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Republican who attended Mike Lindell"s 2020 conspiracy conference stripped of authority to oversee elections

Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters allowed an unauthorized third-party to access to the state's voting machines as part of an effort to prove there was fraud. MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, speaks to reporters outside federal court in Washington, Thursday, June 24, 2021. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters spent weeks in hiding after attending Mike Lindell's conference. She is under investigation for allegedly allowing an outsider to access her county's voting equipment. Elections will now be overseen by former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican. A judge in Colorado on Wednesday issued an injunction that strips election authority from a local Republican official who allowed an unauthorized "consultant" to access voting machines - and then claimed to have found evidence of fraud at a conspiracy theory conference hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. Tina Peters, an ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, was elected to serve as Mesa County Clerk in 2018. The year following, her office admitted that it failed to count more than 500 ballots in a local election, leading Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, to require Peters' office to undergo remedial training.Following the 2020 election, Peters joined the former president's campaign to discredit his loss, despite President Joe Biden winning Colorado by a 13.5% margin. At Lindell's conference this summer, she claimed to present evidence that showed equipment from Dominion Voting Systems could be hacked to flip votes, despite the fact that equipment was never connected to the internet.It's what happened before attending that conference, however, that has led to Peters losing her authority to oversee elections in a case brought by the office of Colorado's Secretary of State. As detailed in the ruling from Mesa County District Court Judge Valerie J. Robison, Peters last March allowed an unauthorized consultant to access the county's voting machines, with one of her aides requesting that election department cameras be turned off for two weeks - long enough to allow that unauthorized third party to make a "forensic image" of the hard drive used by Dominion vote-tabulating equipment. That aide now faces criminal charges.Later, video of election staff and employees of Dominion Voting Systems performing a software update in Peters' office was leaked on social media, and with it the confidential passwords used to access voting machines. Mesa County's Republican-led Board of Commissioners elected, in August, to replace that equipment, which had been decertified following the unauthorized access.In her ruling, Robison said Peters and her aide had "neglected their duties by failing to take adequate precautions to protect confidential information, and committed wrongful acts by being untruthful." The decision comes after Peters spent weeks hiding in an undisclosed location provided by Lindell. She is currently under state and federal investigation.Mesa County's next election will be overseen by former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican appointed by Griswold's office.In a statement, Griswold praised Wednesday's decision, saying it would prevent peters from "further threatening the integrity of Mesa's elections."Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytOct 13th, 2021

A "source" Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell cited in "Antifa" vote-rigging claim said he was working with election officials to gain "access" to Dominion machines

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Insider she's "confident" the state's voting machines are secure. Sidney Powell, an attorney later disavowed by the Trump campaign, participates in a news conference with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. November 19, 2020. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters Right-wing activist Joe Oltmann claimed to be working with election clerks to "access" voting machines. In Mesa County, Colorado, one clerk is accused of granting unauthorized access to a Dominion machine. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said she's "confident" the state's elections are secure. Two days after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, a pro-Trump activist from Colorado was not giving up on the hunt for evidence that there was a conspiracy to steal the 2020 election. And he was going to prove it, he said, with a vast right-wing conspiracy of his own.In an email to Sidney Powell - a lawyer who helped the Trump campaign try to overturn the former president's November loss, work for which she has since been legally sanctioned - Joe Oltmann, a businessman who founded the activist group FEC United, wrote that it would be a "good idea to connect" to further discuss his claims about Eric Coomer, an employee at Dominion Voting Systems.At a November press conference alongside Rudy Giuliani, Powell said Coomer had been "recorded in a conversation with antifa members saying that he had the election rigged for Mr. Biden." "A vicious, vicious man," Giuliani added.Those comments were based on the testimony of Oltmann, who said that in September 2020 he had managed to infiltrate an "antifa" conference call with Coomer.Antifa is not an organization, however - it is a term for anti-fascist activists who embrace confrontational and sometimes violent tactics at street protests - nor was there any recording of such a conversation. Powell, Giuliani, and Oltmann have all been sued for defamation over the claim.But in his January 22 email to Powell, released as part of that defamation lawsuit, Oltmann said he was working on another project. "You also need to be aware of what we are doing in Colorado in gaining access to the Dominion systems under the radar," he wrote. "We have several county clerks cooperating. Need to settle down the chaos so you can get a grasp on all of the information."That assertion has raised eyebrows in the wake of one Colorado county clerk appearing to do just that. Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters is currently under investigation for allegedly granting unauthorized access to a Dominion voting machine. Source code from the machine was posted online by a QAnon conspiracy theorist and Peters herself traveled to an election-conspiracy conference hosted by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell where she boasted of having uncovered fraud in a state that President Biden won by a 13.5% margin. In an email sent January 22, 2021, Joe Oltmann told Sidney Powell he was working with county clerks in Colorado to gain "access" to Dominion voting machines. Insider The Colorado Times Recorder was the first to connect Oltmann's purported conspiracy with Peters. But Oltmann denied she was one of the clerks he was referencing. "I will come for you and the rest of your shill Antifa terrorists," he wrote in an email to the outlet.If Oltmann actually collaborated with anyone, he's not saying. He did not respond to a request for comment.Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, meanwhile, told Insider her office remains "confident" the state's voting machines are secure."Should there be an internal security breach like the one that occurred in Mesa County, Colorado has layers of preventative and detection security measures in place," she said.But that doesn't mean there is nothing to be concerned about. There is already a demonstrated interest on the part of some elections officials to use their office to perpetuate unfounded claims about fraud. And there is an effort underway to replace those who won't. "Insider threats are likely to spread as the Big Lie grows," Griswold said, "and states across the country should immediately take action to ensure they have sufficient security."Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 12th, 2021

How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits

Facebook's civic-integrity team, where whistle-blower Frances Haugen worked, pledged to put people ahead of profits. Facebook shut it down, but some former members are still honoring their promise. Facebook’s civic-integrity team was always different from all the other teams that the social media company employed to combat misinformation and hate speech. For starters, every team member subscribed to an informal oath, vowing to “serve the people’s interest first, not Facebook’s.” The “civic oath,” according to five former employees, charged team members to understand Facebook’s impact on the world, keep people safe and defuse angry polarization. Samidh Chakrabarti, the team’s leader, regularly referred to this oath—which has not been previously reported—as a set of guiding principles behind the team’s work, according to the sources. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Chakrabarti’s team was effective in fixing some of the problems endemic to the platform, former employees and Facebook itself have said. But, just a month after the 2020 U.S. election, Facebook dissolved the civic-integrity team, and Chakrabarti took a leave of absence. Facebook said employees were assigned to other teams to help share the group’s experience across the company. But for many of the Facebook employees who had worked on the team, including a veteran product manager from Iowa named Frances Haugen, the message was clear: Facebook no longer wanted to concentrate power in a team whose priority was to put people ahead of profits. Illustration by TIME (Source photo: Getty Images) Five weeks later, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol—after some of them organized on Facebook and used the platform to spread the lie that the election had been stolen. The civic-integrity team’s dissolution made it harder for the platform to respond effectively to Jan. 6, one former team member, who left Facebook this year, told TIME. “A lot of people left the company. The teams that did remain had significantly less power to implement change, and that loss of focus was a pretty big deal,” said the person. “Facebook did take its eye off the ball in dissolving the team, in terms of being able to actually respond to what happened on Jan. 6.” The former employee, along with several others TIME interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear that being named would ruin their career. Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesSamidh Chakrabarti, head of Facebook’s civic-integrity team, stands beside Katie Harbath, a Facebook director of public policy, in Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on Oct. 17, 2018.   Enter Frances Haugen Haugen revealed her identity on Oct. 3 as the whistle-blower behind the most significant leak of internal research in the company’s 17-year history. In a bombshell testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security two days later, Haugen said the civic-integrity team’s dissolution was the final event in a long series that convinced her of the need to blow the whistle. “I think the moment which I realized we needed to get help from the outside—that the only way these problems would be solved is by solving them together, not solving them alone—was when civic-integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election,” she said. “It really felt like a betrayal of the promises Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe, by basically dissolving our community.” Read more: The Facebook Whistleblower Revealed Herself on 60 Minutes. Here’s What You Need to Know In a statement provided to TIME, Facebook’s vice president for integrity Guy Rosen denied the civic-integrity team had been disbanded. “We did not disband Civic Integrity,” Rosen said. “We integrated it into a larger Central Integrity team so that the incredible work pioneered for elections could be applied even further, for example, across health-related issues. Their work continues to this day.” (Facebook did not make Rosen available for an interview for this story.) Impacts of Civic Technology Conference 2016The defining values of the civic-integrity team, as described in a 2016 presentation given by Samidh Chakrabarti and Winter Mason. Civic-integrity team members were expected to adhere to this list of values, which was referred to internally as the “civic oath”. Haugen left the company in May. Before she departed, she trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum for documents posted by integrity researchers about their work. Much of the research was not related to her job, but was accessible to all Facebook employees. What she found surprised her. Some of the documents detailed an internal study that found that Instagram, its photo-sharing app, made 32% of teen girls feel worse about their bodies. Others showed how a change to Facebook’s algorithm in 2018, touted as a way to increase “meaningful social interactions” on the platform, actually incentivized divisive posts and misinformation. They also revealed that Facebook spends almost all of its budget for keeping the platform safe only on English-language content. In September, the Wall Street Journal published a damning series of articles based on some of the documents that Haugen had leaked to the paper. Haugen also gave copies of the documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents, Haugen testified Oct. 5, “prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in spreading divisive and extreme messages.” She told Senators that the failings revealed by the documents were all linked by one deep, underlying truth about how the company operates. “This is not simply a matter of certain social media users being angry or unstable, or about one side being radicalized against the other; it is about Facebook choosing to grow at all costs, becoming an almost trillion-dollar company by buying its profits with our safety,” she said. Facebook’s focus on increasing user engagement, which ultimately drives ad revenue and staves off competition, she argued, may keep users coming back to the site day after day—but also systematically boosts content that is polarizing, misinformative and angry, and which can send users down dark rabbit holes of political extremism or, in the case of teen girls, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” Haugen said. (In 2020, the company reported $29 billion in net income—up 58% from a year earlier. This year, it briefly surpassed $1 trillion in total market value, though Haugen’s leaks have since knocked the company down to around $940 billion.) Asked if executives adhered to the same set of values as the civic-integrity team, including putting the public’s interests before Facebook’s, a company spokesperson told TIME it was “safe to say everyone at Facebook is committed to understanding our impact, keeping people safe and reducing polarization.” In the same week that an unrelated systems outage took Facebook’s services offline for hours and revealed just how much the world relies on the company’s suite of products—including WhatsApp and Instagram—the revelations sparked a new round of national soul-searching. It led some to question how one company can have such a profound impact on both democracy and the mental health of hundreds of millions of people. Haugen’s documents are the basis for at least eight new SEC investigations into the company for potentially misleading its investors. And they have prompted senior lawmakers from both parties to call for stringent new regulations. Read more: Here’s How to Fix Facebook, According to Former Employees and Leading Critics Haugen urged Congress to pass laws that would make Facebook and other social media platforms legally liable for decisions about how they choose to rank content in users’ feeds, and force companies to make their internal data available to independent researchers. She also urged lawmakers to find ways to loosen CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Facebook; he controls more than half of voting shares on its board, meaning he can veto any proposals for change from within. “I came forward at great personal risk because I believe we still have time to act,” Haugen told lawmakers. “But we must act now.” Potentially even more worryingly for Facebook, other experts it hired to keep the platform safe, now alienated by the company’s actions, are growing increasingly critical of their former employer. They experienced first hand Facebook’s unwillingness to change, and they know where the bodies are buried. Now, on the outside, some of them are still honoring their pledge to put the public’s interests ahead of Facebook’s. Inside Facebook’s civic-integrity team Chakrabarti, the head of the civic-integrity team, was hired by Facebook in 2015 from Google, where he had worked on improving how the search engine communicated information about lawmakers and elections to its users. A polymath described by one person who worked under him as a “Renaissance man,” Chakrabarti holds master’s degrees from MIT, Oxford and Cambridge, in artificial intelligence engineering, modern history and public policy, respectively, according to his LinkedIn profile. Although he was not in charge of Facebook’s company-wide “integrity” efforts (led by Rosen), Chakrabarti, who did not respond to requests to comment for this article, was widely seen by employees as the spiritual leader of the push to make sure the platform had a positive influence on democracy and user safety, according to multiple former employees. “He was a very inspirational figure to us, and he really embodied those values [enshrined in the civic oath] and took them quite seriously,” a former member of the team told TIME. “The team prioritized societal good over Facebook good. It was a team that really cared about the ways to address societal problems first and foremost. It was not a team that was dedicated to contributing to Facebook’s bottom line.” Chakrabarti began work on the team by questioning how Facebook could encourage people to be more engaged with their elected representatives on the platform, several of his former team members said. An early move was to suggest tweaks to Facebook’s “more pages you may like” feature that the team hoped might make users feel more like they could have an impact on politics. After the chaos of the 2016 election, which prompted Zuckerberg himself to admit that Facebook didn’t do enough to stop misinformation, the team evolved. It moved into Facebook’s wider “integrity” product group, which employs thousands of researchers and engineers to focus on fixing Facebook’s problems of misinformation, hate speech, foreign interference and harassment. It changed its name from “civic engagement” to “civic integrity,” and began tackling the platform’s most difficult problems head-on. Shortly before the midterm elections in 2018, Chakrabarti gave a talk at a conference in which he said he had “never been told to sacrifice people’s safety in order to chase a profit.” His team was hard at work making sure the midterm elections did not suffer the same failures as in 2016, in an effort that was generally seen as a success, both inside the company and externally. “To see the way that the company has mobilized to make this happen has made me feel very good about what we’re doing here,” Chakrabarti told reporters at the time. But behind closed doors, integrity employees on Chakrabarti’s team and others were increasingly getting into disagreements with Facebook leadership, former employees said. It was the beginning of the process that would eventually motivate Haugen to blow the whistle. Drew Angerer—Getty ImagesFormer Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate hearing entitled ‘Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower’ in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5, 2021. In 2019, the year Haugen joined the company, researchers on the civic-integrity team proposed ending the use of an approved list of thousands of political accounts that were exempt from Facebook’s fact-checking program, according to tech news site The Information. Their research had found that the exemptions worsened the site’s misinformation problem because users were more likely to believe false information if it were shared by a politician. But Facebook executives rejected the proposal. The pattern repeated time and time again, as proposals to tweak the platform to down-rank misinformation or abuse were rejected or watered down by executives concerned with engagement or worried that changes might disproportionately impact one political party more than another, according to multiple reports in the press and several former employees. One cynical joke among members of the civic-integrity team was that they spent 10% of their time coding and the other 90% arguing that the code they wrote should be allowed to run, one former employee told TIME. “You write code that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and then you had to argue with execs who didn’t want to think about integrity, had no training in it and were mad that you were hurting their product, so they shut you down,” the person said. Sometimes the civic-integrity team would also come into conflict with Facebook’s policy teams, which share the dual role of setting the rules of the platform while also lobbying politicians on Facebook’s behalf. “I found many times that there were tensions [in meetings] because the civic-integrity team was like, ‘We’re operating off this oath; this is our mission and our goal,’” says Katie Harbath, a long-serving public-policy director at the company’s Washington, D.C., office who quit in March 2021. “And then you get into decisionmaking meetings, and all of a sudden things are going another way, because the rest of the company and leadership are not basing their decisions off those principles.” Harbath admitted not always seeing eye to eye with Chakrabarti on matters of company policy, but praised his character. “Samidh is a man of integrity, to use the word,” she told TIME. “I personally saw times when he was like, ‘How can I run an integrity team if I’m not upholding integrity as a person?’” Do you work at Facebook or another social media platform? TIME would love to hear from you. You can reach out to billy.perrigo@time.com Years before the 2020 election, research by integrity teams had shown Facebook’s group recommendations feature was radicalizing users by driving them toward polarizing political groups, according to the Journal. The company declined integrity teams’ requests to turn off the feature, BuzzFeed News reported. Then, just weeks before the vote, Facebook executives changed their minds and agreed to freeze political group recommendations. The company also tweaked its News Feed to make it less likely that users would see content that algorithms flagged as potential misinformation, part of temporary emergency “break glass” measures designed by integrity teams in the run-up to the vote. “Facebook changed those safety defaults in the run-up to the election because they knew they were dangerous,” Haugen testified to Senators on Tuesday. But they didn’t keep those safety measures in place long, she added. “Because they wanted that growth back, they wanted the acceleration on the platform back after the election, they returned to their original defaults. And the fact that they had to break the glass on Jan. 6, and turn them back on, I think that’s deeply problematic.” In a statement, Facebook spokesperson Tom Reynolds rejected the idea that the company’s actions contributed to the events of Jan. 6. “In phasing in and then adjusting additional measures before, during and after the election, we took into account specific on-platforms signals and information from our ongoing, regular engagement with law enforcement,” he said. “When those signals changed, so did the measures. It is wrong to claim that these steps were the reason for Jan. 6—the measures we did need remained in place through February, and some like not recommending new, civic or political groups remain in place to this day. These were all part of a much longer and larger strategy to protect the election on our platform—and we are proud of that work.” Read more: 4 Big Takeaways From the Facebook Whistleblower Congressional Hearing Soon after the civic-integrity team was dissolved in December 2020, Chakrabarti took a leave of absence from Facebook. In August, he announced he was leaving for good. Other employees who had spent years working on platform-safety issues had begun leaving, too. In her testimony, Haugen said that several of her colleagues from civic integrity left Facebook in the same six-week period as her, after losing faith in the company’s pledge to spread their influence around the company. “Six months after the reorganization, we had clearly lost faith that those changes were coming,” she said. After Haugen’s Senate testimony, Facebook’s director of policy communications Lena Pietsch suggested that Haugen’s criticisms were invalid because she “worked at the company for less than two years, had no direct reports, never attended a decision-point meeting with C-level executives—and testified more than six times to not working on the subject matter in question.” On Twitter, Chakrabarti said he was not supportive of company leaks but spoke out in support of the points Haugen raised at the hearing. “I was there for over 6 years, had numerous direct reports, and led many decision meetings with C-level execs, and I find the perspectives shared on the need for algorithmic regulation, research transparency, and independent oversight to be entirely valid for debate,” he wrote. “The public deserves better.” Can Facebook’s latest moves protect the company? Two months after disbanding the civic-integrity team, Facebook announced a sharp directional shift: it would begin testing ways to reduce the amount of political content in users’ News Feeds altogether. In August, the company said early testing of such a change among a small percentage of U.S. users was successful, and that it would expand the tests to several other countries. Facebook declined to provide TIME with further information about how its proposed down-ranking system for political content would work. Many former employees who worked on integrity issues at the company are skeptical of the idea. “You’re saying that you’re going to define for people what political content is, and what it isn’t,” James Barnes, a former product manager on the civic-integrity team, said in an interview. “I cannot even begin to imagine all of the downstream consequences that nobody understands from doing that.” Another former civic-integrity team member said that the amount of work required to design algorithms that could detect any political content in all the languages and countries in the world—and keeping those algorithms updated to accurately map the shifting tides of political debate—would be a task that even Facebook does not have the resources to achieve fairly and equitably. Attempting to do so would almost certainly result in some content deemed political being demoted while other posts thrived, the former employee cautioned. It could also incentivize certain groups to try to game those algorithms by talking about politics in nonpolitical language, creating an arms race for engagement that would privilege the actors with enough resources to work out how to win, the same person added. Graeme Jennings—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesMark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, speaks via video conference during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on, July 29, 2020. When Zuckerberg was hauled to testify in front of lawmakers after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018, Senators were roundly mocked on social media for asking basic questions such as how Facebook makes money if its services are free to users. (“Senator, we run ads” was Zuckerberg’s reply.) In 2021, that dynamic has changed. “The questions asked are a lot more informed,” says Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook employee who was fired in 2020 after she criticized Facebook for turning a blind eye to platform manipulation by political actors around the world. “The sentiment is increasingly bipartisan” in Congress, Zhang adds. In the past, Facebook hearings have been used by lawmakers to grandstand on polarizing subjects like whether social media platforms are censoring conservatives, but this week they were united in their condemnation of the company. “Facebook has to stop covering up what it knows, and must change its practices, but there has to be government accountability because Facebook can no longer be trusted,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, told TIME ahead of the hearing. His Republican counterpart Marsha Blackburn agreed, saying during the hearing that regulation was coming “sooner rather than later” and that lawmakers were “close to bipartisan agreement.” As Facebook reels from the revelations of the past few days, it already appears to be reassessing product decisions. It has begun conducting reputational reviews of new products to assess whether the company could be criticized or its features could negatively affect children, the Journal reported Wednesday. It last week paused its Instagram Kids product amid the furor. Whatever the future direction of Facebook, it is clear that discontent has been brewing internally. Haugen’s document leak and testimony have already sparked calls for stricter regulation and improved the quality of public debate about social media’s influence. In a post addressing Facebook staff on Wednesday, Zuckerberg put the onus on lawmakers to update Internet regulations, particularly relating to “elections, harmful content, privacy and competition.” But the real drivers of change may be current and former employees, who have a better understanding of the inner workings of the company than anyone—and the most potential to damage the business. —With reporting by Eloise Barry/London and Chad de Guzman/Hong Kong.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 7th, 2021

El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip

Will the country's adoption of the digital currency help its people, or just its president? When Roman Martinez was growing up in El Zonte, a small coastal village in El Salvador, the American Dream loomed large. Beyond the local fishing industry, which Martinez’s parents worked in, there weren’t a lot of opportunities. “Young people just wanted to leave, to go to the U.S.,” he says. “But now we have a Salvadoran dream.” It’s a dream about Bitcoin. Two years ago an anonymous American donor sent more than $100,000 in the decentralized digital currency, or cryptocurrency, to an NGO that Martinez works for in El Zonte to pay for social programs. As the team began encouraging families and businesses to use Bitcoin, many of the town’s residents, most of whom had never had a bank account, began saving their money in the currency, making gains as its value surged. Curious tourists flooded into the town and foreign businesses set up shop. The project gave El Zonte the nickname “Bitcoin beach,” simultaneously a philanthropic endeavour and one of the world’s largest experiments in cryptocurrency. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “People with little income, who didn’t have access to a financial system, with $5 worth of Bitcoin they can start building something that can be the legacy they leave to their children,” Martinez says, over video call, wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with Bitcoin’s orange logo. It was partly El Zonte’s experiment that inspired El Salvador last month to become the first country in the world to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender—alongside the U.S. dollar, which El Salvador has used as its currency since 2001. The Bitcoin law, which came into force on Sept. 7, makes taxes payable in Bitcoin, obliges all businesses to accept it, and paves the way for the government to disburse subsidies in it. The government has built a network of 200 Bitcoin ATMs and a digital Bitcoin wallet app, called Chivo, through which it has distributed $30 worth of Bitcoin to every Salvadoran citizen in a bid to kickstart the Bitcoin economy. Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele claims 2.1 million Salvadorans have used Chivo so far, in a country of 6 million people. Bukele is touting Bitcoin as a way for Salvadorans to reduce the fees they pay to send and receive remittances—which make up 22% of El Salvador’s GDP, mostly from the U.S.—and as a way for the 70% of Salvadorans who are unbanked to access financial services. He’s not alone in advocating for cryptocurrencies as a way for developing economies to bypass a global financial system in which access to services and investment are geared towards the world’s richer countries and individuals. Crypto has achieved its highest penetration mostly in countries where banking systems are costly and complicated to use, or where local economies and currencies are unstable. But critics say making Bitcoin—notoriously volatile and not subject to controls by any central bank—into legal tender is an unjustifiable gamble for El Salvador’s already ailing economy. The $200 million of taxpayer money congress has devoted to the project equates to 2.7% of the government’s total budget for 2021, or almost three times the agriculture ministry’s budget for the year. The uncertainty introduced by the Bitcoin policy has sent the price of government bonds tumbling, and halted negotiations for a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that the country is seeking to plug a $1.5 billion hole in its public finances. ‘The coolest dictator in the world’ For the President, a 40 year-old with the casual wardrobe and cheeky communication style of a tech entrepreneur, Bitcoin is about more than its immediate economic impact, though. It’s a chance to rebrand El Salvador, from a country known primarily for gang violence and a sluggish economy that drives emigration to the U.S., to an independent, modern crypto pioneer. For young Salvadorans like Martinez, that means creating a Salvadoran dream. For the international community, it’s a rebuke to a world order that casts El Salvador as the backyard to the U.S.—which Bukele has increasingly railed against since taking power in 2019. Instead, he casts El Salvador as an independent hub of innovation, aligned with the anti-establishment crypto community, members of which have flooded and celebrated the country in recent months and will return for a large crypto conference in November. Envisioning the transformation he witnessed in El Zonte taking place across the country, Martinez is excited—despite doubts among the wider population. “We’re used to new things happening in the U.S. or Canada or Europe,” Martinez says. “Now we’ve changed the narrative about El Salvador and started moving forward. Michael Nagle—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesNayib Bukele, El Salvador’s president, speaks in a prerecorded video during the United Nations General Assembly via live stream in New York on Sept. 23, 2021. But there’s another narrative unfolding in El Salvador. Since Bukele’s party, New Ideas, won a landslide victory at parliamentary elections in February, he has moved rapidly to undermine the structures of El Salvador’s democracy. In May, parliament voted to replace opposition-linked judges on the supreme court with Bukele allies, bringing all levers of power under his control. In September—a few days before the Bitcoin launch—the same court ruled that Bukele can run for a second term in 2024, in defiance of El Salvador’s constitution, triggering sanctions from the U.S. He has also stepped up attacks on the media, including launching criminal investigations into news organizations and kicking critical journalists out of the country. Analysts say the Bitcoin experiment is part of Bukele’s proto-strongman trajectory. “He’s fallen in love with his own power and wants to nurture this cool millennial President image through this adventure into the Bitcoin world,” says Tiziano Breda, a Central America analyst at the International Crisis Group, a think tank. It’s working for him, largely. The Bitcoin law has sparked the first major protests of his presidency, with 8,000 people marching in San Salvador on Sept. 15— a significant number of people in a country where street protest is unusual. But the President’s approval ratings still stand above 85%. With that backing, Bukele is deeply dismissive of global concern about his leadership. On Sept 18, he changed his bio on Twitter to “Dictator of El Salvador,” clearly trolling the international press. Then, a couple of days later he changed it again, to “The coolest dictator in the world.” El Salvador’s rapid transformation On the night that Bitcoin launched in El Salvador, Nelson Rauda, a reporter for independent newspaper El Faro, went to a party. At a sleek hotel bar next to an infinity pool overlooking the pacific ocean in the department of La Libertad, crypto enthusiasts and internet celebrities from the U.S., including YouTuber Logan Paul, danced and let off fireworks to celebrate a major moment for the cryptocurrency. Some wore headdresses and carried orange signs featuring Bitcoin’s white B logo. Almost everyone was speaking English. ”The scenery, and the location was a beach in El Salvador, but it could have been anywhere else in the world,” Rauda says. “[The crypto community] want to portray themselves as bringing a future and development to El Salvador through Bitcoin— a kind of white saviorism in that sense. But most of them are not interested in the country, just business.” Bukele’s government welcomes their business. The President claims that if 1% of the world’s Bitcoin were invested in El Salvador, it would raise GDP by 25%. He has offered permanent residency to anyone who spends three Bitcoin (currently around $125,000). He has also highlighted the fact that, since Bitcoin is legal tender, rather than an investment asset, foreigners who move to El Salvador will not have to pay capital gains tax in the country on any profits made if the cryptocurrency’s value increases. To that he adds, in English, “Great weather, world class surfing beaches, beach front properties for sale” as reasons that crypto entrepreneurs should move to El Salvador. This pragmatic, salesman-like tone is something that Salvadorans appear to appreciate from their President. Though he served as mayor of the capital, San Salvador until 2018, Bukele ran for the presidency in 2019 as a political outsider. He used his direct link with millions of followers on social media to pit himself against the right and leftwing parties that had ruled the country since its civil war in the 1980s. That conflict, in which the U.S. played a decisive role by funding opponents of leftist rebels, sowed the seeds of many of El Salvador’s current problems: chronically low economic growth, weak institutions vulnerable to corruption, the world’s worst rates of gang violence and one of the lowest rates of direct foreign investment in Central America. Bukele argued, convincingly, that the postwar governments had failed to meaningfully address those woes over three decades. Since taking office, Bukele has projected an image of ruthless efficiency. In February 2020, he and a group of armed soldiers stormed into parliament in order to pressure lawmakers to pass his budget plan. He has slashed rates of gang violence, with the country’s homicide rate falling from 51 per 100,000 in 2018 to 19 per 100,000 in 2020 (Experts debate whether this is a result of Bukele’s security policy, gang trends independent of him, or a secretive quid pro quo deal he may have struck with gang leaders). He adopted a hardline response to COVID-19, ordering one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns and giving security forces the right to put any rule-breakers in detention centers, a move human rights watchdogs say led to violent repression. The unprecedented popularity Bukele has enjoyed has allowed him to move faster than Latin America observers expected to take anti-democratic steps, such as intervening in the judiciary, Breda says. “For many other sort of authoritarian governments in the region, it took [many] years to do the things that Bukele has done in such a sweeping way. The pace is definitely surprising.” Marvin Recinos—AFP/Getty ImagesIlluminated drones form figures inspired by the Bitcoin logo in El Sunzal Beach, El Salvador, on Sept. 7, 2021. ‘Bitcoin is costing the country dearly’ Those who are most sceptical of Bukele—conservative economists—see his Bitcoin law as new packaging for an old move for populist authoritarian leaders in Latin America. The policy was labelled a “Bitcoin scam” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “They’re always trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat,” says Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at the John Hopkins University and director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. “They say: ‘We’ve had all these financial problems because of all these irresponsible leaders we’ve had in the past. And now here I am riding a white horse and I’ve got some new gimmick that’s going to solve it all. It’s called Bitcoin.’” Hanke helped advise the Salvadoran government on the country’s dollarization, when it adopted the U.S. dollar as its sole currency in 2001. From 1993 the Salvadoran colón had been pegged to the U.S. dollar on a fixed exchange rate, in a successful effort to keep previously rampant inflation under control. After eight years, the government opted to fully replace the colón with the dollar. That made the economy more stable and lowered the cost of borrowing, but limited Salvadoran governments’ freedom to spend money, particularly in times of financial crisis. Hanke and others have speculated that the Bitcoin move is a first step towards scrapping dollarization altogether and issuing a national digital currency. That would both enable looser public spending, and reduce the impact of U.S. sanctions. But for local economists, the immediate concern is how Bitcoin could complicate El Salvador’s path out of a deep pandemic recession. “Public finances in El Salvador are on a knife edge. Public debt stands at close to 90% of GDP and the government needs to find almost $1.5 billion to close the year and pay its obligations,” says Alvaro Trigueros Arguello, director of economic studies at FUSADES, a San Salvador-based development thinktank. Though El Salvador’s economy is growing—with the Central Bank saying Sept. 29 that GDP is on course to surge by 9% this year—Trigueros Arguello says this is mostly due to a temporary factors, including the reopening of businesses after COVID-19 restrictions and a surge in remittances after the disbursement of pandemic aid packages in the U.S. The Bitcoin rollout has complicated El Salvador’s relationship with the IMF, from which it is seeking a $1 billion assistance package. In June the fund denied a request by El Salvador to assist in its Bitcoin rollout. It cited the lack of transparency in cryptocurrencies, arguing that the difficulty of tracing who makes Bitcoin transactions has facilitated criminal activity elsewhere, as well as environmental concerns about widening the use of Btcoin, which requires vasts amount of energy to produce. Fears over the cryptocurrency’s impact on El Salvador’s macroeconomic stability have stalled negotiations between El Salvador and the IMF, Trigueros Arguello says. “The government needs international credit and because of Bitcoin, it’s not getting it,” Trigueros Arguello says. “Bitcoin is costing the country dearly.” Camilo Freedman—Bloomberg/Getty ImagesDemonstrators hold signs during a protest against President Bukele and Bitcoin in San Salvador on Sept. 15, 2021. The backdrop to El Salvador’s experiment hasn’t undermined the excitement for those who want crypto currencies to be more widely used. Bitcoin Twitter has filled with tweets celebrating how easy it is for Salvadorans to use the currency in places like Starbucks, and praising Bukele’s foresight. “I’m totally excited about what’s happening in El Salvador. [Particularly] the fact that it’s happening in Latin America,” says Cristóbal Pereira, CEO of Blockchain Summit LatAm, a regional conference covering the blockchain technology that underlies Bitcoin, which will host events at El Salvador’s own Bitcoin conference in November. “If people end up using it widely, there’s a good chance other countries and people will end up using it more too.” It’s too early to tell if the buzz will be matched by the significant investments Bukele is hoping for. Analysts say businesses will likely wait and see how the bitcoin rollout affects El Salvador’s economic stability before striking any major deals. Mike Petersen, an American who moved to El Zonte in 2005 and helped found the Bitcoin beach, says he’s received a “a huge flood of [enquiries from] businesses that want to set up shop here, because, for the first time they are realizing, hey, Salvador is a forward looking country.” Those include companies in the Bitcoin space, such as exchanges and ATM networks, but also real estate developers, manufacturing companies and “some lighting and architectural companies that are now outsourcing, hiring architectural students here to do design and and put together bids for them. Because they can pay them in Bitcoin.” Peterson says he doubts that concern about the political situation in El Salvador will have any impact on investors. “Elite media circles are the ones that are more focused on that. I think, in the business climate, people are more pragmatic and practical about things. And they see that Bukele is extremely popular.” What’s not necessarily popular, so far, is Bitcoin. Bukele claims that a third of Salvadorans are actively using Chivo, but it is unclear how many are only using the app to access the initial $30 gift from the government. Media outlets in El Salvador reported long queues for the ATMs, where most people were converting their Bitcoin to take dollars home with them. In the first week of the rollout, one of the country’s largest banks told The Financial Times that the cryptocurrency accounted for fewer than 0.0001 % of its daily transactions. Rauda, the El Faro reporter, says he knows “no one” who’s using Bitcoin on a regular basis. Teething troubles The government gave itself just three months after parliament approved its Bitcoin law in June to introduce the currency, leading to a series of technical issues with the Chivo wallet app. Crypto bloggers reported cash taking days to show up in their Chivo accounts after being transferred by other users, bugs making the app unusable, and an initial inability to transfer any sum below $5. Bukele, who took to Twitter throughout the launch to offer emoji-laden tech support messages, claimed most of the technical problems were resolved within a few days. The bumpy rollout helped trigger a 10% fall in the value of Bitcoin against the day it became legal tender, and further falls since. On Sept. 20 Bukele said his government had “bought the dip” and acquired 150 more coins, bringing the country’s total holding to 700 (around $22 million). Chaotic rollouts of new government programs are not unique to El Salvador. But some in the Bitcoin community have concerns about the structure of the country’s experiment, beyond the initial hiccups. Marc Falzon, a New Jersey-based Bitcoin YouTuber who visited San Salvador to document the rollout, says he became concerned about Salvadoran taxpayers footing the bill despite opposition to the policy, and about Article 6 of the Bitcoin law, which says that all economic actors in the country must accept Bitcoin if they have the technical capacity to do so. “Forcing people to accept a decentralized currency from a centralized authority ebbs away at the legitimacy of not just Bitcoin, but cryptocurrency in general,” he says. Supporters of the project point out that Salvadorans don’t have to keep their money in Bitcoin if they don’t want to, with the government guaranteeing their ability to transfer them into U.S. dollars via its national development bank and a range of services allowing businesses to make that transfer automatically. But Falzon says that the positive image of EL Salvador’s rollout generated by Bitcoin influencers on Instagram and Twitter didn’t reflect what he saw. In a health store near his hotel, for example, the shopkeeper said she couldn’t afford to restock because so many Bitcoin payments made by customers had simply never shown up in her Chivo app account. “For people in the Bitcoin and crypto community, El Salvador is a ‘told you so moment,’ proof that this isn’t just a fad. And I think that in that enthusiasm, we can lose sight of both the bigger picture—in how future countries may start to follow suit—and also of the individual experiences of the people that are in these countries.” Some individuals are happy though. Martinez, the community activist who grew up in El Zonte, says the town’s experience suggests hesitancy to use Bitcoin—and opposition to the Bitcoin law—will fade as Salvadorans become more used to the technology, and become widespread within a few years. He’s not concerned, he says, by how Bitcoin may play into Bukele’s larger political project. “As an NGO, we’re apolitical. We support anything that can make a better El Salvador. And I think we’re walking towards a better future.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 1st, 2021

Arizona Senate Hears Of Multiple Inconsistencies Found By Election Audit

Arizona Senate Hears Of Multiple Inconsistencies Found By Election Audit Authored by Jack Phillips and Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), Arizona lawmakers were told on Friday during a hearing on an audit conducted in the state’s most populous county of inconsistencies uncovered during a forensic audit into the 2020 election. The Arizona state Senate discusses the Maricopa County audit results during a hearing in Phoenix, Ariz., on Sept. 24, 2021. (Allan Stein/Epoch Times) The Maricopa County audit was commissioned by Republicans in the Arizona Senate. Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, issued a letter on the same day to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich recommending further investigation following the audit’s findings. In the letter, she raised concerns over signature verification on mail-in ballots, the accuracy of voter rolls, the securing of election systems, and the record-keeping of evidence related to the elections. “I am therefore forwarding the reports for your office’s consideration and, if you find it appropriate, further investigation as part of your ongoing oversight of these issues,” Fann told Brnovich in the letter. Brnovich, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, said in a statement, “I will take all necessary actions that are supported by the evidence and where I have legal authority. Arizonans deserve to have their votes accurately counted and protected.” His office said that its Election Integrity Unit “will thoroughly review the Senate’s information and evidence.” Specific allegations cannot be commented on until the review is complete, the office added. Fann said Friday at the hearing that the audit had faced unnecessary obstruction from Maricopa County officials, who went to court in a bid to try to block the audit and subpoenas from the state Senate. While the forensic audit did not uncover a significant difference in the total vote tallies—the difference was only hundreds in the final report— evidence was uncovered of numerous other anomalies, including statutes being broken and chain of custody not being followed, Fann added. Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based company hired by the state Senate to conduct the audit, said its review involved over 1,500 people and a total of over 100,000 hours. While the company said it only found in the recount a vote discrepancy of 994 in the presidential race and 1,167 in a U.S. Senate race, the report highlighted potential issues with a combined total of 53,305 ballots. Maricopa County on Friday issued a series of statements on its Twitter page in response to findings laid out in a purported draft audit report of Cyber Ninja’s forensic audit that had been released ahead of the Senate audit hearing. The draft audit report’s figures did not entirely correlate with that of Cyber Ninja’s final report. Fann said Friday at the hearing, “As you know somebody leaked one of the draft reports out over the last 24-48 hours. It was a draft report, so I can tell you that what’s in that is not entirely what’s in the final report.” However, some key allegations in the draft report regarding ballots did match that of the final report. Arizona Senate President Karen Fann talks to reporters in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 26, 2020. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo) 23,344 Mail-In Ballots Voted From Prior Address According to the Cyber Ninjas’ final report, 23,344 mail-in ballots were received from voters’ previous addresses. “Mail-in ballots were cast under voter registration IDs for people that may not have received their ballots by mail because they had moved, and no one with the same last name remained at the address. Through extensive data analysis we have discovered approximately 23,344 votes that may have this condition,” the report states. Cyber Ninjas noted in its report that if ballots are sent by forwardable mail, this would violate the Arizona Elections Procedures Manual. “The Senate should consider referring this matter to the Attorney General’s Office for a criminal investigation as to whether the requirements of ARS 16-452(C) have been violated,” the company stated in the report. Maricopa County refuted the allegation on Friday, saying, “Mail-in ballots are not forwarded to another address.” It also asserted that voting from a previous address “is legal under federal election law,” such as in the case of American military and overseas voters. The county also said it had 20,933 one-time temporary address requests for the 2020 general election. Ballots from the 2020 general election wait to be counted at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 1, 2021. (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images) 9,041 More Ballots Returned by Voter Than Received Cyber Ninjas found that 9,041 more ballots were returned by voters than were sent to them. According to the report, “9,041 more ballots show as returned in the EV33 Early Voting Returns File for a single individual who voted by mail than show as sent to that individual within the EV32 Early Voting Sent File.” “In most of these instances, an individual was sent one ballot but had two ballots received on different dates.” Auditors later noted they were told that some of the discrepancies “could be due to the protected voter list,” but were not able to validate that. Maricopa County released a statement to similar effect on Friday. The county disputed the finding on Twitter, saying the majority of times when there are multiple entries in the EV33 file are when voters “returned a ballot without a signature or with a signature discrepancy,” and in such cases, election staff contact the voter. In this screenshot from video, ballots are moved from the Arizona State Fairgrounds to a truck for transport to Maricopa County, in Phoenix, Ariz., on July 29, 2021. (Pool via AP) Cyber Ninjas: Voters Potentially Voted in Multiple Counties Cyber Ninjas noted that some 5,295 ballots were affected by voters who potentially voted in multiple counties. The company said that it had compared Maricopa County’s list of all its voters who cast a ballot in the election (also referred to as the VM55 Final Voted File) to the equivalent files of the other 14 Arizona counties, to find a total of 5,047 voters with the same first, middle, last name, and birth year, representing some 10,342 votes among all the counties. “The Ballot Impacted was calculated by the total number of votes (10,342) and subtracting the number of maximum number of potential unique people (5,047). This yielded 5,295,” the report said. Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are examined and recounted by contractors working for Florida-based company, Cyber Ninjas, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 6, 2021. (Matt York/Pool/AP Photo) Separately, the company found that the number of ballots tallied in the official Maricopa results were 3,432 more than the total number of people who voted. “The official result totals do not match the equivalent totals from the Final Voted File (VM55),” Cyber Ninjas said (P12). Cyber Ninjas said the finding is significant because “the number of individuals who showed up to vote should always match the number of votes cast.” The company recommended that legislation “that would require the Official Canvass to fully reconcile with the Final Voted File” should be considered. Cyber Ninjas said in another finding that there were 2,592 more duplicate ballots than original ballots sent to duplication—a process for replacing damaged or improperly marked ballots with a new ballot that preserves the voter’s intent. “This is probably one of the more interesting parts … that we had more duplicates than original ballots,” Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan said in his presentation on Friday. “According to our counts from our audit, we had 26,965 original ballots and we had 29,557 that were duplicate ballots, and those numbers should be the same. “Based on the numbers received from Maricopa county, we should have had 27,869 of both originals and duplicates and they should have matched up perfectly,” he added. Other findings of the ballots impacted included 2,382 in-person voters who had moved out of Maricopa County, and 2,081 voters who moved out of state during the 29-day period preceding the election. Responding to the findings, the county said it had completed separate spot checks and found “no discrepancies” for either of the figures. Cyber Ninjas also reported that there were 1,551 votes counted in excess of voters who voted, as well as a slew of other categories of findings that affected a smaller number of ballots, such as 397 mail-in ballots sent without there being a record of them having been sent, 393 ballots that had incomplete names, 282 votes cast by individuals who “were flagged as deceased,” and 198 votes cast by individuals who registered to vote after the Oct. 15 deadline, among other smaller categories. Maricopa County ballots cast in the 2020 general election are audited at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., on April 29, 2021. (Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic via AP/Pool) 17,322 Duplicates of Early Voting Ballot Return Envelopes Shiva Ayyadurai, who was commissioned by the Senate to “check the signatures or lack thereof” on the early voting ballot (EVB) return envelopes, said during Friday’s presentation that the audit “reveals anomalies raising questions on the verifiability of the signature verification process.” Ayyadurai said that his team was hired only to verify whether the envelopes contained a signature—not whether the actual signature matched that of the voter in question. Of the 1,929,242 return envelopes provided by the Senate, 17,322 duplicates were found, with some voters having cast the same ballot three to four times, according to Ayyadurai’s report (pdf). He noted that Maricopa county’s canvass report, meanwhile, did not report any duplicates.  In response to duplicated ballot allegations, Maricopa County wrote Friday, “Re: duplicated ballots. Every time a voter has a questioned signature or a blank envelope, we work with that voter to cure the signature. That’s our staff doing their job to contact voters with questioned signatures or blank ballots. Only one ballot is counted.” Among other several key findings, Ayyadurai noted that over 25 percent of the duplicate ballots were received between Nov. 4 and Nov. 9, 2020. Workers examine ballots cast in Maricopa County in the 2020 election during an audit at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 6, 2021. (Matt York/AP Photo) Allegations of Deletions Auditors stated in their report that “according to the Master File Table (MFT) of the drives, a large number of files on the Election Management System (EMS) Server and HiPro Scanner machines were deleted.” “These files would have aided in our review and analysis of the election systems as part of the audit,” the report reads. “The deletion of these files significantly slowed down much of the analysis.” Maricopa denied the allegation in a Twitter post on Friday, saying, “Maricopa County strongly denies claims that @maricopavote staff intentionally deleted data.” The county also said it has “backups for all Nov. data & those archives were never subpoenaed.” While auditors finished part of the audit that deals with the ballots, they say an evaluation of voting machine equipment is ongoing. “Because the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the Arizona Senate have recently settled their dispute concerning outstanding subpoena items, this portion of the audit is not yet complete,” the Cyber Ninjas’ report states. Response to Findings Jack Sellers, Chair of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement in response to the Senate audit hearing, “The Cyber Ninjas’ opinions come from a misuse and misunderstanding of the data provided by the county and are twisted to fit the narrative that something went wrong.” “Once again, these ‘auditors’ threw out wild, damaging, false claims in the middle of their audit and Senate leadership provided them the platform to present their opinions, suspicions, and faulty conclusions unquestioned and unchallenged. Today’s hearing was irresponsible and dangerous.” Arizona Democrats, meanwhile, pounced on the auditors’ report. “The Cyber Ninjas embarrassed Arizona for months, violated voters’ trust, refused transparency, and stuck AZ taxpayers with a multi-million dollar bill. What’d they find? Biden won,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who has frequently criticized the audit and is trying to become Arizona’s next governor, wrote on Twitter. “The so-called leaders who allowed and encouraged this need to be held accountable in 2022.” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at a news conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on Jan. 7, 2020. . (Bob Christie/AP Photo) But Fann has long said that the goal of the audit was to improve Arizona’s election system and wasn’t designed to overturn the results. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure those laws are followed,” Fann said during Friday’s hearing, adding that there are “a lot of people” with questions about the state’s election integrity. Citing a poll, Fann said that 45 percent of Arizona’s voters had significant distrust in the election system. Ahead of the official release of the report on Friday afternoon by the state Senate, Trump said the audit uncovered “significant and undeniable” fraud in the 2020 presidential election. “The audit has uncovered significant and undeniable evidence of fraud!” he said in an emailed statement. “I have heard it is far different than that being reported by the fake news media.” Trump added, “Until we know how and why this happened, our elections will never be secure. This is a major criminal event and should be investigated by the Attorney General immediately.” Arizona was one of several key swing states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, and Wisconsin, that were certified for Biden during the Nov. 3 election. Trump won those states, with the exception of Nevada, in 2016. According to official results, Biden won Arizona over Trump by a margin of just over 10,000 votes. Maricopa County hasn’t responded to The Epoch Times’s request for comment. Tyler Durden Mon, 09/27/2021 - 21:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 27th, 2021

"Damn You To Hell, You Will Not Destroy America" - Here Is The "Spartacus COVID Letter" That"s Gone Viral

"Damn You To Hell, You Will Not Destroy America" - Here Is The 'Spartacus COVID Letter' That's Gone Viral Via The Automatic Earth blog, This is an anonymously posted document by someone who calls themselves Spartacus. Because it’s anonymous, I can’t contact them to ask for permission to publish. So I hesitated for a while, but it’s simply the best document I’ve seen on Covid, vaccines, etc. Whoever Spartacus is, they have a very elaborate knowledge in “the field”. If you want to know a lot more about the no. 1 issue in the world today, read it. And don’t worry if you don’t understand every single word, neither do I. But I learned a lot. The original PDF doc is here: Covid19 – The Spartacus Letter Hello, My name is Spartacus, and I’ve had enough. We have been forced to watch America and the Free World spin into inexorable decline due to a biowarfare attack. We, along with countless others, have been victimized and gaslit by propaganda and psychological warfare operations being conducted by an unelected, unaccountable Elite against the American people and our allies. Our mental and physical health have suffered immensely over the course of the past year and a half. We have felt the sting of isolation, lockdown, masking, quarantines, and other completely nonsensical acts of healthcare theater that have done absolutely nothing to protect the health or wellbeing of the public from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we are watching the medical establishment inject literal poison into millions of our fellow Americans without so much as a fight. We have been told that we will be fired and denied our livelihoods if we refuse to vaccinate. This was the last straw. We have spent thousands of hours analyzing leaked footage from Wuhan, scientific papers from primary sources, as well as the paper trails left by the medical establishment. What we have discovered would shock anyone to their core. First, we will summarize our findings, and then, we will explain them in detail. References will be placed at the end. Summary: COVID-19 is a blood and blood vessel disease. SARS-CoV-2 infects the lining of human blood vessels, causing them to leak into the lungs. Current treatment protocols (e.g. invasive ventilation) are actively harmful to patients, accelerating oxidative stress and causing severe VILI (ventilator-induced lung injuries). The continued use of ventilators in the absence of any proven medical benefit constitutes mass murder. Existing countermeasures are inadequate to slow the spread of what is an aerosolized and potentially wastewater-borne virus, and constitute a form of medical theater. Various non-vaccine interventions have been suppressed by both the media and the medical establishment in favor of vaccines and expensive patented drugs. The authorities have denied the usefulness of natural immunity against COVID-19, despite the fact that natural immunity confers protection against all of the virus’s proteins, and not just one. Vaccines will do more harm than good. The antigen that these vaccines are based on, SARS-CoV- 2 Spike, is a toxic protein. SARS-CoV-2 may have ADE, or antibody-dependent enhancement; current antibodies may not neutralize future strains, but instead help them infect immune cells. Also, vaccinating during a pandemic with a leaky vaccine removes the evolutionary pressure for a virus to become less lethal. There is a vast and appalling criminal conspiracy that directly links both Anthony Fauci and Moderna to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. COVID-19 vaccine researchers are directly linked to scientists involved in brain-computer interface (“neural lace”) tech, one of whom was indicted for taking grant money from China. Independent researchers have discovered mysterious nanoparticles inside the vaccines that are not supposed to be present. The entire pandemic is being used as an excuse for a vast political and economic transformation of Western society that will enrich the already rich and turn the rest of us into serfs and untouchables. COVID-19 Pathophysiology and Treatments: COVID-19 is not a viral pneumonia. It is a viral vascular endotheliitis and attacks the lining of blood vessels, particularly the small pulmonary alveolar capillaries, leading to endothelial cell activation and sloughing, coagulopathy, sepsis, pulmonary edema, and ARDS-like symptoms. This is a disease of the blood and blood vessels. The circulatory system. Any pneumonia that it causes is secondary to that. In severe cases, this leads to sepsis, blood clots, and multiple organ failure, including hypoxic and inflammatory damage to various vital organs, such as the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and intestines. Some of the most common laboratory findings in COVID-19 are elevated D-dimer, elevated prothrombin time, elevated C-reactive protein, neutrophilia, lymphopenia, hypocalcemia, and hyperferritinemia, essentially matching a profile of coagulopathy and immune system hyperactivation/immune cell exhaustion. COVID-19 can present as almost anything, due to the wide tropism of SARS-CoV-2 for various tissues in the body’s vital organs. While its most common initial presentation is respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms, it can present as brain inflammation, gastrointestinal disease, or even heart attack or pulmonary embolism. COVID-19 is more severe in those with specific comorbidities, such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. This is because these conditions involve endothelial dysfunction, which renders the circulatory system more susceptible to infection and injury by this particular virus. The vast majority of COVID-19 cases are mild and do not cause significant disease. In known cases, there is something known as the 80/20 rule, where 80% of cases are mild and 20% are severe or critical. However, this ratio is only correct for known cases, not all infections. The number of actual infections is much, much higher. Consequently, the mortality and morbidity rate is lower. However, COVID-19 spreads very quickly, meaning that there are a significant number of severely-ill and critically-ill patients appearing in a short time frame. In those who have critical COVID-19-induced sepsis, hypoxia, coagulopathy, and ARDS, the most common treatments are intubation, injected corticosteroids, and blood thinners. This is not the correct treatment for COVID-19. In severe hypoxia, cellular metabolic shifts cause ATP to break down into hypoxanthine, which, upon the reintroduction of oxygen, causes xanthine oxidase to produce tons of highly damaging radicals that attack tissue. This is called ischemia-reperfusion injury, and it’s why the majority of people who go on a ventilator are dying. In the mitochondria, succinate buildup due to sepsis does the same exact thing; when oxygen is reintroduced, it makes superoxide radicals. Make no mistake, intubation will kill people who have COVID-19. The end-stage of COVID-19 is severe lipid peroxidation, where fats in the body start to “rust” due to damage by oxidative stress. This drives autoimmunity. Oxidized lipids appear as foreign objects to the immune system, which recognizes and forms antibodies against OSEs, or oxidation-specific epitopes. Also, oxidized lipids feed directly into pattern recognition receptors, triggering even more inflammation and summoning even more cells of the innate immune system that release even more destructive enzymes. This is similar to the pathophysiology of Lupus. COVID-19’s pathology is dominated by extreme oxidative stress and neutrophil respiratory burst, to the point where hemoglobin becomes incapable of carrying oxygen due to heme iron being stripped out of heme by hypochlorous acid. No amount of supplemental oxygen can oxygenate blood that chemically refuses to bind O2. The breakdown of the pathology is as follows: SARS-CoV-2 Spike binds to ACE2. Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 is an enzyme that is part of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, or RAAS. The RAAS is a hormone control system that moderates fluid volume in the body and in the bloodstream (i.e. osmolarity) by controlling salt retention and excretion. This protein, ACE2, is ubiquitous in every part of the body that interfaces with the circulatory system, particularly in vascular endothelial cells and pericytes, brain astrocytes, renal tubules and podocytes, pancreatic islet cells, bile duct and intestinal epithelial cells, and the seminiferous ducts of the testis, all of which SARS-CoV-2 can infect, not just the lungs. SARS-CoV-2 infects a cell as follows: SARS-CoV-2 Spike undergoes a conformational change where the S1 trimers flip up and extend, locking onto ACE2 bound to the surface of a cell. TMPRSS2, or transmembrane protease serine 2, comes along and cuts off the heads of the Spike, exposing the S2 stalk-shaped subunit inside. The remainder of the Spike undergoes a conformational change that causes it to unfold like an extension ladder, embedding itself in the cell membrane. Then, it folds back upon itself, pulling the viral membrane and the cell membrane together. The two membranes fuse, with the virus’s proteins migrating out onto the surface of the cell. The SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid enters the cell, disgorging its genetic material and beginning the viral replication process, hijacking the cell’s own structures to produce more virus. SARS-CoV-2 Spike proteins embedded in a cell can actually cause human cells to fuse together, forming syncytia/MGCs (multinuclear giant cells). They also have other pathogenic, harmful effects. SARS-CoV- 2’s viroporins, such as its Envelope protein, act as calcium ion channels, introducing calcium into infected cells. The virus suppresses the natural interferon response, resulting in delayed inflammation. SARS-CoV-2 N protein can also directly activate the NLRP3 inflammasome. Also, it suppresses the Nrf2 antioxidant pathway. The suppression of ACE2 by binding with Spike causes a buildup of bradykinin that would otherwise be broken down by ACE2. This constant calcium influx into the cells results in (or is accompanied by) noticeable hypocalcemia, or low blood calcium, especially in people with Vitamin D deficiencies and pre-existing endothelial dysfunction. Bradykinin upregulates cAMP, cGMP, COX, and Phospholipase C activity. This results in prostaglandin release and vastly increased intracellular calcium signaling, which promotes highly aggressive ROS release and ATP depletion. NADPH oxidase releases superoxide into the extracellular space. Superoxide radicals react with nitric oxide to form peroxynitrite. Peroxynitrite reacts with the tetrahydrobiopterin cofactor needed by endothelial nitric oxide synthase, destroying it and “uncoupling” the enzymes, causing nitric oxide synthase to synthesize more superoxide instead. This proceeds in a positive feedback loop until nitric oxide bioavailability in the circulatory system is depleted. Dissolved nitric oxide gas produced constantly by eNOS serves many important functions, but it is also antiviral against SARS-like coronaviruses, preventing the palmitoylation of the viral Spike protein and making it harder for it to bind to host receptors. The loss of NO allows the virus to begin replicating with impunity in the body. Those with endothelial dysfunction (i.e. hypertension, diabetes, obesity, old age, African-American race) have redox equilibrium issues to begin with, giving the virus an advantage. Due to the extreme cytokine release triggered by these processes, the body summons a great deal of neutrophils and monocyte-derived alveolar macrophages to the lungs. Cells of the innate immune system are the first-line defenders against pathogens. They work by engulfing invaders and trying to attack them with enzymes that produce powerful oxidants, like SOD and MPO. Superoxide dismutase takes superoxide and makes hydrogen peroxide, and myeloperoxidase takes hydrogen peroxide and chlorine ions and makes hypochlorous acid, which is many, many times more reactive than sodium hypochlorite bleach. Neutrophils have a nasty trick. They can also eject these enzymes into the extracellular space, where they will continuously spit out peroxide and bleach into the bloodstream. This is called neutrophil extracellular trap formation, or, when it becomes pathogenic and counterproductive, NETosis. In severe and critical COVID-19, there is actually rather severe NETosis. Hypochlorous acid building up in the bloodstream begins to bleach the iron out of heme and compete for O2 binding sites. Red blood cells lose the ability to transport oxygen, causing the sufferer to turn blue in the face. Unliganded iron, hydrogen peroxide, and superoxide in the bloodstream undergo the Haber- Weiss and Fenton reactions, producing extremely reactive hydroxyl radicals that violently strip electrons from surrounding fats and DNA, oxidizing them severely. This condition is not unknown to medical science. The actual name for all of this is acute sepsis. We know this is happening in COVID-19 because people who have died of the disease have noticeable ferroptosis signatures in their tissues, as well as various other oxidative stress markers such as nitrotyrosine, 4-HNE, and malondialdehyde. When you intubate someone with this condition, you are setting off a free radical bomb by supplying the cells with O2. It’s a catch-22, because we need oxygen to make Adenosine Triphosphate (that is, to live), but O2 is also the precursor of all these damaging radicals that lead to lipid peroxidation. The correct treatment for severe COVID-19 related sepsis is non-invasive ventilation, steroids, and antioxidant infusions. Most of the drugs repurposed for COVID-19 that show any benefit whatsoever in rescuing critically-ill COVID-19 patients are antioxidants. N-acetylcysteine, melatonin, fluvoxamine, budesonide, famotidine, cimetidine, and ranitidine are all antioxidants. Indomethacin prevents iron- driven oxidation of arachidonic acid to isoprostanes. There are powerful antioxidants such as apocynin that have not even been tested on COVID-19 patients yet which could defang neutrophils, prevent lipid peroxidation, restore endothelial health, and restore oxygenation to the tissues. Scientists who know anything about pulmonary neutrophilia, ARDS, and redox biology have known or surmised much of this since March 2020. In April 2020, Swiss scientists confirmed that COVID-19 was a vascular endotheliitis. By late 2020, experts had already concluded that COVID-19 causes a form of viral sepsis. They also know that sepsis can be effectively treated with antioxidants. None of this information is particularly new, and yet, for the most part, it has not been acted upon. Doctors continue to use damaging intubation techniques with high PEEP settings despite high lung compliance and poor oxygenation, killing an untold number of critically ill patients with medical malpractice. Because of the way they are constructed, Randomized Control Trials will never show any benefit for any antiviral against COVID-19. Not Remdesivir, not Kaletra, not HCQ, and not Ivermectin. The reason for this is simple; for the patients that they have recruited for these studies, such as Oxford’s ludicrous RECOVERY study, the intervention is too late to have any positive effect. The clinical course of COVID-19 is such that by the time most people seek medical attention for hypoxia, their viral load has already tapered off to almost nothing. If someone is about 10 days post-exposure and has already been symptomatic for five days, there is hardly any virus left in their bodies, only cellular damage and derangement that has initiated a hyperinflammatory response. It is from this group that the clinical trials for antivirals have recruited, pretty much exclusively. In these trials, they give antivirals to severely ill patients who have no virus in their bodies, only a delayed hyperinflammatory response, and then absurdly claim that antivirals have no utility in treating or preventing COVID-19. These clinical trials do not recruit people who are pre-symptomatic. They do not test pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis. This is like using a defibrillator to shock only flatline, and then absurdly claiming that defibrillators have no medical utility whatsoever when the patients refuse to rise from the dead. The intervention is too late. These trials for antivirals show systematic, egregious selection bias. They are providing a treatment that is futile to the specific cohort they are enrolling. India went against the instructions of the WHO and mandated the prophylactic usage of Ivermectin. They have almost completely eradicated COVID-19. The Indian Bar Association of Mumbai has brought criminal charges against WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan for recommending against the use of Ivermectin. Ivermectin is not “horse dewormer”. Yes, it is sold in veterinary paste form as a dewormer for animals. It has also been available in pill form for humans for decades, as an antiparasitic drug. The media have disingenuously claimed that because Ivermectin is an antiparasitic drug, it has no utility as an antivirus. This is incorrect. Ivermectin has utility as an antiviral. It blocks importin, preventing nuclear import, effectively inhibiting viral access to cell nuclei. Many drugs currently on the market have multiple modes of action. Ivermectin is one such drug. It is both antiparasitic and antiviral. In Bangladesh, Ivermectin costs $1.80 for an entire 5-day course. Remdesivir, which is toxic to the liver, costs $3,120 for a 5-day course of the drug. Billions of dollars of utterly useless Remdesivir were sold to our governments on the taxpayer’s dime, and it ended up being totally useless for treating hyperinflammatory COVID-19. The media has hardly even covered this at all. The opposition to the use of generic Ivermectin is not based in science. It is purely financially and politically-motivated. An effective non-vaccine intervention would jeopardize the rushed FDA approval of patented vaccines and medicines for which the pharmaceutical industry stands to rake in billions upon billions of dollars in sales on an ongoing basis. The majority of the public are scientifically illiterate and cannot grasp what any of this even means, thanks to a pathetic educational system that has miseducated them. You would be lucky to find 1 in 100 people who have even the faintest clue what any of this actually means. COVID-19 Transmission: COVID-19 is airborne. The WHO carried water for China by claiming that the virus was only droplet- borne. Our own CDC absurdly claimed that it was mostly transmitted by fomite-to-face contact, which, given its rapid spread from Wuhan to the rest of the world, would have been physically impossible. The ridiculous belief in fomite-to-face being a primary mode of transmission led to the use of surface disinfection protocols that wasted time, energy, productivity, and disinfectant. The 6-foot guidelines are absolutely useless. The minimum safe distance to protect oneself from an aerosolized virus is to be 15+ feet away from an infected person, no closer. Realistically, no public transit is safe. Surgical masks do not protect you from aerosols. The virus is too small and the filter media has too large of gaps to filter it out. They may catch respiratory droplets and keep the virus from being expelled by someone who is sick, but they do not filter a cloud of infectious aerosols if someone were to walk into said cloud. The minimum level of protection against this virus is quite literally a P100 respirator, a PAPR/CAPR, or a 40mm NATO CBRN respirator, ideally paired with a full-body tyvek or tychem suit, gloves, and booties, with all the holes and gaps taped. Live SARS-CoV-2 may potentially be detected in sewage outflows, and there may be oral-fecal transmission. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, in the Amoy Gardens incident, hundreds of people were infected by aerosolized fecal matter rising from floor drains in their apartments. COVID-19 Vaccine Dangers: The vaccines for COVID-19 are not sterilizing and do not prevent infection or transmission. They are “leaky” vaccines. This means they remove the evolutionary pressure on the virus to become less lethal. It also means that the vaccinated are perfect carriers. In other words, those who are vaccinated are a threat to the unvaccinated, not the other way around. All of the COVID-19 vaccines currently in use have undergone minimal testing, with highly accelerated clinical trials. Though they appear to limit severe illness, the long-term safety profile of these vaccines remains unknown. Some of these so-called “vaccines” utilize an untested new technology that has never been used in vaccines before. Traditional vaccines use weakened or killed virus to stimulate an immune response. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines do not. They are purported to consist of an intramuscular shot containing a suspension of lipid nanoparticles filled with messenger RNA. The way they generate an immune response is by fusing with cells in a vaccine recipient’s shoulder, undergoing endocytosis, releasing their mRNA cargo into those cells, and then utilizing the ribosomes in those cells to synthesize modified SARS-CoV-2 Spike proteins in-situ. These modified Spike proteins then migrate to the surface of the cell, where they are anchored in place by a transmembrane domain. The adaptive immune system detects the non-human viral protein being expressed by these cells, and then forms antibodies against that protein. This is purported to confer protection against the virus, by training the adaptive immune system to recognize and produce antibodies against the Spike on the actual virus. The J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines do something similar, but use an adenovirus vector for genetic material delivery instead of a lipid nanoparticle. These vaccines were produced or validated with the aid of fetal cell lines HEK-293 and PER.C6, which people with certain religious convictions may object strongly to. SARS-CoV-2 Spike is a highly pathogenic protein on its own. It is impossible to overstate the danger presented by introducing this protein into the human body. It is claimed by vaccine manufacturers that the vaccine remains in cells in the shoulder, and that SARS- CoV-2 Spike produced and expressed by these cells from the vaccine’s genetic material is harmless and inert, thanks to the insertion of prolines in the Spike sequence to stabilize it in the prefusion conformation, preventing the Spike from becoming active and fusing with other cells. However, a pharmacokinetic study from Japan showed that the lipid nanoparticles and mRNA from the Pfizer vaccine did not stay in the shoulder, and in fact bioaccumulated in many different organs, including the reproductive organs and adrenal glands, meaning that modified Spike is being expressed quite literally all over the place. These lipid nanoparticles may trigger anaphylaxis in an unlucky few, but far more concerning is the unregulated expression of Spike in various somatic cell lines far from the injection site and the unknown consequences of that. Messenger RNA is normally consumed right after it is produced in the body, being translated into a protein by a ribosome. COVID-19 vaccine mRNA is produced outside the body, long before a ribosome translates it. In the meantime, it could accumulate damage if inadequately preserved. When a ribosome attempts to translate a damaged strand of mRNA, it can become stalled. When this happens, the ribosome becomes useless for translating proteins because it now has a piece of mRNA stuck in it, like a lace card in an old punch card reader. The whole thing has to be cleaned up and new ribosomes synthesized to replace it. In cells with low ribosome turnover, like nerve cells, this can lead to reduced protein synthesis, cytopathic effects, and neuropathies. Certain proteins, including SARS-CoV-2 Spike, have proteolytic cleavage sites that are basically like little dotted lines that say “cut here”, which attract a living organism’s own proteases (essentially, molecular scissors) to cut them. There is a possibility that S1 may be proteolytically cleaved from S2, causing active S1 to float away into the bloodstream while leaving the S2 “stalk” embedded in the membrane of the cell that expressed the protein. SARS-CoV-2 Spike has a Superantigenic region (SAg), which may promote extreme inflammation. Anti-Spike antibodies were found in one study to function as autoantibodies and attack the body’s own cells. Those who have been immunized with COVID-19 vaccines have developed blood clots, myocarditis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, Bell’s Palsy, and multiple sclerosis flares, indicating that the vaccine promotes autoimmune reactions against healthy tissue. SARS-CoV-2 Spike does not only bind to ACE2. It was suspected to have regions that bind to basigin, integrins, neuropilin-1, and bacterial lipopolysaccharides as well. SARS-CoV-2 Spike, on its own, can potentially bind any of these things and act as a ligand for them, triggering unspecified and likely highly inflammatory cellular activity. SARS-CoV-2 Spike contains an unusual PRRA insert that forms a furin cleavage site. Furin is a ubiquitous human protease, making this an ideal property for the Spike to have, giving it a high degree of cell tropism. No wild-type SARS-like coronaviruses related to SARS-CoV-2 possess this feature, making it highly suspicious, and perhaps a sign of human tampering. SARS-CoV-2 Spike has a prion-like domain that enhances its infectiousness. The Spike S1 RBD may bind to heparin-binding proteins and promote amyloid aggregation. In humans, this could lead to Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Dementia, premature Alzheimer’s, or various other neurodegenerative diseases. This is very concerning because SARS-CoV-2 S1 is capable of injuring and penetrating the blood-brain barrier and entering the brain. It is also capable of increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier to other molecules. SARS-CoV-2, like other betacoronaviruses, may have Dengue-like ADE, or antibody-dependent enhancement of disease. For those who aren’t aware, some viruses, including betacoronaviruses, have a feature called ADE. There is also something called Original Antigenic Sin, which is the observation that the body prefers to produce antibodies based on previously-encountered strains of a virus over newly- encountered ones. In ADE, antibodies from a previous infection become non-neutralizing due to mutations in the virus’s proteins. These non-neutralizing antibodies then act as trojan horses, allowing live, active virus to be pulled into macrophages through their Fc receptor pathways, allowing the virus to infect immune cells that it would not have been able to infect before. This has been known to happen with Dengue Fever; when someone gets sick with Dengue, recovers, and then contracts a different strain, they can get very, very ill. If someone is vaccinated with mRNA based on the Spike from the initial Wuhan strain of SARS-CoV-2, and then they become infected with a future, mutated strain of the virus, they may become severely ill. In other words, it is possible for vaccines to sensitize someone to disease. There is a precedent for this in recent history. Sanofi’s Dengvaxia vaccine for Dengue failed because it caused immune sensitization in people whose immune systems were Dengue-naive. In mice immunized against SARS-CoV and challenged with the virus, a close relative of SARS-CoV-2, they developed immune sensitization, Th2 immunopathology, and eosinophil infiltration in their lungs. We have been told that SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines cannot be integrated into the human genome, because messenger RNA cannot be turned back into DNA. This is false. There are elements in human cells called LINE-1 retrotransposons, which can indeed integrate mRNA into a human genome by endogenous reverse transcription. Because the mRNA used in the vaccines is stabilized, it hangs around in cells longer, increasing the chances for this to happen. If the gene for SARS-CoV-2 Spike is integrated into a portion of the genome that is not silent and actually expresses a protein, it is possible that people who take this vaccine may continuously express SARS-CoV-2 Spike from their somatic cells for the rest of their lives. By inoculating people with a vaccine that causes their bodies to produce Spike in-situ, they are being inoculated with a pathogenic protein. A toxin that may cause long-term inflammation, heart problems, and a raised risk of cancers. In the long-term, it may also potentially lead to premature neurodegenerative disease. Absolutely nobody should be compelled to take this vaccine under any circumstances, and in actual fact, the vaccination campaign must be stopped immediately. COVID-19 Criminal Conspiracy: The vaccine and the virus were made by the same people. In 2014, there was a moratorium on SARS gain-of-function research that lasted until 2017. This research was not halted. Instead, it was outsourced, with the federal grants being laundered through NGOs. Ralph Baric is a virologist and SARS expert at UNC Chapel Hill in North Carolina. This is who Anthony Fauci was referring to when he insisted, before Congress, that if any gain-of-function research was being conducted, it was being conducted in North Carolina. This was a lie. Anthony Fauci lied before Congress. A felony. Ralph Baric and Shi Zhengli are colleagues and have co-written papers together. Ralph Baric mentored Shi Zhengli in his gain-of-function manipulation techniques, particularly serial passage, which results in a virus that appears as if it originated naturally. In other words, deniable bioweapons. Serial passage in humanized hACE2 mice may have produced something like SARS-CoV-2. The funding for the gain-of-function research being conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology came from Peter Daszak. Peter Daszak runs an NGO called EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth Alliance received millions of dollars in grant money from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (that is, Anthony Fauci), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (part of the US Department of Defense), and the United States Agency for International Development. NIH/NIAID contributed a few million dollars, and DTRA and USAID each contributed tens of millions of dollars towards this research. Altogether, it was over a hundred million dollars. EcoHealth Alliance subcontracted these grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a lab in China with a very questionable safety record and poorly trained staff, so that they could conduct gain-of-function research, not in their fancy P4 lab, but in a level-2 lab where technicians wore nothing more sophisticated than perhaps a hairnet, latex gloves, and a surgical mask, instead of the bubble suits used when working with dangerous viruses. Chinese scientists in Wuhan reported being routinely bitten and urinated on by laboratory animals. Why anyone would outsource this dangerous and delicate work to the People’s Republic of China, a country infamous for industrial accidents and massive explosions that have claimed hundreds of lives, is completely beyond me, unless the aim was to start a pandemic on purpose. In November of 2019, three technicians at the Wuhan Institute of Virology developed symptoms consistent with a flu-like illness. Anthony Fauci, Peter Daszak, and Ralph Baric knew at once what had happened, because back channels exist between this laboratory and our scientists and officials. December 12th, 2019, Ralph Baric signed a Material Transfer Agreement (essentially, an NDA) to receive Coronavirus mRNA vaccine-related materials co-owned by Moderna and NIH. It wasn’t until a whole month later, on January 11th, 2020, that China allegedly sent us the sequence to what would become known as SARS-CoV-2. Moderna claims, rather absurdly, that they developed a working vaccine from this sequence in under 48 hours. Stephane Bancel, the current CEO of Moderna, was formerly the CEO of bioMerieux, a French multinational corporation specializing in medical diagnostic tech, founded by one Alain Merieux. Alain Merieux was one of the individuals who was instrumental in the construction of the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s P4 lab. The sequence given as the closest relative to SARS-CoV-2, RaTG13, is not a real virus. It is a forgery. It was made by entering a gene sequence by hand into a database, to create a cover story for the existence of SARS-CoV-2, which is very likely a gain-of-function chimera produced at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and was either leaked by accident or intentionally released. The animal reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 has never been found. This is not a conspiracy “theory”. It is an actual criminal conspiracy, in which people connected to the development of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 are directly connected to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and their gain-of-function research by very few degrees of separation, if any. The paper trail is well- established. The lab-leak theory has been suppressed because pulling that thread leads one to inevitably conclude that there is enough circumstantial evidence to link Moderna, the NIH, the WIV, and both the vaccine and the virus’s creation together. In a sane country, this would have immediately led to the world’s biggest RICO and mass murder case. Anthony Fauci, Peter Daszak, Ralph Baric, Shi Zhengli, and Stephane Bancel, and their accomplices, would have been indicted and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Instead, billions of our tax dollars were awarded to the perpetrators. The FBI raided Allure Medical in Shelby Township north of Detroit for billing insurance for “fraudulent COVID-19 cures”. The treatment they were using? Intravenous Vitamin C. An antioxidant. Which, as described above, is an entirely valid treatment for COVID-19-induced sepsis, and indeed, is now part of the MATH+ protocol advanced by Dr. Paul E. Marik. The FDA banned ranitidine (Zantac) due to supposed NDMA (N-nitrosodimethylamine) contamination. Ranitidine is not only an H2 blocker used as antacid, but also has a powerful antioxidant effect, scavenging hydroxyl radicals. This gives it utility in treating COVID-19. The FDA also attempted to take N-acetylcysteine, a harmless amino acid supplement and antioxidant, off the shelves, compelling Amazon to remove it from their online storefront. This leaves us with a chilling question: did the FDA knowingly suppress antioxidants useful for treating COVID-19 sepsis as part of a criminal conspiracy against the American public? The establishment is cooperating with, and facilitating, the worst criminals in human history, and are actively suppressing non-vaccine treatments and therapies in order to compel us to inject these criminals’ products into our bodies. This is absolutely unacceptable. COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Links to Transhumanism: This section deals with some more speculative aspects of the pandemic and the medical and scientific establishment’s reaction to it, as well as the disturbing links between scientists involved in vaccine research and scientists whose work involved merging nanotechnology with living cells. On June 9th, 2020, Charles Lieber, a Harvard nanotechnology researcher with decades of experience, was indicted by the DOJ for fraud. Charles Lieber received millions of dollars in grant money from the US Department of Defense, specifically the military think tanks DARPA, AFOSR, and ONR, as well as NIH and MITRE. His specialty is the use of silicon nanowires in lieu of patch clamp electrodes to monitor and modulate intracellular activity, something he has been working on at Harvard for the past twenty years. He was claimed to have been working on silicon nanowire batteries in China, but none of his colleagues can recall him ever having worked on battery technology in his life; all of his research deals with bionanotechnology, or the blending of nanotech with living cells. The indictment was over his collaboration with the Wuhan University of Technology. He had double- dipped, against the terms of his DOD grants, and taken money from the PRC’s Thousand Talents plan, a program which the Chinese government uses to bribe Western scientists into sharing proprietary R&D information that can be exploited by the PLA for strategic advantage. Charles Lieber’s own papers describe the use of silicon nanowires for brain-computer interfaces, or “neural lace” technology. His papers describe how neurons can endocytose whole silicon nanowires or parts of them, monitoring and even modulating neuronal activity. Charles Lieber was a colleague of Robert Langer. Together, along with Daniel S. Kohane, they worked on a paper describing artificial tissue scaffolds that could be implanted in a human heart to monitor its activity remotely. Robert Langer, an MIT alumnus and expert in nanotech drug delivery, is one of the co-founders of Moderna. His net worth is now $5.1 billion USD thanks to Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine sales. Both Charles Lieber and Robert Langer’s bibliographies describe, essentially, techniques for human enhancement, i.e. transhumanism. Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum and the architect behind the so-called “Great Reset”, has long spoken of the “blending of biology and machinery” in his books. Since these revelations, it has come to the attention of independent researchers that the COVID-19 vaccines may contain reduced graphene oxide nanoparticles. Japanese researchers have also found unexplained contaminants in COVID-19 vaccines. Graphene oxide is an anxiolytic. It has been shown to reduce the anxiety of laboratory mice when injected into their brains. Indeed, given SARS-CoV-2 Spike’s propensity to compromise the blood-brain barrier and increase its permeability, it is the perfect protein for preparing brain tissue for extravasation of nanoparticles from the bloodstream and into the brain. Graphene is also highly conductive and, in some circumstances, paramagnetic. In 2013, under the Obama administration, DARPA launched the BRAIN Initiative; BRAIN is an acronym for Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies®. This program involves the development of brain-computer interface technologies for the military, particularly non-invasive, injectable systems that cause minimal damage to brain tissue when removed. Supposedly, this technology would be used for healing wounded soldiers with traumatic brain injuries, the direct brain control of prosthetic limbs, and even new abilities such as controlling drones with one’s mind. Various methods have been proposed for achieving this, including optogenetics, magnetogenetics, ultrasound, implanted electrodes, and transcranial electromagnetic stimulation. In all instances, the goal is to obtain read or read-write capability over neurons, either by stimulating and probing them, or by rendering them especially sensitive to stimulation and probing. However, the notion of the widespread use of BCI technology, such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink device, raises many concerns over privacy and personal autonomy. Reading from neurons is problematic enough on its own. Wireless brain-computer interfaces may interact with current or future wireless GSM infrastructure, creating neurological data security concerns. A hacker or other malicious actor may compromise such networks to obtain people’s brain data, and then exploit it for nefarious purposes. However, a device capable of writing to human neurons, not just reading from them, presents another, even more serious set of ethical concerns. A BCI that is capable of altering the contents of one’s mind for innocuous purposes, such as projecting a heads-up display onto their brain’s visual center or sending audio into one’s auditory cortex, would also theoretically be capable of altering mood and personality, or perhaps even subjugating someone’s very will, rendering them utterly obedient to authority. This technology would be a tyrant’s wet dream. Imagine soldiers who would shoot their own countrymen without hesitation, or helpless serfs who are satisfied to live in literal dog kennels. BCIs could be used to unscrupulously alter perceptions of basic things such as emotions and values, changing people’s thresholds of satiety, happiness, anger, disgust, and so forth. This is not inconsequential. Someone’s entire regime of behaviors could be altered by a BCI, including such things as suppressing their appetite or desire for virtually anything on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Anything is possible when you have direct access to someone’s brain and its contents. Someone who is obese could be made to feel disgust at the sight of food. Someone who is involuntarily celibate could have their libido disabled so they don’t even desire sex to begin with. Someone who is racist could be forced to feel delight over cohabiting with people of other races. Someone who is violent could be forced to be meek and submissive. These things might sound good to you if you are a tyrant, but to normal people, the idea of personal autonomy being overridden to such a degree is appalling. For the wealthy, neural laces would be an unequaled boon, giving them the opportunity to enhance their intelligence with neuroprosthetics (i.e. an “exocortex”), and to deliver irresistible commands directly into the minds of their BCI-augmented servants, even physically or sexually abusive commands that they would normally refuse. If the vaccine is a method to surreptitiously introduce an injectable BCI into millions of people without their knowledge or consent, then what we are witnessing is the rise of a tyrannical regime unlike anything ever seen before on the face of this planet, one that fully intends to strip every man, woman, and child of our free will. Our flaws are what make us human. A utopia arrived at by removing people’s free will is not a utopia at all. It is a monomaniacal nightmare. Furthermore, the people who rule over us are Dark Triad types who cannot be trusted with such power. Imagine being beaten and sexually assaulted by a wealthy and powerful psychopath and being forced to smile and laugh over it because your neural lace gives you no choice but to obey your master. The Elites are forging ahead with this technology without giving people any room to question the social or ethical ramifications, or to establish regulatory frameworks that ensure that our personal agency and autonomy will not be overridden by these devices. They do this because they secretly dream of a future where they can treat you worse than an animal and you cannot even fight back. If this evil plan is allowed to continue, it will spell the end of humanity as we know it. Conclusions: The current pandemic was produced and perpetuated by the establishment, through the use of a virus engineered in a PLA-connected Chinese biowarfare laboratory, with the aid of American taxpayer dollars and French expertise. This research was conducted under the absolutely ridiculous euphemism of “gain-of-function” research, which is supposedly carried out in order to determine which viruses have the highest potential for zoonotic spillover and preemptively vaccinate or guard against them. Gain-of-function/gain-of-threat research, a.k.a. “Dual-Use Research of Concern”, or DURC, is bioweapon research by another, friendlier-sounding name, simply to avoid the taboo of calling it what it actually is. It has always been bioweapon research. The people who are conducting this research fully understand that they are taking wild pathogens that are not infectious in humans and making them more infectious, often taking grants from military think tanks encouraging them to do so. These virologists conducting this type of research are enemies of their fellow man, like pyromaniac firefighters. GOF research has never protected anyone from any pandemic. In fact, it has now started one, meaning its utility for preventing pandemics is actually negative. It should have been banned globally, and the lunatics performing it should have been put in straitjackets long ago. Either through a leak or an intentional release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a deadly SARS strain is now endemic across the globe, after the WHO and CDC and public officials first downplayed the risks, and then intentionally incited a panic and lockdowns that jeopardized people’s health and their livelihoods. This was then used by the utterly depraved and psychopathic aristocratic class who rule over us as an excuse to coerce people into accepting an injected poison which may be a depopulation agent, a mind control/pacification agent in the form of injectable “smart dust”, or both in one. They believe they can get away with this by weaponizing the social stigma of vaccine refusal. They are incorrect. Their motives are clear and obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. These megalomaniacs have raided the pension funds of the free world. Wall Street is insolvent and has had an ongoing liquidity crisis since the end of 2019. The aim now is to exert total, full-spectrum physical, mental, and financial control over humanity before we realize just how badly we’ve been extorted by these maniacs. The pandemic and its response served multiple purposes for the Elite: Concealing a depression brought on by the usurious plunder of our economies conducted by rentier-capitalists and absentee owners who produce absolutely nothing of any value to society whatsoever. Instead of us having a very predictable Occupy Wall Street Part II, the Elites and their stooges got to stand up on television and paint themselves as wise and all-powerful saviors instead of the marauding cabal of despicable land pirates that they are. Destroying small businesses and eroding the middle class. Transferring trillions of dollars of wealth from the American public and into the pockets of billionaires and special interests. Engaging in insider trading, buying stock in biotech companies and shorting brick-and-mortar businesses and travel companies, with the aim of collapsing face-to-face commerce and tourism and replacing it with e-commerce and servitization. Creating a casus belli for war with China, encouraging us to attack them, wasting American lives and treasure and driving us to the brink of nuclear armageddon. Establishing technological and biosecurity frameworks for population control and technocratic- socialist “smart cities” where everyone’s movements are despotically tracked, all in anticipation of widespread automation, joblessness, and food shortages, by using the false guise of a vaccine to compel cooperation. Any one of these things would constitute a vicious rape of Western society. Taken together, they beggar belief; they are a complete inversion of our most treasured values. What is the purpose of all of this? One can only speculate as to the perpetrators’ motives, however, we have some theories. The Elites are trying to pull up the ladder, erase upward mobility for large segments of the population, cull political opponents and other “undesirables”, and put the remainder of humanity on a tight leash, rationing our access to certain goods and services that they have deemed “high-impact”, such as automobile use, tourism, meat consumption, and so on. Naturally, they will continue to have their own luxuries, as part of a strict caste system akin to feudalism. Why are they doing this? Simple. The Elites are Neo-Malthusians and believe that we are overpopulated and that resource depletion will collapse civilization in a matter of a few short decades. They are not necessarily incorrect in this belief. We are overpopulated, and we are consuming too many resources. However, orchestrating such a gruesome and murderous power grab in response to a looming crisis demonstrates that they have nothing but the utmost contempt for their fellow man. To those who are participating in this disgusting farce without any understanding of what they are doing, we have one word for you. Stop. You are causing irreparable harm to your country and to your fellow citizens. To those who may be reading this warning and have full knowledge and understanding of what they are doing and how it will unjustly harm millions of innocent people, we have a few more words. Damn you to hell. You will not destroy America and the Free World, and you will not have your New World Order. We will make certain of that. *  *  * This PDF document contains 14 pages, followed by another 17 pages of references. For those, please visit the original PDF file at Covid19 – The Spartacus Letter. *  *  * We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support. Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Donate with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon. Tyler Durden Mon, 09/27/2021 - 00:00.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 27th, 2021

Pelosi Vows To Avert Shutdown As Dems Reportedly Cave To "Republican Blockade"

Pelosi Vows To Avert Shutdown As Dems Reportedly Cave To "Republican Blockade" Yesterday, when we laid out the dynamics behind Biden's game of debt limit chicken, we quoted Rabobank which explained why the stand-off between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the debt ceiling Drop Dead Date (the date when all emergency funding measures are exhausted and which falls some time in late October) is so precarious: unlike previous occasions, neither side has to back down due to political or ideological purposes. In fact the side that is seen as conceding first  will likely be punished by its electorate; it's also why Goldman has repeatedly warned that the odds of a catastrophic outcome are especially high. Worse, the closer we get to the Drop Dead Date without a deal, the more likely a freefall outcome becomes as the two sides dig in with the only hope then becoming a deal after the fact. However, today a ray of hope emerged when Bloomberg reported that Nancy Pelosi signaled Democrats will avert a government shutdown by passing a stopgap spending bill without a debt ceiling increase in it, amid Republican opposition to linking the two measures. “Whatever it is, we will have a CR that passes both houses by September 30," Pelosi said at a press briefing Thursday, referring to the continuing resolution that will be needed to fund the federal government at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. The House passed a stopgap spending measure this week that would keep the government open until Dec. 3 and suspend the debt ceiling until Dec. 16, 2022, but that measure is dead in the Senate where it needs 60 votes to move ahead and Republicans are expected block it in. At a news conference that included Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Pelosi said that the conversation on the debt limit would continue. Schumer separately announced that Democrats have a “framework” for a deal to pay for President Joe Biden’s economic plan, though neither he nor Pelosi provided any details. Adding to the confusion, due to the irregularity of Treasury revenues and outlayws, it is not yet clear when the US Treasury could be on the brink of a default, adding uncertainty to how quickly Congress has to act. Yellen has said the government will probably exhaust its ability to avoid breaching the limit at some point in October, which is in line with Goldman's estimate of D-Date falling around October 27. Meanwhile, confirming that Senate republicans won't touch the debt limit vote, top senate republican Mitch McConnell said Democrats have plenty of time to use a partisan approach to raise the debt ceiling without Republican votes.  He also said that it would take Democrats “about a week or a little more” to use the budget reconciliation procedure to raise the debt limit (reconciliation bills bypass the filibuster, removing the need for GOP votes in the 50-50 Senate, but have required procedures that take time to go through). Senate Democrats have so far resisted deploying that tactic, saying that the effort should be bipartisan as Democrats realize that raising the debt ceiling on their own could hurt the Democrats in the midterm elections in 2022, so they prefer sharing the blame with the Republicans by forcing them to support a suspension of the debt limit. In . “This may inconvenient for them, but it is totally possible,” McConnell said. “This Democratic government must not manufacture an avoidable crisis.” For once he was actually right: as Rabobank explained, "the Democrats have the power to raise the debt ceiling and adopt a spending patch, through budget reconciliation, without any Republican vote. Therefore it will be difficult to blame a government shutdown or even a default on the Republicans. The mainstream media may try to do so anyway, but conservative media – which are relevant to Republican voters – will explain the realities to their audience. Therefore, there is no electoral need for the Republicans to blink. If they have the stomach for it, they can win this game and force the Democrats to “own” their spending spree. What’s more, if the Democrats fail to stick together under pressure, Biden’s ambitious legislative agenda could dissolve in October." McConnell’s comments challenge House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, who said Wednesday that Democrats probably do not have enough time to raise the U.S. debt ceiling on their own using the fast-track budget process before the default date. Actually they do - here is a calendar of fiscal policy deadlines courtesy of Rabo: An impartial budget expert agreed with McConnell’s view of the timetable: “They could do it in less than two weeks,” said former Senate Budget Committee staff director Bill Hoagland, now with the Bipartisan Policy Center. “It would be tight but I believe they could do it.” To be sure, not all Democrats are opposed to using the partisan path to raising the debt limit. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said in an interview with CNN he’d be open to using reconciliation. “If we had to do it, I would do that,” Neal said, according to CNN. “I mean that the idea that America would default on debt is so far removed from everything I’ve ever entertained or thought of since I’ve been here.” Other Democrats on Thursday suggested the same: “I don’t draw lines in the sand. I want to get this done,” Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin said. Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said Democratic leadership is exploring alternatives for the debt limit. “I’m not going to let the government default,” Kaine said, adding that Democrats have voted under Republican presidents to suspend the debt ceiling. “But if they’re not going to be responsible, we still will be,” he added. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he expects “at the end of the day” the Senate will pass a stopgap government funding bill that doesn’t have a debt limit increase on it and that Democrats will move the debt-limit increase through reconciliation. Yet not everyone is confident that a debt ceiling deal will be reached on time, starting first and foremost with the market, where today's 4-week and 8-week Bill auctions showed a dramatic preference for the latter at the expense of the former, which mature right around the Drop Dead Date and may suffer repayment complications if the US is in technical default. As shown below, the discount rate on the 4-Week Bills came 1.5bps higher than the 8-Week Bill, the widest differential since the March 2020 covid crisis. Additionally, there was a collapse in Indirect demand for 4-week bills, with Indirects taking down just 21.3% while taking home a much higher 67.3% of the eight-week offering, the most since June 17. Finally, one reason why Pelosi may be less than credible is because earlier today, WaPo reported that the White House budget office (OMB) told federal agencies on Thursday to begin preparations for the first shutdown of the U.S. government since the pandemic began. While administration officials stressed the request is in line with traditional procedures seven days ahead of a shutdown and not a commentary on the likelihood of a congressional deal, the market did not seem to accept that explanation. Both Democrats and Republicans have made clear they intend to fund the government before its funding expires on Sept. 30, but time is running out and lawmakers are aiming to resolve an enormous set of tasks to in a matter of weeks. More importantly, WaPo confirmed Bloomberg's report reporting that privately Democrats also began to acknowledge they are unlikely to prevail in the face of what the Washington Post called, a Republican blockade: "Democrats have started discussing the mechanics of how to sidestep Republicans as soon as next week, according to lawmakers and aides, as they maintain they will not allow the government to shut down in a pandemic or the country to default for the first time in history." In a sign of the early scramble to avoid a shutdown, the Senate’s two top appropriators — Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and top Republican Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) — are set to huddle at a meeting later Thursday to discuss issues potentially including a short-term agreement to keep the government funded. Such a measure could be moved independently of an increase in the debt ceiling, since Republicans including McConnell have an expressed an openness to supporting such a solution. Meanwhile Bill Hoagland, a senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Republican staff director for the Senate Budget Committee, pointed out that parts of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health would be closed as part of the government shutdown. Hoagland said a very brief shutdown may occur but said he doubted it would go on for “any length of time.” “This would be the first shutdown during a declaration of national emergency,” Hoagland said. “In the midst of an ongoing pandemic and non-resolved issues related to the delta virus, to have a shutdown of some of the major federal agencies would add unbelievable complications to our ability to recover.” Tyler Durden Thu, 09/23/2021 - 18:40.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytSep 23rd, 2021

Adam Schiff says appointing Kevin McCarthy to the House speaker role would be like appointing Donald Trump

If Republicans take back Congress in the upcoming midterm elections next year, McCarthy could replace current Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks at a news conference on September 21, 2021. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images Adam Schiff is warning against the prospect of appointing Kevin McCarthy to the House speaker role. If Republicans take back Congress next year, McCarthy could replace Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "If Kevin McCarthy were ever to become speaker, essentially Donald Trump would be speaker," Schiff said. Rep. Adam Schiff is speaking out against the possibility of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy slipping into the House speaker role. If Republicans take back Congress in the upcoming midterm elections next year, McCarthy could replace current Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the role. "If Kevin McCarthy were ever to become speaker, essentially Donald Trump would be speaker," Schiff said, according to the Associated Press.This isn't the first time Schiff has levied criticism against McCarthy, a Republican representing California's 23rd district. In a Tuesday interview with CNN, he blasted the dozens of Republican lawmakers, including McCarthy, who latched onto and amplified misinformation about the 2020 election from Trump. He also criticized Republican lawmakers for challenging the results of the election on January 6. "What angered me the most, I think, about that day were these insurrectionists in suits and ties who were still, even after the bloody insurrection, even after the shattered glass and the death of that day, were back on the House floor trying to overturn the election," Schiff told CNN's John Berman. "Unlike those people climbing outside the building, they knew it was a lie," he added. "The true believers were out there attacking the building. But inside the chamber, my Republican colleagues know it's a big lie."Trump and GOP allies had for months after the November 2020 election pushed a baseless argument that said the results had been rigged because of widespread voter fraud. State and federal officials have debunked the claims numerous times. But nearly 150 Republican lawmakers, including McCarthy, voted against now President Joe Biden's certification in January, prompting backlash from large companies and Democrats. Schiff has also continued to speak out against Trump, even after the former president left office in January. He told Insider earlier this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin "very easily figured out how to play Trump like a fiddle."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nyt21 hr. 5 min. ago

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

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

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

Trump claims his supporters won"t vote in the 2022 and 2024 elections unless the GOP backs his groundless election-fraud theories

Trump still wants the Republican Party to reverse the 2020 election results, and said his supporters would sit out future elections if it didn't. Former President Donald Trump. Win McNamee/Getty Images Trump continues to claim without evidence that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Trump claimed his supporters would sit out elections if the GOP didn't back his election fraud claims. "Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24" if the claims were not addressed, he said Wednesday. Former President Donald Trump has claimed that his supporters will sit out future elections if the Republican Party did not address his baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him."If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24," Trump said in a statement emailed to his supporters Wednesday."It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."Since leaving office in January, Trump has continued to claim that last year's presidential election was rigged in Joe Biden's favor through widespread voter fraud.-Liz Harrington (@realLizUSA) October 13, 2021No evidence has emerged to support his claims, which election officials called "the most secure in American history." Federal judges dismissed a total of more than 50 lawsuits brought by Trump and his campaign in their efforts to overturn the election. Multiple partisan election audits in GOP-led states, including an Arizona audit of more than 2 million ballots, have also failed to uncover any evidence of voter fraud.Meanwhile, Trump has continued to float the prospect of running for president again in 2024, and he - along with other senior Republican figures - has expressed confidence that the GOP can retake control of Congress in the 2022 midterms. Trump's insistence on the GOP's prioritizing his voter-fraud theories also exposes divisions in the party about how to approach the midterms.Two GOP officials this week urged Republican voters to support Democratic candidates in next year's elections, arguing that Trump's continued "conspiracy theories and lies about stolen elections" had resulted in the party being taken over by "pro-Trump extremists."Republican strategists have also suggested that Trump's continued claims of voter fraud may already have dampened GOP voter turnout in the Georgia Senate runoffs this January, NPR reported, which saw Republicans lose control of the Senate.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 14th, 2021

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

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

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeOct 13th, 2021

Oil-Dri Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2021 Results

CHICAGO, Oct. 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Oil-Dri Corporation of America (NYSE:ODC), producer and marketer of sorbent mineral products, today announced results for its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2021.   Fourth Quarter Year to Date (in thousands, except per share amounts) Ended July 31 Ended July 31   2021   2020   Change 2021 2020 Change Consolidated Results             Net Sales $78,129 $64,844   20  % $304,981 $283,227 8  % Net Income Attributable to Oil-Dri $603 $5,886   (90 )% $11,113 $18,900 (41 )% Earnings per Common Diluted Share $0.08 $0.83   (90 )% $1.57 $2.65 (41 )% Business to Business             Net Sales $30,022 $26,628   13  % $110,120 $104,260 6  % Segment Operating Income* $3,791 $6,255   (39 )% $25,086 $26,882 (7 )% Retail and Wholesale             Net Sales $48,107 $38,216   26  % $194,861 $178,967 9  % Segment Operating Income (Loss)* $3,283 ($825 ) 498  % $11,916 $13,079 (9 )% *Segment operating income (loss) for fiscal year 2020 has been adjusted. See Note 1 of the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in our Annual Report on form 10-K for the year ended July 31, 2021. Daniel S. Jaffee, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "Our performance in the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2021 was disappointing despite tremendous top-line growth with record high consolidated net sales for both periods. Our profitability was greatly reduced due to significant cost inflation across all input channels. Not only did the price of resin used in our jugs and pails spike, but higher lumber costs for pallets also contributed to the considerable increase in our overall packaging expenses. Dramatic increases in freight, natural gas and other material costs also negatively impacted our margins. In response to these rising costs, we implemented price increases across our product portfolio. However, it is clear we did not keep up with the rapid pace of inflation. Additionally, our supply chain was challenged as a result of trucking and ocean carrier capacity constraints combined with a nationwide labor shortage. Despite these headwinds, we achieved many of our strategic goals and delivered increased dividends to our shareholders during the fiscal year. We continue to push forward with our two biggest growth opportunities: mineral-based antibiotic alternative feed additives and lightweight cat litter. I am excited to report that our animal health products are currently in several trials across the globe. In addition, consumer demand for our lightweight cat litter remains strong, and our branded and private label products continue to surpass category growth. Our new Cat's Pride UltraClean and Cat's Pride Flushable items were recently launched, and we are convinced consumers will enjoy the products' unique benefits. As we begin fiscal year 2022, we will continue to focus on developing our value-added businesses and enhancing profitability." Full Year ResultsConsolidated net sales for fiscal year 2021 reached an all-time record high of $305 million, reflecting an 8% increase over the prior year. This was primarily due to higher demand of our cat litter and agricultural products which increased 9% and 19%, respectively, in fiscal year 2021 compared to the prior year. Revenues from our fluid purification products were 3% greater than last year, while sales of animal health and nutrition products were essentially flat. Industrial and sports business revenues grew 9% year over year, and we experienced steady sales gains of 2% from our co-packaging coarse cat litter business. Annual consolidated gross profit decreased by $3.5 million, as margins were reduced to 21% in fiscal 2021 from 24% in the prior year. Severe inflationary pressures caused domestic cost of goods sold per manufacturing ton to increase approximately 8% in the twelve month period compared to the prior year. Domestic freight, packaging and natural gas per manufactured ton rose 13%, 19%, and 15%, respectively over the prior year. U.S. non-fuel manufacturing costs per ton increased approximately 3%, primarily driven by higher costs of purchased materials. Included in fiscal year 2020's results, was the one-time pre-tax receipt of $13 million in connection with an intellectual property license agreement which occurred in the fourth quarter of the same year. Selling, general and administrative ("SG&A") expenses for fiscal year 2021 decreased 8% from the prior year primarily due to lower advertising spending, estimated annual incentive bonus accrual and pension expense. Fiscal 2020 SG&A expenses included a legal contingency offset by a curtailment gain related to our Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan. In addition, a change in the allocation of expenses from SG&A to cost of goods sold affected quarterly segment operating income in both fiscal years 2021 and 2020 by $5.3 million and $7.1 million, respectively. This reclassification did not affect consolidated operating or net income. Consolidated annual operating income was $13 million, reflecting a 47% decrease from the prior year. Excluding the aforementioned one-time pre-tax receipt of $13 million in fiscal 2020, operating income for fiscal 2021 was 10% greater than last year. Other income (expense), net in fiscal year 2021 included approximately $600,000 of settlement costs under our pension plan, compared to $2 million in fiscal year 2020. Full year net income attributed to Oil-Dri was $11.1 million, reflecting a 41% decrease from the prior year. Cash and Cash Equivalents decreased to $24.6 million in fiscal 2021 from $41 million in fiscal 2020, as a result of higher cost of goods sold and a significant fiscal 2020 bonus payout which was paid in fiscal 2021. Debt decreased to $9 million in fiscal 2021 from $10 million in the prior year. Fourth Quarter ResultsConsolidated net sales in the fourth quarter reached an all-time quarterly high of $78 million, or a 20% increase over the prior year. Sales from our cat litter, industrial and sports, and agricultural businesses drove the majority of this growth. Demand for fluids purification products and co-packaged coarse cat litter also increased in the fourth quarter over the prior year, while revenues from our animal health and nutrition products were essentially flat. Fourth quarter consolidated gross profit decreased by approximately $1.5 million, while margin was reduced to 19% in fiscal 2021 from 21% in fiscal 2020. Although revenues grew significantly in the quarter, these gains were offset by a 7% increase in domestic cost of goods sold per manufactured ton compared to the prior year. Trucking capacity constraints and high fuel costs resulted in a 7% increase in domestic freight per manufactured ton compared to the same period last year. Due to extreme inflation on resin and lumber prices, domestic packaging costs per manufactured ton increased 40%. Further contributing to the reduction in margin was higher domestic natural gas per manufactured ton which increased 67% in the fourth quarter over the prior year. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021, consolidated operating income was $1.7 million compared to $9.1 million in fiscal 2020. Revenue increases and a $4 million, or 24%, reduction in SG&A expenses were partially offset by significantly higher cost of goods sold. Also, impacting the quarterly results comparison was the one-time pre-tax receipt of $13 million resulting from an intellectual property license agreement which occurred in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020. Last year's results included a legal contingency as well as an accrual which was no longer deemed necessary in fiscal year 2021. In addition, a change in the allocation of expenses from SG&A to cost of goods sold affected quarterly segment operating income in both fiscal years 2021 and 2020 by $755,000 and $2.2 million, respectively. This reclassification did not affect consolidated operating or net income. Fourth quarter consolidated net income attributed to Oil-Dri was $603,000 in fiscal 2021 compared to $5.9 million in fiscal 2020. Product Group ReviewThe Business to Business Products ("B2B") Group's fourth quarter revenues reached a record $30 million, a 13% gain over the prior year. This increase was primarily driven by strong revenue growth from the agricultural and fluid purification businesses. Sales of agricultural products increased by 37% over the prior year, as demand from one of our largest customers rose in the quarter. The B2B Products Group also benefited from a 7% increase in revenues within the fluids purification business. Sales of bleaching clay products were strong in North America and Latin America, while softer revenues were experienced in Europe and Asia. COVID-19 continued to limit our ability to conduct and participate in product tests at edible oil plants, thus resulting in lower than expected sales growth. The ongoing pandemic also negatively impacted our jet fuel business in regions such as Europe and Asia where air travel is still at low levels. Our co-packaging coarse cat litter experienced sales gains of 16% in the fourth quarter compared to the prior year, primarily due to increased pricing. Fourth quarter revenues of animal health products remained flat compared to the same period last year. African Swine Fever and the ongoing pandemic created challenges for the global animal protein production market, including feed additives. Despite this, we achieved sales increases of 66% in China during the fourth quarter compared to the prior year, as well as top line growth in Asia, Latin America, and North America. However, these increases were offset by lower revenues in Mexico, as fiscal 2020 included the sale of animal health related equipment that did not recur this year. Operating income for the B2B Products Group was $3.8 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 compared to $6.3 million in fiscal 2020. The prior year's results reflect the reallocation of $943,000 between SG&A expenses and cost of goods sold. Higher sales were offset by inflationary headwinds and an 11% increase in SG&A expenses over the previous fourth quarter. These elevated SG&A costs were a result of increased compensation and travel expenses, reflecting investments in our animal health business through additional sales personnel and leadership. The Retail and Wholesale ("R&W") Products Group's fourth quarter revenues were $48 million, a 26% increase over the prior year. This was driven by a 25% increase in domestic cat litter sales due to strong demand for our branded and private label products. We exceeded category sales growth of 12.1% for the 12-week period ended July 17, 2021, according to third-party market research data for retail sales1. Demand for our branded and private label lightweight litter products continued to rise as demonstrated by the 43% increase in fourth quarter sales over the prior year. Our e-commerce business experienced double-digit revenue gains for the fourth quarter compared to the same period last year. As more consumers have broadened their online purchases since the onset of the pandemic, e-commerce retailers have increased their Cat's Pride product offerings, including some of our newly launched products. Revenues from our Canadian subsidiary demonstrated strong top line growth due to higher demand of cat litter and industrial absorbent products. Our domestic industrial and sports products business also contributed to the R&W Products Group's revenue improvement in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 with sales increasing 36% over the prior year. This gain can be attributed to the return of pre-pandemic industrial product purchasing levels and the reopening of sports fields across the United States. Operating income for the R&W Products Group was $3.3 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021 compared to ($825,000) in the prior year. Prior year's results reflect the reallocation of $1.3 million between SG&A expenses and cost of goods sold. SG&A expenses for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021 declined by 10% from last year. This was primarily due to a reduction in advertising spending as a result of a shift in timing of our marketing campaign from the fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022. We expect advertising costs for the upcoming fiscal 2022 to be higher than fiscal 2021. The Company will host its fourth quarter of fiscal 2021 earnings teleconference on Friday, October 15, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. Central Time. Participation details are available on our website's Events page. 1Based in part on data reported by NielsenIQ through its Scantrack Service for the Cat Litter Category in the 12-week period ended July 17, 2021, for the U.S. xAOC+Pet Supers market. Copyright © 2021 Nielsen. Oil-Dri Corporation of America is a leading manufacturer and supplier of specialty sorbent products for the pet care, animal health and nutrition, fluids purification, agricultural ingredients, sports field, industrial and automotive markets. Oil-Dri is vertically integrated which enables the company to efficiently oversee every step of the process from research and development to supply chain to marketing and sales. With 80 years of experience, the company continues to fulfill its mission to Create Value from Sorbent Minerals. "Oil-Dri" and "Cat's Pride" are registered trademarks of Oil-Dri Corporation of America. Certain statements in this press release may contain forward-looking statements that are based on our current expectations, estimates, forecasts and projections about our future performance, our business, our beliefs, and our management's assumptions. In addition, we, or others on our behalf, may make forward-looking statements in other press releases or written statements, or in our communications and discussions with investors and analysts in the normal course of business through meetings, webcasts, phone calls, and conference calls. Words such as "expect," "outlook," "forecast," "would," "could," "should," "project," "intend," "plan," "continue," "believe," "seek," "estimate," "anticipate," "may," "assume," or variations of such words and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements, which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements are subject to certain risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially including, but not limited to, the dependence of our future growth and financial performance on successful new product introductions, intense competition in our markets, volatility of our quarterly results, risks associated with acquisitions, our dependence on a limited number of customers for a large portion of our net sales and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are described in Item 1A (Risk Factors) of our most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and other reports we file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Should one or more of these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, our actual results may vary materially from those anticipated, intended, expected, believed, estimated, projected or planned. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this press release. Except to the extent required by law, we do not have any intention or obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements after the distribution of this press release, whether as a result of new information, future events, changes in assumptions, or otherwise. Category: Earnings Contact:Leslie A. GarberManager of Investor RelationsOil-Dri Corporation of AmericaInvestorRelations@oildri.com(312) 321-1515 CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF INCOME   (in thousands, except per share amounts)   (unaudited)   Fourth Quarter Ended July 31     2021   % of Sales   2020   % of Sales Net Sales   $ 78,129     100.0  %   $ 64,844     100.0  % Cost of Sales (1)   (63,323 )   (81.0 )%   (51,521 )   (79.5 )% Gross Profit   14,806     19.0  %   13,323     20.5  % Other Operating Income (2) —     —  %   13,000     20.0  % Selling, General and Administrative Expenses (1)(3) (13,122 )   (16.8 )%   (17,190 )   (26.5 )% Operating Income 1,684     2.2  %   9,133     14.1  % Interest Expense (180.....»»

Category: earningsSource: benzingaOct 13th, 2021

Mike Pence"s chief of staff trashed a memo calling for him to overturn the election as "boneheaded analysis"

Marc Short said they "always felt strongly that no limited-government conservative" would want a vice president to overturn an election. Vice President Mike Pence, joined at left by chief of staff Marc Short, finishes a swearing-in ceremony for senators in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool VP Pence's chief of staff dismissed Eastman memo as "boneheaded analysis." The memo from a legal scholar dubiously argued Pence could overturn the 2020 election. Pence told journalist David Drucker that Trump was getting "really, really bad advice." Former Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short denounced a memo from a legal scholar arguing Pence could unilaterally overturn President Joe Biden's Electoral College win as "boneheaded analysis" in an interview for a new book. Short spoke to Washington Examiner journalist and author David Drucker for his forthcoming book "In Trump's Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP," a copy of which Insider obtained ahead of its October 19 publication from Twelve Books. In his interview with Drucker, Short blamed a power vacuum in the White House that created an opening for conspiracy theory-wielding lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, in addition to figures like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, to fill Trump's head with the false belief that the 2020 election was stolen and the incorrect notion that his vice president could unilaterally reverse his election loss. "Unfortunately, I think the president had some really, really bad advice," Short told Drucker. "The way the White House was structured at that point was that those people giving that really, really bad advice were given carte blanche access to the president, and I think there were no safeguards in the way the White House was being run at that point." The pressure campaign targeting Pence kicked up a notch with a six-page memo on January 3 from conservative legal scholar John Eastman, a fellow at the Claremont Institute, who advanced a legally dubious argument that Pence could reverse the presidential election at the January 6 joint session of Congress. Eastman conjured a scenario where seven states that voted for Biden sent "alternate" slates of electors for Trump based on non-existent widespread fraud, Pence would discard the Electoral Count Act of 1887 as unconstitutional, and appoint himself the ultimate arbiter of which electoral votes to count to induce the overturning of Biden's Electoral College victory."We researched all of those, and I think very fastidiously wanted to be respectful of new perspectives that we were brought, but always felt strongly that no limited-government conservative would ever advocate that one person could unilaterally choose what electors to accept or reject and would ever be given that sort of power by our Founders," Short told Drucker. "Nor would we ever want anyone to have that power." The memo accompanied a "heated" January 4 Oval Office meeting where Trump told Pence of Eastman: "he's a respected constitutional attorney, you should hear him out." Drucker wrote that given his indeed solid reputation in the conservative legal world, Eastman taking a prominent role in the pressure campaign left Pence and his crew "flabbergasted." "In that January 4 meeting, the vice president listened courteously, as was his habit. But he held firm, as was also his habit, reiterated his position on the matter that he had relayed to the president, unwavering, so many times before," Drucker wrote. Pence's team had Gregory Jacob, who served as Pence's general counsel from March 2020 through January 2021 and is now a partner at O'Melveny & Myers in Washington DC, to research the matter and write up a countervailing memo of their own that Pence would issue as a statement just before the joint session on January 6."It was such boneheaded analysis, and so we intended to have our record make that clear, too," Short said of the Eastman memo. In the more than two-page letter to his colleagues, Pence said he wouldn't stand in the way of lawmakers who wanted to raise objections to the counting of electoral votes but it was his "considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not." Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-moduleRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 13th, 2021

Mike Lindell is still spreading lies about the 2020 election. He most recently claimed 23,000 dead people voted in Wisconsin using a prison address.

After a series of failed lawsuits and a string of bizarre conspiracies, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is still spreading lies about the 2020 election. MyPillow CEO Michael Lindell laughs during a press conference in Des Moines, on February 3, 2020. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images MyPillow CEO and Trump loyalist Mike Lindell is back with another lie about the 2020 election. Lindell is falsely claiming that 23,000 dead people voted using the same address in Wisconsin. The businessman made the claims during an interview on his personal website. Nearly one year after former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election to President Joe Biden, MyPillow CEO and fierce Trump loyalist Mike Lindell is still espousing a string of bizarre - and false - claims about the election results.This time, the right-wing businessman trumpeted a conspiracy theory that tens of thousands of people voted using a fake address and phone number in Wisconsin to help Biden win the battleground state that Trump took in 2016.Without offering any evidence, Lindell, during an interview on his own website, michaeljlindell.com, suggested 23,000 people voted using the same prison address in the state and claimed "a lot of them" weren't even alive. "If you can pull up, I'm gonna show you guys in Wisconsin, just an example, how 23,000 people voted using a prison address and used the same phone number," he said. "And a lot of them were people that turned out, as we dove into it, they're not alive anymore, they just used their names obviously, and they don't live in Wisconsin."-Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) October 11, 2021 Lindell, 60, did not offer any additional specifics about which alleged prison was the site of widespread fraud or how 23,000 people would even be able to register using the same phone number. The lie is just the latest in Lindell's attempts to convince Americans that widespread voter fraud led to a "stolen" election. The CEO has previously blamed "rigged" voting machines and Chinese interference for Trump's loss.He also helped finance several failed lawsuits aiming to overturn the election results and now faces his own lawsuit, with Dominion Voting Systems suing him and Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell for defamation over their lies about the company's machines. Official audits and election experts have concluded that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election. Trump's own attorney general, William Barr, even confirmed the legitimacy of the results in the weeks following the vote.The Department of Homeland Security declared the 2020 election the "most secure in American history."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 12th, 2021

WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments & promotions

Hines announced that Sarah Hawkins has been promoted to chief executive officer of the U.S. East Region. She is now responsible for all development, acquisition, asset management and operations activity in the region and is a member of the firm’s global Executive Committee. Hawkins takes over the CEO position that... The post WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments & promotions appeared first on Real Estate Weekly. Hines announced that Sarah Hawkins has been promoted to chief executive officer of the U.S. East Region. She is now responsible for all development, acquisition, asset management and operations activity in the region and is a member of the firm’s global Executive Committee. Hawkins takes over the CEO position that was previously held by Chris Hughes before he transitioned to co-head of Investment Management, as well as the CEO, Capital Markets. Hawkins joined Hines in the New York office as an Associate in 2011. Prior to her promotion, she served as the East Region’s chief operating officer, and before that, as a managing director in the New York regional office. Prior to joining Hines, she was an associate at Fortress Investment Group and, before that, an analyst with the Blackstone Group. She graduated from the University of Texas Phi Beta Kappa with a BA where she also received her BBA with High Honors. ••• JLL announced that Christine Colley will join the firm’s New York office as an executive managing director. Colley, previously a managing director at Cushman & Wakefield, has extensive experience in both the private and public sectors. During her career, Colley has leased more than four million square feet of space and has represented an array of clients including New York City Housing Authority, Atlice USA, Goldpoint Partners, Simons Foundation, Mitsui Fudosan and Alexandria Center. Colley has received multiple awards throughout her career, including Commercial Property Executives’ 2021 Stars to Watch, Real Estate Weekly’s 2020 Real Estate Rising Star Award, Commercial Observer’s 2019 30 Under 30 and Cushman & Wakefield’s Tri-State Top Producer in 2017 and 2016. ••• Cushman & Wakefield has welcomed a team led by industry veterans Deborah Van Der Heyden and Paul Ferraro, who will both serve as Executive Directors in brokerage. Based out of the firm’s 1290 Avenue of the Americas office, Van Der Heyden and Ferraro will be joined by Matthew Livingston and Ian O’Mahony. The team will focus on tenant representation in New York City. Deborah an Der Heyden is a 30-year industry veteran who has a wide breadth of experience across all property sectors across the US. Previously, she spent 12 years at JLL and 15 years at Newmark as a commercial real estate advisor. Van Der Heyden is a graduate of the College of Communications at Boston University and the master’s degree program at New York University’s Real Estate Institute. Paul Ferraro has more than 15 years of experience in transaction management and brokerage. Previously, he was a corporate real estate advisor at JLL and USI Real Estate Brokerage Services. He has a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Management from Villanova University. Livingston has seven years of experience and joins the firm as a Director. Previously at JLL, he graduated from Union College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a minor in classics. O’Mahony has six years of experience and joins Cushman & Wakefield as a senior brokerage specialist. Previously at CBRE, he has a master’s degree in Real Estate from New York University. ••• Rockefeller Group announced that Jennifer Stein has been promoted to Assistant Vice President & Director, Leasing, for Core Holdings. She was previously a director, and will continue to be based in the company’s Manhattan headquarters. Stein is responsible for asset management, marketing and leasing of Rockefeller Group’s Midtown Manhattan office properties, primarily 1221 Avenue of the Americas and 1271 Avenue of the Americas, which total approximately five million square feet. She works closely with commercial real estate brokerage professionals, partners and clients and was a key contributor to the lease-up of approximately two million square feet of office space at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, which recently completed a $600 million repositioning program. In 2020, Stein was part of the team that secured Avra Estiatorio to approximately 17,000 s/f at 1271 Avenue of the Americas, which was the largest restaurant lease in Manhattan last year and recently recognized as the Real Estate Board of New York’s Most Ingenious Retail Deal of the Year. Stein joined Rockefeller Group in 2008 and has held positions of increasing authority in Leasing, Property Management and Design & Construction. She has been involved in more than 3.5 million square feet of new leases within Rockefeller Group’s portfolio, excluding renewals. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a master’s degree from New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. ••• Rubenstein Partners announced the appointment of Michael Happel and Joseph Zuber as the new leadership for its equity investing activities in New York and other major Northeast markets. Michael Happel has over 30 years of experience investing in real estate, including acquisitions of office, retail, multifamily, industrial, and hotel properties, as well as acquisitions of real estate companies and real estate debt. He is the former CEO of New York REIT, as well as CEO of New York City REIT. He has been responsible for over $3.5 billion of real estate acquisitions in New York City since 2009, when he formed and launched NYRT. Previously, Happel worked at Morgan Stanley and held leadership roles at Westbrook Partners and Atticus Capital. He received a B.A. in economics from Duke University in 1985 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1988. Joe Zuber has over 30 years of real estate investment, development, asset management and restructuring experience. For the past 10 years, Zuber was the managing principal of Black Walnut Capital LLC. Earlier in his career, he was president and chief operating officer of O’Connor Capital Partners. He also served as chief investment officer of The City Investment Fund, LP, an investment manager established by Fisher Brothers and Morgan Stanley. He was also previously an executive director of MSREF. Zuber received an MBA from The Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia and a B.Arch. degree from Cornell University. ••• Conifer Realty announced the appointment of Roger Snell as its new chief executive officer. The announcement follows a recent investment in the company by Belveron Partners. From 2010 to 2021, Snell was the chief investment officer of Veritas Investments. Prior to this he was the CEO of two public REITs. He presently serves on the board of Veritas Investments and a member of the investment committee, as well as CIM Income NAV, a public REIT.Snell’s education includes an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. degree from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a member of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). ••• New York Law School (NYLS) Dean Anthony W. Crowell announced the appointment of Erin Felker Bond ’08 as the Associate Dean for Academic Planning and Career Development. A 2008 graduate of NYLS, she is the first alumna to hold this critical position. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia. Most recently, Bond served as NYLS’s Assistant Dean of Academic Program Development, Director of the Office of Continuing Legal Education (CLE), and an adjunct professor with the School’s Center for Real Estate Studies (which she formerly served as Associate Director). As a member of the School’s senior administration, she has provided leadership in implementing the NYLS Strategic Plan and engaged external partners for many programmatic initiatives. Her leadership has resulted in NYLS’s consistent recognition by the New York Law Journal as a top CLE provider in the State. Since 2019, she has served on the Board of Directors of Services: for the UnderServed (S:US). She also served as 2014 President of the NYC real estate industry’s longest-running and most consistent supporter of women real estate professionals, CREW New York. ••• Silverstein Properties announced that Yael Ron has joined the firm as Head of Global Hospitality & General Manager of Residential Properties. A luxury hotel veteran with over 25 years of hospitality experience, Ron will be responsible for Silverstein’s hospitality and residential divisions. She will also oversee Inspire, Silverstein’s customer experience program. Ron most recently, she served as managing director of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York. Prior to that, she was the General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco.She spent nearly a decade with The Ritz-Carlton company working in Cleveland as director of sales and marketing, Herzliya in Israel and Macau, China. Earlier, she worked at The Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, following a decade with Hilton Hotels. Ron holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Hotel Management from Technion Israel & Nova University, Florida, and an MBA from City University of New York, Baruch College. She is fluent in several languages. ••• Silverstein Properties announced that Keith A. Cody has joined the company as Senior Vice President of Commercial Leasing. Cody joins Silverstein Properties from Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT) where he was Vice President of Leasing for seven years. Prior to ESRT, he served as a Senior Vice President at CBRE. During his 24-year tenure at ESRT and CBRE, Cody completed around 700 transactions in excess of 6.5 million RSF, and represented a wide range of tenants in multiple industries. Cody received a Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton. ••• Savills announced that Jessica Jeffrey joined the firm as an associate director in New York. Jeffrey brings more than 15 years of experience in real estate development, project and construction management, with expertise that spans the full capital project life cycle. She has completed more than 1.5 million square feet of projects, including both ground-up developments and conversions in Manhattan and Brooklyn. She has also managed office building, retail and public plaza projects and led a team of subcontractors on Major League Baseball’s Nationals Ballpark in Washington, DC. Before joining Savills, Jeffrey spent four years as a senior project executive with Anbau. She also spent 11 years working in the real estate development and construction industries as both a project manager and superintendent in multiple major metro areas. ••• Savills has welcomed Ryan Walsh as a corporate managing director. Walsh has 20 years of real estate transaction and portfolio management experience, having worked with leading global brands, such as Willis Towers Watson, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, and Bank of America. Prior to joining the firm, Walsh worked at CBRE, where he served as a director of transaction management. He was responsible for developing enterprise portfolio strategy, opportunity assessments and transaction execution for global accounts. Before CBRE, he held positions at Cushman & Wakefield and JLL. ••• Mortgage industry veteran Rick Bechtel has joined Compass as President of Mortgage. In his new role, Bechtel oversees Compass’ presence within the mortgage industry, including the recently announced joint venture with Guaranteed Rate, OriginPoint. Prior to Compass, Bechtel was the executive vice president and head of U.S. Residential Lending at TD Bank. Additionally, he has held senior leadership roles with major mortgage industry leaders such as Chase, Wells Fargo, and CIBC. Bechtel holds a BBA from the University of Wisconsin and MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management. ••• Romer Debbas announced that Stacie Bryce Feldman has joined the firm as a partner with the Litigation Team. Feldman focuses on real estate litigation related to rent regulatory issues, due diligence, J-51 class action suits, commercial lease disputes, commercial contract disputes, Article 78 Proceedings, and complex landlord/tenant issues. Recently, Feldman provided comments on proposed legislation in the landlord tenant field pertaining to the impacts of COVID-19 prior to its enactment. A member of the bar of the state of New York and admitted to practice before the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts, Feldman received a Juris Doctorate degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She completed her undergraduate degree at the State University of New York at Stonybrook where she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. ••• Eastern Union has named Victoria Smith senior data specialist in the company’s newly launched Commission Data Broker Division. Smith, who joined the firm earlier this year as a summer intern, will play a central role in the management and training of Commission Data Brokers (CDB), a new professional job category introduced to the industry by Eastern Union. Smith, who will be based in Jacksonville, FL, previously served as a senior customer service advocate in the Jacksonville office of OptumRx, a pharmacy and healthcare services company. She holds a bachelor of science degree in data management and data analytics from Western Governors University in Salt Lake City. She also earned an associate of science degree in computer science from Gateway Community College in New Haven. ••• Blank Rome LLP announced that Matthew J. Crawford has joined the firm’s New York office as an associate in the Real Estate group,. Crawford joins Blank Rome from Meister Seelig & Fein where he worked in their Real Estate and Hospitality groups. He concentrates his practice on commercial leasing, representing both landlords and tenants. Crawford is admitted to practice in New York, Connecticut, Florida, and New Jersey. He earned his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law and his B.A. Political Science and Geography, magna cum laude, from Villanova University. ••• The Praedium Group announced the addition of three new hires. Molly Steckler joined the client development team as an associate, JK Lee joined the investment team as an analyst, and Allyson Lisser joined the portfolio management team as an analyst. Molly Steckler is an associate on the marketing and client development team. She is also a member of the ESG Committee. Previously, she was a relationship manager in the Multifamily Agency Finance group at Capital One, N.A. Steckler received a B.A. in Public Policy with a concentration in Environmental Policy from Vanderbilt University. JK Lee is an analyst on the investment team. He previously worked in the Agency Loan group at Greystone & Co. Lee received a B.A. in Financial Economics from Columbia University. Allyson Lisser is an analyst on the portfolio management team. Prior to joining Praedium, Lisser was a real estate valuation associate at KPMG LLLP and holds her BBA in Real Estate and Urban Land Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. ••• Madison International Realty has appointed Anisa Keith as director of Equity Capital Markets. Keith will report to Michael Chen, managing director and Head of Capital Markets who oversees ECM/investor relations. Prior to joining Madison, Keith was Head of Investor Relations at Basis Capital Investment Group. She is a graduate of Georgetown University and earned an MBA from Columbia University. The post WHO’S NEWS: Latest appointments & promotions appeared first on Real Estate Weekly......»»

Category: realestateSource: realestateweeklyOct 11th, 2021

Michael Flynn refutes QAnon claims that he worships Satan during guest appearance on Christian YouTube channel

QAnon believers claimed Flynn used words that indicated he was worshipping Satan during his prayer at a Nebraskan church. In this Feb. 1, 2017, file photo, then - National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File In September, Flynn led a prayer during a conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Nebraska. Flynn said that his prayer was a rendition of a prayer to Christian archangel St. Michael. Flynn and the Lord of Hosts Church's senior pastor denied the Satanic accusations. Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appeared on Christian YouTube channel "Truth Unveiled TV" to refute claims he worships Satan following a prayer he led at Nebraskan church, The Daily Beast reported.During its "Opening the Heavens" conference in mid-September, Flynn led a prayer at the Lord of Hosts Church in which he referenced "legions" and "rays," according to The Daily Beast, which convinced many QAnon believers that he was praying to Satan.Following an ad from voter fraud conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell's MyPillow, Flynn told "Truth Unveiled TV" host Paul Oebel that people were reading into things and it was a "straightforward" rendition of a prayer to St. Michael, a Christian archangel that his mother named him after."People need to stop overthinking what everyone is saying and listen to what is happening around us," Flynn said. "Pay attention to the reality that is happening around us instead of interpreting things that don't need interpretation."Both Flynn and Hank Kunneman, senior pastor at the Lord of Hosts Church, have acknowledged and denied the Satanic accusations."Can you just give people a break?" Kunneman asked his congregation on September 26, The Daily Beast reported.Prior to the prayer debacle, Flynn was a QAnon darling who spoke at its conferences, appeared on a podcast hosted by a QAnon influencer, and publicly referenced conspiracy theories pushed by the movement about the 2020 election.Under President Donald Trump, Flynn served as national security advisor until his resignation in February 2017. He departed after pleading guilty to one count of lying to the FBI about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the US at the time.Flynn was pardoned by Trump last November.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 8th, 2021

Rudy Giuliani testified that he represented Trump"s 2020 campaign for free because the president "ordered me to do it"

Giuliani said in a deposition that Trump called him into the Oval Office after the election and told him to "go over and take over the campaign." Rudy Giuliani. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Giuliani said Trump ordered him to represent his campaign for free, according to court documents. He was called to testify in a defamation suit brought by a former Dominion Voting Systems employee. Giuliani said Trump told him to "go over and take over the campaign, tell them you're in charge." Rudy Giuliani testified that he represented President Donald Trump for free after the 2020 election because Trump "ordered me to do it," newly released court documents showed.Giuliani had led the Trump campaign's effort to contest the 2020 election results by filing dozens of lawsuits that alleged there was widespread election fraud, all of which were thrown out by federal judges.An executive for Dominion Voting Systems, Eric Coomer, subsequently brought defamation lawsuits against Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, alleging that they knowingly spread false information about his involvement in election fraud.According to a newly released deposition transcript, Coomer's attorney Charles Cain asked Giuliani whether he was ever paid to represent the Trump campaign. Cain noted that Giuliani said in a conspiracy-theory-filled November 19 press conference that he was representing both Trump personally and the Trump campaign.Giuliani replied that he was not paid to represent the campaign and had been reimbursed for only his expenses, according to the transcript. Cain then asked Giuliani why he would represent the Trump campaign without compensation."The president - the president ordered me to do it," Giuliani said.Trump had previously cut off Giuliani and was refusing to pay his legal bills, Michael Wolff says in his book "Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency." The amount that Trump may owe Giuliani is unclear, but Maria Ryan, a Giuliani associate, told The New York Times Giuliani gave a rate of $20,000 a day to the Trump campaign for his work on the election lawsuits.According to the deposition transcript, Giuliani told Cain Trump called him into the Oval Office on "either the 4th or the 5th" of November - after the presidential election - and told him to "go over and take over the campaign, tell them you're in charge."Giuliani's attorney Joe Sibley immediately reminded the former New York City mayor not to disclose information about his conversation with Trump that could be protected by attorney-client privilege, according to the transcript. "It doesn't matter if he made the statement. Don't disclose it if it's attorney/client privilege," Sibley said, to which Giuliani replied that he would be "very careful" not to disclose any privileged information."He said go over and tell them you're in charge, it's got to be straightened out," Giuliani said, adding that he wasn't sure if Trump wanted him to take over the entire campaign or only the campaign's legal representation. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 8th, 2021

I went to the equivalent of Disney World for coffee nerds and these are the coolest products I tried

The Specialty Coffee Association's annual expo is a bazaar's worth of coffee gadgets and accouterments. Here are our favorite products from the show. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Owen Burke/Insider We attended the Specialty Coffee Association's 2021 Expo in New Orleans this weekend. Through a bewildering array of all things coffee, we sifted out our favorite new coffee gear. From home espresso machines to compostable K-Cups, here's what we're most excited by. The Specialty Coffee Association is, in our opinion, the ultimate authority in all things coffee. When they put on an expo, the who's who and what's what in coffee is all there: it's the newest and best in the wide world of coffee.We toured the showroom looking for everything from the latest and greatest espresso machines to new takes on old designs like the French press, as well as a bazaar's worth of additives and accouterments.Below, we've rounded up our favorites from the show, some of which we'll be testing for forthcoming coffee guide updates, others of which we thought were worth checking out for yourselves.Stay posted for full reviews and recommendations, but in the meantime, here's what's new in java land. Sanremo's new Cube home espresso machine Owen Burke/Insider We've been on the hunt for a slightly more affordable home espresso machine, and Sanremo's new Cube has caught our eyes. Quiet as can be, this machine has almost no plastic components, and an internal water tank as well as a feed for direct water. The E61 group head is a standard in higher-end machines like this, but this is something a little more on the affordable end than most, and we're excited to see it hit the market.Shop and design your Sanremo Cube here R+R by Savoy Brands SCA/Owen Burke/Insider Not so much a product but a service, Savoy Brands' R+R (Reprocess and Repurpose) initiative installs cardboard boxes at your local coffee shop where you can deposit your spent coffee bags, which will be 100% recycled, metal clip and all, and turned into Smart Gravel for your garden with no added virgin plastic.Keep an eye out for R+R boxes at your local java joint and shop Smart Gravel on Amazon (starting at $18.99) Third Wave Water Third Wave Water/Owen Burke/Insider This stuff isn't new, but barista after barista, including Onyx Coffee Labs' Lance Hedrick, have been imploring me to get my hands on some, and after a demonstration at the Specialty Coffee Expo, I'm left with no reservations about it: this stuff will work wonders for your coffee.Third Wave Water offers potions for all types of coffee so you can pick the treatment that suits your brewing style best.Shop Third Wave Water on Amazon, 12 capsules for $15 Specialty Turkish Coffee Brewer Owen Burke/Insider Turkish coffee isn't a big fad in the US, but maybe it should be. File this along the lines of stovetop espresso from something like a Moka pot. Specialty Turkish Coffee's new copper-clad STC Pro series pots are a little on the thicker side with a narrow spout, which, as demonstrated at the show, is highly conducive to producing that nice layer of foam on top of your cup. Easy and compact, it's a great way to make coffee on the go or at home without taking up too much space.Shop Specialty Turkish Coffee pots (and accessories) at Specialty Turkish Coffee, starting at $50 De'Longhi 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer Owen Burke/Insider Drip coffee makers are almost invariably large, and De'Longhi has taken it upon itself to remedy that with its 8-Cup, 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer. Plainly, this design just makes a heck of a lot more sense, and Specialty Coffee Association Chief Research Officer Peter Guiliano made special note of this one when I caught up with him at the show.If you're looking for a basic drip machine that doesn't take up, say, your entire freaking counter, turn your eyes to this one. This meets the standards for the SCA's rigorous testing, which means that it offers even extraction within four to eight minutes and keeps coffee hot for at let a half hour. Plus, you can actually see what's going on inside, which is a novelty for these machines in and of itself.Shop the De'Longhi 8-Cup, 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer, available at Amazon, $149.99If this one doesn't suit your needs, here's our guide to the best coffee makers. Comandante's new C40 manual coffee grinder Owen Burke/Insider We've been eying the older version of Comandante's C40 grinder for our guide for months after both Lance Hedrick of Onyx Coffee Labs and 2020 UK Brewer's Cup champion Matteo D'Ottavio grilled me for not having tried one. After making talcum-powder-fine grounds for an impeccable Turkish coffee at the show, we're pretty much sold. We'll have a full review up soon, but in the meantime, this is a great addition to your on-the-go-kit and minimalistic kitchen alike.Shop Comandante grinders, available at Specialty Turkish Coffee, starting at $329And if you are on the market for a new coffee grinder, also check out our guide to them here. Flask French press Owen Burke/Insider I've tested no shortage of French presses for our guide, and frankly, I'm almost invariably bored with the options out there. Glass, plastic, or stainless steel, the plungers are always about the same. Here's something different, though: a plunger that immediately stops the brewing process and keeps grit out of your coffee. With Planetary Design's 17-ounce Flask, you get the French-press-style brew with pour-over quality refinement. We'll be considering these for a forthcoming update, but so far, color us impressed.Shop Planetary Design's 17-ounce French-press Flask, available at Amazon, $100If you're after another type of French press, have a look at our guide here. Puqpress automatic espresso tamper Owen Burke/Insider This one's a little esoteric, but for the budding and aging espresso nerd alike, Puqpress's automatic tampers will simplify the process like little else, beyond a great machine and grinder.Dial the tamping pressure between 22 and 66 pounds, and save your wrist a little in the process. If you're young and spry or not a complete maniac about your espresso, this is overkill to be sure. But if you own a cafe and tamp scores of shots daily, are really into dialing things right, or you've got bad wrists, this will surely alleviate you. The brand has caused such a stir that a handful of the larger grinder companies are actually designing their grinders to fit atop this little ditty.Shop Puqpress automatic tampers, available at Amazon, starting at $790If you're in the market for a tamper and don't want to break the bank, check out our guide to them here. Dalla Corte's new Mina home espresso machine Owen Burke/Insider Dalla Corte's new Mina comes at a steep price, but if you're in the market for a new "pro-sumer" espresso machine, I can't think of a more fun toy or tool. The lever adds to this automatic machine pressure control so you can do, well, just about anything to your liking. Plus, it's not half-bad looking, either.Shop and customize your Dalla Corte Mina at Whole Latte Love, starting at $8,500If you're looking for a more basic home espresso machine, you'll find something that suits you better within our guide. Ifill's fillable and compostable K-Cups Owen Burke/Insider There's no shortage of fill-your-own Nespresso pods out there, but for some reason, the K-Cup market has been slow to catch up. Lo and behold, a great, compostable solution is here, and it comes at a very reasonable price. With an internal filter and a sealable sticker on top, Ifillcup's capsules are for entrepreneurs and home-coffee enthusiasts alike, and they blow open the door for what you can do with a Keurig K-Cup machine.Buy Ifillcup compostable K-cup pods, available at Amazon, $19.99 for 48 fillable K-cupsIf you're looking for more pods, including other fillable options for Nespresso and Keurig machines, see our guide to the best Nespresso and K-cup pods. BruTek's Steel Toe 2.0 Travel French Press mug Amazon We can't begin to count the number of travel French press mugs we've tested. None have been bad, necessarily, but none have truly impressed us, either. BruTrek's broke that cycle with its "brew-stop" plunger, which both keeps grounds out of your drink and stops the brewing process to prevent over-extraction. It also has an impressive and confidence-inspiring seal thanks to a robust clip on the side of the lid. We might be in love.Shop BrewTrek's Steel Toe 2.0 20-ounce French press travel mug, available at Amazon, $33And again, If you're in search of any other type of French press, have a look at our guide. Milkadamia Macadamia milk Amazon Milk alternatives seem never ending, and while this isn't the first one to catch our attention, it's up there with our favorites (looking at you, Oatly). Milkadamia won best-new-product-in-show at the expo, so we're not alone.Shop Milkadamia, available at Thrive Market, starting at $3.99 per quart Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 8th, 2021

Industry Unbound: Friendly Academics And Performing Accountability

Excerpted from Industry Unbound: The Inside Story of Privacy, Data, and Corporate Power by Ari Ezra Waldman. Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Industry Unbound: Friendly Academics The information industry also launders its arguments through seemingly independent academic research. The best example of this is in the field of AI and automated decision-making […] Excerpted from Industry Unbound: The Inside Story of Privacy, Data, and Corporate Power by Ari Ezra Waldman. if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Henry Singleton Series in PDF Get the entire 4-part series on Henry Singleton in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more Industry Unbound: Friendly Academics The information industry also launders its arguments through seemingly independent academic research. The best example of this is in the field of AI and automated decision-making systems. AI is an umbrella term often imprecisely used to refer to set of technologies “best understood as a set of techniques aimed at approximating some aspect of human or animal cognition using machines.” For AI systems to work as promised (which they rarely do), their developers require enormous tranches of data for the purposes of training and improving accuracy. AI policy, therefore, is inextricably linked to privacy: the less regulation around the collection and use of personal data, the easier it will be to design, market, and deploy AI; the fewer guardrails around the use of AI, the more companies will extract our data. Scholars in law and the social sciences are interrogating AI and its use in social policy decisions. They have highlighted problems of bias, lack of accountability, structural injustice, and invasions of privacy. Other researchers, however, have become apologists for industry’s AI-related data grabs. The MIT Media Lab, for example, not only cozied up to Silicon Valley billionaires to build potential funding streams, but also allegedly aligned some of its policy recommendations on data collection and AI with Big Tech’s antiregulatory posture. In the AI space, the information industry prefers a light (or no) touch approach to tweaking AI’s bias problem; they have co-opted the notion of “AI ethics” as a means of replacing public governance with their own internal structures. Industry also invests millions to create a narrative about bias, data privacy, and the role of government. They funded MIT Media Lab research that was eventually cited in reports published by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), IBM (NYSE:IBM), Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) calling for self-regulation. In response to industry pressure, Media Lab executives allegedly “water[ed] down” AI law and policy recommendations to the California legislature that were at odds with the research done by its own experts on the ground. Amazon paid scholars at Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University to push their favored discourses. After the antitrust scholar Lina Khan wrote an article targeting Amazon as anticompetitive and calling for reinvigorating antitrust law to take on the internet giant, Amazon paid pro-corporate scholars to write an article lauding Amazon’s monopolistic practices as good for consumers. It’s hard to know how often this happens. But even when scholars acknowledge their corporate funding streams in footnotes, the discursive damage remains. There is more to this story than a few grants, even if those grants add up to a several millions of dollars. Many scholars who receive Google, Facebook, or other Big Tech funds insist that the money doesn’t influence their writing. And for many, that is true. Merely receiving money from a target of research does not necessarily prove bias. But we also have evidence that the nonprofits that receive those funds make personnel and substantive decisions that accord with the views of their biggest tech donors. In 2017, for example, the entire competition team at a Google-funded think tank was fired after its leader pushed for more rigorous antitrust enforcement against Google. The information industry is also far more subtle as it seeks influence over academic discourse about privacy, law, and technology. For instance, company representatives will often only speak with independent researchers about already public documents and reports and then only on “deep background,” thus limiting what academics can learn. This happened to me during research for another project, where a Google attorney and several colleagues were only willing to discuss Google Play’s published guidelines and only without attribution. I ended the call. Five academic colleagues experienced the same tactic, including one who was interested in Facebook content moderation who was told “only on the condition that you can’t quote anything we say.” This tactic may sound counterproductive to building friendly discourses in academia; not talking is a bad inculcative strategy. According to a former member of Google’s policy shop, the deep background strategy “gives us an opportunity to share our side of the story without pinning a quote on one person because quotes can always be misleading and edited to make us look bad. Several companies incentivize friendly coverage by dangling research funds in front of junior scholars. Young researchers and PhD students are particularly susceptible to corporate influence because of the need to pay for their fellowships, publish to get tenure, the possibility that access will translate into undiscovered research, and the small stipends they receive from their institutions. The Facebook Fellowship, for example, includes full tuition and a $42,000 annual stipend, paid visits to Facebook, and all expenses paid participation in the annual Fellowship summit. Undoubtedly, merely participating in this program does mean that these junior scholars are unduly influenced by Facebook. But much of the Fellows’ already published research fits neatly within privacy-ascontrol ‘s logic of power. Among thirty-six Facebook Fellows in 2020, six classify their work in some way related to privacy. Along with several co-authors, these fellows have published academic articles arguing that the tool Mark Zuckerberg plans to use to create a “privacy-focused” Facebook – end-to-end encryption – is the “best way to protect” privacy on social media. In another article, researchers used studies to buttress the feasibility of privacy self-governance and argued users of messaging services are willing to trade security for convenience. Other Fellows researching AI and fairness issues have published articles proposing changes that companies can make themselves, perpetuating, even inadvertently, the self-regulatory ethos. I am not suggesting that all of these promising young scholars are part of a cabal of researchers plotting to spread pro-Facebook messages throughout academia. Switch it around: Facebook is choosing to provide ample support for research that perpetuates privacy-as-control’s logic and using its soft power to create friendly relationships among promising future academics. To my knowledge and based on the experience of several academics in law, surveillance studies, and sociology, Facebook and Google often, though not always, require preapproval of all quotes and related text before an academic publishes scholarship based on interviews with company representatives, a grant from the company, or pursuant to officially sanctioned field work. This is a particularly pernicious tactic. One colleague I interviewed for this projecthas saved email conversations with Facebook in which company representatives required articles to be embargoed and precleared before submission. I did not get that farwith Facebook,which refused to participate in this research. Another colleague reported that some Facebook and Google grants they received had “no strings attached, it was money for a conference or a project or whatever, but they just gave it,” but “research money always came with questions and invitations and, ultimately, they wanted to know what my conclusions would be. I gave back the remaining funds much to [my university’s] chagrin.” Corporate-friendly academic research makes its way back into the information industry, inculcating the rank and file along the way, because corporate researchers, public policy teams, and other lawyers and privacy professionals are encouraged to cite and refer to it in their work. Several privacy professionals and lawyers outside Silicon Valley showed me internal documents focusing both on the benefits ofprivacy notice, choice, and control and how to improve it, and they all rely on research from Facebook Fellows, Google-funded research projects, and encryption-centered work at Microsoft Research. Of course, independent academics are cited as well. But, often, those academics are cited for background; their proregulatory proposals are ignored. For example, Facebook cited work from Lorrie Cranor, Aleecia McDonald, Helen Nissenbaum, and me, among others, in its public report on improving notice and transparency. But when it came time to thinking about solutions, Facebook touted its own solutions, as if to suggest that the problem can be solved without the law getting involved. Performing Accountability Another common tactic I observed during my interviews is what Julie Cohen has called performing accountability, or doing something “designed to express a generic commitment to accountability without ... meaningful scrutiny of the underlying process.” Magicians use the word “misdirection” to describe a related phenomenon: while we’re distracted by some of the information industry ‘s cynical trappings of accountability, tech companies are busy undermining our privacy. A paradigmatic example of this strategy comes from the related context of content moderation. Content moderation refers to how platforms regulate the material available on their sites. Sarah Roberts has called content moderation “a powerful mechanism of control” that has “grown up alongside, and in service to” private companies in the information industry. Platforms moderate content in order to achieve optimal engagement. Platforms develop their own rules for what is and what is not allowed to be posted and they apply those rules using both humans and algorithms. Content moderation at Facebook has garnered outsized attention in the media, among policy makers, and among academics. Many high-profile content moderation controversies at Facebook have caused such a crisis of confidence that the company announced, with significant fanfare, that it was creating an oversight board to hear appeals of moderation decisions from the front lines. The idea is that an independent board would routinize, rationalize, and publicize content moderation decisions, generating trust and confidence. Per a search on Lexis Nexis, 2,210 newspaper and magazine articles have been written about the Oversight Board between November 2018, when the board was announced, and May 18, 2020. Over 565 days, that’s an average of nearly four articles per day! Facebook pitched many of these stories to both leading outlets like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, as well as to general interest blogs and tech-focused news outlets. During this time, 189 law review and journal articles at least mentioning the board have been published. And that doesn’t even include the many hundreds that are being written, under submission, and soon-to-be published at this book went to press. A May 18, 2020, Google search for any content with the exact phrase “Facebook Oversight Board” yielded 236,000 results; millions more have all of those terms. Facebook has pushed out several reports and issued press releases dutifully picked up by news outlets and commentators. The company’s representatives have given countless talks at universities, as well as public and private fora, from Princeton University to the Aspen Institute. This onslaught was evidently intentional, but the attention paid to the board is disproportionate to its power. The board says it will focus on “the most challenging content issues for Facebook, including ... hate speech, harassment, and protecting people’s privacy.” But, as the media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan notes, “only in the narrowest and most trivial of ways does this board have any such power. The new Facebook review board will have no influence over anything that really matters in the world.” A quick look at the board’s Charter proves he’s correct. The board can only hear appeals for content that has been removed, not the misleading and harmful content that remains. Nor can the board make binding decisions about the fate of specific pieces of content on a case-by-case basis. It is supposed to make its decisions within ninety days of a filed appeal, but can expedite certain decisions within thirty days. Its decisions have zero precedential value. It has no binding impact on policy, even on policies about content moderation! It cannot change the way Facebook is run or materially change how Facebook makes decisions about content. It won’t be able to address the fact that Facebook’s failure to remove misleading “deep fake” videos or “fake news” can sway an election. It can’t do much about the rampant hate speech and human rights violations that persist. It has absolutely no voice in Facebook’s continued misuse of user data. And it will play no role in corralling misinformation and harmful conspiracies rampant throughout the platform. The last two points are rather ironic: the board’s announcement came in reaction to a New York Times report about how Facebook publicly lied, deflected blame, and tried to cover up both its failure to recognize and police Russia’s use of the platform to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election and its flagrant misuse of user data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Why, then, has the board received so much media and scholarly attention? The strategy is intentional, meant to distract us from everything Facebook isn’t doing. Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and an expert on media manipulation, called the board a distraction from “what really needs to happen, which is to design technology that doesn’t allow for the expansive amplification of disinformation and health misinformation.” Facebook isn’t changing its business. It isn’t taking down fake videos or limiting the lies from right-wing politicians. Nor is it changing the very financial model that makes it in the company’s interest to extract our data, leave up conspiracy theories, fake news, deep fakes, and other sensationalized content. Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at Harvard and former Facebook executive, wrote that the board is “a commercial thing of convenience for the company both in its name and its function; it gives the impression that the board will provide true oversight by graduating the responsibility of determining what should constitute hate speech to an external party with public credibility, allowing the company to skate over the threat of a more rigorous regulatory policy that might emerge from relatively aggressive legislatures that might wish to target the firm’s business model itself.” The board’s impotence, then, is real, but its discursive effect is not. Facebook engaged in an aggressive strategy involving earned media and friendly academics to make a lot of noise about something that will barely be a blip on the screen of Facebook’s vast problems. Its full court press is nothing short of a concerted strategy to redirect us from its other failures. The same strategy has been deployed to inculcate the values of privacy-as-control as obvious, common sense, and normatively good. Privacy self-regulation, notice-and-consent, and privacy policies are “commercial things of convenience,” as well: privacy policies give the impression that the information industry is doing something to protect our data and small, marginal changes after privacy scandals facilitate an escape from greater regulatory oversight. This misdirection has been so successful at inculcating a perception of accountability among members of the public that many people think a company with a privacy policy is promising to keep our data private! Whenever I questioned the privacy-invasive designs of several companies’ products, the usual response was to redirect my attention to the company’s cybersecurity work. We saw this in Chapter 1, where both privacy professionals and software engineers touted their encryption and state-of-the-art security techniques as proof that they cared about privacy. The privacy lawyers I interviewed highlighted their work improving transparency. In several instances, these lawyers would note that “no one is perfect” and that “we’re doing better” by showing how they have redesigned their notices to be more readable. These are, at their core, misdirections. Improving notice and strengthening cybersecurity are not bad ideas. But they don’t speak to design. Nor do they serve any purpose outside the privacy-as-control framework. Asking us to focus on notice not only perpetuates its legitimacy as a privacy practice, but it also keeps the rank and file focused on performances of privacy rather than pulling back the curtain on the industry’s legal and discursive crusades against it. Updated on Oct 8, 2021, 11:33 am (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkOct 8th, 2021

I went to the equivalent of Disney World for coffee nerds and these are the best new products I tried

The Specialty Coffee Association's annual expo is a bazaar's worth of coffee gadgets and accouterments. Here are our favorite products from the show. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Owen Burke/Insider We attended the Specialty Coffee Association's 2021 Expo in New Orleans this weekend. Through a bewildering array of all things coffee, we sifted out our favorite new coffee gear. From home espresso machines to compostable K-Cups, here's what we're most excited by. The Specialty Coffee Association is, in our opinion, the ultimate authority in all things coffee. When they put on an expo, the who's who and what's what in coffee is all there: it's the newest and best in the wide world of coffee.We toured the showroom looking for everything from the latest and greatest espresso machines to new takes on old designs like the French press, as well as a bazaar's worth of additives and accouterments.Below, we've rounded up our favorites from the show, some of which we'll be testing for forthcoming coffee guide updates, others of which we thought were worth checking out for yourselves.Stay posted for full reviews and recommendations, but in the meantime, here's what's new in java land. Sanremo's new Cube home espresso machine Owen Burke/Insider We've been on the hunt for a slightly more affordable home espresso machine, and Sanremo's new Cube has caught our eyes. Quiet as can be, this machine has almost no plastic components, and an internal water tank as well as a feed for direct water. The E61 group head is a standard in higher-end machines like this, but this is something a little more on the affordable end than most, and we're excited to see it hit the market.Shop and design your Sanremo Cube here R+R by Savoy Brands SCA/Owen Burke/Insider Not so much a product but a service, Savoy Brands' R+R (Reprocess and Repurpose) initiative installs cardboard boxes at your local coffee shop where you can deposit your spent coffee bags, which will be 100% recycled, metal clip and all, and turned into Smart Gravel for your garden with no added virgin plastic.Keep an eye out for R+R boxes at your local java joint and shop Smart Gravel on Amazon (starting at $18.99) Third Wave Water Third Wave Water/Owen Burke/Insider This stuff isn't new, but barista after barista, including Onyx Coffee Labs' Lance Hedrick, have been imploring me to get my hands on some, and after a demonstration at the Specialty Coffee Expo, I'm left with no reservations about it: this stuff will work wonders for your coffee.Third Wave Water offers potions for all types of coffee so you can pick the treatment that suits your brewing style best.Shop Third Wave Water on Amazon, 12 capsules for $15 Specialty Turkish Coffee Brewer Owen Burke/Insider Turkish coffee isn't a big fad in the US, but maybe it should be. File this along the lines of stovetop espresso from something like a Moka pot. Specialty Turkish Coffee's new copper-clad STC Pro series pots are a little on the thicker side with a narrow spout, which, as demonstrated at the show, is highly conducive to producing that nice layer of foam on top of your cup. Easy and compact, it's a great way to make coffee on the go or at home without taking up too much space.Shop Specialty Turkish Coffee pots (and accessories) at Specialty Turkish Coffee, starting at $50 De'Longhi 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer Owen Burke/Insider Drip coffee makers are almost invariably large, and De'Longhi has taken it upon itself to remedy that with its 8-Cup, 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer. Plainly, this design just makes a heck of a lot more sense, and Specialty Coffee Association Chief Research Officer Peter Guiliano made special note of this one when I caught up with him at the show.If you're looking for a basic drip machine that doesn't take up, say, your entire freaking counter, turn your eyes to this one. This meets the standards for the SCA's rigorous testing, which means that it offers even extraction within four to eight minutes and keeps coffee hot for at let a half hour. Plus, you can actually see what's going on inside, which is a novelty for these machines in and of itself.Shop the De'Longhi 8-Cup, 3-in-1 Specialty Coffee Brewer, available at Amazon, $149.99If this one doesn't suit your needs, here's our guide to the best coffee makers. Comandante's new C40 manual coffee grinder Owen Burke/Insider We've been eying the older version of Comandante's C40 grinder for our guide for months after both Lance Hedrick of Onyx Coffee Labs and 2020 UK Brewer's Cup champion Matteo D'Ottavio grilled me for not having tried one. After making talcum-powder-fine grounds for an impeccable Turkish coffee at the show, we're pretty much sold. We'll have a full review up soon, but in the meantime, this is a great addition to your on-the-go-kit and minimalistic kitchen alike.Shop Comandante grinders, available at Specialty Turkish Coffee, starting at $329And if you are on the market for a new coffee grinder, also check out our guide to them here. Flask French press Owen Burke/Insider I've tested no shortage of French presses for our guide, and frankly, I'm almost invariably bored with the options out there. Glass, plastic, or stainless steel, the plungers are always about the same. Here's something different, though: a plunger that immediately stops the brewing process and keeps grit out of your coffee. With Planetary Design's 17-ounce Flask, you get the French-press-style brew with pour-over quality refinement. We'll be considering these for a forthcoming update, but so far, color us impressed.Shop Planetary Design's 17-ounce French-press Flask, available at Amazon, $100If you're after another type of French press, have a look at our guide here. Puqpress automatic espresso tamper Owen Burke/Insider This one's a little esoteric, but for the budding and aging espresso nerd alike, Puqpress's automatic tampers will simplify the process like little else, beyond a great machine and grinder.Dial the tamping pressure between 22 and 66 pounds, and save your wrist a little in the process. If you're young and spry or not a complete maniac about your espresso, this is overkill to be sure. But if you own a cafe and tamp scores of shots daily, are really into dialing things right, or you've got bad wrists, this will surely alleviate you. The brand has caused such a stir that a handful of the larger grinder companies are actually designing their grinders to fit atop this little ditty.Shop Puqpress automatic tampers, available at Amazon, starting at $790If you're in the market for a tamper and don't want to break the bank, check out our guide to them here. Dalla Corte's new Mina home espresso machine Owen Burke/Insider Dalla Corte's new Mina comes at a steep price, but if you're in the market for a new "pro-sumer" espresso machine, I can't think of a more fun toy or tool. The lever adds to this automatic machine pressure control so you can do, well, just about anything to your liking. Plus, it's not half-bad looking, either.Shop and customize your Dalla Corte Mina at Whole Latte Love, starting at $8,500If you're looking for a more basic home espresso machine, you'll find something that suits you better within our guide. Ifill's fillable and compostable K-Cups Owen Burke/Insider There's no shortage of fill-your-own Nespresso pods out there, but for some reason, the K-Cup market has been slow to catch up. Lo and behold, a great, compostable solution is here, and it comes at a very reasonable price. With an internal filter and a sealable sticker on top, Ifillcup's capsules are for entrepreneurs and home-coffee enthusiasts alike, and they blow open the door for what you can do with a Keurig K-Cup machine.Buy Ifillcup compostable K-cup pods, available at Amazon, $19.99 for 48 fillable K-cupsIf you're looking for more pods, including other fillable options for Nespresso and Keurig machines, see our guide to the best Nespresso and K-cup pods. BruTek's Steel Toe 2.0 Travel French Press mug Amazon We can't begin to count the number of travel French press mugs we've tested. None have been bad, necessarily, but none have truly impressed us, either. BruTrek's broke that cycle with its "brew-stop" plunger, which both keeps grounds out of your drink and stops the brewing process to prevent over-extraction. It also has an impressive and confidence-inspiring seal thanks to a robust clip on the side of the lid. We might be in love.Shop BrewTrek's Steel Toe 2.0 20-ounce French press travel mug, available at Amazon, $33And again, If you're in search of any other type of French press, have a look at our guide. Milkadamia Macadamia milk Amazon Milk alternatives seem never ending, and while this isn't the first one to catch our attention, it's up there with our favorites (looking at you, Oatly). Milkadamia won best-new-product-in-show at the expo, so we're not alone.Shop Milkadamia, available at Thrive Market, starting at $3.99 per quart Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 8th, 2021

Rudy Giuliani testified that he represented Trump"s 2020 campaign for free because the former president "ordered me to do it"

Giuliani said in a newly released deposition transcript that Trump called him into the Oval Office after the election and told him to "go over and take over the campaign." Rudy Giuliani. Jacquelyn Martin/AP Rudy Giuliani said former President Donald Trump ordered him to represent his campaign for free, according to court documents. Giuliani had been called to testify in a defamation lawsuit brought by a former Dominion Voting Systems employee. Giuliani said in the deposition that Trump told him to "go over and take over the campaign, tell them you're in charge." Rudy Giuliani testified that he represented former President Donald Trump for free after the 2020 election because Trump "ordered me to do it," newly released court documents show.Giuliani had led the Trump campaign's effort to contest the 2020 election results by filing dozens of lawsuits that claimed there was widespread election fraud, all of which were thrown out by federal judges. An executive for Dominion Voting Systems, Eric Coomer, subsequently brought defamation lawsuits against Giuliani, former federal prosecutor Sydney Powell, and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, alleging that they knowingly spread false information about his involvement in election fraud.In a newly released deposition transcript, Coomer's attorney, Charles Cain, asked Giuliani if he was ever paid to represent the Trump campaign. Cain noted that Giuliani said in a sweaty, conspiracy-theory-filled November 19 press conference that he was representing both Trump personally and the Trump campaign.Giuliani replied that he was not paid to represent the campaign and had only been reimbursed for his expenses, according to the transcript. Cain then asked Giuliani why he would represent the Trump campaign without compensation."The president - the president ordered me to do it," Giuliani replied.Trump had previously cut off Giuliani and was refusing to pay his legal bills, according to Michael Wolff's book, "Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency." The amount that Trump may owe Giuliani is unclear, but Maria Ryan, a Giuliani associate, told The New York Times that Giuliani gave a rate of $20,000-per-day to the Trump campaign for his work on the election lawsuits. In the deposition transcript, Giuliani told Cain that Trump called him into the Oval Office on "either the 4th or the 5th" of November 2020 - after the presidential election - and told him to "go over and take over the campaign, tell them you're in charge."Giuliani's attorney, Joe Sibley, immediately reminded the former New York City mayor not to disclose information about his conversation with Trump that could be protected by attorney-client privilege, according to the transcript. "It doesn't matter if he made the statement. Don't disclose it if it's attorney/client privilege," Sibley said, to which Giuliani replied that he would be "very careful" not to disclose any privileged information."He said go over and tell them you're in charge, it's got to be straightened out," Giuliani said, noting that he wasn't sure if Trump wanted him to take over the entire campaign or only the campaign's legal representation. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytOct 8th, 2021