mil Mi-24 (Hind) and Kamov Ka-52 (Alligator). These helicopters are known for their versatility, durability, and aggressive combat features, making them indispensable to the Russian military. China claims the third spot on the list with 281 attack helicopters. Its military mainly employs the Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters and recently introduced the Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter. While the largest combat helicopter fleets are found in the U.S., Russia, and China, countries across the globe hold sizable combat helicopter fleets. Multiple countries’ fleets have some overlap in the types of helicopters they use, and the countries on the list have at least 33 active combat helicopters. Click here to see countries with the biggest attack helicopter fleets.  Sponsored: Tips for Investing A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit......»»

Category: blogSource: 247wallstJun 7th, 2023

Meta is setting up a taskforce after Instagram was found to guide users to child-sex context

Pedophiles were able to operate accounts on the social media app to openly share sexual content of minors, The Wall Street Journal reported. Meta has set up an internal task force to crack down on child-sex content.Getty Images Meta has set up a taskforce to counter child exploitation following a Wall Street Journal report. An investigation by the newspaper and academic researchers found Instagram promoted child-sex material. It highlighted the failings of Big Tech firms in regulating the spread of illicit content online. Meta has set up a taskforce to counter child exploitation after a news report said Instagram helped promote networks of accounts trading child-sex content. The photo and video sharing app owned by Mark Zuckerberg's Meta allowed pedophiles to operate accounts that were openly sharing sexual content of minors, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.An investigation by the newspaper and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that the algorithms underlying Instagram's content recommendation system helped to spread the material while guiding users to them.Users were able to use Instagram to search for explicit terms through hashtags that grouped content with the same label, The Journal reported. Some hashtags found included "#pedowhore" and "#preteensex," per the report. Meta acknowledged that it had problems in cracking down on such content in response to the findings, claiming that 27 pedophile networks had been removed in the past two years. The company confirmed that it had set up an internal task force to tackle the issues.The findings highlight the serious failings Big Tech firms have had in regulating the spread of illicit content online, with Instagram's challenges removing child-sex material being just the latest case of that.An investigation by The New York Times in 2019 found that some of the biggest tech platforms were struggling to deal with the volume of sexual material of minors being posted online, with 45 million photos and videos flagged in just one year. Twitter owner Elon Musk has also identified sexual content of children online as a serious problem. In November, he said it was "Priority #1."Meta told Insider in a statement: "Child exploitation is a horrific crime. We work aggressively to fight it on and off our platforms, and to support law enforcement in its efforts to arrest and prosecute the criminals behind it. Predators constantly change their tactics in their pursuit to harm children, and that's why we have strict policies and technology to prevent them from finding or interacting with teens on our apps, and hire specialist teams who focus on understanding their evolving behaviors so we can eliminate abusive networks. "We're continuously exploring ways to actively defend against this behavior, and we set up an internal task force to investigate these claims and immediately address them. We're committed to continuing our work to protect teens, obstruct criminals, and support law enforcement in bringing them to justice."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytJun 7th, 2023

I"m a small-business owner in the blockchain industry. I relied on 3 tactics to lead my company through a "crypto winter" and other volatility.

After six years of ups and downs, Constellation Network now has over 25,000 users spanning 95 countries. Altif Brown, cofounder and director of community at Constellation Network.Photo courtesy of Altif Brown Constellation Network is a decentralized network and Web3 blockchain ecosystem. With a few strategic moves, the cofounder was able to grow the company during industry uncertainty. The company diversified and restructured when necessary — while preparing for future growth.  This article is part of "Small Business Strong," a series highlighting the resilient work of small-business leaders to overcome barriers and reach success.  This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Altif Brown, the 33-year-old cofounder and director of community at Constellation Network, a decentralized network and Web3 blockchain ecosystem. Insider has verified the business' growth with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.When we first launched Constellation Network in late 2017, it was during what I would consider the first big bull run in the crypto space. Bitcoin had broken $10,000 for the first time, Filecoin raised nearly $200 million in under an hour, and it felt like everyone was building cool stuff around us. And then, toward the end of 2017, the markets majorly pulled back and we entered what many refer to as a "crypto winter." Not only did that mean the crypto in our accounts was suddenly worth a lot less, but it also led to an unfavorable change in public perception and regulatory concerns that could affect the future of our company and the industry as a whole. To be impactful as a first-time cofounder, I had to quickly learn how to manage a team whether it be "feast or famine." During times of "feast," we learned to become agile and adaptable, quickly capitalizing on opportunities for growth and expansion. When market contractions forced us into "famine," we needed to be equally agile in reducing costs, finding new markets to branch into, and pivoting our growth plan to be competitive.After six years of ups and downs, we now have over 25,000 users spanning 95 countries and tens of thousands of community members across social media and other platforms. We also work with a variety of customers, from Web3 companies that are disrupting traditional industries to the US Department of Defense.In retrospect, the hyper-volatile crypto market oscillating between scarcity and abundance was a forcing function to build our company with resilience, which has allowed us to weather a variety of storms over the past six years and has led to our ongoing success today.We looked for opportunities to diversifyDiversification as a strength is one of the first things you learn in business school, but it's a bit harder to figure out what that means in an industry where there's no framework and things are constantly changing. We had to build the plane as we were flying and figure out ways to add more variety to our business model.One thing we did was revisit who we were targeting as customers. While we originally sought to work with enterprises, "crypto winter" was taking a huge toll on the industry and we were no exception.Enterprises then, and still often today, are skeptical of crypto and blockchain technology as a whole. We decided to start working on contracts with more stable budgets, and after a big effort on our part, we landed a contract with the US Department of Defense in August 2019. Though they had some skepticism, they had a growing need for cyber resilience and generally take pride in being at the forefront of new technologies, so they opted to overlook uncertainty in favor of exploration. It's nice to know that, whatever happens, we can fall back on government work.In 2019 we also acquired a more traditional technology company, Dor, and also absorbed their team. This made our team way more robust, expanding us beyond a group of crypto diehards, and creating fewer blind spots within the company. Because the team is more eclectic overall, we can see beyond the scope of our echo chamber within the crypto space.We prepared for when the feast would returnEven during times of downturn, my team and I always believed the industry would bounce back. For one, algorithmically speaking, it should. But also, to work in an industry this volatile, you have to be a little bit insane, and we tend to be hopelessly optimistic about these things. So, planning during downturns for us has always been about getting the pieces ready to maximize our success when the "feast" returns, building new products in stealth so that they're ready as soon as excitement for the industry comes roaring back. For example, during the latest downturn, we spent time building up our accelerator program, Web3 Launchkit, which helps founders learn all the pieces to launch a successful crypto company. By getting it prepared now, we'll have it ready for when passion for the industry starts roaring back. Preparing for better times also meant shifting our priorities and budgets. For instance, during times of "feast" it makes sense to invest a bit heavier into marketing, partnerships, and events. When things pull back, those budgets are absorbed into other things. As the director of community, I had to think of where else I could provide value. I shifted from building our open-source community to building relationships with new groups, such as the space community, which widened our overall exposure to the defense industry. We restructured our team when necessary while doing our best to keep them in the foldLike many companies during industry downturns, we have had to lay people off at times, but we've always looked for creative ways to keep as much of our team as engaged as possible. We've offered some people we had to lay off the option to shift to contract work and have reconverted several team members back to full-time positions when their roles made sense again. We've also helped place some folks who we couldn't keep at companies that are building within our blockchain ecosystem. This way, the employee's career is still advancing, we reduce costs, and the adjacent company gets an expert to grow its in-house knowledge.To keep more of the team during hard times, we've also looked for ways to get creative with compensation. Outside of the founders and leadership team taking reduced salaries, we worked with team members to build individualized compensation packages that aligned their needs with our financial situation. Some people were happy to forgo regular cash to receive compensation in a combo of crypto and equity, for example.No matter what, we worked hard to parlay people into parts of the business that utilized their skills while still contributing to our long-term success — helping to keep us growing and keep team morale strong.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytJun 7th, 2023

Buffett-Backed BYD Caught In The Chinese Government’s Stimulus

Key Points As the two largest economies collide in their quest to expand their political and economic powers, the United ... Read more Key Points Shares of BYD traded higher to start the month of June as the Chinese government announced its intentions to stimulate the economy after lackluster inflation data.  A brief comparison to a more prominent and established car manufacturer can lay the value foundation for investors to analyze.  The future growth potential in the company demonstrates has commanded higher P/E ratios, where markets expect superior profitability and growth rates to continue.  Among the many measures from the government, easing curbs in the car market and increasing car ownership quotas will indeed affect the stock price. 5 stocks we like better than NIO As the two largest economies collide in their quest to expand their political and economic powers, the United States and China are on an opposite schedule regarding the wind direction of their economies. While the United States has struggled to lower its inflation rate due to increased demand and productivity boosted by post-COVID economic stimulus and low-interest rates, China has been somewhat ‘asleep’ during the past two years. Now that the latest economic data points to China suffering from a 0.1% inflation rate, the government is beginning to boost these lackluster demand levels.  In the latest round of Chinese stimulus measures, the government aims to target a few sectors simultaneously. Companies like Alibaba Group (NYSE:BABA) surged on the news on June first, ending Thursday’s session with a nearly 9% rally. Other names like BYD (OTCMKTS:BYDDF) also experienced renewed investor optimism by advancing almost 6.5% to the end of the week. However, some investors may need to realize just how big of an impact these measures could have on the Chinese vehicle market, where BYD has been dominating as of late.  The Value Play Warren Buffett, the most notable value investor, saw a clear investment in BYD when he first invested $230 million in 2008. His stake is now worth approximately $8 billion dollars to deliver a mind-boggling rate of return. Recently, profits at BYD have tripled as the company took north of 30% of the overall market share in the Chinese electric vehicle market, showcasing just the type of business ‘moat’ Buffett looks for. Remember that BYD is still, at its very core, a car manufacturer and thus should be analyzed as one rather than apply value metrics deserving of a technology company. Comparing BYD to other, more significant, established car manufacturers worldwide will give investors a sense of what Buffett may have seen in BYD. Ford Motor (NYSE:F) could be the best benchmark car maker to compare BYD with financial and stock price performance. Sporting a 4.2% net income margin may be nothing to celebrate. However, this becomes important when investors realize BYD carries a nearly four times higher margin than Ford’s 1.75%. Since operations are virtually the same, as far as the manufacturing process goes, it would be helpful to compare the gross margins generated by the two entities now, as it can hint at some pricing power and material sourcing ability. Ford’s 10.7% gross margin is suitable for a dominating car company, though still far from BYD’s 17.7%.  Ford stock has outperformed BYD stock by 10% over the past twelve months. However, the valuation multiples slapped on the two tell a deeper story. BYD carries a 34.7x price-to-earnings multiple, while Ford stock is assigned a 17.2x multiple. Even though Ford stock outperformed BYD, the latter seems more expensive, but some would still present a different opinion.  Comparing the two valuation metrics, as far as the P/E ratio goes, gives investors a significant clue to figure out the value play. Ford stock has historically sold for 6.0x to 13.0x P/E ratios, making today’s 17.2x a seemingly higher range than usual. On the other hand, BYD has typically traded between 90.0x and 250.0x of its earnings, commanding significantly higher valuation metrics that can be attributed to the company’s underlying growth potential. Investors willing to pay a higher premium for the company’s current – and future – underlying earnings is also a significant vote of confidence.  Tailwinds Blowing The Chinese Ministry of Finance has laid out its consumption stimulus plan; investors should be aware of what this means specifically for the vehicle industry in that nation. To spike consumption trends once more, the Ministry has ordered local operators not to expand their curbs on vehicle sales, adding that those currently operating under curbs in place are to increase car ownership quotas gradually. While the details of these measures have not been released, it could be assumed that the typical arsenal will be deployed; tactics such as lowering the sales tax or providing tax credits on these vehicles could stimulate demand. It is estimated that 50% of the global electric vehicle market belongs to Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA). In contrast, the remaining half of the market is taken by Chinese brands, presumably a battle ground between BYD and luxury electric vehicle maker NIO (NYSE:NIO). Despite highly competitive forces in the scene, investors can lean on the fact that BYD will be sharing a sizable share of a growing pie, which is why investors and analysts place such high valuation multiples on the stock.  Should you invest $1,000 in NIO right now? Before you consider NIO, you’ll want to hear this. MarketBeat keeps track of Wall Street’s top-rated and best performing research analysts and the stocks they recommend to their clients on a daily basis. MarketBeat has identified the five stocks that top analysts are quietly whispering to their clients to buy now before the broader market catches on… and NIO wasn’t on the list. While NIO currently has a “Moderate Buy” rating among analysts, top-rated analysts believe these five stocks are better buys. 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Category: blogSource: valuewalkJun 6th, 2023