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The "beginning of the end" for Putin began "some time ago," and the Ukraine war "speeds up his demise," top Navalny aide says

"The people in the political and economic elite have seen their lifestyles turned upside down, their fortunes decimated," a top aide to Navalny said. An archery target featuring the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a tourist attraction at Shevchenkivskyi Hai Park Museum on April 24, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine.Leon Neal/Getty Images Putin's unprovoked war in Ukraine "speeds up his demise," according to a top aide to Alexei Navalny. "The people in the political and economic elite have seen their lifestyles turned upside down," Vladimir Ashurkov told Insider. The war has united much of the world against Russia, isolating Moscow politically and economically. Russian President Vladimir Putin has accelerated his own downfall by launching an unprovoked war in Ukraine, according to top aide of imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. "The beginning of the end of Putin started some time ago. But I'm confident that this war has made many people in Russia and outside of Russia unhappy with him. The people in the political and economic elite have seen their lifestyles turned upside down, their fortunes decimated," Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation, told Insider.Putin's war in Ukraine has led countries across the globe to impose broad, unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia. The conflict has united the West in major ways, and reinvigorated NATO. The international community has also turned against Moscow, with the UN General Assembly voting to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council in early April.Two months after the February 24 invasion, the Russian military has struggled to make any major gains and has turned its attention to the eastern Donbas region after failing to take Kyiv. It's estimated that up to 15,000 Russia troops have been killed in Ukraine so far, with a staggering number of Russian generals among the dead. Average Russians are seeing brands they have become accustomed to like McDonald's and IKEA leave their country because of the war, and inflation is soaring to record levels.  Even with Navalny jailed, the Kremlin critic's organization senses an opportunity and is working to counter Russian propaganda that obscures or denies the brutal realities of the Ukraine war, while continuing to investigate corruption among Putin's inner circle."This makes Putin highly unpopular and it affects everybody. I do believe that this speeds up his demise," Ashurkov said.'It was never really easy for Russian opposition ever'Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad, Russia July 20, 2018.Alexei Nikolsky/ReutersBut taking down Putin, who has been in power for roughly two decades, will not happen overnight. The Russian leader has gone to extraordinary lengths to quash opposition and stifle dissent. Navalny, the Kremlin's most prominent critic, is a prime example. The anti-corruption campaigner was poisoned in Siberia with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in August 2020 and nearly died. Putin has been condemned worldwide over Navalny's poisoning, though he's denied any involvement.After receiving treatment in Germany, Navalny returned to Moscow in early 2021 and was promptly arrested. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating parole, including during treatment in Germany, from a 2014 embezzlement conviction. His imprisonment led to mass protests in Russia. Last month, Navalny saw nine years added to his sentence by a judge who was personally promoted by Putin to a higher court just days before. Human rights groups have decried the charges against Navalny as politically motivated.Meanwhile, Navalny has continued to criticize Putin from prison and has called on Russians to vehemently oppose the Ukraine war. And though Navalny's political network was banned in Russia last year after being dubbed "extremist," his foundation has not ceased its efforts to expose corruption. Vladimir Ashurkov and Alexei Navalny attend a news conference in Moscow, Russia, in 2014.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated PressBut with Navalny in prison and a new crackdown on independent media amid the faltering Ukraine war, keeping the Russian opposition movement alive is no easy task. Ashurkov, who lives in exile in London, said it's "not safe for our staff to work in Russia." The foundation relocated staff to Lithuania in 2021, establishing a new office in Vilnius, after the "extremist" designation."The last year and a half have been difficult for us and for the whole democratic movement and independent journalists in Russia. This has been made many times more difficult since the war with the Ukraine started two months ago...It has been quite an ordeal." Ashurkov said. Shortly after launching the war in Ukraine, Putin signed a law that could see people sentenced to up to 15 years for spreading "fake news" about the Russian military. Thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia have been arrested. "Over the last two months, we've seen the last independent media outlets in Russia closed. Many people emigrated. Repression increased. Our good friend and ally Vladimir Kara-Murza has been put in detention for basically a speech that he has given in the US on the war. It is tough, but it was never really easy for Russian opposition ever," Ashurkov said."We continue our work," Ashurkov said. The Anti-Corruption Foundation is primarily focused on three areas at present, he added, including expanding its social media presence — particularly on YouTube — and attempting to break through Putin's propaganda blitz (reaching Russians via virtual private network or VPN connections), anti-corruption investigations, and an increased focus on sanctions. The Anti-Corruption Foundation this week released a list of over 6,o00 people "who are involved to different extent in various aspects of the war in Ukraine and who we believe should be considered for sanctioning," Ashurkov said.—Leonid Volkov (@leonidvolkov) April 26, 2022 "These are the big things we are trying to do in these difficult conditions," he added.Navalny's allies are constantly preparing for "when the situation in Russia changes and a political crisis emerges," Ashurkov said. "And we're confident that this war has actually expedited and brought forward to this stage. We are quite optimistic."'The situation is quite dire for everybody'TOPSHOT - Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, his wife Yulia, opposition politician Lyubov Sobol and other demonstrators march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in downtown Moscow on February 29, 2020.KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty ImagesAshurkov said Navalny continues to play a key role in the foundation's work, and he remains in contact with him through the jailed opposition leader's lawyers. "Our team and his family communicate with Alexei through a lawyer that visits him on weekdays for about an hour. And during this time he scribbles his handwritten notes to his family and to us, and he reads whatever materials we sent him. Despite being in prison, he's still very much an integral part of our team," Ashurkov said. But it's not clear how long that line of communication will remain available, particularly given the recent extension of Navalny's sentence. "We don't know whether he will be moved," Ashurkov said. "It's still up in the air."Navalny went on hunger strike in prison last year while demanding proper medical care, and there were grave concerns among his allies that he was on the verge of death. Ashurkov said Navalny's health "seems fine" at the moment, but that doesn't mean he's not still in danger. "Russian security services have shown us that they can do all kinds of bad things in all parts of the world. Navalny has already been poisoned...He remains in Russian prison — not a particularly safe place. So we are concerned, but for now he feels OK," Ashurkov said, adding, "Navalny's story is one filled with miracles. A miraculous recuperation after a murder attempt, an epic call to one of his assassins, a return to Russia despite all the threats. He will defy whatever threats come his way in the future as well."But Ashurkov also underscored that the danger posed by Putin extends well beyond Navalny, Russia, and Ukraine. "I don't think anybody on planet Earth has a secure future when there is a maniac with a nuclear bomb banging it around. The situation is quite dire for everybody," he warned. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 27th, 2022

Russia is on the verge of passing an expanded version of its notorious anti-LGBTQ bill that bans promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations"

Russians face fines in the hundreds of thousands of rubles for violating the ban. Ads and films depicting same-sex relationships could be prohibited. Russian President Vladimir Putin.Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images Russia's State Duma passed an expanded version of its notorious anti-LGBTQ law.  The revised bill bans spreading "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to people of any age. The original law only applied to children.  Russian citizens can be fined hundreds of thousands of rubles for breaking the law.  Russia's lower house of parliament on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that expands and strengthens a ban on spreading LGBTQ "propaganda" in the country. The bill prohibiting the promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" builds upon a notorious law passed in 2013, which took aim at "propaganda" spread to minors. The new iteration of the law expands it to include people of all ages. Under the new law passed by the State Duma, films, and advertisements depicting same-sex relationships could be banned. Websites deemed to violate the ban may be blocked. The legislation also imposes hefty fines for activities seen as promoting pedophilia and gender-reassignment surgery. Russian citizens found to have spread propaganda about "non-traditional sexual relations" could face a fine of up to 400,000 rubles, or $6,600 at current exchange rates. Foreigners who break the law face expulsion from the country. The bill still needs to be approved by Russia's upper house of parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. Human-rights organizations have condemned Russia for the so-called "gay propaganda" law since its introduction. In 2018, Human Rights Watch found that the law sparked an increase in hostility toward LGBTQ youth in Russia. In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the law was discriminatory. "By adopting such laws the authorities reinforce stigma and prejudice and encourage homophobia, which is incompatible with the notions of equality, pluralism and tolerance inherent in a democratic society," the court said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 24th, 2022

Into The Black Hole - Six Months Of War With No End In Sight

Into The Black Hole - Six Months Of War With No End In Sight Authored by James Rickards cia DailyReckoning.com, The war in Ukraine has been dragging on for six months with no end in sight. Russia is slowly and systematically advancing, while the Ukrainian military is being ground down in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. On balance, Russia is winning the war, although progress is slow. Russia will next likely move to take Odesa, a strategically key Black Sea port. Russia has staged missile attacks on Odesa in recent days. If Russia ultimately takes Odesa, it removes Ukraine’s access to the sea, effectively rendering it completely landlocked. But there don’t appear to be any plans for an imminent Russian attack on Odesa. At any rate, a negotiated peace settlement is nowhere in sight. Neither side will accept the other’s demands. Meanwhile, a car bomb killed the daughter of “Putin’s brain” this past weekend near Moscow. Alexander Dugin is an ardent Russian nationalist whose thinking is said to have influenced Putin. His daughter was killed in the blast, although many suspect he was the intended target. Russia blames Ukraine for the attack, which Ukraine denies. How Russia responds remains to be seen. What’s the Endgame? As the war drags on with no end in sight, there’s also no end in sight to the flow of U.S. aid to Ukraine. It’s an open-ended commitment with no clearly defined objective. Both the Democratic and Republican parties support the spending, except for a minority who are vilified as Putin stooges and apologists. Supporters talk about standing up for democracy, but Ukraine is a corrupt oligarchy that’s just about as corrupt as Russia. It’s far from a model democracy. But the aid’s for a good cause, they say. We’re helping defeat aggression and assisting a weaker nation stand up against a much stronger attacker. Well, that’s fine, but there’s little to no oversight to supervise the transfers. Where’s the U.S. aid to Ukraine going? The aid is being stolen off the top or diverted to corrupt officials. Goods are often stolen and resold on the black market. Weapons are also sold on the black market. In all, very limited amounts of aid are actually going to the war effort. Massive Corruption One Ukrainian volunteer fighting in the Donbas has said: In Ukraine, people cheat each other even in war. I’ve watched the medical supplies donated to us being taken away. The cars that drove us to our position were stolen. And we have not been replaced with new soldiers in three months, though we should have been relieved three times by now… If I had known how much deception there was in this army, and how everything would be for us, I never would have joined. I want to go home, but if I flee, I face prison. Here’s what a Ukrainian journalist has to say: The corruption related to the war aid is shocking. The weapons are stolen, the humanitarian aid is stolen and we have no idea where the billions sent to this country have gone. Of course, your tax money is paying for this swindle. Wartime Sacrifice? Here’s an idea of where at least some of the billions have gone. Last month, the Ukrainian parliament voted to give itself a 70% pay raise, while the army is collapsing and the Ukrainian people are suffering. So much for wartime sacrifice. Moreover, Western admirers of Ukrainian president Zelenskyy have praised him as a modern Winston Churchill, defyingly resisting an evil aggressor. But Zelenskyy is no Churchill. He’s succeeded in presenting himself as a strong wartime leader, standing up to the big, bad Putin. But in reality, he’s a corrupt oligarch with millions of dollars hidden offshore. His acting skills have enhanced his propaganda efforts, but it doesn’t take much training to see how phony he is. Innocent civilians, including women and children, are dying under his failed leadership and inability to come to terms with Putin before the invasion began. The True U.S. Objective in Ukraine But the same journalist who complained about the widespread corruption has figured out the real U.S. strategy in Ukraine: It is obvious that the U.S. doesn’t want Ukraine to win the war. They only want to make Russia weak. No one will win this war, but the countries the U.S. is using like a playground will lose. That’s exactly right. The U.S. has no vital interest in Ukraine worth going to war over. Its real aim is to weaken Russia through a protracted war in Ukraine. The longer it drags on, the better, no matter how many Ukrainians have to die in the process. In other words, the U.S. is willing to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. That may sound overly cynical, but it really isn’t. It’s just an objective assessment based upon the facts on the ground. But don’t take my word for it. As Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.” Sanctions Are a Complete Failure Meanwhile, the sanctions regime against Russia has proven to be a complete failure. Sanctions have had zero impact on Russian advances on the battlefield and Russian goals in Ukraine. In fact, Putin has run rings around the sanctions. Instead of the ruble collapsing, it has strengthened in the face of Western sanctions. And boycotting Russian exports of oil and natural gas was pointless because Russia just sold the same energy to China and India instead of Europe. It’s a world market, after all. European countries like Germany are so dependent on Russian energy that they’re facing severe shortages and a bleak winter without it. Germany faces a catastrophic winter in which factories will have to be closed, homes will have to reduce heat to 50 F and hot showers may be a thing of the past. It’s all because Germany made a political decision to side with the climate alarmists and Greens despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting their claims. They became utterly dependent on Russia as a result. When reality collides with ideology, reality wins every time. Now Germany will pay the price. Meanwhile, global food shortages and possibly famine are real possibilities this winter because Ukrainian and Russian grain won’t be delivered. The tragedy is that all of this could have been prevented had the U.S. and NATO guaranteed Russia that Ukraine would never be invited into the alliance. That’s not a defense of Putin’s invasion, by the way, which I condemn. It’s just reality. Now the world is living with the results. Tyler Durden Thu, 08/25/2022 - 07:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 25th, 2022

Europe Predicts Full-Blown Stagflationary Shock If Russian Gas Supplies Disrupted, Folds To Putin"s Payment Demands

Europe Predicts Full-Blown Stagflationary Shock If Russian Gas Supplies Disrupted, Folds To Putin's Payment Demands Almost two months after Europe rushed to declare it would impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia in response to Putin's invasion of Ukraine with no regard for how such sanctions would boomerang and cripple its own economies, the old continent which was and still remains hostage to Russian energy exports, is finally grasping the underlying math which was all too clear to Vladimir Putin long ago. According to new projections from the European Commission, the euro area’s pandemic recovery would grind to a halt, while prices would surge even more quickly if there are serious disruptions to natural-gas supplies from Russia.  Under the severe (i.e., realistic) scenario, the currency bloc’s economy would expand about 0.2% this year, with inflation topping 9%, as governments struggled to replace the imports, the European Union’s executive arm said. After this initial stagflationary period, growth would be one percentage point below the baseline in 2023. In its first forecasts since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU also cut its base-case outlook predicting GDP will only grow 2.7% this year and 2.3% in 2023, down from February’s 4% and 2.7%. The revisions suggest Germany, the continent’s biggest economy, won’t reach pre-crisis output until the final quarter of 2022, while Spain must wait until the third quarter of 2023, the commission said. And while growth slows, inflation is accelerating as stagflation spreads: Euro-zone inflation is seen at 6.1% and 2.7% this year and next, compared with previous projections of 3.5% and 1.7%. The peak is seen sometime this quarter. Amazingly, the truth is likely even worse: "Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing untold suffering and destruction, but is also weighing on Europe’s economic recovery," Paolo Gentiloni, the EU commissioner for the economy, said Monday in a statement. “Other scenarios are possible under which growth may be lower and inflation higher than we are projecting today.” Europe's "sudden realization" of just how destructive pushing through with full-blown sanctions will be, somewhat similar to that of Elon Musk who "learned" about the millions in Twitter spam accounts only after bidding $44 billion - is why over the weekend, Bloomberg reported that the European Union is set to fully water down its so-called sanctions and to offer gas importers a solution to avoid a breach of sanctions when buying fuel from Russia while satisfying President Vladimir Putin’s demands over payment in rubles. In new guidance on gas payments, the European Commission plans to say that companies should make a clear statement that they consider their obligations fulfilled once they pay in euros or dollars, in line with existing contracts. The EU’s executive arm told the governments that the guidance does not prevent companies from opening an account at Gazprombank and will allow them to purchase gas in accordance with EU sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin’s decree called for companies to open two accounts with Gazprombank - one in euros and one in rubles - and stipulated that gas payments aren’t settled until euros are converted into rubles.  Russia clarified its decree earlier this month, stating that payments received in foreign currency would be exchanged to rubles via accounts with Russia’s National Clearing Center, and Gazprom provided buyers with additional assurances that the central bank would not be involved in the conversion process. As Bloomberg notes, European companies had been scrambling for weeks to figure out how they can meet Moscow’s demand for ruble payment, and keep the crucial gas flowing without violating sanctions on Russia’s central bank. Putin said on March 31 that if payments aren’t made in rubles, gas exports would be halted. Europe depends heavily on the Russian fuel to heat homes and power industry. Initially, the EU had assessed that the payment mechanism demanded by Putin handed Moscow total control of the process (which it did), breached contracts and violated the bloc’s sanctions. But realizing that a full-blown shutdown of gas shipments would destroy the European economy - i.e., Russia has all the leverage - on Friday, the commission told member states in a closed-door meeting that the updated guidance will clarify that companies can open an account in euros or dollars at Gazprombank as ordered by the Kremlin. But the EU’s executive arm stopped short of saying whether also having an account in rubles -- a step included in the Russian decree -- was in line with EU regulations. Previously, officials had indicated, though never in writing, that opening such an account would breach sanctions. The updated guidance, as presented to member states, fails to address this specific point, the Bloomberg sources said. Another key point in the guidance is that once European companies make a payment in euros or dollars and declare their obligation complete, no further action should be required of them from the Russian side in regard to the payment. The clock is ticking because many firms have payment deadlines falling due later this month - and if they don’t pay, gas flows could be cut off. Poland and Bulgaria already saw their supplies cut after failing to comply with Russia’s requests. Putin’s demands to pay in rubles divided EU member states, highlighting the dependence of some nations on Russian imports. Confirming that Europe has really fully and completely capitulated to Putin, last week Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi blew up the impression of European sanctions when he said that European companies will be able to pay for gas in rubles without breaching sanctions. At the Friday meeting, government representatives were split too, according to one of the people. While Germany, Hungary, Italy and France broadly endorsed the commission’s plan, Poland said it failed to offer legal clarity and called for the matter to be discussed by EU ambassadors. Others were confused by the lack of specific guidance on opening accounts in rubles. Germany said at the meeting that it consulted its companies on the proposal and got positive feedback, the person added. It also sought to fine-tune the recommendations by clarifying that EU sanctions don’t prohibit opening multiple accounts at Gazprombank. In other words, typical European confusion, where the guidance for companies is one thing while the propaganda disseminated for public consumption totally different, all the while the biggest winner remains Putin and Russia which today reported a new record high in its current account... ... as the Ukraine war remains the greatest thing that happened to the Russian economy in recent years. Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 13:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 16th, 2022

In Transnistria, controlled by pro-Russia separatists, a fear of war and a toast: "To the death of Putin"

Insider traveled to the breakaway state of Transnistria, which Russia claims is being oppressed, days before a series of explosions there. A bridge over the Dniester river is painted in the colors of the Russian and Transnistrian flags.Charles Davis/Insider Insider traveled to the breakaway "republic" of Transnistria on the border of Ukraine. The territory is occupied by Russian troops and controlled by pro-Russia separatists. A local woman told Insider her neighbors are afraid to talk about the war in Ukraine. TIRASPOL, TRANSNISTRIA — This might be the only city in Europe where there is no indication that a war is being waged in Ukraine, despite that country only being a 20-minute drive away.Along the main drag in Tiraspol, the capital of what billboards proclaim to be the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, also known as Transnistria, there are smart cafes with modern, all-glass exteriors that look like they would be more at home in Manhattan than a breakaway, unrecognized state currently occupied by 1,500 Russian soldiers. There is an Italian restaurant, an Indian-themed casino, consulates for Abkhazia and South Ossetia (other separatist enclaves recognized by Moscow but not the international community) and a decommissioned tank commemorating the 1992 war that led this heavily industrialized region along the Dniester river, controlled by oligarchs and subsidized by free Russian gas, to break away from Moldova. On a pleasant Saturday afternoon, there were cyclists and children rollerblading on clean, paved streets crowded with trolleys and late-model cars — including a convoy of BMW enthusiasts. A movie theater was lined with posters for "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" and the latest superhero film from Marvel.What there was not was any sign of the conflict next door. Ukrainians live here, as do Russians, but there is no propaganda either for or against the Feb. 24 invasion, an odd and conspicuous silence given that this pseudo-state's leaders have for decades proclaimed their desire to be annexed by Moscow. The flag of the Russian Federation hangs on all local government buildings, a special housing complex built for Russian military officers, and soldiers in Russia's military manning checkpoints across the territory.Russian soldiers and local volunteers collaborate at military bases in Transnistria.Charles Davis/InsiderA day before Insider visited, a Russian general, Rustam Minnekaev, insisted that his country's goal was to conquer southern Ukraine and liberate this separatist region of some 300,000 people, claiming there was "oppression of the Russian-speaking population." Russian leaders weighed similar accusations in launching the Ukraine war, but fierce resistance in Mykolaiv has stopped their troops from surging west to besiege Odessa, the country's third largest city, just an hour from Moldova's border.But there was no indication of a pending military operation here, although days later there were a series of explosions at a building used by the local services — "pretexts," Moldovan authorities said, for inflaming tensions. That was followed by reported attacks Tuesday on radio transmission towers that bore the "signature" of Russian intelligence operatives, a former Moldovan defense minister said.Forty-eight hours earlier, at the de facto border checkpoint between Moldova and Transnistria, yards away from a contingent of Russian troops, a guard in military fatigues did not even ask why someone with a US passport would be visiting, simply handing this reporter a slip of paper granting admission.But the war, while absent in Transnistria's public spaces — if not its television, which is flooded with propaganda directly from Moscow — is just behind the facade. There are refugees here, including cars with Ukrainian plates, as well as inflation and a shortage of goods that used to be imported through an eastern border that is now sealed. At a train station in the city of Bender, a sign in English informed visitors that there are no more departures. You can enter the station, it stated, "but there is no way you go on rail tracks. We repeat: No way!!!" At the start of the war, Ukrainian soldiers blew up the rails that connected the region to Odessa.On an elevated walkway that allows residents to cross the 14 tracks outside the station, a little girl could be heard complaining to a little boy: she can no longer find her favorite Ukrainian brand of chocolate. A tank monument in Tiraspol celebrates Russia's "Great Patriotic War" and the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.Charles Davis/InsiderOutside the cities, in a village where people can speak with less fear of being overheard by the security services, an old woman, Amina — not her real name — said she opposed the war in Ukraine. But, she added, the conflict was not something she would feel comfortable even discussing with neighbors who had lived alongside her for decades. A code of silence prevails."It's a taboo — nobody talks about this in public, so nobody knows who supports the war," she said. It's the kind of thing one only discusses in the kitchen with the radio on.In the first days after the war, she walked around the village with an ornament, called a martisor, that is usually made of red and white string and worn on one's chest to celebrate the beginning of spring. Hers was done in the blue-and-yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Neighbors warned her to take it off, she said, not necessarily because they believe what's on their televisions from pro-Russian channels but because they were concerned for her safety.She herself came to oppose the war because the historical analogies were too striking. At a museum inside an Ottoman-era fortress in Bender — located above a military base with Russian soldiers, and currently undergoing renovations funded by the European Union — a sign celebrating the foreign military presence justified it in terms identical to those used by Russian President Vladimir Putin today. Russian soldiers, it said, had ended a "bloody genocide" perpetrated by "radical nationalists" in Moldova, whose reactionary preference for the Romanian language, previously suppressed by the Soviet Union, had led them to impose "a number of discriminatory language laws." "I was here in 1992," Amina said. "And now I have the same feeling as 30 years ago. It's the same thing happening."If war does come here again, locals think it won't stop with Ukraine and Transnistria.A museum at the Ottoman-era Bendery Fortress in Transnistria celebrates Russian intervention.Charles Davis/InsiderSince the beginning, before Putin even came to power, Russia has been using Transnistria as a "kind of blackmail," Igor Munteanu, Moldova's ambassador to the United States from 2010 to 2015, said in an interview at his office in Chisinau. The vast majority of Moldova's electricity is generated in Transnistria, the power plants there running on Russian gas and coal. In part, that protects Moldova — Russia is seen as unlikely to cut off the supply to a loyal proxy state — but it also ensures dependence."Anytime that Moldova says that 'we would like to join the European Union,'" he said, Russia responds, 'Well, keep in mind, we are against that.'"But the most important political leverage, Munteanu said, is Russia's intelligence and military presence in Transnistria.In addition to its own military presence, "they have trained and recruited local inhabitants." The self-declared republic has a military force of its own that is at least as large as the Republic of Moldova's, with better arms and a number of tanks. "And they can enlarge the military contingent, which is following the orders of the Russian Federation, by 10 times — they can easily recruit and mobilize 50,000 soldiers from Transnistria."Because it is not an internally recognized state, Transnistria cannot have its currency produced by reputable printers, forcing it to turn to plastic tokens like those used casinos.Charles Davis/InsiderTransnistria is the site of a former USSR ammunition depot that is believed to be one of the largest in eastern Europe. The statelet's railroads, which use the same broad-gauge track as Ukraine and Russia, is seen by analysts as a potential resupply route for the railway-dependent Russia military if the war eventually comes to Odessa. In the immediate wake of Russia's invasion, Munteanu thought it reasonable to conclude that Ukraine was not the only objective. Putin has repeatedly expressed his anger not just at Kyiv, but at the rest of Moscow's former satellites in Eastern Europe who have chosen closer relations with the West — he views them as client states of Washington, akin to what he's sought over Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia  — and at the Soviet leaders who allowed them to regain their independence."I think when he speaks about recovering what belongs to Russia, he means also Moldova," Munteanu said. "And from day zero, he meant an invasion."No cargo trains are currently leaving the station in Bender, Transnistria.Charles Davis/InsiderIn Chisinau, life goes on, families packing churches over the weekend for Easter celebrations and to take home with them a candle lit by the Holy Fire — a flame that is delivered by plane from Jerusalem to Orthodox churches across Eastern Europe.People are nervous, but Moldovans who fled the country after the Feb. 24 invasion have trickled back, officials say, encouraged by Russian setbacks, particularly the failure to capture Odessa; the Ukrainian port city, a short drive from the border, is a commonly accepted bellwether — if it falls, Moldova will be next. Eyes are also on America: if US diplomats start leaving, thousands of Moldovans will follow.No one, certainly, believes Moldova could resist an invasion, should it ever come to that. Locals joke that the country's armed forces would be able to hold the capital for about two hours — the time it would take Russia to drive an armored vehicle from the border. Not even the country's elected officials pretend its armed forces would be any match.In his office on the sixth floor of the Soviet-era parliament building in Chisinau, lawmaker Radu Marian, vice president of the governing Party of Action and Solidarity, rubbed his face and sighed when asked if his country would be able to put up a fight."With Russia?" he said. "I don't know how."Russian and Transnistrian flags wave in Suvorov Square in Tiraspol, the self-proclaimed capital of Transnistria, on Saturday, April 23, 2022.Charles Davis/InsiderAt 32, Marian is one of a slew of young people with no prior experience in politics who came to power in Moldova's 2021 elections, when PAS, the newly formed pro-Western party of President Maia Sandu, won nearly 60% of the vote on an anti-corruption platform, defeating a Socialist party widely seen as a proxy for the Kremlin. Since then, the party's anti-corruption message has been overshadowed by consecutive crises: two deadly waves of COVID-19 followed by a war that has changed the tiny country's demographics, with nearly 100,000 of its 3 million inhabitants now refugees from Ukraine.The war has not, however, changed Moldova's security policy. The country is not in the EU and, so long as part of its territory is controlled by Russian-backed separatists, it can never join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.In order to avoid a confrontation, Moldova, its constitution committing it to military neutrality, has condemned the war in Ukraine and accepted more refugees per capita than any other nation. But it has refused to allow its territory to be used for the transfer of weapons. It has also declined to sanction Moscow — and it's not requesting any new weapon from its allies in Washington and Brussels, fearing that would put a target on its back.There is no Plan B."We are not Ukraine," Marian said. "We don't have Stingers, we don't have tanks, we don't have planes, and we have no combat experience whatsoever. It's just the reality."It's a reality that raises an uncomfortable question."Do you put up a fight and trigger massive killings?" Marian asked. "Or, you know, just do what the Netherlands did in the Second World War when the Nazis came in —  and just hope that the regime will be overthrown at one point.""It's a bit crazy to talk about these things," he added, "but we need to talk."Nearly all business in Transnistria is controlled by oligarchs, with the "Sheriff" brand on supermarkets and football stadiums.Charles Davis/InsiderBack in Transnistria, the normalcy is artificial. People are scared to act any other way.According to Moldovan authorities, Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted a large uptick in residents there applying for passports issued by their ostensible "radical nationalist" enemy in Chisinau, needing documents from an internationally recognized country if they wish to escape their self-proclaimed state ahead of an invasion.Andrei Crigan of the business consulting group Gateway & Partners in Moldova, who was born in Transnistria, said the lack of real opportunity is another driving factor. "There's a group that holds a monopoly on the economy, called Sheriff," Crigan noted, founded by Viktor Gushan and Ilya Kazmaly, both of whom enjoy Russian citizenship. "They're controlling everything. If you want to open a business and you want to grow it, you cannot do that. You will be slapped on your head at some point and they will take this business from you."Many people in Transnistria "kind of feel like Russians," Crigan said, "but they see the reality and they say, 'What kind of Russia is that? Or what is Russia doing for us?'"A statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin at a park in Bender, Transnistria.Charles Davis/InsiderBut people stay in undesirable situations for the same reasons people do anywhere else.Amina, for example, has seen both her children move away. And now she lives with the fear of a coming war.Why stay, then, in a breakaway state? "This is home," she said. Generations of her family lived here, Amina said, and it's like a magnet: if she tries to leave it pulls her back.Many of her neighbors may well identify with Russia, but merely residing in the territory should not be read as support for any purported liberation by Moscow.  As Amina spoke, news was breaking that Russian missiles had struck residential buildings in Odessa, killing eight people, including a mother and her newborn child.Pouring some wine in her garden, she proposed a toast: "To the death of Putin."Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.comRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 26th, 2022

Germany intercepted conversations of Russian soldiers discussing Bucha killings, contradicting Kremlin claims of a hoax, report says

Russia claims the massacre of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, are a hoax or conspiracy designed to frame its forces. Ukrainian servicemen walk on a destroyed street in Bucha.Anastasia Vlasova/Getty Images Russian troops talked about killing civilians in Bucha over the radio, Der Spiegel found. The radio transmissions were obtained by German intelligence and presented in parliament Wednesday. They contradict Russian claims that the atrocities found in the Ukrainian town were staged. Germany intercepted radio transmissions of Russian soldiers discussing the killings of civilians in the town of Bucha, contradicting Russian propaganda claims of a hoax, according to a report by Der Spiegel.The radio transmissions were obtained by the Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany's foreign intelligence service, and presented to parliament on Wednesday, Der Spiegel reported.In one of the recordings, a Russian soldier could be heard describing how he shot someone off their bicycle, Der Spiegel reported.It is unclear what day the radio messages were sent and where the Russian troops were at the time.Footage and images of people killed, with some on the street, in Bucha emerged earlier this week after Russian forces left the town.On Tuesday, The New York Times published independently verified aerial footage that shows a Russian armored vehicle shooting at a civilian on a bicycle in Bucha. It is unclear whether the person in the video was the same as the one referred to in the radio messages. The audio recordings also suggest that the Russian mercenary military, the Wagner Group, played a key role in the atrocities in Bucha, Der Spiegel reported.It is not entirely clear who runs or finances the Wagner Group, but the US and European Union have linked Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, to the organization.The group has been tied to Russian separatists in the pro-Kremlin Donbas region since 2014, as well as accused of committing war crimes and human-rights abuses in Syria in 2015.Western intelligence said last month that as many as 1,000 of the group's mercenaries were being deployed to eastern Ukraine.Russia has denied responsibility for the atrocities in Bucha, claiming without evidence that the footage coming out of Bucha is staged or otherwise manipulated.On Tuesday, the Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti ran an opinion column that speculated the killings were a ploy by Western nations to impose further sanctions on Russia.This timeline undermines Russia's claim that the Bucha killings were a Ukrainian hoax.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderApr 7th, 2022

Russia is promoting "outlandish and ridiculous" propaganda about the killings in Bucha, fact-checkers say

Videos showing suspected Russian war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha flooded social media. Russian officials attempted to discredit the footage. Satellite images taken over Bucha show a mass grave outside a church.Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies. Videos showing suspected Russian war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha flooded social media. The clips shared on social media appeared to show dead civilians and other atrocities. Russian officials attempted to discredit the footage, but fact-checkers are debunking their claims. Videos showing potential Russian war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha have flooded social media as journalists and researchers have worked around the clock to document and verify the atrocities. Their efforts have pushed back against the Russian government's propaganda campaign attempting to discredit evidence of suspected war crimes. Images, witness accounts, and videos from Bucha began circulating at the beginning of April after Russian troops withdrew from the town just north of Kyiv. The footage appeared to show some of the worst atrocities of the war documented so far, showing bodies lying in the streets and indiscriminate killings of civilians. Some of the videos and photos shared on social media appeared to show civilians dead on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs. Other videos showed what appeared to be civilians with gunshot wounds to their heads. The bodies of hundreds of civilians have been found in the town, according to Ukrainian officials. Russian officials almost immediately attempted to cast doubt on the videos and photos, claiming without evidence that they were staged or otherwise manipulated. Russian-owned news outlets parroted the claims, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. The state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday ran an opinion column that speculated the killings in Bucha were a ploy by western nations to impose further sanctions on Russia."I think with everything that happened in Mariupol, I think at that point I was like, this is the most obvious campaign of disinformation," said Rachel Muller-Heyndyk, the senior fact-checker at Logically AI, a company that tracks online misinformation. "But then having seen the events over the past few days, it seems to be that that has been taken a step further." "A lot of what they're saying seems kind of outlandish and ridiculous," she added.Journalists and researchers are debunking Russian conspiracies about Bucha The Kremlin and Russian media have repeatedly tried to push conspiracy theories and allegations that the killings in Bucha have somehow been forged. Official Russian channels, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Telegram account, claimed that the bodies seen in the videos didn't appear until days after Russian troops left at the end of March or the beginning of April, according to Bellingcat.But the first footage showing civilian deaths in Bucha appeared on April 1, not days afterward. One video showing dead bodies lying on Yablunska Street in Bucha was posted to Telegram on the evening of April 1, and another video that also showed the same bodies was posted to Twitter less than three hours later, according to the report."I feel like there's a big demand to kind of get information out as quickly as possible. And that's understandable," Muller-Heyndyk said. "This is a really kind of scary chaotic time, but actually, in terms of kind of verifying videos and images, it really takes a lot of time, and it requires a lot of patience." In another instance of Russian government propaganda, the Russian Ministry of Defense in an April 3 post to Telegram claimed that a video of civilian bodies in Bucha shared by the Ukrainian outlet Espresso.tv had been manipulated because they said corpses appeared to move."It was almost immediately debunked because if you look at the high-resolution video, you could definitely see that there is an artifact on the front glass of the car," Roman Osadchuk, a research associate at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told Insider.That artifact — likely a scratch on the windshield or a water droplet — caused the illusion that the body had shifted when it had not, he told Insider.Osdachuk also said Russian officials have also claimed Bucha was "fine" when they exited the city and the bodies seen lying on the street actually "appeared" afterward."But it doesn't make any sense," he said.Videos taken on April 1 and on April 3 showed bodies lying on the street remaining in the same location, he said. And an investigation by The New York Times that relied on satellite imagery further refuted Russia's claims, determining that some bodies were on the street in the same location for weeks.Many civilians who were killed had died more than three weeks before Russian troops left the region, according to The Times' analysis.  "There's a lot of claims, but basically all of them are being debunked quite easily and smoothly," Osdachuk said.Russia's propaganda is trying to create plausible deniability about atrocities in the warRussia's government creates this type of disinformation likely because it believes people in Russia have already seen the footage or photos, Osadchuk said, and officials need to come up with some sort of explanation."It means that people are seeing — in Russia — those messages, and they need to provide some counterpoint for their own citizens to avoid them being unsure in their armed forces," Osadchuk told Insider.While they're relatively easy to debunk, these types of claims are used to evade "cognitive dissonance" for people living in Russia or others who are primed to side with the Kremlin, he added.Muller-Heyndyk said there wasn't a singular audience for Russian disinformation, but said those already distrustful of news sources and others who have previously believed conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 have appeared to be more primed to spread it.Others may spread the propaganda unintentionally, she added.As Insider previously reported, people living in Russia have been almost entirely cut off from the global internet, including from social-media platforms and from news outlets, making it difficult to get news from outlets that aren't state-run.Many western companies severed ties in the country last month after Russia invaded Ukraine, and more left after it passed a law that would impose criminal penalties on people who shared information the government deemed inaccurate. The Kremlin has itself blocked access to western social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, pushing Russians to VPN services and the dark web for access to global sites. Efforts to spread disinformation related to Bucha come down to Russia's desire to play "the game of deniability," Osadchuk said."They are trying to sow this distrust toward the information and basically leave people puzzled about what actually happened and make them restrained from searching for the truth," he said.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytApr 6th, 2022

Russia Fines Google With Record $100 Million For Allowing Banned Content

Russia Fines Google With Record $100 Million For Allowing Banned Content Russia has dramatically escalated its long-running battle with Google after repeatedly accusing it and other major US-based internet platforms of ignoring Russian laws on obscenity as well as propaganda, with on Friday a Moscow court slapping an unprecedented fine of almost $100 million on Google. The content under dispute which state media regulator Roskomnadzor has demanded the removal of includes pornographic material, as well as posts that reportedly promote drugs and suicide. Crucially the regulator and Kremlin officials have long charged Google with promoting politically subversive messaging with the intent to stir up protests in support of jailed dissident Alexei Navalny. Pro-Navalny protests groups were previously banned as "extremist" earlier in the year. Essentially Russia has accused Silicon Valley-based internet companies of allowing themselves to be used as a hidden hand of US foreign policy inside Russia, also promoting controversial content like transgenderism among Russia's youth - which is also outlawed under recent legislation related to 'propagandizing' minors with sexually explicit and corrupting material. While there's been prior instances of US social media companies being fined a handful of millions over the dispute before, this fine of 7.2 billion rubles, (or $98 million) is record-setting and clearly meant to send a resounding message and warning, but still a slap on the wrist compared to the total estimated $1.1 billion Google Russia earned in 2020. Commenting on how the court arrived at this high figure, The Moscow Times notes that the Moscow magistrate’s court did so "under a legal clause that allows courts to impose between 5% and 10% of a company’s turnover, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency." So far Google has said little, only telling AFP that "We'll study the court documents and then decide on next steps," according to its press office. Russia’s fight against Western tech companies has just reached a new level. A Moscow court fined Google $100 million for its "systematic failure to remove banned information". This is by far the largest fine to date and the first one based on turnover. pic.twitter.com/8hqO8oYw5H — Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) December 24, 2021 Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter have so far faced symbolic fines over similar charges of failing to remove content. "Meta -- which has a hearing in court later today on the same charges -- has also been threatened with a revenue-based fine," AFP writes. "On Thursday, Twitter was handed its latest fine of three million rubles ($40,000) after authorities started throttling its services in the spring." On the question of whether  Kremlin state authorities would ever go so far as to block these platforms, it's seen as highly unlikely and nearly impossible given the immense popularity among the Russian public, which many fear would result in massive backlash.  Tyler Durden Fri, 12/24/2021 - 10:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 24th, 2021

Things Are Getting Messy In Draghi"s Italy

Things Are Getting Messy In Draghi's Italy Authored by Nick Corbishley via NakedCapitalism.com, Sixteen percent of the country’s officially employed workforce just lost their jobs (temporarily for the moment). And as one would expect, they’re not happy.   It is a strange experience watching the events currently unfolding in Italy from the relative calm and normality of Catalonia. As I reported in August, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled against the use of covid passports to restrict access to public spaces — specifically hospitality businesses (bars, restaurants and nightclubs). Since then the court has scaled back the ruling, allowing certain regions, including Galicia and Catalonia, to use the digital documents to restrict access to bars and nightclubs. But things are still moving quite slowly though I’m sure they’ll pick up speed soon. Italy, by contrast, has just introduced the strictest rules in Europe. “No Jab, No Job” Writ Large As of last Friday all residents of Italy need a covid passport, or Green Pass, to access not only public spaces but also public and private workplaces. The pass proves that they have either been vaccinated against Covid-19, have recovered from the disease in the past six months or have recently tested negative. And now they need it to make a living, to feed their families. The “no jab, no job” rule applies to workers of all kinds, including the self employed, domestic staff and even people working remotely. If you’d still rather not get vaccinated, you have the option of showing proof of a negative test every two days. That can cost anywhere between €15 and €50 each time — far beyond the means of most low-paid workers. If you still refuse to get vaccinated or present proof of negative tests, you face unpaid suspension as well as a fine of up to €1,500. Public sector workers have five days to present the green pass before being suspended. Private sector workers without a green pass face suspension from the first day. Here’s more from Politico (comment and emphasis in brackets my own): By law, all workers must be able to show a so-called Green Pass, proving they are vaccinated against COVID-19 or have tested negative in the past 48 hours. Roughly 81 percent of Italians over 12 are fully vaccinated. While polls suggest the majority of Italians are in favor of vaccine passes (just as the majority of people in all countries are in favour of vaccine passes, according to polls), there are still 3.8 million unvaccinated workers, many in strategic sectors and public services such as ports, trucking, health care and law enforcement, who will be unable to work. Massive Cull of Workers This is by any measure a massive cull of workers. Three point eight million is more than 5% of Italy’s entire population and over 16% of the country’s officially employed workforce (22.7 million). The total number of people currently unemployed in Italy is 2.3 million. In other words, if none of the unvaccinated workers were to cave in to the government’s demands — some will, of course, we just don’t know how many — the number of people without work in Italy would increase by well over 150% — in the space of just one week! And as the Politico article mentions, many of these workers are in strategic sectors and public services. This is all happening as Europe — and the world at large — faces the worst supply chain crisis in decades as well as acute energy and labor shortages. The move also risks giving a huge boost to Italy’s already quite large informal economy. Given as much, this is a huge, high-stakes bluff on the part of Draghi’s technocratic government, which was formed eighth months ago. If it pays off, the vast majority of Italy’s vaccine holdouts will fall into line and go back to work, and other governments across Europe will follow suit with similar mandates. If it doesn’t, Italy’s economy could be plunged into chaos. So far, data suggest that the government’s “no jab, no job” rule hasn’t exactly had the desired effect. When the rule was initially unveiled, on September 16, Italy’s Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said it would trigger such a “huge” boost vaccination take-up that its job would largely be done before it even came into effect. That hasn’t happened. As El Mundo reports, in the week through Oct.8 some 410,000 people received the first dose, according to official data, a 36% drop from the previous week and the lowest weekly count since early July.  Over the last few days the response of many of the affected workers has been to stage rolling strikes and protests across the country. Roads and ports have been blocked. This has coincided with hundreds of flight cancellations due to strikes by workers at the former flagship airline Alitalia, which flew its last flight on Thursday. There have also been violent demonstrations by far-right groups such as Casa Pound and Forza Nuova as well as a 24-hour general strike held last week by unions to protest the government’s labour and economic policies. Since Friday Italy’s largest port, Trieste, 40% of whose employees are unvaccinated, has been an important focal point of industrial action. “There are no blockades, whoever wants to work does,” said Stefano Puzzer, leader of the protest against the health pass in the port of Trieste, on Friday. Yet although the strike was reportedly entirely peaceful and workers who wanted to work were allowed to do so, riot  police yesterday used water cannons and tear gas to evict the longshoremen. One Little Flaw The ostensible logic behind the government’s latest mandate is that by “nudging” almost everyone who can get vaccinated to get vaccinated, it will help the country finally achieve herd immunity and thereby eliminate the virus. Also, work spaces will become much safer places because all workers will either have been fully vaccinated against covid-19, will have natural immunity or will have recently tested negative for the virus. There’s just one little flaw in the plan: the current crop of covid-19 vaccines are rather “leaky”, particularly with regard to the Delta variant. As such, people who are vaccinated are still liable to catch and transmit the virus and in some countries (such as the UK) the vaccinated account for more cases (in nominal terms) than the unvaccinated. In addition, what protection the vaccines do provide tends to wane rapidly. At the peak of Israel’s latest wave of infections, in August, half of the seriously ill hospitalized patients had been fully vaccinated at least five months prior, reported NPR.  Which begs the question: if a vaccinated person and an unvaccinated person have a similar capacity to carry, shed and transmit the virus, particularly in its Delta form and even more so after four of five months after vaccination, what difference does implementing a vaccination passport, certificate or ID actually make to the spread of the virus? Vaccine Passport: An End In and Of Itself? In sum, Italy just unleashed the most severe de facto vaccine mandate in Europe on the basis of a vaccine that doesn’t actually work very well and is still only authorised by the European Medical Agency for emergency use. To give an idea of just how extreme the Draghi government’s position now is, the only other country in the world to have introduced a mandatory Covid passport for all workers is Saudi Arabia, reports Thomas Fazi in a recent article: With these changes, we are effectively stripping citizens who haven’t broken any law whatsoever (in Italy, like elsewhere, Covid vaccines are not mandatory) of their basic constitutional rights — the right to work, to study, to move freely. That should give anyone reason to pause and reflect. This kind of discrimination is also in direct violation of EU Regulation 2021/953, which states that “[t]he issuance of [Covid] certificates… should not lead to discrimination on the basis of the possession of a specific category of certificate”, and that “[i]t is necessary to prevent direct or indirect discrimination against persons who are not vaccinated, for example because of medical reasons… or because they have not yet had the opportunity or chose not to be vaccinated”. This is also echoed by Resolution 2361 (2021) of the Council of Europe. In fact, the word “discrimination” doesn’t even begin to do justice to what we are witnessing in Italy. Representatives of the political, medical and media establishment have openly accused the unvaccinated of being “rats”, “subhumans” and “criminals”, who deserve to be “excluded from public life” and “from the national health service” and even to “die like flies”. Perhaps more worryingly, both prime minister Mario Draghi and the president Sergio Mattarella have accused the unvaccinated of “putting the lives of others at risk” (a claim based on the assumption that the vaccinated aren’t contagious). That claim has now been thoroughly disproved by myriad scientific studies, as Yves painstakingly documented in August. So why do governments continue to repeat it? Why aren’t they rethinking their strategy? Perhaps, as Fazi postulates, the green pass is not just a means to an end — mass vaccination — but also an end in and of itself: The Italian economic-political establishment has a long history of invoking, embellishing or even engineering crises — usually economic in nature — to justify technocratic governments and emergency measures, as well as the sidestepping of the normal channels of democracy. In this sense, it is not outlandish to posit that the country’s elites, under Draghi’s leadership, may view the current conjecture as a golden opportunity to complete the oligarchisation of the country they’ve been working at for the past decades (and in which Mario Draghi has played a central role). A crucial feature of this process has been the transition from a post-war regime based on the centrality of parliament to one dominated by executive, technocratic and supranational powers, in which the legislature performs a marginal role, thus insulating policymaking from democratic processes. As a result, there has been an increased resort to so-called “technical governments” run by “experts” supposedly untainted by political partisanship and unburdened by the complications of parliamentary politics — as well as the transfer of key policy tools from the national level, where a certain degree of democratic control can always potentially be exercised, to the supranational institutions of the EU, which are undemocratic by design. Now Draghi is even being heralded in some quarters as a possible new figurehead for Europe in the post-Merkel era. The financial and economic elite are no doubt salivating at the prospect.   Tyler Durden Wed, 10/20/2021 - 02:00.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 20th, 2021

State-level erosion of election integrity is an urgent threat to American democracy, and Congress is largely helpless to stop it

Senate Democrats' latest election reform push would only scratch the surface of a growing threat to election results. In this Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 file photo, Voters stand in line outside a polling station, on Election Day in Mesa, Ariz. AP Photo/Matt York, file The 2022 midterms begin in just a few months, and American democracy is in for a big stress test. GOP state legislatures are asserting more control over the election administration process. Advocates say any legislation from Congress wouldn't address many of the most pressing issues. See more stories on Insider's business page. American democracy is facing a crucial stress test when primaries for the 2022 midterms start in just a few months, but Congress is severely limited in the kind of legislation it can pass to sufficiently shore up election laws against critical new threats ahead of time.Senate Democrats will this fall take up the Freedom To Vote Act, a wide-ranging voting rights and election reform package. Despite efforts to get Republicans on board, the sweeping legislation will likely be filibustered by Senate Republicans, who have denounced the measure as a federal election takeover.The legislation is being billed as a voting rights measure with massive expansions of voter registration and voting options, and its near-certain defeat will be framed as a blow to voting rights. Progressives have cast the Freedom To Vote Act and its predecessor, the even larger-in-scope For the People Act, as essential to saving American democracy from voter suppression and anti-democratic threats.But even if they somehow survived the filibuster, neither piece of legislation would steer American democracy away from a crash course with what scholars have deemed election subversion, which includes the normalization of attacks on officials and blatant attempts by Republicans to discredit results."What we call election subversion has received the least amount of attention, but is actually more the most fundamental aspect that we should be focusing on protecting," Sarah Walker, executive director of election policy nonprofit organization Secure Democracy, told Insider. In the lead-up to the 2020 election and in its aftermath, election officials around the country experienced a dramatic rise in harassment, violent threats, and attacks on the integrity of the elections they run from conservative politicians and media figures with powerful megaphones.A recent analysis from the Voting Rights Lab has identified 180 proposals introduced in GOP state legislatures in 2021 that change not just how people vote but affect who conducts their elections and counts their votes.They include 17 states where partisan legislators have introduced bills giving them more control of election administration and certification, seven where lawmakers have pushed for post-election ballot reviews, and 16 where lawmakers have introduced bills that subject election officials to new criminal and civil penalties.Such bills have already been signed into law in key battlegrounds like Iowa, Georgia, Florida, and Texas. In this Nov. 3, 2020, file photo, northern Nevadans wait to vote in-person at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev., AP Photo/Scott Sonner, File A 'county whack-a-mole.'Unlike the For the People Act, drafted before the 2020 election, the Freedom to Vote Act includes provisions seeking to beat back some of those new trends at the state level.The newly-added provisions would prohibit local election officials from being fired or removed without cause, make harassing and threatening election workers a federal crime, and add new penalties for intimidating or deceiving voters.The bill also includes some modest provisions taking aim at post-election examinations like the the Trump-endorsed one Republican lawmakers conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona, which has spurred GOP leaders in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Texas to relitigate the 2020 election 11 months later. But Walker told Insider the reforms in the bill wouldn't stop much of the state-level election subversion and likely wouldn't go into effect in time to affect the midterms. "While the federal legislation is extremely important, there's two things we know. Number one, in the event the Freedom to Vote Act passes, the chances that it will be implemented in time for the primary elections or the 2020s could be very limited," Walker said."The other thing I think we're seeing is that there are a lot of creative ways of subversion that are not able to be addressed in this federal bill, and still need state-level consideration," Walker said.She noted that the bill can't block all the various forms of "sham audits," like the one in Arizona, or the underlying impulse to sow doubt in the integrity of election outcomes. The patchwork-like nature of elections in the US, which are mainly administered and certified by officials at the local level, makes combatting subversion difficult, Walker said. "The county whack-a-mole is a real reality, but it's also why states need to adopt their own policies and practices that do things like protect election administrators and put guardrails on unending audits," she said. The Voting Rights Lab report also warned that "many of the state laws passed this session would not be addressed by the Freedom to Vote Act...or any federal legislation to come - making continued vigilance and activism on the state level all the more important." Election officials huddle around a table as absentee ballots are processed at the central counting board, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Detroit AP Photo/Carlos Osorio 2022 could foreshadow risk of 'a bloodless coup.'There are multiple ways that attempts to undermine democratic election results have metastasized outside of Congress' control.There has been a broad shift in the US political culture over the past decade, one which firmly took root in 2020 and was recently on display in the California gubernatorial recall, that has led to conservative political candidates pushing baseless claims of voter fraud and pre-ordaining their election losses as illegitimate.Congress does not have the power to stop the growing number of Trump-endorsed Republican candidates who have pushed 2020 election lies from running for important statewide offices responsible for overseeing elections and certifying election results.It can't also stop 2020 election deniers from shaping local politics and local election administration by occupying little-noticed but influential precinct officer positions, a trend ProPublica has recently documented.The next round of elections could also reveal a dramatic shift in the role of the courts.Rick Hasen, a leading election law scholar at the University of California Irvine, warned in a recent essay of the risk of a "bloodless coup dependent upon technical legal arguments overcoming valid election results" in 2024.Hasen noted that at least four justices on the Supreme Court have warmed to the legal philosophy, known as the independent state legislature doctrine, underpinning the Trump campaign's and its allies' unsuccessful attempts to block certification of and reverse election results in several swing states. "Lawyers in fine suits making legalistic arguments are much more appealing than desperate lawyers making unsubstantiated claims of ballot box stuffing and other chicanery," Hasen wrote. Vice President Mike Pence presides over a joint session of Congress to certify the 2020 Electoral College results after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol earlier in the day on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. Erin Schaff/AFP via Getty Images 'A test of our democracy.'In a January 3 memo written for Trump's legal team, conservative lawyer John Eastman conjured a scenario where seven states that voted for Biden sent "alternate" slates of electors for Trump based on non-existent widespread fraud.Then, according to Eastman's theory, Pence would simply discard the Electoral Count Act of 1887 as unconstitutional and appoint himself the ultimate arbiter of which electoral votes to count to overturn Biden's 306-232 Electoral College victory. While Eastman's effort may seem outlandish, it likely won't be the last of its kind. Hasen argued in his essay that the undermining of democracy doesn't just come from legislatures failing to impose safeguards to the electoral process, but from political actors disregarding them for their own ends.Eastman did just that at the end of his memo, writing, "BOLD, Certainly. But this Election was Stolen by a strategic Democrat plan to systematically flout existing election laws for partisan advantage."If 2020 was a "dress rehearsal" for 2024, as Hasen has put it, the 2022 midterms will offer a preview of the future of election integrity in America."2022 is going to be a test of our democracy," Walker told Insider. "And I think that whether or not more proactive policies that protect our democratic infrastructure happen at the federal or state level, the reality is as many of them won't be implemented in time." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderOct 1st, 2021

Elon Musk Plans to Relaunch Twitter Premium Service

Elon Musk said Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week, in a fresh move to revamp the service after a previous attempt backfired. It’s the latest change to the social media platform that the billionaire Tesla CEO bought last month for $44 billion, coming a day after Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts and causing yet more uncertainty for users. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Twitter previously suspended the premium service, which under Musk granted blue-check labels to anyone paying $8 a month, because of a wave of imposter accounts. Originally, the blue check was given to government entities, corporations, celebrities and journalists verified by the platform to prevent impersonation. In the latest version, companies will get a gold check, governments will get a gray check, and individuals who pay for the service, whether or not they’re celebrities, will get a blue check, Musk said Friday. “All verified accounts will be manually authenticated before check activates,” he said, adding it was “Painful, but necessary” and promising a “longer explanation” next week. He said the service was “tentatively launching” Dec. 2. Twitter had put the revamped premium service on hold days after its launch earlier this month after accounts impersonated companies including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co., Nintendo, Lockheed Martin, and even Musk’s own businesses Tesla and SpaceX, along with various professional sports and political figures. It was just one change in the past two days. On Thursday, Musk said he would grant “amnesty” for suspended accounts, following the results of an online poll he conducted on whether accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” should be reinstated. The yes vote was 72%. Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots. Musk also used one before restoring former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account. Read More: What Trump’s Twitter Reinstatement Means for TRUTH Social “The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted Thursday using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.” Online safety experts predict the move would spur a rise in harassment, hate speech and misinformation. It’s also likely to put the company on a crash course with European regulators seeking to clamp down on harmful online content with tough new rules. Zach Meyers, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform think tank, said giving blanket amnesty based on an online poll is an “arbitrary approach” that’s “hard to reconcile with the Digital Services Act,” a new EU law that will start applying to the biggest online platforms by mid-2023. The law is aimed at protecting internet users from illegal content and reducing the spread of harmful but legal content. It requires big social media platforms to be “diligent and objective” in enforcing restrictions, which must be spelled out clearly in the fine print for users when signing up, Meyers said. Britain also is working on its own online safety law. “Unless Musk quickly moves from a ‘move fast and break things’ approach to a more sober management style, he will be on a collision course with Brussels and London regulators,” Meyers said. European Union officials took to social media to highlight their worries. The 27-nation bloc’s executive Commission published a report Thursday that found Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year compared with 2021. The report was based on data collected over the spring—before Musk acquired Twitter—as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s voluntary code of conduct on disinformation. It found that Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82% in 2021. The numbers may yet worsen. Since taking over, Musk has laid off half the company’s 7,500-person workforce along with an untold number of contractors responsible for content moderation. Many others have resigned, including the company’s head of trust and safety. Read More: Twitter Is Collapsing, and Nothing Can Replace It Recent layoffs at Twitter and results of the EU’s review “are a source of concern,” the bloc’s commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders tweeted Thursday evening after meeting with Twitter executives at the company’s European headquarters in Dublin. In the meeting, Reynders said he “underlined that we expect Twitter to deliver on their voluntary commitments and comply with EU rules,” including the Digital Services Act and the bloc’s strict privacy regulations known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Read More: Big Tech Layoffs Are Hurting Workers Far Beyond Silicon Valley Another EU commissioner, Vera Jourova, tweeted Thursday evening that she was concerned about news reports that a “vast amount” of Twitter’s European staff were fired. “If you want to effectively detect and take action against #disinformation & propaganda, this requires resources,” Jourova said. “Especially in the context of Russian disinformation warfare.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 25th, 2022

"If You Don"t Know What"s On The Thanksgiving Menu, It"s You"

"If You Don't Know What's On The Thanksgiving Menu, It's You" By Michael Every of Rabobank If you wanted to embody how the turkeys running things react when confronted with the fact that they voted for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it would be Bankman-Fraud being invited to speak at a New York Times event next week alongside Yellen, President Zelenskiy, and Ben Affleck/Batman. Alleged harems, billions of dollars in client money missing, and public accusations it was used as a personal and political piggy bank? Hey – have a seat alongside the global elite (and Batman) to say sorry and tell us about all the good things you did! Madoff obviously wasn’t available. If only this nonsense were a one-off, but the market heads into the US Thanksgiving holiday in fine mood because ‘the Fed minutes were dovish’, confirming their wrong-all-year view. Yet the compromise between Fed doves, who are there, and Fed hawks, who are running things, is that while the pace of hikes will slow, the ultimate level of rates will be higher. If I carve you with a smaller knife, but more times, is that ‘dovish’? Try ‘turkey-ish’! Philip Marey, well ahead of the Street in calling a 5% peak, has his view here: he thinks 50bp is coming in December, but rates aren’t going down at all until 2024. That’s a sour cranberry, or real stuffing for some turkeys given Treasury yields fell after the minutes, and the dollar sold off. Note the RBNZ flirted with 100bp yesterday before going a record 75, and are saying their overnight cash rate needs to hit 5.5%, even at the cost of 3-quarter recession. Yes, rates are contractionary there – and they want them to be: “Spend wisely this Christmas,” said Governor Orr as he signed off, literally encouraging Kiwis to not be turkeys, and to save, not spend. Likewise, the BOC governor just told parliament that Canadian rates need to rise even higher because inflation is not under control. Again, note the absence of turkeys. In China, there is buzz about another cut in banks’ reserve requirement ratios (RRR). There are still turkeys who think this matters despite umpteen RRR cuts already to no effect. As Covid cases soar, lockdowns intensify, and footage of unrest emerges at the world’s largest iPhone factory, Bloomberg asks, ‘Is a Wealth Tax How Xi Fills China's Empty Coffers?’ Months ago Western investment banks were piling into ‘wealth management opportunities’; now, some are slashing jobs after seeing only ‘poultry’ returns. Relatedly, Bloomberg flagged ‘High-Yield Party Returns to Emerging Markets Too Cheap to Ignore’ earlier this week; how long until the ‘Oops, They Got a Lot Cheaper’ headline emerges? In Europe, ECB speakers were generally hawkish. However, European politicians said ‘yelp’ – which is what a turkey says, as well as having the more regular meaning of surprise/panic. From January, Germany will start a “double-kaboom” policy. Not losing to two late goals in football, which the rest of Europe would love, but a EUR200bn gas and electricity subsidy, which Europe won’t. Households and SMEs will see gas prices capped at 12 EUR cents gross/KwH for 80% of their previous consumption until April 2024, and electricity at 40 EUR cents/KwH. For industry, the gas cap is 7 EUR cents net for 70% of consumption, and electricity is 13 EUR cents plus taxes, levies, and surcharges. Notably, Germany has already faced EU anger over the fact that it can afford to save itself while others can’t: with Germans looking after Germans in this crisis, which Germans looking after Germans got the EU into, expect EU knives to be sharpened. Moreover, Politico says ‘EU plans subsidy war chest as industry faces ‘existential’ threat from US’, noting: “If it weren't enough that energy prices look set to remain permanently far higher than those in the US thanks to Russia's war in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden is also currently rolling out a $369 billion industrial subsidy scheme to support green industries under the Inflation Reduction Act. EU officials fear that businesses will now face almost irresistible pressure to shift new investments to the US rather than Europe. EU industry chief Thierry Breton is warning that Biden's new subsidy package poses an "existential challenge" to Europe's economy. The European Commission and countries including France and Germany have realized they need to act quickly if they want to prevent the Continent from turning into an industrial wasteland… the EU is now working on an emergency scheme to funnel money into key high-tech industries.” In short, the EU will resist US mercantilism; which is resisting Chinese mercantilism; which Europe has had no issue with for decades. Yet Europe overlooks that they are the least prepared bloc for such a realpolitik backdrop: talk about turkeys voting for Christmas! Indeed, they are saying they will push back against pro-EU President Biden while: Running large twin deficits, as the German fiscal deficit is about to get much larger due to the “double-kaboom”, which smells like a potential market Cluster-Truss; The EU energy crisis is only being tempered by imports of LNG from the US; The EU are reliant on US weapons to fight the must-win war in Ukraine; The EU are reliant on exports to the US; and The EU are reliant on Eurodollar swaplines from the US to maintain financial stability at a time when the Fed is raising rates, which it still is. More realistically, the EU also announced a gas price cap that does not actually cap gas prices; and the G7 announced a Russian oil price cap that does not actually cap the price of Russian oil. On energy, gas prices are low now, but will only rise over 2023. Oil prices are sending a clearer signal, but wait and see what happens if the Fed does what the market wants for Christmas. I have kept saying that when we see long US yields go down and commodities tumble it will mean something: we are seeing that now. Yet yelp all you want, but that is not compatible with a weaker dollar. If the US is in trouble, try being everyone else with a lag. Mercantilism is a force very much on the US side, and is as much a story for 2023 as any ‘pivots’. As they say, if you don’t know what’s on the Thanksgiving menu – it’s you. Tyler Durden Thu, 11/24/2022 - 20:15.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 24th, 2022

Futures Steady Ahead Of Fed Minutes

Futures Steady Ahead Of Fed Minutes US equity futures were steady, trading in a narrow 15 point range before the release of minutes from the latest Fed meeting which may signal that the pace of rate hikes may slow. S&P500 futures up 0.1% by 7:30 a.m. ET, swinging between gains and losses, after the underlying index closed above 4,000 for the first time since Sept. 12 amid lighter trading before Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.1% after the tech-heavy index climbed 1.5% on Tuesday. Credit Suisse shares plunged below their record closing low after the bank warned of a fourth-quarter loss. Oil fell as the EU discussed imposing a price cap on Russian oil between $65 and $70 a barrel (which Russia will never comply with). The Bloomberg dollar index erased earlier declines. Ten-year US Treasury yields rose by one basis point. In premarket trading, Nordstrom sank 10% after reporting late Tuesday that gross margin for the fiscal third quarter that trailed the average analyst estimate. The department-store operator also reiterated its full-year outlook despite topping analysts’ expectations for adjusted earnings per share and revenue. The stock had ended Tuesday’s regular session at the highest level in three months amid a rally among retail shares. Tesla gained after Citigroup upgraded the electric-vehicle maker to neutral from sell. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Manchester United shares jump 11% in US premarket trading as the owners of the football club, the Glazer family, work with financial advisers on a partial sale of the club or investments including stadium and infrastructure redevelopment. Cryptocurrency-exposed stocks rally anew as Bitcoin extended its rebound into a second session, though investors were keeping an eye out for signs of any contagion from the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire. Coinbase +3.6%, Riot Blockchain +3.8%, Marathon Digital +4%, Core Scientific +11% Keep an eye on Medtronic as the stock was cut to neutral from buy at Citi, with the broker saying the medical-equipment group’s quarterly results were the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” MacroGenics shares gained about 4% in postmarket trading on Tuesday after Guggenheim Securities raised its rating on the stock to buy from neutral, citing a stronger balance sheet and near-term clinical data catalysts. The publication of minutes from the Fed’s Nov. 1-2 meeting -- due at 2 p.m. in Washington -- will be studied for how united policymakers were over a higher peak for interest rates than previously signaled in their inflation fight. Some investors anticipate that lower-than-estimated inflation figures could prompt the Fed to temper the size of its rate hikes as early as at next month’s gathering. After an initial shock from Chair Jerome Powell’s comments earlier this month, US equities have turned higher on expectations that lower-than-estimated inflation figures could prompt the Fed to tame the size of its rate hikes. The minutes are “likely to shed some light into how many FOMC members are becoming concerned about policy lags and the impacts of such lags on the US economy,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK. “With Fed Chair Powell keen to impress on the market that he wants to limit the scale of advances in the equity markets, it will be interesting to see how many other Fed officials share that view.” The Stoxx Europe 600 crept 0.1% higher to a fresh three-month high as travel and leisure and mining stocks gained. FTSE 100 outperforms peers, adding 0.5%, FTSE MIB lags, dropping 0.3%. Miners, travel and energy are the strongest performing sectors.  Credit Suisse Group shares dropped below their record closing low after the bank warned of a fourth-quarter loss and revealed a record $88 billion outflow. Here are the most notable European movers: Britvic shares rise as much as 4.9% after the UK soft-drinks maker reported full-year sales and earnings that beat estimates. Goodbody said the results bode well for the year ahead. Glencore gains as much as 4.8%, the most since Nov. 4, after Bernstein analysts upgraded the miner to outperform from market perform, saying it is best positioned to take advantage of thermal coal prices amid the gas shortage in Europe. CTS Eventim shares climb as much as 5%, touching the highest since June, after Baader raised the ticket seller to add from reduce, saying it is delivering a “very strong business recovery.” Rotork shares rise as much as 4.5%. The industrial valve maker’s reiterated guidance and in-line results should be welcome, while the margin outlook is also positive, analysts said. Endesa shares drop as much as 6.5%, the most intraday since June, after the Spanish utility gave guidance for lower-than-expected profits for the next two years. Credit Suisse drops as much as 6.2% after the troubled lender said it will book a loss of up to 1.5b Swiss francs for the fourth quarter and reported further outflows of wealth management funds. Vontobel said massive net outflows in wealth management are “deeply concerning.” Siemens Healthineers shares fall as much as 4.5% after it was cut to hold from buy at Jefferies, with the broker seeing limited scope for any upside in the medtech group’s FY23 guidance. EMS-Chemie shares drop as much as 4.7% after the chemicals company warned on profits, citing worsening demand from the automotive sector. European investors digested data showing that private-sector activity in Germany and France -- the euro area’s top two economies -- contracted in November, painting a bleak picture for a region that may already be in recession. A separate survey showed that the UK economy is in recession, with the downturn expected to worsen into 2023. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks advanced as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s minutes to assess the US rate-hike path while weighing risks from China’s Covid lockdowns and regulatory crackdown.  The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index climbed as much as 0.7%, led by gains in tech and energy stocks. Alibaba and other Chinese internet firms were the biggest individual contributors to the measure’s gain.  Equities in Hong Kong snapped a five-day losing streak while those in mainland China closed with a small gain as investors analyze impact of virus curbs. Traders were also cautious following a report that Chinese authorities are planning to impose a fine of more than $1 billion on Jack Ma’s Ant Group. Elsewhere, benchmarks in Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia posted moderate gains. Japan’s markets were closed for a holiday.  In a move to fight the spread of Covid, Shanghai will ask new arrivals into the city to stay away from public venues for five days starting from Thursday, as Chinese authorities revert to tougher virus restrictions amid a nationwide surge in infections. “China Covid will continue to create volatility, but it wasn’t completely unexpected and is somewhat priced in,” said Charu Chanana, senior markets strategist at Saxo Capital Markets. “For now, equities are getting a push from weaker yields overnight and expectations that FOMC minutes may be dovish.”  The minutes of the Fed’s November meeting will likely reveal a consensus among policymakers that the central bank needs to slow rate hikes. Investors are also digesting a slew of corporate earnings from Asia. Indian shares rose for a second straight day, helped by gains in banking stocks. A drop in index-heavy Reliance Industries and software firms trimmed gains.  The S&P BSE Sensex gained rose 0.2% to 61,510.58 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index added 0.1%. Twelve of BSE Ltd.’s 19 sector sub-gauges gained, led by a measure of banking stocks, trading close to a record high after climbing about 21% this year.  Foreign investors have largely been buyers of local shares since end of September. However, the global funds are also taking profit from some of top performers regularly. Australian stocks rose to the highest since June as miners gained. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7% to close at 7,231.80, extending gains for a second session, following Wall Street higher amid positive earnings and a focus on Federal Reserve minutes due later Wednesday.  Mining and bank shares contributed most to the benchmarks advance.  In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8% to 11,323.80, as the central bank raised interest rates by a record 75 basis points and signaled further tightening ahead, stepping up its inflation fight even as it forecasts a recession next year In FX, Bloomberg dollar spot index flatlined as G-10 peers moved in narrow ranges. Scandinavian currencies were the best G-10 performers while the yen and the Canadian dollar were the worst. The New Zealand dollar pared gains after earlier advancing by as much 0.7% versus the greenback. The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised interest rates by 75 basis points, as expected, and said rates will peak at 5.5% instead of 4.1%, and forecasts a recession next year as it seeks to contain inflation. The nation’s 2-year bond yield added 20bps The euro steadied around $1.03. European bond curves flattened and underperformed Treasuries as markets priced in more ECB tightening following RBNZ’s hawkish move. 2-year Bund yields added 7bps while the 10-year yield rose 1bp. Italian bonds outperformed bunds. The pound traded little changed against the US dollar and the euro. Currency traders are focusing on an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on whether the semi-autonomous Scottish government can call a second independence referendum without approval from the UK government In rates, Treasuries were narrowly mixed with the curve continuing to flatten; long-end yields traded slightly richer on the day, front-end and belly cheaper. 10-year Treasury yields were cheaper by 1bp on the day at around 3.765% with bunds trading cheaper by 1bp in the sector; 30-year dipped below 3.81% for first time since Oct. 7, aided by prospect of a big index duration extension at next week’s month- end rebalancing. Bunds underperformed with long-end yields cheaper by over 5bp on the day following PMI numbers and German 30-year bond sale. US session features heavy economic data slate including PMIs and University of Michigan sentiment. The Gilt curve bull flattens with 2s10s narrowing 5.7bps. Peripheral spreads tighten to Germany. In commodities, Bloomberg reported that EU is considering a price cap on Russian oil of $65-70bbl; several EU diplomats reportedly said the proposed level was too high. Subsequently, the G7 is looking at a price cap on Russian seaborne oil in the $65-70/bbl level, via Reuters citing a European official. Crude was capped by the latest oil cap reports ahead of a potential EU Ambassadors discussion; benchmarks gave up their initial modest consolidation and now post downside of near 2.0%. WTI and Brent Jan’23 futures fell to session lows $78.94/bbl and $85.96/bbl vs $81.30/bbl and $88.80/bbl respectively prior to the below source reports. Spot gold fell roughly $4 to trade near $1,737/oz, base metals were pressured by China's latest crackdown measures.. Looking to the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the global flash PMIs for November, along with the US weekly initial jobless claims, preliminary durable goods orders for October, and new home sales for October. From central banks, we’ll get the minutes from the FOMC meeting earlier this month, and there’ll be remarks from ECB Vice President de Guindos, the ECB’s de Cos and Centeno, and BoE chief economist Pill. Finally, earnings releases include Deere & Company. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 4,019.00 Brent Futures up 1.1% to $89.29/bbl Gold spot down 0.2% to $1,737.60 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.2% 107.05   Top Overnight News from Bloomberg The ECB should move carefully as it starts shrinking its balance sheet, opting for a “passive” approach to so-called quantitative tightening, according to Vice President Luis de Guindos The EU watered down its latest sanctions proposal for a price cap on Russia’s oil exports by delaying its full implementation and softening key shipping provisions Europe PMI manufacturing and services unexpectedly rose in November, according to S&P Global. While it still firmly indicates a recession in the 19-nation region is underway, it offers some room to think the downturn may be shallower than previously predicted. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak suffered a blow to his authority as he struggled to quell Conservative rebellions on multiple policy fronts, and downcast MPs threatened an exodus from Westminster ahead of the next election The UK economy is in recession with the downturn expected to worsen heading into 2023, a key survey warned. S&P Global said its poll of purchasing managers suggests the economy is shrinking at a quarterly rate of 0.4%. Gloom was widespread in November, with services firms seeing new business fall at the fastest pace for almost two years China’s purchases of machines to make computer chips fell 27% last month from a year earlier as the US imposed new, sweeping sanctions to try and derail the country’s chip ambitions A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks took impetus from the positive handover from Wall St where sentiment was underpinned amid a global risk revival despite the lack of fresh catalysts but with upside capped amid Japan's holiday closure, tighter COVID rules in China and following the RBNZ's historic rate hike. ASX 200 was led by strength in the mining-related industries and with the energy sector front running the advances although the index is limited by underperformance in tech. NZX 50 was the laggard following the RBNZ’s 75bps rate hike and hawkish revisions to its OCR view which it now expects to peak at 5.50% (prev. 4.10% view), while the Committee had considered either a 75bps or 100bps move compared with analysts’ forecasts of either a 50bps or 75bps hike heading into the meeting. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp were both higher, albeit with price action in the mainland choppy amid COVID concerns after several key cities tightened restrictions and testing requirements. Top Asian News PBoC adviser Wang Yiming sees China's 2023 GDP growth to likely be above 5% if the impact of COVID ends but noted growth will depend on the rollout of support measures and that support measures are needed to lift market confidence and consumption. Wang stated there is limited room for China to cut interest rates and slower Fed hikes in H1 2023 will provide China with more policy room. Shenzhen will require 48-hour COVID tests to access public venues and Chengdu will conduct mass testing on November 23rd-27th, while Tianjin is to conduct complete city testing on November 24th-25th. RBNZ hiked the OCR by 75bps to 4.25%, as expected, while it stated that monetary conditions need to tighten further and that the Committee considered a 75bps or 100bps rate increase. RBNZ said consumer price inflation is too high and the Committee agreed the OCR needs to reach a higher level and sooner than previously indicated. Furthermore, the RBNZ noted near-term inflation expectations have risen and it raised its OCR projections with the OCR expected to peak at 5.5% by December 2023 vs prev. forecast of 4.10%. RBNZ Governor Orr said during the press conference that there will be a shallow recession but noted economic activity remains high and spending is strong, while the RBNZ also noted that they are mature in the tightening cycle and closer to the end than the beginning but added that new shocks are arriving all the time. Beijing is set to maintain COVID curbs until a turning point appears, according to reports via Bloomberg; requests residents do not unnecessarily leave the city. China's cabinet will make adjustments to the RRR at an appropriate time, via Reuters citing State Media; will encourage commercial banks to issue loans to guarantee the delivery of homes. UK Chancellor Hunt and BoE Governor Bailey are to reduce the maximum authorised size of the APF to GBP 871bln (prev. GBP 886bln), according to a BoE statement. Moody's said the UK government set out an ambitious consolidation plan but added that low confidence in the delivery hampers its credibility, according to Reuters. UK Supreme Court rules that Scotland cannot hold an independence referendum without approval from the British government. ECB's de Guindos says it is likely we will see negative Q4 growth rates within the EZ. Upcoming inflation projections will still be high, before starting to slow in Q1-2023; will show core also remains high. Top European News UK Chancellor Hunt and BoE Governor Bailey are to reduce the maximum authorised size of the APF to GBP 871bln (prev. GBP 886bln), according to a BoE statement. Moody's said the UK government set out an ambitious consolidation plan but added that low confidence in the delivery hampers its credibility, according to Reuters. UK Supreme Court rules that Scotland cannot hold an independence referendum without approval from the British government. ECB's de Guindos says it is likely we will see negative Q4 growth rates within the EZ. Upcoming inflation projections will still be high, before starting to slow in Q1-2023; will show core also remains high. Fixed Income UK debt rampant ahead of DMO supply and comments from BoE's Pill, with Gilts posting a fresh 107.00+ post-mini budget collapse high Bunds tag along, but lag BTPs, former flat between 140.59-139.77 parameters and latter nearer top of 119.42-118.31 range US Treasuries trailing with no cash trade overnight and a hectic agenda looming on the eve of Thanksgiving, T-note subdued within a 112-21+/112-12 band Commodities Crude capped by oil cap reports ahead of a potential EU Ambassadors discussion; benchmarks gave up their initial modest consolidation and now post downside of near 2.0%. WTI and Brent Jan’23 futures fell to session lows USD 78.94/bbl and USD 85.96/bbl vs circa. USD 81.30/bbl and USD 88.80/bbl respectively prior to the below source reports. US Private Energy Inventory Data (bbls): Crude -4.8mln (exp. -1.1mln), Cushing -1.4mln, Gasoline -0.4mln (exp. +0.4mln), and Distillate +1.1mln (exp. -0.6mln). OPEC+ delegates said Saudi's denial of a production increase at the December meeting reflected an unease with public discussion of the group's decision-making before an agreement with Russia was struck, according to WSJ. US Treasury Department issued new guidance on the implementation of a price cap policy for Russian crude and said the price cap will be set after a technical exercise is conducted by the price cap coalition. A Treasury official also noted hopes that the EU price cap consultation is concluded relatively soon to allow the coalition to announce a price, while the official added there is no reason to expect Russia will retaliate to a price cap by cutting oil output and warned that violation of price cap could be subject to civil or criminal penalties, according to Reuters. EU is considering a price cap on Russian oil of USD 65-70bbl, according to Bloomberg sources; several EU diplomats reportedly said the proposed level was too high. Subsequently, the G7 is looking at a price cap on Russian seaborne oil in the USD 65-70/bbl level, via Reuters citing a European official. EU Ambassadors will revert to the oil price cap discussion this afternoon in an attempt to agree on legislation for it today, according to WSJ's Norman's understanding. For metals, spot gold and silver are diverging modestly but remain in close proximity to the unchanged mark as sentiment struggles for clear direction alongside a gradual pick-up in the USD, with base metals pressured by China's latest crackdown measures. FX Kiwi flies as RBNZ lives up to hawkish hype, and more, NZD/USD eyes 0.6200 and AUD/NZD cross breaches 1.0800 as Aussie lags vs Buck around 0.6650 in wake of weaker PMIs and more Chinese COVID contagion DXY clings to 107.00 ahead of packed US agenda on the eve of Thanksgiving, Euro faded from 1.0300+ against Greenback after post-EZ PMI pop, but may glean support from hefty option expiries Sterling underpinned around 1.1900 after better than forecast UK flash PMIs and Supreme Court rules against Scotland holding Independence vote independently Yen flags following flirt above 141.00 in Japanese holiday-impacted trade PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1281 vs exp. 7.1307 (prev. 7.1667) US Event Calendar 07:00: Nov. MBA Mortgage Applications 2.2%, prior 2.7% 08:30: Oct. Durable Goods Orders, est. 0.4%, prior 0.4%; - Less Transportation, est. 0%, prior -0.5% Cap Goods Ship Nondef Ex Air, est. 0.1%, prior -0.5% Cap Goods Orders Nondef Ex Air, est. 0%, prior -0.4% 08:30: Nov. Initial Jobless Claims, est. 225,000, prior 222,000 Continuing Claims, est. 1.52m, prior 1.51m 09:45: Nov. S&P Global US Manufacturing PM, est. 50.0, prior 50.4 Global US Services PMI, est. 48.0, prior 47.8 Global US Composite PMI, est. 48.0, prior 48.2 10:00: Nov. U. of Mich. Sentiment, est. 55.0, prior 54.7 U. of Mich. Current Conditions, est. 57.8, prior 57.8 U. of Mich. Expectations, est. 52.5, prior 52.7 U. of Mich. 1 Yr Inflation, est. 5.1%, prior 5.1% U. of Mich. 5-10 Yr Inflation, est. 3.0%, prior 3.0% 10:00: Oct. New Home Sales, est. 570,000, prior 603,000 New Home Sales MoM, est. -5.5%, prior -10.9% 14:00: Nov. FOMC Meeting Minutes DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap Morning from a taxi on the way to the airport and to Frankfurt. Germany are playing their first World Cup game today so I'm not sure anyone will be at the event I'm presenting at! However at least i have an excuse if they are not. Shame I'm not off to Saudi Arabia as they have declared today a national holiday after the shock defeat of the team I have in the office sweepstake, namely Argentina! Markets have been a bit more Saudi than Argentina over the last 24 hours, with bonds and equities moving higher despite the negative mood music that continues to overshadow markets. It perhaps hints at the technicals in the market that our equity strategists have repeatedly highlighted in recent weeks. See their updated thoughts here on how long the bear market rally might last. In fact, not only did the Covid situation in China take a fresh turn for the worse yesterday, but we also had a fresh round of threats about a cut-off in the remaining flow of Russian gas to Europe. Both of these could have significant ramifications for the global economy more broadly, since China plays a critical role in supply chains that could have ramifications for global inflation in the event of further lockdowns, whilst Europe is already facing a critical energy situation this winter. Our German economics team did though acknowledge the improved outlook of late in a note here last night but they still believe a recession is baked in the sand with a notable real incomes squeeze. The flash PMIs today will be an important barometer in terms of how Europe is fairing. When it comes to the latest developments in China, restrictions ramped up further yesterday against the backdrop of steadily rising case numbers. Shanghai said that new arrivals would not be allowed to enter public venues for the first five days, and would also be required to take three PCR tests within three days of their arrival. Meanwhile, Beijing said that residents would need a negative PCR test in the previous 48 hours to enter public venues and take buses, and Guangzhou said they would be extending Covid restrictions in parts of Haizhu district until the end of November 27. China-exposed stocks continued to struggle on the back of this. For instance, the NASDAQ’s Golden Dragon China index fell a further -1.43% yesterday, thus bringing its losses over the last 3 sessions to -7.77%, albeit +26.13% of the lows on October 24 after the reopening speculation started to build. That index contains US-listed stocks for whom most of their business is done in China, so offers a barometer of sentiment outside of trading hours in Asia. Overnight, Chinese equities themselves are trading in negative territory with the Shanghai Composite (-0.38%) and the CSI (-0.36%) edging lower as the daily Covid-19 infections continue to climb. As we said yesterday it can be possible for China to tighten restrictions quite firmly in the near term but loosen them more sustainably by the spring. So its a difficult one to trade but I suspect what they do from spring onwards should be the most important. Indeed, the negative developments in China failed to dampen risk appetite more broadly however, and the major equity indices climbed on both sides of the Atlantic. By the close of trade, the S&P 500 had advanced +1.36%, and Europe’s STOXX 600 even hit a 3-month high thanks to a +0.73% advance. To be fair in Europe, sentiment was boosted by some better-than-expected consumer confidence data, with the European Commission’s number for the Euro Area hitting a 5-month high of -23.9 (vs. -26.0 expected). Oil prices also benefited from the risk-on moves, with Brent crude (+1.03%) ending a run of 4 consecutive declines to close at $88.35/bbl. It dipped to $82 late on Monday as OPEC+ cuts were speculated upon before a subsequent Saudi denial. Speaking of energy, the European Commission outlined their proposals for an emergency break on natural gas prices yesterday. But the cap was set at €275 per megawatt-hour (more than twice the current level), and would only come into force if futures on the front-month TTF exceed that for two weeks, and if TTF prices are also €58 higher than the LNG reference price for 10 consecutive trading days in the last two weeks. So even during the summer spike when gas prices peaked above the €275 level, the cap wouldn’t have come into force since prices didn’t remain there for two weeks. The measures still require approval from EU member states, and EU energy ministers are set to discuss the proposal in Brussels tomorrow. Those proposals from the EU came as Gazprom threatened to cut gas flows to Europe via Ukraine yesterday, with Gazprom saying that Ukraine had taken gas that was meant for Moldova. In response, they warned they may limit volumes from November 28 based on the amount of gas not getting to Moldova. But the concern for the rest of Europe will be that previous threats from Russia to reduce volumes by a small amount end up resulting in much larger reductions, and this could be the start of a total shutdown that cuts off the last remaining pipeline to western Europe. In response, natural gas futures ended the day up by +7.21% at €124 per megawatt-hour, marking their third consecutive daily increase. Adding to the downbeat backdrop, the US 2s10s curve pressed deeper into inversion territory for an 8th consecutive session yesterday, hitting a post-1981 low of -76.27bps. That trend wasn’t just confined to the US however, with the German 2s10s curve similarly hitting a post-2009 low of -13.8bps. That came as policymakers continued to strike a firm tone on the need to rein inflation back in, with Cleveland Fed President Mester saying that “restoring price stability remains the number one focus of the FOMC”. The November FOMC Minutes are due today. The big takeaway from the meeting was that the Fed was ready to break their streak of +75bp hikes by stepping down to a +50bp hike in December, a message well-received by the market in subsequent weeks, with +52.0bps now priced for the December meeting. While stale in that regard, the Chair also paired the stepdown to +50bp hikes with a higher terminal rate, so we’ll be looking for any indication that the rest of the Committee agrees, and if so, how much higher terminal may need to go to restrict financial conditions adequately. Over in Europe, the debate also continued on whether the ECB should raise rates by 50bps or 75bps as well. Austria’s Holzmann echoed his hawkish remarks from the previous day, saying that he was in favour of a 75bps hike based on the current data. But Bundesbank President Nagel said “it would be too hasty to commit to how big the next rate hike could be”. Finally, Lithuania’s Simkus said that “50 basis points is a must”, and that since “we still see very strong inflation pressures and we need to dampen them as soon as possible to prevent a de-anchoring of inflation expectations. 75 is also possible.” By the close of trade, yields on 10yr Treasuries (-7.1bps), bunds (-1.3bps) and OATs (-1.5bps) had all moved lower. Outside of China, Asian equity markets are mostly trading higher this morning following the overnight rally on Wall Street. As I type, the Hang Seng (+0.42%) is trading higher, recovering from its earlier losses with the KOSPI (+0.46%) also in the green. Elsewhere, markets in Japan are closed for a holiday.US stock futures tied to the S&P 500 (-0.07%) are little changed. A big surprise came from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) as the central bank delivered a 75bps hike, its biggest rate hike on record as it struggles to contain rising inflation. The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) increased the Official Cash Rate (OCR) from 3.5% to 4.25% while signalling further tightening ahead. At the same time, it also warned that economic growth will slow in the near-term due to the shock of rising interest rates and elevated inflation. Shortly after the decision, yields on the policy-sensitive 2yr bond moved sharply higher (+26 bps), trading at 4.58% with the 10yr yields briefing touching 4.27% before retracing back to 4.20% as we go to print. Separately we have data from Australia showing that the preliminary PMI indices all weakened in November. The S&P Global manufacturing PMI dropped to 51.5 from the prior month’s level of 52.7 but more importantly the services sector PMI contracted further to a weak looking 47.2 following a level of 49.3 in October. There wasn’t much data of note yesterday, although the Richmond Fed’s manufacturing index for November came in at -9 (vs. –8 expected). Otherwise, the OECD released their latest economic outlook, projecting global growth of just +2.2% in 2023 and +2.7% in 2024. If that +2.2% number is realised, that would make 2023 the third-worst year of the 21st century so far for global growth, behind only 2020 with the pandemic and 2009 with the GFC. To the day ahead now, and the main data highlight will be the global flash PMIs for November, along with the US weekly initial jobless claims, preliminary durable goods orders for October, and new home sales for October. From central banks, we’ll get the minutes from the FOMC meeting earlier this month, and there’ll be remarks from ECB Vice President de Guindos, the ECB’s de Cos and Centeno, and BoE chief economist Pill. Finally, earnings releases include Deere & Company. Tyler Durden Wed, 11/23/2022 - 08:04.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 23rd, 2022

Futures Reverse Losses, Hit Session HIghs Alongside Oil Despite China Covid Curbs

Futures Reverse Losses, Hit Session HIghs Alongside Oil Despite China Covid Curbs After trading in the red for much of the overnight session, US futures inched higher shortly after the European open after a volatile session in Asia marked by rising Covid cases in China, while a Fed president turned dovish and showed openness to slowing the path of rate hikes. Futures on the S&P 500 traded near session highs, up 0.4% to 3,972 by 8:00 a.m. in New York, while Nasdaq 100 futures gained 0.1% after struggling for direction.  Stocks in Hong Kong and Mainland China slipped as China’s daily virus infections climbed to near the highest on record, although a bounce in Japanese stocks pushed overall Asian markets higher. Europe’s Stoxx 600 Index rose, led by energy shares. The dollar weakened against all major currencies and Treasury yields declined. Crude oil prices rose after Saudi Arabia pushed back against reports of a potential OPEC+ production increase. Bitcoin's gradual, methodic slide continued interrupted by occasional bouts of ungradual, unmethodic panic liquidations. In premarket trading, Zoom Video dropped after the firm reported its slowest quarterly sales growth on record and trimmed full-year revenue forecasts. Chinese stocks listed in US fell after a ramp-up in Covid restrictions to curb a spike in virus cases across China. Pinduoduo -2.4%, Trip.com -0.6%, Bilibili -2.8%, Nio -2.5%, Li Auto -3.9%. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Blackstone shares fall 2.5% in US premarket trading as Credit Suisse cut its rating to underperform from neutral and said that it is awaiting a better entry point for US alternative asset manager stocks. Alibaba shares pare losses in US premarket trading after Reuters reported that Chinese authorities are set to hand down a fine of over $1 billion for Jack Ma’s Ant Group, an event market watchers see as an end to Beijing’s prolonged investigation into the fintech firm and a first step to restarting its IPO. GameStop shares swing between slight gains and losses in US premarket trading, following a Bloomberg report that billionaire investor Carl Icahn was said to hold a large short position in the video-game retailer. Dell Technologies stock slipped 2% in postmarket trading on Monday as the computer company’s revenue forecasts for the current quarter missed estimates, as economic uncertainty begins to affect information technology customers. Keep an eye on Amazon.com after its price target was cut at Piper Sandler as AWS revenue decelerates along with an industry-wide slowdown at major cloud computing firms. The brokerage notes, however, that while “industry growth ticks down, AWS leadership remains.” Watch Activision Blizzard as Baird raised the recommendation on the stock to outperform from neutral, while downgrading Airbnb, Carvana and Vroom all to neutral since these companies are exposed to pullbacks in discretionary “high ticket” purchases. Keep an eye on software stocks, including Workday and Coupa Software as Morgan Stanley cuts price targets across the sector, with analyst saying that consensus estimates for 2023 are likely too high while customer IT budgets are set to be reduced. "Market sentiment remains toneless for the second trading day of the week as most investors are still struggling to assess the short- to mid-term outlook for risky assets," said Pierre Veyret, technical analyst at ActivTrades. “Despite the market starting to price in a potential slowing in rate hikes, some Fed officials have moved to temper these anticipations by reiterating their will to tackle inflation, and that this goal was far from being achieved.” Fed officials continued to highlight the need to curb inflation but hinted that a slower pace of hikes could be possible. On Monday, San Fran Fed President Mary Daly said officials need to be mindful of the lags with which monetary policy works, while repeating that she sees interest rates rising to at least 5%. Separately, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said she has no problem with slowing down the central bank’s rapid rate increases when officials meet next month. “Markets get jittery whenever the Federal Reserve is due to speak or issue important information,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. “With the central bank set to publish the minutes from its November meeting tomorrow, equity investors need to brace themselves for the Fed to say it is likely to keep raising rates to tame inflation, even though October’s consumer prices figure was below expectations.” After this quarter’s 10% rally in the S&P 500, Goldman strategists expressed skepticism about US stocks returns next year, setting a 4000 points target for the benchmark by Dec. 2023 as earnings growth stalls. “Zero earnings growth will match zero appreciation in the S&P 500,” strategists led by David Kostin wrote in a note on Tuesday. Then again, the same David Kostin said excatly one year ago that the S&P would close 2022 at 5,100 so expect him to be dead wrong again. In Europe,  Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed 0.2%, with energy stocks the best-performing sector as crude advanced after Saudi Arabia denied report of discussion about OPEC+ oil-output hike. BP rose 5.3% and Repsol was 6% higher after both stocks got analyst upgrades. Hong Kong stocks slid as China’s daily virus infections climbed to near the highest on record. Covid-control restrictions now affect a fifth of China’s economy. Still, the eventual easing by China of its curbs to counter the virus are likely to mean that European profits will hold up relatively well because of the benefits to luxury and mining companies, according to strategists at Goldman Sachs. Here are some of the notable European movers: AO World shares jumped as much as 17%, to the highest since early July, after the online appliances retailer raised its FY adjusted Ebitda forecast. Verbund rose as much as 8.2% after Stifel upgraded the utility company to buy from hold, saying conditions of Austria’s price cap are “much better” than had been anticipated. Allfunds shares fell as much as 11% after a discounted share offering by holders LHC3 and BNP Paribas in the mutual-fund distributor. Shares in digital price-tag maker SES- imagotag fell as much as 6%, before paring the drop, after majority shareholder BOE Smart Retail offered 1.5 million shares at a 7.3% discount to the last close. ThyssenKrupp declined as much as 5.9% after holder Cevian offered ~23.4m shares via UBS with price guidance of €5.15 apiece, representing a 4.7% discount to last close. Vodafone shares fell as much as 3.4% after the telecoms group was double-downgraded to underperform from outperform at Credit Suisse, which cited a growing risk to the dividend and elevated costs weighing on its outlook. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks advanced as the yen’s recent weakness boosted Japanese exporters, offsetting losses in Chinese tech shares. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained as much as 0.7%, with Japanese firms Toyota, Sony and Mitsubishi helping lift the gauge along with Taiwan’s TSMC. Up more than 10% this month, the MSCI Asian stock benchmark has outperformed its US or European peers in November thanks to China’s rally.  Among sectors, energy and industrials advanced the most, while communication services and consumer discretionary shares edged lower. Chinese stocks in Hong Kong fell for another day, as a worsening outbreak on the mainland raised doubts as to whether authorities can hold on to their softer Covid Zero stance. A rally this month fueled by reopening hopes has now come to a halt as investors come to terms with China’s Covid reality.  “As we’ve seen in the Covid issues in China, it’s going to be stop-go sort of news flow in terms of the lockdowns et cetera and that’s going to add volatility to markets,” Lorraine Tan, director of equity research at Morningstar, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Japan equities climbed as the yen’s retreat over the past four days supported exporters’ shares in the face of concerns over China’s Covid Zero policy and the Federal Reserve’s hawkish stance.   The Topix rose 1.1% to 1,994.75 as of the market close in Tokyo, while the Nikkei 225 advanced 0.6% to 28,115.74. Toyota Motor contributed the most to the Topix’s gain, increasing 2.3%. Out of 2,165 stocks in the index, 1,737 rose and 366 fell, while 62 were unchanged. “There is an impression that the market will be quiet with no major selloffs ahead of the Japanese and US holidays,” said Hirokazu Kabeya, chief global strategist at Daiwa Securities. “In some aspects, it is difficult for the stock market to fall as investors find it hard to make a move.”  Stocks in Malaysia fell for a second day after Saturday’s election produced the country’s first-ever hung parliament. Australia’s equity benchmark rose to a five-month high buoyed by miners.The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6% to close at 7,181.30, its highest since June 6, driven by a rebound in mining and energy shares.  In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2% to 11,420.42. New Zealand’s central bank is poised to raise interest rates by an unprecedented 75 basis points on Wednesday, accelerating its monetary tightening to get inflation under control. Elsewhere, markets were mixed with moderate gains or losses.  In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell as the greenback fell against all of its Group-of-10 peers. Risk-sensitive Antipodean currencies and the Norwegian krone were the top performers. CFTC data showed that speculative and institutional traders turned their back to the dollar yet again last week as the currency stayed under pressure. At the same time, one-month risk reversals in the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rallied in favor of the topside. The euro rose versus the greenback but underperformed most of its major peers. Bunds slipped and Italian bonds inched lower. The pound rose against a broadly weaker dollar and was steady against the euro. Data showed UK government borrowing grew less than forecast in October, ahead of a testimony in Parliament by officials from the Office for Budget Responsibility. The yen rose for the first time in five days after remarks from some Federal Reserve officials solidified bets for smaller US rate hikes. Japan’s yield curve steepened a tad ahead of a local holiday. One-week risk reversals in dollar-yen traded earlier at 24 basis points in favor of the Japanese currency, which marked the least bearish sentiment for the greenback in more than a month. In rates, Treasuries ground higher leaving yields near session lows into the early US session with 10-year at around 3.79%. Bunds and gilts both lag Treasuries, trading slightly cheaper over early London session. US session focus is on Fed speakers and conclusion of this week’s auctions with a 7-year sale at 1pm.  Treasury 10-year yields outperforming bunds and gilts by ~5bp on the day. Long-end of the Treasuries curve underperforms, steepening 10s30s spread by 2.5bp on the day.  This week’s auctions conclude with $35b 7-year note sale at 1pm, follows Monday’s double auction of 2- and 5-year notes. In commodities, it has been a contained session for the crude complex after yesterday’s WSJ fake news-prompted rollercoaster, with benchmarks higher by around 1% amid further pushback to the production increase report. Kuwait Oil Minister has pushed back against reports of any discussions over OPEC+ raising production at its next meeting, according to the State news agency; Iraq's SOMO says no discussions have taken place over an increase at the next OPEC meeting. China has reportedly paused the purchase of some Russian oil, awaiting details of the price cap to see if it provides a better price. Spot gold and silver are firmer, with the yellow metal at session highs just below the USD 1750/oz mark as risk sentiment struggles to find firm direction and the USD continues to pullback. For reference, the current spot gold peak of USD 1748/oz is shy of the 10-DMA at USD 1755/oz and still some way from the 200-DMA at USD 1801/oz. Cryptocurrency prices were mixed, with investors braced for more ructions as further digital-asset sector bankruptcies loom following the demise of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire. Looking to the day ahead now, and central bank speakers include the Fed’s Mester, George and Bullard, along with the ECB’s Holzmann, Rehn and Nagel. Data releases include Euro Area consumer confidence for November, as well as the US Richmond Fed manufacturing index for November. Lastly, the OECD will be releasing their Economic Outlook. Market Snapshot S&P 500 futures up 0.2% to 3,964.00 STOXX Europe 600 up 0.6% to 435.56 MXAP up 0.4% to 151.12 MXAPJ down 0.1% to 486.08 Nikkei up 0.6% to 28,115.74 Topix up 1.1% to 1,994.75 Hang Seng Index down 1.3% to 17,424.41 Shanghai Composite up 0.1% to 3,088.94 Sensex up 0.4% to 61,380.15 Australia S&P/ASX 200 up 0.6% to 7,181.30 Kospi down 0.6% to 2,405.27 German 10Y yield little changed at 1.99% Euro up 0.3% to $1.0272 Brent Futures up 0.7% to $88.04/bbl Gold spot up 0.5% to $1,745.92 U.S. Dollar Index down 0.35% to 107.46 Top Overnight News from Bloomberg More than six years after voting to leave the EU, the UK is facing a prolonged recession, a deep cost-of-living crisis and a shortage of workers. Last week’s Autumn Statement heralded years of higher taxes and cuts to public spending The ECB needs to maintain the pace of rate increases at its next meeting on Dec. 15 to demonstrate policy makers are “serious” about taming inflation, Financial Times reports, citing an interview with Robert Holzmann, governor of the National Bank of Austria and member of the ECB’s governing council Germany will introduce a cap on gas and electricity prices for companies and households as Europe’s largest economy seeks to contain the fallout from Russia’s moves to slash energy supplies. Large parts of German industry will no longer be able to avoid production cuts if companies need to further reduce natural gas consumption, according to a survey Italy has signed off on a €35 billion ($36 billion) budget law for next year which will raise a windfall tax on energy companies in order to expand aid to families and businesses hit by higher prices Spain announced a series of steps to shield mortgage-holders on lower incomes from rising costs, stepping up efforts to cushion the economic blow from high inflation and surging interest rates The premium investors pay for German two-year bonds over equivalent swaps has dropped to levels last seen in July in recent days, down more than 40 basis points from a record high in September. It comes after the German finance agency and the European Central Bank took steps to increase the supply of debt available to borrow in repo markets An FTX Group bankruptcy filing showed that the fallen cryptocurrency exchange and a number of affiliates had a combined cash balance of $1.24 billion A new currency trading algorithm developed by a Dutch fund threatens to wrest away millions of euros of fees from investment banks if it gains traction in the pension industry China’s overnight repo rate plunged to its lowest level in nearly two years, an indication that a liquidity squeeze seen last week has eased following measures by the central bank A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Nesquawk Asia-Pac stocks were mostly positive as the regional bourses attempted to recover from the recent China COVID woes but with price action contained amid quiet newsflow and a lack of fresh macro drivers. ASX 200 was positive amid strength in the commodity-related sectors in which energy led the advances after oil prices rebounded following Saudi’s denial that it was considering a production increase. Nikkei 225 higher and reclaimed the 28,000 level with early outperformance in Shionogi after its COVID-19 therapeutic drug was presumed effective by Japan’s PMDA. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp traded mixed with Hong Kong pressured by weakness in the tech sector, while losses in the mainland were reversed after the latest policy support pledges by China including measures to sustain the recovery momentum of the industrial economy and with the PBoC to release CNY 200bln worth of loan support for commercial banks to ensure near-term delivery of homes. Top Asian News US Defence Secretary Austin met with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe in Cambodia, according to a US official cited by Reuters. US Defence Secretary Austin discussed the need for dialogue on reducing risk and improving communication with his Chinese counterpart, according to a Pentagon spokesperson. Furthermore, Austin raised concern about increasingly dangerous behaviour by Chinese aircraft which increases the risk of an accident and he reiterated that the US remains committed to the longstanding Once China Policy. Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman said the main reason for the current situation faced by China and the US is because the US made the wrong strategic judgement. In relevant news, Global Times' Hu Xijin tweeted that the meeting between the two defence ministers must be supported and that no matter how many frictions, China and the US cannot fight militarily which is the bottom line and the two sides’ due responsibility to the world. EU is poised to renew sanctions on Chinese officials accused of human rights violations in Xinjiang for an additional year, according to SCMP. RBA's Lowe say the Bank is not on a pre-set path and could return to 50bps increase or keep rates unchanged for a time. The Board expects to increase interest rates further over the period ahead. Understand that many people are finding the rise in interest rates difficult. It is necessary, though, to ensure that the current period of higher inflation is only temporary. Beijing City reports 634 (prev. 274) COVID infections on November 22nd as of 3pm, according to a health official, via Reuters. Subsequently, Beijing will tighten COVID testing requirements as of November 24th, according to an official; COVID tests within 48 hours will be required to enter public venues. European bourses are modestly firmer, Euro Stoxx 50 +0.2%, though fresh developments have been limited and the upside itself is tentative at best. Sectors are mixed with the likes of Energy outperforming after yesterday's noted pressure, no overarching bias present in the European morning. Stateside, US futures are near the unchanged mark but have, similar to European peers, been modestly firmer/softer throughout the morning, ES +0.1%. Samsung Electronics (005930 KS) is to jointly develop 3nm chips with five-six fabless clients for large quantity supply as soon as 2023, via Korea Economic Daily citing sources. Top European News ECB's Centeno sees conditions for rate hikes to be less than 75bps in December and said they "really have to reverse" the trend of rising inflation to have greater visibility on monetary policy, according to Bloomberg. ECB's Holzmann said he supports a 75bps hike in December and noted there are no signs that price pressures are easing, according to FT. ECB's Rehn says they will probably hike rates again, pace depends on how the economy develops. ECB's Nagel says a 50bp rate hike is "strong", rates are still "relatively far" from restrictive territory, via Reuters; calls for commencing a gradual APP unwind in Q1-2023. Italy approved a EUR 35bln budget law for next year which plans to increase an energy windfall tax, according to Bloomberg. FX Dollar loses recovery momentum as risk appetite picks up, DXY drifts between 107.810-300 bounds and retests a Fib retracement level just over 107.500 Kiwi rebounds to top 0.6150 vs Buck irrespective of worrying NZ trade data, as RBNZ looms amidst expectations of a larger 75bp hike in the OCR Aussie recovers alongside Yuan and amidst comments from RBA Governor Lowe reaffirming guidance for further tightening, AUD/USD eyes 0.6650 from around 0.6600 at the low Loonie regains poise in tandem with oil and probes 1.3400 against its US rival pre-Canadian data and remarks from BoC's Rogers Yen, Franc, Euro and Pound all take advantage of Greenback fade plus yield convergence to Treasuries as USD/JPY reverses from 142.00+ and USD/CHF from almost 0.9600, while EUR/USD eyes 1.0300 and Cable 1.1900 vs sub-1.0250 and 1.0825. Fixed Income Rangebound trade for core fixed income, though intraday boundaries have extended on both sides throughout the European morning as the complex struggles for firm direction. Bund unreactive to a well-received Bobl auction while USTs are a handful of ticks firmer ahead of the week's last US auction, with volumes currently fairly light. Note, final orders for the UK's 0.125% 2073 Gilt I/L exceed GBP 16.8bln, according to a bookrunner, with pricing set 20bp below the 2068 comparable. Commodities Comparably contained session for the crude complex after yesterday’s pronounced OPEC+ related price action; benchmarks currently firmer by around 0.5% amid further pushback to the production increase report. White House Press Secretary said President Biden is committed to further lowering gasoline prices. Kuwait Oil Minister has pushed back against reports of any discussions over OPEC+ raising production at its next meeting, according to the State news agency; Iraq's SOMO says no discussions have taken place over an increase at the next OPEC meeting. China has reportedly paused the purchase of some Russian oil, awaiting details of the price cap to see if it provides a better price, via Bloomberg citing sources. German gas price break will apply retroactively from January, via der Spiegel; reduction in gas and heat prices is not expected to take effect until March 1st. European Commission proposes to introduce a gas price correction mechanism for one-year from January 1st 2023, via Reuters citing draft legislation; proposal leaves the actual price cap blank for now. Diplomats say that EU gov'ts want the gas price cap at EUR 159-180/MWh, vs the much higher cap expected to be proposed by the Commission. UK officials visited Brazil in October to assess the regions beef standards, via Politico; a visit which has fuelled hopes in Brazil of a future trade deal. Spot gold and silver are firmer, with the yellow metal at session highs just below the USD 1750/oz mark as risk sentiment struggles to find firm direction and the USD continues to pullback For reference, the current spot gold peak of USD 1748/oz is shy of the 10-DMA at USD 1755/oz and still some way from the 200-DMA at USD 1801/oz. Geopolitics Moscow considers a search necessary for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue after Turkey's strikes in Syria and believes Turkey should restrain from the use of excessive military force, according to RIA citing Moscow's Syria envoy. N. Korea will take an ultra strong response to anyone that interferes with its sovereign rights, via KCNA; US will face a greater security crisis the more it insists on taking hostile actions. US Event Calendar 10am: U.S. Richmond Fed Index, Nov., est. -8, prior -10 Central bank speakers 11am: Fed’s Mester Discusses Wages and Inflation 11:45am: Bank of Canada’s Carolyn Rogers Speaks on Financial Stability 2:15pm: Fed’s George Takes Part in Policy Panel 2:45pm: Fed’s Bullard Discusses Heterogeneity in Macroeconomics DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap A decent slug of yesterday was spent debating whether England's 6-2 win at the World Cup was a performance to scare the world of football into submission or whether Iran's 20th spot in the FIFA World rankings may slightly flatter them. As ever, your opinions are welcome! Good luck to all your teams as the WC introduces a few big hitters today! I'm not sure if it was the World Cup but markets had a rather slow and lacklustre start to the week yesterday. The S&P 500 (-0.39%) fell back amidst concerns about rising Covid cases in China and ongoing fears about a US recession next year. The effects were evident across multiple asset classes, and WTI oil prices fell below their start of 2022 levels briefly intra-day (-6.24% on the day at the lows) as investors grappled with the prospect of lower Chinese demand alongside speculation about an OPEC+ output increase, which was eventually denied. WTI rallied back hard on a Saudi denial of the story to close just -0.44% lower, while Brent futures were -6.06% lower before closing down only -0.19%. In Asia trading, WTI prices (+0.74%) have climbed back above the start of week levels and are trading just above $80/bbl while Brent futures (+0.49%) are fractionally higher as we go to print. In terms of what’s coming out of China, there are growing concerns among investors that there’ll be a return to lockdowns following the weekend news that they’d had their first Covid death in six months. The overall rise in case numbers now makes this the third-largest outbreak of the pandemic so far, behind only the Shanghai lockdowns in Q2 and the Wuhan outbreak in early 2020. Beijing has increased its restrictions, and now requires arrivals to take three PCR tests within the first three days and to stay at home until they get a negative result. In the Haidian district of Beijing, schools have now switched to online learning as well. This has all served to dampen the speculation of recent weeks that China might be moving gradually away from its zero-Covid strategy, and the city of Shijiazhuang has even asked residents to stay at home for 5 days. China recorded 27,307 new local Covid cases nationally yesterday, almost close to the record high of 28k seen in March. The irony is that the China reopening story has been a big positive driver of China-related risk and overall markets over the last couple of weeks, so we are trading between feast and famine on this story. Both could of course be ultimately right. There might be many more restrictions in the near term but stronger more durable reopenings by the spring. Markets are struggling to price this at the moment though. For now, the effects were apparent among Chinese stocks listed in the US, with companies like Alibaba (-4.41%), JD.com (-6.37%) and Bilibili (-8.15%) underperforming the broader equity moves. The Chinese Yuan (-0.64%) also weakened against the US Dollar, although to be fair this was partly a function of dollar strength. Overnight in Asia, China risk has bounced a bit. The Shanghai Composite (+0.75%) and the CSI (+0.77%) are both up alongside the Nikkei (+0.72%). The Hang Seng (-0.39%) and KOSPI (-0.35%) are both lower. US equity futures are just above flat as we type. Staying with equities, the earlier plunge in oil prices was bad news for energy stocks, which were among the biggest sectoral underperformers on both sides of the Atlantic. By the close of trade, the S&P 500 was down -0.39%, with energy down -1.39%, rallying midday from -4.64% to beat out consumer discretionary shares which were -1.41% lower. A number of other cyclical industries underperformed as well, and the NASDAQ fell -1.09% on the day, whilst the small-cap Russell 2000 fell -0.57%. In Europe, the performance was marginally better, but that still wasn’t enough to stop the STOXX 600 posting a very marginal -0.06% decline, with energy (-3.02%) far and away the underperformer as shares closed near the nadir of Brent and WTI futures pricing. There clearly should be a bounce this morning. The more negative tone out of China yesterday has only added to existing fears about a US recession over the coming months, which the latest moves in the Treasury yield curve did little to dispel. The 2s10s yield curve flattened another -2.2bps to -73bps taking it beneath the 1982 low of -71.65bps to a level unseen since 1981. This came as the 10yr tracked intraday pricing in oil as well, having fallen as much as -7.1bps intraday before finishing the day more or less unchanged. This morning in Asia, 10yr UST yields (-1.12 bps) are slightly lower, trading at 3.82%. There have been a few Fed speakers over the last 24 hours to impact treasury pricing. SF Fed President Daly warned against the two-sided risks of over-tightening, but hinted that her estimate of terminal may have risen to around 5.1% since the November meeting. Meanwhile, Cleveland Fed President Mester supported downshifting to a 50bps hike in December, but noted the Fed was not “anywhere near to stopping”, echoing Chair Powell’s tone from the November FOMC presser. There's quite a bit of Fed speak today as you'll see in the day ahead at the end. Whilst it’s widely expected that the Fed will slow down the pace of hikes to 50bps in December, there’s somewhat more doubt about the ECB’s next move the following day, who it seems are still weighing up another 75bps hike or slowing down to 50bps. Yesterday, we heard from Austria’s Holzmann (a hawk), who said he’d only favour a 50bps hike if there was a “major reduction” in inflation this month. But Portugal’s Centeno (a dove) said that the conditions were in place for a hike beneath 75bps next month. Separately, Slovenia’s Vasle talked about the need for restrictive policy, saying that the ECB needs to “keep gradually raising rates, even into the territory where monetary policy won’t be just neutral, but will become more restrictive.” European sovereigns seemed unfazed by this debate, trading in line with the broader global moves. Yields on 10yr bunds (-2.1bps) and OATs (-1.8bps) moved lower, but there was an underperformance among southern European countries, with yields on Italian BTPs up +4.3bps. Interestingly, there was a notable downside surprise in the latest German PPI reading, which came in at +34.5% in October (vs. +42.1% expected). Now it’s worth noting that the decline was driven by energy, but at -4.2% on the month, that was the first monthly decline in the index since mid-2020. To the day ahead now, and central bank speakers include the Fed’s Mester, George and Bullard, along with the ECB’s Holzmann, Rehn and Nagel. Data releases include Euro Area consumer confidence for November, as well as the US Richmond Fed manufacturing index for November. Lastly, the OECD will be releasing their Economic Outlook. Tyler Durden Tue, 11/22/2022 - 08:02.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 22nd, 2022

Macleod: The Upside-Down World Of Currency

Macleod: The Upside-Down World Of Currency Authored by Alasdair Macleod via GoldMoney.com, The gap between fiat currency values and that of legal money, which is gold, has widened so that dollars retain only 2% of their pre-1970s value, and for sterling it is as little as 1%. Yet it is commonly averred that currency is money, and gold is irrelevant. As the product of statist propaganda, this is incorrect. Originally established in Roman law, legally gold is still money and the states’ debauched currencies are not — only a form of credit. As I demonstrate in this article, the major western central banks will be forced to embark on a new round of currency debasement, likely to put an end to the matter. Central to my thesis is that commercial bank credit will contract sharply in response to rising interest rates and bond yields. This retrenchment is already ending the everything bubble in financial asset values, is beginning to undermine GDP, and given record levels of balance sheet leverage makes a major banking crisis virtually impossible to avoid. Central banks which are already in a parlous state of their own will be tasked with underwriting the entire credit system. In discharging their responsibilities to the status quo, central banks will end up destroying their own currencies. So, why do we persist in pricing everything in failing currencies, when that will almost certainly change? When the difference between legal money and declining currencies is finally realised, the public will discard currencies entirely reverting to legal money. That time is being brought forward rapidly by current events.  Why do we impart value to currency and not money? A question that is not satisfactorily answered today is why is it that an unbacked fiat currency has value as a medium of exchange. Some say that it reflects faith in and the credit standing of the issuer. Others say that by requiring a nation’s subjects to pay taxes and to account for them guarantees its demand. But these replies ignore the consequences of its massive expansion while the state pretends it to be real money. Sometimes, the consequences can seem benign and at others catastrophic. As explanations for the public’s tolerance of repeated failures of currencies, these answers are insufficient. Let us do a thought experiment to highlight the depth of the problem. We know that over millennia, metallic metals, particularly gold, silver, and copper came to be used as media of exchange. And we also know that the use of their value was broadened through credit in the form of banknotes and bank deposits. The relationships between legal money, that is gold, silver, or copper and credit in its various forms were defined in Roman law in the sixth century. And we also know that this system of money and credit with the value of credit tied to that of money, despite some ups and downs, has served humanity well ever since. Now let us assume that in the absence of metallic money, in the dawn of economic time a ruler instructed his subjects to use a new currency which he and only he will issue for the public’s use. This would surely be seen as a benefit to everyone, compared with the pre-existing condition of barter. But the question in our minds must be about the durability of the ruler’s new currency. With no precedent, how is the currency to be valued in the context of the ratios between goods and services bought and sold? And how certain can one be about tomorrow’s value in that context? And what happens if the king loses his power, or dies? Clearly, without a reference to something else, the king’s new currency is a highly risky proposition and sooner or later will simply fail. And even when a new currency has been introduced and linked to an existing form of money, if the tie is then cut the currency will struggle to survive. Without going into the good reasons why this is so, the empirical evidence confirms it. Chinese merchants no longer use Kubla Khan’s paper made out of mulberry leaves, and German citizens no longer use the paper marks of the early 1920s. But they still refer to metallic money. Yet today, we impart values to paper currencies issued by our governments in defiance of these outcomes. An explanation was provided by the great Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises in his regression theorem. He reasonably argued that we refer the value of a medium of exchange today to its value to us yesterday. In other words, we know as producers what we will receive today for our product, based on our experience in the immediate past, and in the same way we refer to our currency values as consumers. Similarly, at a previous time, we referred our experience of currency values to our prior experience. In other words, the credibility and value of currencies are based on a regression into the past. Mises’s regression theory was broadly confirmed by an earlier writer, Jean-Baptiste Say, who in his Treatise on Political Economy observed:  “Custom, therefore, and not the mandate of authority, designates the specific product that shall pass exclusively as money, whether crown pieces or any other commodity whatever.”[i] Custom is why we still think of currencies as money, even though for the last fifty-one years their link with money was abandoned. The day after President Nixon cut the umbilical cord between gold and the dollar, we all continued using dollars and all the other currencies as if nothing had happened. But this was the last step in a long process of freeing the paper dollar from being backed by gold. The habit of the public in valuing currency by regression had served the US Government well and has continued to do so. The role of a medium of exchange Being backed by no more than government fiat, to properly understand the role that currencies have assumed for themselves, we need to make some comments about why a medium of exchange is needed and its characteristics. The basis was laid out by Jean-Baptiste Say, who described the division of labour and the role of a medium of exchange. Say observed that human productivity depended on specialisation, with producers obtaining their broader consumption through the medium of exchange. The role of money (and associated credit) is to act as a commodity valued on the basis of its use in exchange. Therefore, money is simply the right, or title, to acquire some consumer satisfaction from someone else. Following on from Say’s law, when any economic quantity is exchanged for any other economic quantity, each is termed the value of the other. But when one of the quantities is money, the other quantities are given a price. Price, therefore, is always value expressed in money. For this reason, money has no price, which is confined entirely to the goods and services in an exchange. So long as currency and associated forms of credit are firmly attached to money such that there are minimal differences between their values, there should be no price for them either, other than a value difference arising from counterparty risk. A further distinction between money and currencies can arise if their users suspect that the link might break down. It was the breakdown in this relationship between gold and the dollar that led to the failure of the Bretton Woods agreement in 1971. Therefore, in all logic it is legal money that has no price. But does that mean that when its value differs from that of money, does currency have a price? Not necessarily. So long as currency operates as a medium of exchange, it has a value and not a price. We can say that a dollar is valued at 0.0005682 ounces of gold, or gold is valued at 1760 dollars. As a legacy of the dollar’s regression from the days when it was on a gold standard, we still attribute no price to the dollar, but now we attribute a price to gold. To do so is technically incorrect. Perhaps an argument for this state of affairs is that gold is subject to Gresham’s law, being hoarded rather than spent. It is the medium of exchange of last resort so rarely circulates. Nevertheless, fiat currencies have consistently lost value relative to legal money, which is gold, so much so that the dollar has lost 98% since the suspension of Bretton Woods, and sterling has lost 99%. Over fifty-one years, the process has been so gradual that users of unanchored currencies as their media of exchange have failed to notice it.  This gradual loss of purchasing power relative to gold can continue indefinitely, so long as the conditions that have permitted it to happen remain without causing undue alarm. Furthermore, for lack of a replacement it is highly inconvenient for currency users to consider that their currency might be valueless. They will hang on to the myth of its use value until its debasement can no longer be ignored. What is the purpose of interest rates? Despite the accumulating evidence that central bank management of interest rates fails to achieve their desired outcomes, monetary policy committees persist in using interest rates as their primary means of economic intervention. It was the central bankers’ economic guru himself who pointed out that interest rates correlated with the general level of prices and not the rate of price inflation. And Keynes even named it Gibson’s paradox after Arthur Gibson, who wrote about it in Banker’s Magazine in 1923 (it had actually been noted by Thomas Tooke a century before). But because he couldn’t understand why these correlations were the opposite of what he expected, Keynes ignored it and so have his epigonic central bankers ever since. As was often the case, Keynes was looking through the wrong end of the telescope. The reason interest rates rose and fell with the general price level was that price levels were not driven by interest rates, but interest rates reacted to changes in the general level of prices. Interest rates reflect the loss of purchasing power for money when the quantity of credit increases. With their interests firmly attached to time preference, savers required compensation for the debasement of credit, while borrowers — mainly businesses in production — needed to bid up for credit to pay for higher input costs. Essentially, interest rates changed as a lagging indicator, not a leading one as Keynes and his acolytes to this day still assume. In a nutshell, that is why Gibson’s paradox is not a paradox but a natural consequence of fluctuations in credit and the foreign exchanges and the public’s valuation of it relative to goods. And the way to smooth out the cyclical consequences for prices is to stop discouraging savers from saving and make them personally responsible for their future security. As demonstrated today by Japan’s relatively low CPI inflation rate, a savings driven economy sees credit stimulation fuelling savings rather than consumption, providing capital for manufacturing improvements instead of raising consumer prices. Keynes’s savings paradox — another fatal error — actually points towards the opposite of economic and price stability.  It is over interest rate management that central banks prove their worthlessness. Even if they had a Damascene conversion, bureaucrats in a government department can never impose decisions that can only be efficiently determined by market forces. It is the same fault exhibited in communist regimes, where the state tries to manage the supply of goods— and we know, unless we have forgotten, the futility of state direction of production. It is exactly the same with monetary policy. Just as the conditions that led the communists to build an iron curtain to prevent their reluctant subjects escaping from authoritarianism, there should be no monetary policy. Instead, when things don’t go their way, like the communists, bureaucrats double down on their misguided policies suppressing the evidence of their failures. It is something of a miracle that the economic consequences have not been worse. It is testament to the robustness of human action that when officialdom places mountainous hurdles in its path ordinary folk manage to find a way to get on with their lives despite the intervention. Eventually, the piper must be paid. Misguided interest rate policies led to their suppression to the zero bound, and for the euro, Japanese yen, and Swiss franc, even unnaturally negative deposit rates. Predictably, the distortions of these policies together with central bank credit inflation through quantitative easing are leading to pay-back time.  Rapidly rising commodity, producer and consumer prices, the consequences of these policy mistakes, are in turn leading to higher time preference discounts. Finally, markets have wrested currency and credit valuations out of central banks’ control, as it slowly dawns on market participants that the whole interest rate game has been an economic fallacy. Foreign creditors are no longer prepared to sit there and accept deposit rates and bond yields which do not compensate them for loss of purchasing power. Time preference is now mauling central bankers and their cherished delusions. They have lost their suppressive control over markets and now we must all face the consequences. Like the fate of the Berlin Wall that had kept Germany’s Ossies penned in, monetary policy control is being demolished. With purchasing powers for the major currencies now sinking at a more rapid rate than current levels of interest rate and bond yield compensation, the underlying trend for interest rates is now rising and has further to go. Official forecasts that inflation at the CPU level will return to the targeted 2% in a year or two are pie in the sky.  While Nero-like, central bankers fiddle commercial banks are being burned. A consequence of zero and negative rates has been that commercial bank balance sheet leverage increased stratospherically to compensate for suppressed lending margins. Commercial bankers now have an overriding imperative to claw back their credit expansion in the knowledge that in a rising interest rate environment, their unfettered involvement in non-banking financial activities comes at a cost. Losses on financial collateral are mounting, and the provision of liquidity into mainline non-financial sectors faces losses as well. And when you have a balance sheet leverage ratio of assets to equity of over twenty times (as is the case for the large Japanese and Eurozone banks), balance sheet equity is almost certain to be wiped out. The imperative for action is immediate. Any banker who does not act with the utmost urgency faces the prospect of being overwhelmed by the new interest rate trend. The chart below shows that the broadest measure of US money supply, which is substantially the counterparty of bank credit is already contracting, having declined by $236bn since March. Contracting bank credit forces up interest rates due to lower credit supply. This is a trend that cannot be bucked, a factor that has little directly to do with prices. By way of confirmation of the new trend, the following quotation is extracted from the Fed’s monthly Senior Loan Officers’ Opinion Survey for October: “Over the third quarter, significant net shares of banks reported having tightened standards on C&I [commercial and industrial] loans to firms of all sizes. Banks also reported having tightened most queried terms on C&I loans to firms of all sizes over the third quarter. Tightening was most widely reported for premiums charged on riskier loans, costs of credit lines, and spreads of loan rates over the cost of funds. In addition, significant net shares of banks reported having tightened loan covenants to large and middle-market firms, while moderate net shares of banks reported having tightened covenants to small firms. Similarly, a moderate net share of foreign banks reported having tightened standards for C&I loans. “Major net shares of banks that reported having tightened standards or terms cited a less favourable or more uncertain economic outlook, a reduced tolerance for risk, and the worsening of industry-specific problems as important reasons for doing so. Significant net shares of banks also cited decreased liquidity in the secondary market for C&I loans and less aggressive competition from other banks or nonbank lenders as important reasons for tightening lending standards and terms.” Similarly, credit is being withdrawn from financial activities. The following chart reflects collapsing credit levels being provided to speculators. In the same way that the withdrawal of bank credit undermines nominal GDP (because nearly all GDP transactions are settled in bank credit) the withdrawal of bank credit also undermines financial asset values. And just as it is a mistake to think that a contraction of GDP is driven by a decline in economic activity rather than the availability of bank credit, it is a mistake to ignore the role of bank credit in driving financial market valuations. The statistics are yet to reflect credit contraction in the Eurozone and Japan, which are the most highly leveraged of the major banking systems. This may be partly due to the rapidity with which credit conditions are deteriorating. And we should note that the advanced socialisation of credit in these two regions probably makes senior managements more beholden to their banking authorities, and less entrepreneurial in their big-picture awareness than their American counterparts. Furthermore, the principal reason for continued monetary expansion reflects both the euro-system and the Bank of Japan’s continuing balance sheet expansion, which feed directly into the commercial banking network bolstering their balance sheets. It is likely to be state-demanded credit which overwhelms the Eurozone and Japan’s statistics, masking deteriorating changes in credit supply for commercial demand.  The ECB and BOJ’s monetary policies have been to compromise their respective currencies by their continuing credit expansion, which is why their currencies have lost significant ground against the dollar while US interest rates have been rising. Adding to the tension, the US’s Fed has been jawing up its attack on price inflation, but the recent fall in the dollar on the foreign exchanges strongly suggests a pivot in this policy is in sight. The dilemma facing central banks is one their own making. Having suppressed interest rates to the zero bound and below, the reversal of this trend is now out of their control. Commercial banks will surely react in the face of this new interest rate trend and seek to contract their balance sheets as rapidly as possible. Students of Austrian business cycle theory will not be surprised at the suddenness of this development. But all GDP transactions, with very limited minor cash exceptions at the retail end of gross output are settled in bank credit. Inevitably the withdrawal of credit will cause nominal GDP to contract significantly, a collapse made more severe in real terms when the decline in a currency’s purchasing power is taken into consideration. The choice now facing bureaucratic officialdom is simple: does it prioritise rescuing financial markets and the non-financial economy from deflation, or does it ignore the economic consequences of protecting the currency instead? The ECB, BOJ and the Bank of England have decided their duty lies with supporting the economy and financial markets. Perhaps driven in part by central banking consensus, the Fed now appears to be choosing to protect the US economy and its financial markets as well.  The principal policy in the new pivot will be the same: suppress interest rates below their time preference. It is the policy mistake that the bureaucrats always make, and they will double down on their earlier failures. The extent to which they suppress interest rates will be reflected in the loss of purchasing power of their currencies, not in terms of their values against each other, but in their values with respect to energy, commodities, raw materials, foodstuffs, and precious metals. In other words, a new round of higher producer and consumer prices and therefore irresistible pressure for yet higher interest rates will emerge. The collapse of the everything bubble The flip side of interest rate trends is the value imparted to assets, both financial and non-financial. It is no accident that the biggest and most widespread global bull market in history has coincided with interest rate suppression to zero and even lower over the last four decades. Equally, a trend of rising interest rates will have the opposite effect. Unlike bull markets, bear markets are often sudden and shocking, especially where undue speculation has been previously involved. There is no better example than that of the cryptocurrency phenomenon, which has already seen bitcoin fall from a high of $68,000 to $16,000 in twelve months. And in recent days, the collapse of one of the largest crypto-exchanges, FTX, has exposed both hubris and alleged fraud, handmaidens to extreme public speculation, on an unimaginable scale. For any student of the madness of crowds, it would be surprising if the phenomenon of cryptocurrencies actually survives. Driving this volte-face into bear markets is the decline in bond values. On 20 March 2020, when the Fed reduced its fund rate to zero, the 30-year US Treasury bond yielded 1.18%. Earlier this week the yield stood at 4.06%. That’s a fall in price of over 50%. And time preference suggests that short-term rates, for example over one year, should currently discount a loss of currency’s purchasing power at double current rates, or even more. For the planners who meddle with interest rates, increases in rates and bond yields on that scale are unimaginable. Monetary policy committees, being government agencies, will think primarily about the effect on government finances. In their nightmares they can envisage tax revenues collapsing, welfare commitments soaring, and borrowing costs mounting. The increased deficit, additional to current shortfalls, would require central banks to accelerate quantitative easing without limitation. To the policy planners, the reasons to bring interest rates both lower and back firmly under control are compelling. Furthermore, officials believe that a rising stock market is necessary to maintain economic confidence. That also requires the enforcement of a new declining interest rate trend. The argument in favour of a new round of interest rate suppression becomes undeniable. But the effect on fiat currencies will accelerate their loss of purchasing power, undermining confidence in them and leading to yet higher interest rates in the future. Either way, officialdom loses. And the public will pay the price for meekly going along with these errors. Managing counterparty risk Any recovery in financial asset values, such as that currently in play, is bound to be little more than a rally in an ongoing bear market. We must not forget that commercial bankers have to reduce their balance sheets ruthlessly if they are to protect their shareholders. Consequently, as over-leveraged international banks are at a heightened risk of failing in the new interest rate environment, their counterparties face systemic risks increasing sharply. To reduce exposure to these risks, all bankers are duty bound to their shareholders to shrink their obligations to other banks, which means that the estimated $600 trillion of notional over the counter (OTC) derivatives and on the back of it the additional $50 trillion regulated futures exchange derivatives will enter their own secular bear markets. OTC and regulated derivatives are the children of falling interest rates, and with a new trend of rising interest rates their parentage is bound to be tested. We can now see a further reason why central banks will wish to suppress interest rates and support financial markets. Unless they do so, the risk of widespread market failures between derivative counterparties will threaten to collapse the entire global banking network. And that is in addition to existential risks from customer loan defaults and collapsing collateral values. Central banks will have to stand ready to rescue failing banks and underwrite the entire commercial system.  To avert this risk, they will wish to stabilise markets and prevent further increases in interest rates. And all central banks which have indulged in QE already have mark-to-market losses that have wiped out their own balance sheet equity. We now face the prospect of central banks that by any commercial measure are themselves financially broken, tasked with saving entire commercial banking networks. When the trend for interest rates was for them to fall under the influence of increasing supplies of credit, the deployment of that credit was substantially directed into financial assets and increasing speculation. For this reason, markets soared while the increase in the general level of producer and consumer prices was considerably less than the expansion of credit suggested should be the case. That is no longer so, with manufacturers facing substantial increases in their input costs. And now, when they need it most, bank credit is being withdrawn.  It is not generally realised yet, but the financial world is in transition between economies being driven by asset inflation and suppressed commodity prices, and a new environment of asset deflation while commodity prices increase. And it is in the valuations of unanchored fiat currencies where this transition will be reflected most. Physical commodities are set replace paper equivalents The expansion of derivatives when credit was expanding served to soak up demand for commodities which would otherwise have gone into physical metals and energy. In the case of precious metals, this is admitted by those involved in the expansion of London’s bullion market from the 1980s onwards to have been a deliberate policy to suppress gold as a rival to the dollar.  According to the Bank for International Settlements, at the end of last year gold OTC outstanding swaps and forwards (essentially, the London Bullion Market) stood at the equivalent of 8,968 tonnes of bullion, to which must be added the 1,594 tonnes of paper futures on Comex giving an identified 10,662 tonnes. This is considerably more than the official reserves of the US Treasury, and even its partial replacement with physical bullion will have a major impact on gold values. Silver, which is an extremely tight market, is most of the BIS’s other precious metal statistics content and faces bullion replacement of OTC paper in the order of three billion ounces, to which we must add Comex futures equivalent to a further 700 million ounces.  On the winding down of derivative markets alone, the impact on precious metal values is bound to be substantial. Furthermore, the common mistake made by almost all derivative traders is to not understand that legal money is physical gold and silver — despite what their regulating governments force them to believe. What they call prices for gold and silver are not prices, but values imparted to legal money from depreciating currencies and associated credit.  While it may be hard to grasp this seemingly upside-down concept, it is vital to understand that so-called rising prices for gold and silver are in fact falling values for currencies. Some central banks, predominantly in Asia are taking advantage of this ignorance, which is predominantly displayed in western, Keynesian-driven derivative markets. Perhaps after a currency hiatus and when market misconceptions are ironed out, we can expect legal money values to behave as they should. If a development which is clearly inflationary emerges, it should drive currency values lower relative to gold. But instead, in today’s markets we see them rise because speculators take the view that currencies relative to gold will benefit from higher interest rates. A pause for thought should expose the fallacy of this approach, where the true relationship between money and currencies is assumed away. In the wake of the suspension of the Bretton Woods agreement and when the purchasing power of currencies subsequently declined, interest rates and the value of gold rose together. In February 1972, gold was valued at $85, while the Fed funds rate was 3.3%. On 21 January 1980 gold was fixed that morning at $850, and the Fed funds rate was 13.82%. When gold increased nine-fold, the Fed’s fund rate had more than quadrupled. And it required Paul Volcker to raise the funds rate to over 19% twice subsequently to slay the inflation dragon.  In the seventies, the excessive credit-driven speculation that we now witness was absent, along with the accompanying debt leverage in the financial sectors of western economies and in their banking systems. A Volcker-style rise in interest rates today would cause widespread bankruptcies and without doubt crash the entire global banking system. While markets might take us there anyway, as a deliberate act of official policy it can be safely ruled out.  We must therefore conclude that there is another round of currency destruction in the offing. Potentially, it will be far more extensive than anything seen to date. Not only will central-bank currency and QE expansion fund government deficits and attempt to compensate for the contraction of bank credit while supporting financial markets by firmly suppressing interest rates and bond yields, but insolvent central banks will be tasked with underwriting insolvent commercial banks. At some stage, the inversion of monetary reality, where legal money is priced in fiat, will change. Instead of legal money being priced in fiat, fiat currencies will be priced in legal money. But that will be the death of the fiat swindle. Tyler Durden Sun, 11/20/2022 - 07:00.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 20th, 2022

74 thoughtful gifts for every kind of friend, all under $100

Buying gifts for friends is a thoughtful way to show them you care. Here are 74 gift ideas for a friend, whether they're a new bud or a longtime BFF. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.Uncommon Goods; EtsyFriends play such an important role in our lives, so it's always nice to show your appreciation with a gift, big or small. Whether it's your friend's birthday or you just want to say thank you, you want to find the perfect present that not only makes them smile but encapsulates who they are.We rounded up over 70 unique and one-of-a-kind gifts that any of your friends would love to receive and — drumroll — they're all under $100.A scented candle catered to their birthdayBirthdate CoBirthdate Candles, available at Amazon and Birthdate Co., $49.99Avid astrologist friends will love this birthdate candle. Birthdate Co. manufactures 366 candles, each with a specific scent and meaning based on the recipient's birthday. If you want to go the extra mile, you can pair this with an astrology book.A cute, personalized gift explaining why you appreciate themUncommon GoodsFriendship Messages, available at Uncommon Goods, $40Tell your best friend 12 reasons why you love them so much with a beautiful handmade gift. This box of messages allows the gift giver to choose a dozen meaningful, heart-shaped reasons for their friendship that all fit in a beautiful birch container.A personalized letter charmMejuriCursive Letter Charm, available at Mejuri, $98Spoil your friends with a personalized letter charm that makes a gorgeous addition to a chain necklace or bracelet. Made with 14k solid gold, it's built to last a lifetime.A blanket that turns them into a burritoAmazonCASOFU Tortilla Blanket, available at Amazon, $20.99This tortilla blanket is sure to elicit a few laughs while also serving as a super cozy nap companion. It also comes in other varieties like a waffle and pepperoni pizza for all your food-loving friends.A Turkish cotton robe for everyday luxuryBrooklinenSuper-Plush Robe, available at Brooklinen, $89.10This cozy robe will make every day feel like a spa day. Made with 100% Turkish cotton, it comes in a variety of neutral and bold colors.A pair of disposable camerasTargetFujifilm Quicksnap Camera 2 Pack, available at Target, $24.99Create lasting memories with this pair of disposable cameras that'll definitely make you and your bestie a little nostalgic in the best way.A custom note with a surprise insideGreetablGreetabl Gift Box, available at Greetabl, from $15Greetabl is one of the Insider Reviews team's favorite modes of checking in on those we love. The customizable box includes a fun print, a spot for a personal message, and a selection of a small gift like Sugarfina treats or quirky pins. A bird-themed mug that celebrates curse wordsUncommon GoodsFowl Language Bird Mug, available at Uncommon Goods, $15 If you have a friend with a notoriously bad mouth (or who just really, really likes birds), this fowl language mug is a must-have. With beautiful illustrations paying homage to Blue-footed Boobies, Rough-faced Shags, and other feathered friends, they won't even be able to open it with a straight face.A portable book nookUncommon GoodsBook Nook Reading Valet, available at Uncommon Goods, $48Does your friend always have their nose in a book? This portable reading shrine adds a bit of luxury to their time spent in the pages, equipped with dedicated spots for their reading glasses, phone, a toasty beverage, and, of course, the book itself.A hilarious party game that'll bring you closerAmazonThe Voting Game, available at Target and Amazon, $17.99The Voting Game is where secrets come out and friendships are put to the test…figuratively, of course. This adult party game poses life's real questions, like "Who would survive the longest in a zombie apocalypse?", and then it's off to the polls! Laughter is guaranteed but be warned: Being a good sport is definitely required.An adorable Hogwarts alumni capBoxLunchHarry Potter Alumni Cap, available at BoxLunch, $15.12For friends who are still waiting on their Hogwarts letters, this house-specific ballcap will get them by. Whether they were sorted into Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, this hat is functional and fashionable with a custom pigment dye treatment. Off to platform 9¾! You can find more "Harry Potter"-themed gift ideas here.A set of friendship lightsUncommon GoodsLong Distance Friendship Lamp, available at Uncommon Goods, from $99If your close friend lives far away, let them know you're always thinking of them with this friendship light. When you tap your light, your friend's twin version will instantly activate so they know you haven't forgotten them. A timeless cast iron skilletCrate & BarrelLodge 10.25-in. Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, available at Williams Sonoma, Target, and Amazon, from $19.95 If there's something a chef friend always needs, it's a sturdy cast iron skillet. This bad boy is 100% toxin-free with a naturally nonstick surface, heavyweight composition, heat retention, and a pre-seasoned smooth finish that resists sticking and rust. Need we say more? (We recommend conveniently stopping by for dinner the first time they try it out!)A book for any diehard fan of "The Office"Amazon"The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There" by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart, from $18.18Is your best friend an obsessive fan of "The Office"? If so, look no further than "The Office BFFs: Tales of The Office from Two Best Friends Who Were There," the book written by "The Office" costars and real-life best friends Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey.A portable Bluetooth record playerAmazonVictrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Portable Suitcase Record Player, available at Amazon, Walmart, and Home Depot, from $49.98If they love vintage goods, this record player is the perfect gift to add to their collection. The record player features built-in Bluetooth compatibility and a portable design that offers a modern twist on this retro staple.A gold bracelet with their favorite football teamBaublebarNFL x Baublebar Gold Pisa Bracelet, available at Baublebar, $30Even if you don't share in your friend's enthusiasm for sports, this sports team bracelet shows you get them. Match the bracelet with their favorite team to help them upgrade their next game-day outfit.A luxurious lavender perfumeNordstromYves Saint Laurent Libre Fragrance, available at Sephora, Ulta, and Macy's, from $85A designer perfume like this Saint Laurent fragrance is a fitting gift for a friend who enjoys luxurious items. The floral fragrance's bold lavender scent appeals to the confident friend who's daring and always lives true to themself.A relaxing weighted blanketAmazonLuna Weighted Blanket, available at Amazon, Target, and Walmart, from $69.99For a friend who is constantly working or just needs a chance to unwind, a weighted blanket can make all the difference. We love this one because it's wallet-friendly but still made from quality materials like Oeko-Tex-certified cotton and natural glass beads. A mini set of fancy olive oils and vinegarBrightlandMini Essentials Set, available at Brightland, $70If your friend loves to cook, bring a touch of luxury to their kitchen with the Brightland Mini Essentials Set. They'll think of you every time they reach for these little olive oil and vinegar bottles, which happen to be some of our favorites.A book of witty, quirky postcardsAmazon"Friendship Maintenance: 30 Postcards to Say How Much You Freaking Care," available at Amazon and Walmart, $11.69"Friendship Maintenance" adds a more personal touch to the frequent check-ins you're probably already having with one another. The witty postcards weave in themes of friendship in a hilariously relatable way.A neoprene makeup bag from a cool startupDagne DoverHunter Toiletry Bag, available at Dagne Dover, from $45Dagne Dover is one of our all-time favorite handbag companies, and that's because of the brand's quality, style, and unmatched attention to detail. The Hunter bag comes in six colors of water-resistant neoprene. It has helpful features like elastic lip gloss loops, slip pockets and a removable zipper pouch for compacts and shadows, and a smooth lining that's easily cleaned. Zipper tabs can be unsnapped to adjust the shape, too. A box of sweets they can curate themselvesSugarwishSugarwish Treats, available at Sugarwish, from $23If your friend prefers sweet over salty, you can't go wrong with a candy box from Sugarwish. The candy package comes jampacked with a wide array of throwback confectionaries that can satisfy even the sweetest of sweet tooths. You can also pick from cookies, gourmet popcorn, and even dog treats.A playful earbud pouch for the forgetful friendBagguPuffy Earbuds Case, available at Baggu, $14If you have a friend who loses their AirPods or earbuds all too often, this unique case attaches straight to their keyring. Plus, it's quilted, padded, and machine washable. The pouch fastens with Velcro and comes in fun colors and patterns like leopard print and stripes.An upgrade to the average picture frameArtifact UprisingBrass & Wood Display Box, available at Artifact Uprising, from $48.45Artifact Uprising's brass and hardwood Display Box is a bit more aesthetically pleasing than the traditional picture frame. They can showcase their favorite picture by sliding it into the front of the box, and the box itself can hold up to 50 five-inch by five-inch Square Prints inside.If you're just looking for prints, you can find those starting at $9 here.An all-in-one phone case and walletNomadNomad Rugged Folio, available at Nomad and Walmart, from $39.95You might have a friend who doesn't like carrying around bulky wallets and would rather keep things simple and sleek. This leather folio case sports three card slots and one cash slot, and also has a new internal shock absorption bumper that protects against 10-foot drops. Best of all, it's made of Horween leather, which ages and appears more rugged as time passes. A gimmicky nail polish holder that they'll actually wind up usingAmazonTweexy Wearable Nail Polish Holder, available at Amazon and Walmart, $9.99Finding a convenient spot to place an open bottle of sticky, vibrant, and fast-drying liquid while you paint your nails is not easy. This $10 nail polish holder looks gimmicky, but it's actually pretty useful. A Fitbit for the activity tracker newcomerFitbitFitbit Inspire 2, available at Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart, from $57.95If they're contemplating joining the Fitbit bandwagon, they'll appreciate this uncomplicated activity tracker that monitors their exercise, sleep, and heart rate. It's slimmer than the other options but still lasts for 10 days, has 20+ different exercise modes, and receives basic smartphone notifications.A mug with a tarot-inspired themeSociety6Coffee Reading Mug, available at Society6, $13.30Perfect for the avid coffee drinker or casual fan of the occult, this ceramic mug made by the independent artists of Society6 is a fun — and useful — gift. They've also got pretty much every mug pattern you could want.A high-tech towel that's good for their hairAQUISAquis Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Towel, available at Amazon, Anthropologie, and Bergdorf Goodman, from $30Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels have inspired a slew of rave reviews online, including one from our own team of reviewers.The towels are made from a proprietary fabric called Aquitex that's composed of ultra-fine fibers (finer than silk) that work to reduce the amount of friction the hair experiences while in its weakest state. It also prevents hygral fatigue — the stretching and swelling of wet hair that makes it vulnerable to frizz and damage — by cutting the hair's drying time by 50%.Their favorite specialty food right from the sourceGoldbelly/InstagramRestaurant Meal Kits, available at Goldbelly, from $39.95Goldbelly makes it possible to satisfy their most specific and nostalgic cravings no matter where they live in the US — whether it's a cheesecake from Junior's or a deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati. Browse the iconic gifts section for inspiration. A nostalgic, state-scented candleHomesickHomesick Location Scented Candle, available at Amazon, Homesick, and Uncommon Goods, from $14If you have a friend from your hometown you haven't seen in a while, you can make it up to them with one of these state-scented candles. Ranging from Alaska to Hawaii, these ethically made candles capture the essence of fond memories and will bring joy to their home.A renewing honey maskSephoraFarmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask, available at Sephora and Farmacy, $41This intensely hydrating mask from beauty brand Farmacy is infused with antioxidants to leave the skin looking glowy and plump. It also physically warms up while on the face, so the self-care feels a bit more tangible. A set of the best socks they'll ever wearBombasWomen's and Men's Ankle Sock (4-Pack), available at Bombas, $49.40Bombas' ankle socks have extra blister tabs to prevent chafing, a honeycomb arch-support system to cradle the foot's arch, and a seamless toe that gets rid of the annoying bump that runs across the toes of most socks.A gift card to a popular wine clubWincGift Card, available at Winc, from $39Winc is a personalized wine club — and we think the best one you can belong to. Members take a wine palate profile quiz and then choose from the personalized wine suggestions. Each bottle has extensive tasting notes and serving recommendations online, and the website makes it easy to discover similar bottles. A Tiktok-famous lampUncommon GoodsBrilliant Ideas Sunset Lamp, available at Urban Outfitters and Bed Bath & Beyond, from $27If your friendship consists of sending home-improvement TikToks back and forth, your friend will definitely appreciate this sunset lamp that frequents the for you page. The lamp's projector will cast your space in a calming orangey glow reminiscent of the setting sun. A set of subtle friendship braceletsKendra ScottMother of Pearl Friendship Bracelet, available at Kendra Scott, $40Nothing says friendship like matching jewelry, so treat both you and your best friend to a set of Kendra Scott friendship bracelets in one of the nine stunning variations. A stunning embroidered journal that'll encourage them to writeRifle Paper CoEmbroidered Journal, available at Rifle Paper Co. and Paper Source, from $38For the best friend who expresses themselves best through pen and paper, this unique, embroidered journal is the perfect place to store their thoughts. An upgrade to the classic travel pillowAmazonTrtl Neck Support Travel Pillow, available at Amazon and Trltl, $49.99One of the best gifts for frequent travelers is a genuinely supportive neck pillow. The super-soft fleece of the Trtl holds the neck and head in an ergonomic position during flight, and it's lightweight — weighing only about half a pound — so it won't weigh them down.Read our full review of the pillow here. There's also a newer, slightly more expensive version that we like just as much. A three-month hardcover book subscriptionBook of the MonthThree Month Subscription, available at Book of the Month, $49.99This subscription gift was handcrafted for bookworms. Book of the Month has been around since 1926, and it's credited with the discovery of titles like "Gone with the Wind" and "Catcher in the Rye." A team of experts and celebrity guest judges curate must-read books — usually new releases, hot topics, and debut authors — and send them to the subscriber's doorstep.If they're more into audiobooks or e-reading, check out a gift subscription to Scribd (full review here).A tiny waffle makerAmazonDash Mini Waffle Maker, available at Target, Amazon, and Bed Bath & Beyond, from $12.99This mini waffle maker may seem more gimmick than substance, but we found that it actually made evenly and consistently browned waffles. It's compact for small kitchens and people who only want to make three waffles rather than buffet quantities, and it's really easy to clean.A non-skid yoga mat towelAmazonManduka Yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel, available at Amazon, Manduka, and Dick's Sporting Goods, from $60Manduka consistently makes some of the best yoga gear on the market, and the cult-favorite Yogitoes mat towels aren't an exception — they'd probably be the main response if you asked around yoga studios for a mat towel recommendation. They have patented skid-less technology that uses 100% silicone nubs, and it makes a big difference. Each Yogitoes towel is also made from at least eight recycled plastic water bottles, and the dyes used to make it are free of azo, lead, or heavy metal.A cult-favorite lip maskSephoraLaneige Lip Sleeping Mask, available at Sephora, Laneige, and Amazon, $24Laneige's hyper-popular overnight lip mask smooths and moisturizes with vitamin C and antioxidants. Crystal coasters to complement their homeWest ElmClouded Agate Coasters, available at West Elm, $36Crystal-loving friends will appreciate these Clouded Agate Coasters. They come in a set of four and are a complement to any table or home bar. A ClassPass gift cardClass PassGift Card, available at ClassPass, choose your amountStart heading to more boutique fitness classes with your friend by making them easier and cheaper to attend. ClassPass lets you drop in at different specialized studios for $15 or less per class.A sdurable pair of slippers they'll want to live inNordstromUGG Ansley Water Resistant Slipper, available at Nordstrom, UGG, and Zappos, from $99.95They're not a new name, but UGG slippers have stuck around for a very good reason: they're incredibly soft, durable, and made really well. The sole is sturdy enough to withstand walks to the mailbox, and the water-resistant material can take a little gross winter slush on the way there.If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, check out Minnetonka — we're big fans of their mix of price and quality, too.A cute plant delivered to their doorThe SillPlants and accessories, available at The Sill, from $34A plant from The Sill will come in a small ceramic pot with a drainage hole and its own saucer. It comes potted in the company's potting mix and will be delivered to their doorstep. A silk pillowcase for smoother hairAmazonCelestial Silk 100% Silk Pillowcase, available at Amazon and Walmart, from $42.99This is one of the internet's hidden gems. It's nearly $40 on Amazon, but it gives you more silk per square inch than options twice the price at Sephora. It's made out of 100% Mulberry silk — one of the highest quality silks you can buy — and comes in more than 25 colors and three sizes: standard, queen, and king. It's the one I personally own, and it makes a big difference for frizzy hair. A jigsaw puzzle that's also a murder mystery gameUncommon GoodsMurder Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle, available at Uncommon Goods, $19This murder mystery jigsaw puzzle is the ideal gift for friends who enjoy a challenge as the mystery unfolds with the placement of each piece. Not to mention, puzzles are a great activity to do together. An insulated water bottle they'll use all the timeAmazonHydro Flask 40 oz. Wide Mouth Water Bottle, available at Hydro Flask, REI, and Amazon, from $49.95This double-wall and vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottle is especially perfect for commuters who would rather drink hot coffee than room-temperature for 45 minutes on the subway — or any other time. We're big fans, and it does a pretty incredible job of keeping cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to six hours. A vitamin C serum that keeps selling outMaeloveGlow Maker, available at Maelove, $29.95Maelove is a skincare company founded by a team of MIT grads (skincare obsessives, brain and cancer researchers, and chemical engineers) to make affordable, high-quality skincare accessible. The entire under-$30 line is supposedly great, but this $28 vitamin C serum (which people have likened to the multi-award-winning $169 C E Ferulic Serum) is the real showstopper — and it keeps selling out. I've tried it, and it does a great job of reducing hyperpigmentation, hydrating, and adding a "glow" to the skin.Read our full Maelove review here. Popular leggings they can wear anywhereOutdoor VoicesTechSweat Core 3/4 Leggings, available at Outdoor Voices, $34It seems like everyone and their best friend is talking about Outdoor Voices leggings, and these are the company's most sweat-friendly option. A box of gourmet milk and dark chocolateAmazonChuao Chocolatier Share the Love 36-Piece Gift Set, available at Amazon, $52.99A box stuffed full of chocolate needs no introduction, but this one is a pretty good deal. The box comes with 36 mini bars of gourmet artisan milk and dark chocolate, all made in small batches and free of artificial flavors. The 14 flavors range from sweet to savory, and each bar is only 60 calories. A monogrammed leather passport caseLeatherologyStandard Passport Cover, available at Leatherology, $50For the world traveler, adventure companion, or person who has a lot of places left to see before they're satisfied, this leather passport cover is one of the best quality for the price you're bound to find. You can also personalize your gift further with a monogram (starting at an extra $10). Every time they use it, they'll think of you. A super soft cashmere sweater from a sustainable startupNaadamThe Essential Cashmere Sweater, available at Naadam, $75This $75 cashmere sweater is one of the best I've worn, and it took me by surprise. You can get it in either crew-neck or V-neck styles, unisex sizing, and 20 colors. The cashmere is one of the softest I've felt.Plus, Naadam is a sustainable startup. They avoid toxic chemicals, invest in sustainable grazing practices, fund better vaccination programs for healthier goats, and use 100% clean energy to power production facilities. By cutting out middlemen, they pay nomadic herders about 50% more and charge about 50% less to customers without changing quality.An award-winning at-home facialSephoraDrunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, available at Sephora, Ulta, and Amazon, from $69.95This now-legendary AHA and BHA at-home "facial" gently resurfaces the skin to remove built-up dead skin cells and reveal brighter, more even skin underneath. It's also won multiple notable beauty awards, including a Best of Beauty from Allure and Reader's Choice from InStyle in 2017. For more skincare products, check out the best luxury skincare on Amazon and best gifts from Sephora here.A cocktail recipe book that pairs music with good drinksAmazon"Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks" by André Darlington, available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, from $15.99Have a friend that loves music and a nice cocktail? This pairs both for a perfect combination every time. The guide includes music from 70 albums, ranging from the '50s to the '00s, with an accompanying A-side and B-side cocktail for each — all organized by mood. A customized phone caseBaubleBarCustom iPhone Case, available at Bauble Bar, $68For something a bit more customized, consider treating your friend to a custom iPhone Case. Adorn the case with their name for a one-of-a-kind gift they'll use daily.A beautiful candle that smells amazingOtherlandManor House Weekend Candle, available at Otherland, $36Otherland is a candle company started by Ralph Lauren's former art buyer, Abigail Cook Stone. If you want to give your friend a candle that burns for 55 hours, looks beautiful, and comes from an up-and-coming startup that they've probably seen (or coveted) before, this is a great option.Read our full Otherland review here.A class or experience for you to take togetherAirbnbCheck out local Airbnb ExperiencesCheck out local GrouponsThrough Airbnb Experiences, you can book an experience like a pasta-making class, brewery tour, or local tour that the two of you can enjoy together. Plus, you can buy this gift as last-minute as you like.A subscription to K-beauty sheet masksFacetory/FacebookGift Subscription, available at Facetory, from $19.90Facetory is an affordable monthly subscription to various K-beauty sheet masks. You can opt to pay for one, three, six, nine, or 12 months at a time. An unobtrusive diffuser that smells greatKenedee Fowler/InsiderAsakuki 500 mL Premium Essential Oil Diffuser, Amazon, $22.09Add atmosphere to their space with our favorite essential oil diffuser, the Asakuki. This diffuser has a 16-hour run time, seven LED light options, and a mist setting. All the features can be controlled with the remote, so they don't even have to get up to change the mood. A Tile to help them find missing keys and walletsAmazonTile Pro, available at Target and Walmart, $34.99Few gifts are going to be as useful as a Tile Pro with a replaceable battery. It'll help them find missing items like keys and wallets. An app on their phone can trigger the Tile to ring out so they can locate where they accidentally left their belongings. A classic, quirky plant holderAnthropologieGrecian Bust Pot, available at Anthropologie, from $28This beautiful and functional Grecian bust pot is the perfect gift for your plant-loving bestie. Plus, at only $24, it's a budget-friendly find. A guard to keep away hot, messy splatterFrywallFrywall 10 Splatter Guard, available at Sur La Table, Amazon, and Walmart, from $13.99For your friend who loves to cook but hates the mess, a splatter guard gives them the benefit of an uncovered pan, minus the countertop cleaning and dodging of hot, popping oil.A cozy hammockREIENO DoubleNest Hammock, available at Amazon, REI, and Dick's Sporting Goods, from $51.49Friends who like to get outside will especially appreciate the ENO Doublenest Hammock. It's perfect for lounging on lazy summer days or sleeping under the stars. A pretty tiled mug that'll become their new favoriteAnthropologieTiled Margot Monogram Mug, available at Anthropologie, $14Get them something they'll use every morning, like this beautiful, tiled monogram mug. Luxurious body care productsNecessarieNécessaire The Body Wash, available at Sephora, Nordstrom, and Amazon, $25Nécessaire is a line of body care products that use vitamins and plant-based oils. It was founded by Randi Christiansen, a former Estée Lauder vice president, and Nick Axelrod, a co-founder of Into the Gloss, the editorial site that preceded Glossier. Read our full Nécessaire review here.A leather wrap for taking chargers and cables on the goMark & GrahamLeather Charger Roll Up, available at Mark & Graham, $49Mark & Graham's Leather Charger Roll Up is made from soft, supple leather and has three separate pockets to stash cables and chargers on the go. Get it monogrammed for an extra $12.50.An air fryer they'll thank you for endlesslyAmazonInstant Pot Mini Air Fryer, available at Amazon and Walmart, from $49.99If your friend is late to the air fryer trend, get them up to speed with this affordable Instant Pot model. They'll understand the hype in no time. A set of high-quality soaps from Courteney Cox's brandHomecourtKitchen Trio, available at Homecourt, $70For friends who like to keep things clean, help them step up their cleaning game with this Kitchen Trio from Homecourt, actress Courteney Cox's home brand. This set includes a surface cleaner, hand wash, and dish soap and comes in four decadent fragrances. A poster of 100 must-see moviesUncommon GoodsAt Home Movie Critic's Chart, available at Uncommon Goods, $20Film buffs and casual moviegoers alike will love the At Home Movie Critic's Chart. This interactive poster features IMDB's top 100 movies and is the perfect addition to a movie night with friends. A kitchen gadget they probably don't haveWilliams SonomaWatermelon Wedger, available at Williams Sonoma, $29.95Any summer party with friends wouldn't be complete without fresh fruit, hence the Watermelon Wedger. This ingenious gadget simultaneously slices and cores any watermelon and is sure to become a BBQ essential. A skincare gift set with everything they needKiehl'sKiehl's Skincare Discovery Gift Set, available at Kiehl's, $58Everyone seems to have an elaborate skincare routine these days, so if your best friend doesn't yet, give them a jumpstart with The Ultimate Kiehl's Skincare Gift Set. It's got everything a skincare newbie needs to improve their complexion.A pair of the coziest socksBloomingdale'sUGG Leda Cozy Crew Socks, available at Amazon and UGG, from $18Treat your bestie to a sock experience like no other with the UGG Leda Cozy Sock. These plush crew socks come in different shades and are sure to impress. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 15th, 2022

Emerging Tech Reshaping Travel And Tourism In The 21st Century

In the wake of a travel frenzy, sparked by pent-up consumer travel demand and more than two years of pandemic-induced lockdowns and border restrictions, tourism and leisure are making a strong rebound as consumers take to the skies again at a soaring pace. The recent summer of travel chaos, which ensued with hordes of canceled […] In the wake of a travel frenzy, sparked by pent-up consumer travel demand and more than two years of pandemic-induced lockdowns and border restrictions, tourism and leisure are making a strong rebound as consumers take to the skies again at a soaring pace. The recent summer of travel chaos, which ensued with hordes of canceled flights, endless queues at immigration control, thousands of lost luggage pieces, rail strikes, and confusing COVID-19 entry regulations were only among the few challenges the airline and tourism industry faced amid the sudden return of travel. 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 Walter Schloss Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Walter Schloss in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q3 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more   In most cases, we can almost say that the cause behind the chaos, which ended up derailing thousands of passengers' planned trips, was due to a lack of insufficient planning, available support systems, and unreliable operational undertakings. The recent few months of travel have been a test of what lies ahead, and in part, how human innovation paired with digital and technological tools can help improve outdated systems, provide foolproof real-world solutions and enhance the overall customer journey from start to finish. In a recent conversation with David B. Stewart, CEO of Guide To Europe, an online travel aggregators and bookings platform for European-based excursions, mentioned how technological reform will see travel, tourism, leisure, and hospitality enter a new era of digital evolution despite the persisting problems we’ve already encountered. “Although the travel and tourism industry has made a strong recovery, it's only a matter of time before we encounter another surge in pent-up travel demand as consumers are more eager than ever to travel. We need to look at the current issues and see how we can address them using tech-based systems. Our consumers have become increasingly tech-savvy, and we’ll need to adjust accordingly,” Stewart shares with us. Today it’s impossible to think what our lives will be like without technology. From the food we consume to the stores we shop at, and the places we visit, to the cars we drive and the fuel we use to power them - technology plays a vital and integral part in our human existence. While on the surface we’ve become accustomed to the tools we now know and enjoy so freely. Although these drive meaningful touch points throughout the journey, a deeper understanding of how technological innovations are helping to reshape and reimagine the travel and tourism industry paints a vivid picture of how much the industry still needs to adapt in the coming years. User Mobile Apps Mobile apps have surpassed their primary function of connecting users with one another, instead, it’s now helped businesses connect with their customers, and put customers in contact with the right people whenever they require additional information or assistance. Mobile apps have become a vital tool, more than we can comprehend. Booking flights, checking time schedules, sharing itineraries, planning and booking accommodation, and even finding the best restaurants to eat at can now be done through mobile apps. Apps can be personalized to fit the customer experience, and even make the entire journey, wherever this may be, easier, more convenient, and more streamlined. It’s hard to imagine what apps aren’t capable of, and we’ve already seen some big names in the travel industry take major advantage of mobile apps, from digital hotel room keys to virtual boarding passes, everything can now be encapsulated under a single dome of control. Live in-app chat and chatbots During the height of the pandemic, live communication through mobile apps and websites with the use of chatbots and virtual assistants proved to mitigate the need for human intervention to complete mundane and tedious tasks. It hasn't taken much convincing, but we now see several businesses within the travel and leisure industry utilizing chatbots and instant messaging as a way to assist customers quicker and more effortlessly. “Communication is a critical part of what we do, not just as an online bookings platform, but in terms of the experience we create for the customer from the very first moment of interaction,” Stewart says. Travel companies, in whichever capacity they function in the value chain will need to understand that they are not only selling a product or service but rather that it’s an experience that the customer is paying top dollar for. In the fast-paced era where consumers constantly want to stay connected to the outside world, chatbots will only become a bigger part of how we travel. Recently, it was found that roughly 62% of consumers would rather use a customer service bot than wait for human agents. “In travel, the rate of response is just as important as the rate of retention.” Big data is still big news There’s a shared commonality among consumers when it comes to big data and how much companies know about us, especially after several high-end corporations are being held accountable for their involvement in the harboring of consumers’ personal information and data. While we’ll never know what our data is used for, and who it’s being sold to, for travel and tourism it plays a vital role in understanding consumer demand and changing trends. Big data offers better insight into what consumers are looking for in terms of travel and tourism, and through these metrics, companies can adjust their packages and pricing accordingly. Big data provides big results, which is what travel businesses need to better understand the anticipated demand, optimize their consumer strategies, and target their marketplace through precision marketing tactics. The use of technical data will become increasingly valuable with search engines such as Google waiving Universal Analytics and introducing Google Analytics 4. The change would mean that browsers will now be able to block third-party cookies and ads, making it difficult for businesses to collect consumer-based data and analytics. And big data can now be found in every aspect of our lives, from tourism and travel to the finance sector - there’s a lot of money behind data-driven opportunities. An example of this we already see in real life is the use of big data to help build investment models that can help build economically-motivated investment themes. This ensures that those who are investing in diverse asset classes ranging from real estate, gold IRAs, stocks, or even other cryptocurrencies can now objectively evaluate securities and ensure they make fundamentally-based decisions that will drive meaningful impact towards their portfolios. Despite industries such as finance that largely depend on big data to help drive fundamental investment themes, other industries, including tourism, hospitality and leisure will become increasingly dependent on technical consumer data to follow and understand industry trends. Big data presents itself as more than a technical analysis of what consumers want, but rather it can help industries such as tourism establish better predictive models that can help promote industry growth and business transparency. Internet of Things The Internet of Things (IoT) is an interconnected system that links devices and customers with the right information and touch points at any given time. Though we already see IoT playing its part in our everyday lives, powering our smartphones, helping us browse the internet, and sharing information instantaneously, IoT will prove more valuable to minimize certain touch points without the need for a network of human interactions. Stewart believes that IoT technology and digital delivery will make it easier for consumers to find the products and services they need without requiring in-person contact. “Within Guide To Europe, we’ve been able to launch one of the world’s largest selections of vacation packages in Europe through optimized Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’ve combined local expertise and digital resources to deliver users with a much easier way to travel.” Marrying both human and non-human elements means that users can now book a  complete vacation in under a minute.IoT will enable travelers to book and plan their travels more seamlessly, as we’ve seen with Guide To Europe which has made it easier for travelers to manage their trip, documents and itinerary in one place. On top of this, IoT can now be found in hotel rooms and restaurant kitchens and retail stores. The success of IoT will only become more apparent in the near term as consumers coordinate their needs with what service providers can offer them in terms of their technological demands. Contactless applications Contactless applications such as QR Codes and contactless payment options have already experienced massive growth during the pandemic when physical activity and movement of consumers were limited. The use of contactless applications allows for ever-changing consumer demand. These applications are more reliable, safer, and quicker, and nowadays everyone with an internet connection will be able to utilize these applications to a fuller extent. Tourism already sees an increase in contactless technology being used across the field. Boarding passes are now digital, and hotel check-in can be done without visiting the front desk while ordering a cab or taxi can be completed and paid for through one application. There’s an unlimited sequence of real-world utilization, and in the growing digital world, tech-savvy consumers want solutions that are secure, convenient, and bespoke all at the same time. Guide To Europe showcases another element of digital innovation, allowing travelers to book a travel through with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa - another contactless application that's helped reshape the travel and tourism industry. “There’s a need for digital transformation, and we believe that travelers should have more freedom and flexibility when arranging their travel plans, that’s why we enabled voice recognition capabilities, which will help travelers complete a trip to Europe within three minutes,” Stewart shares. Contactless is the future, and in a society that has recently come out of the clutches of a global pandemic, convenience and security will triumph over traditionality. Cybersecurity The rise of tech-savvy consumers and internet-based applications has led to a growing opportunity for cybercriminals to infiltrate company data and request exuberant ransoms to safely return the information. These data breaches, which have seen a 15.1% increase between 2020 and 2021, have become a major headache for businesses in the travel and tourism industry. Not only do cybercriminals impose a direct threat on the business, but also its credibility and authority among its customers and competitors. What’s more alarming, some experts suggest that in 93% of cyber attack cases, external hackers can breach and enter an organization's network perimeter, gaining access and control over their systems and data instantaneously. Across the spectrum, cybersecurity plays a vital role and importance in the overall growth and success of the tourism industry in adapting new technologies. “The threat of cybersecurity is not only prevalent in our industry, but we see growing numbers of it in several sectors, from marketing to communications, and even finances, where the brunt of cybercrime is concentrated at the moment,” tells Stewart. The sudden rise in cybercrime, without definite solutions, could be a major hurdle for the industry and consumers going forward. Consumers want to ensure their information is safe and secure, and they place a lot of importance on trusting the companies they do business with. Whether they’re booking airline tickets, shopping online or simply trading stocks - cybersecurity is a critical element throughout the digital experience. Going Forward Technology plays a vital part in how consumers are now embracing the return of travel after enduring more than two years of lockdowns. Though travel has returned, it does however raise questions over whether the tourism industry has geared itself with the right digital tools and technologies to cope with a sudden surge in demand. Theoretically, we see how existing technology has helped the industry advance itself, providing consumers with real-world solutions, and giving them more convenient access to the right set of tools and information. Now, as we steadily enter a new era of travel and technology, it will be crucial for travel, tourism, leisure, and hospitality to adapt accordingly, not only to meet consumer demand but to remain a competitive player among their competitors and help transform the entire industry regardless of where it may be heading......»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkNov 11th, 2022

Luongo: The Oil Nationalization Two-Step

Luongo: The Oil Nationalization Two-Step Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, n' Guns blog, Blood rack, barbed wire Politicians’ funeral pyre Innocents raped with napalm fire Twenty-first century schizoid man - King Crimson, “21st Century Schizoid Man” You’ve all heard me rant about the “Straussian Two-Step,” which is nothing more than a retread of the Hegelian Dialectic.   Here’s the formal definition: An interpretive method, originally used to relate specific entities or events to the absolute idea, in which some assertible proposition (thesis ) is necessarily opposed by an equally assertible and apparently contradictory proposition (antithesis ), the mutual contradiction being reconciled on a higher level of truth by a third proposition (synthesis ). In modern politics it’s used to create a false reality by asserting something that is partially true (at best) or a truth that you yourself as a person in power created. In today’s case it’s a manufactured energy crisis across the West. In order to see the Straussian Two-Step however you have to work backwards. This process is not an a priori deduction or an exhaustive fit of investigative journalism. Rather it is an inductive conclusion based on awareness of the motivations of those in power and seeing how they lead a mass of people to a pre-ordained conclusion. In other words, schizo-posting. Thesis So, say your goal is to legitimize the state takeover, or advance another step forward the state takeover, of an industry.  Let’s use oil and gas for today’s lesson. The first thing you do is manufacture a crisis that will disrupt the supply of the product you want to takeover. In this case, it started with COVID-19, which disrupted far more than just the energy sector. More than 2 million barrels per day of refining capacity was lost world wide thanks to COVID-19. Given the current hostility to new refineres (more on this later), those barrels are not coming back. Don’t forget, that for a “Straussian Two-Step” this big you will have to brainwash and/or gaslight two entire generations into hating themselves for being rich, wasteful, spoiled, alive or worse, just plain white. So, they are already primed to hate all the things at play here — capitalism, Big Oil, Banks, Old White Guys (rich or poor) — and enrage your useful idiots by pushing their already tenuous hold on reality to the literal breaking point. “I can’t even….” isn’t the most common phrase uttered on Tik-Tok for nothing. That’s the Thesis part. So, when the crisis hits thanks to natural gas disruption you forbid buying of from a particular country… — Hello, Vlad? We’re in a helluva pickle, would you mind invading Ukraine…? Nyet…? Well, we’ll see about that…. — MISSING PAGES FROM THE RETURN OF DR. STRANGELOVE WORKING SCRIPT. … you demonize not only Vlad but the industry itself for price gouging and preying on the widdle guy during a war. There’s a word for this… chutzpah. Antithesis Predictably, you then allow your fake political opponents … [enter Cocaine Mitch from Stage Right] … to produce the opposite argument. In this case, the counter is obviously we need free markets to produce oil and gas. The refiners are just responding to the market. That fake opposition, of course, also blames Vlad for this crisis to ensure the market’s champion looks not only patriotic but also suitably bought and paid for by Big Oil, Old White Guys, etc. Both sides of this argument have now been framed 90 degrees away from the real source of the problem, government intrusion into the flow of oil and gas to your homes. This is a crisis that if left solved to human ingenuity and, yes, the studious application of greed, would be over in a matter of weeks as refineries shut down during COVID would come back online, supply chains reorganized etc. While the crisis phase would be over quickly, the long term investment cycle set off in refining would take longer to structurally immunize the industry against future supply shocks to accomplish. And if you’re daft enough to believe government has any of that investment path mapped out on their whiteboards in their noble service to humanity, I can’t even… If I could buy stock in psychoanalysis right now I’d be long AF. Prices may not return to normal for years but the market, without intervention by rapacious morons both in government and running them from behind the curtain, would eventually grind the arbitrage out of the fuel industry nearly entirely. Guess who wins there folks? That’s right you. But, again, you hate yourself for being, well, yourself. Once the crisis is here and the rhetorical groundwork laid after months of repeating these lies about the cause of the crisis — PUTLER DID IT — it’s easy to move the conversation to where you really want it to go. Remember the goal. Destroy free markets, nationalize oil and gas. This means also preparing the next move to get rid of another aspect of the free market while zeroing in on the current crisis. In this theoretical case, we’re looking at the massive diesel crack spreads of refineries, fueling the perpetual motion machine of Marxism’s inherent envy. Moreover, this situation exploded on the eve of a crucial election to put into the mouths of the crisis actors we call colloquially, “Members of Congress.” Synthesis Their solution? Put windfall profit taxes on refiners who are taking advantage of the vulnerable and needy common man. They are evil ‘price gougers’ by accepting the bids from the market for the fruits of their labors which occurred precisely because of artificially inducing a shock to the system. In the case of diesel fuel in the US this is clearly a manufactured crisis.  COVID took a lot of refineries in the Northeast (PADD-1) offline.  And given the hostility of the Biden administration and environmentalists to the oil industry as a whole, as I alluded to earlier, those refineries are not coming back online anytime soon. Don’t take my word for it, take it from the ones who own the refineries. “Building a refinery is a multi-billion dollar investment. It may take a decade. We haven’t had a refinery built in the United States since the 1970s. My personal view is that there will never be another refinery built in the United States.” According to Wirth, oil and gas companies would have to weigh the benefits of committing capital ten years out that will need decades to offer a return to shareholders “in a policy environment where governments around the world are saying ‘we don’t want these products to be used in the future’”. Why would they? If it were your money would you begin the insane process to build an oil refinery in the US today even with crack spreads at $70+ per barrel? Of course not. By the time you filed the first Environmental Impact Assessment application form the spreads could be back to $20 because it’s politically advantageous for the “Straussian Two-Steppers” to take the pressure off for a few months. Government is keeping the market in a supply/demand mismatch on purpose. That’s the only conclusion you can draw. Because if “Biden” wanted to solve this problem he wouldn’t be draining the SPR, he’d be rolling back regulations on refining oil or offering some of that ‘infrastructure money’ to help the industry rebuild post-COVID. No matter how committed you are to saving the planet from Climate Change civilization is directly downstream of energy production. If he wanted lower gas prices he wouldn’t be trying to expand subsidies to poor people, pandering for their votes, he’d be going to the negotiating table with Putler and working out a mutually unappetizing solution to everyone’s interests in Ukraine. High Bid Wins the Prize Diesel fuel demand is mostly inelastic, since it’s simply necessary for our daily life. Any supply disruption will cause massive price spikes because people will fall all over themselves bidding up the price of available supply to get what they can. This is the one thing morons leftists can’t wrap their head around. Producers aren’t withholding supply and ‘raising prices’ in an open market economy. That’s propaganda. The reality is that consumers bid up the price for everything in demand or withhold those bids when the cost/benefit isn’t in their favor. There is no need to control this. The things under supply shock will flow to those who have the means to bid for them and producers get the signal there is money to be made increasing supply. It is this give and take that always alleviates shortages, unless they are not allowed to do so because ‘rules.’ As the late, great Gary North told us over and over again, “Everything’s for sale, high bid wins.” If you have anyone to blame for higher diesel crack spreads you need only look in a mirror. Because we could have spare refining capacity by now if it weren’t cost prohibitive, even at these prices, to bring the idle plants back on line. Remember, everything’s for sale and high bid wins. Everyone does the cost/benefit analysis. This is the dynamic at play when I use the term cost-push inflation.  A supply shortage pushes the bids for basic goods up out of necessity and pouring money into the system through government handouts only accelerates this effect.   Low cost or free dollars flow to the things people need the most and that is the main source of our inflation today. So, when you see the headlines full of scaremongering like the US only has 20 days of diesel fuel left, this undergirds the bids for limited supply.  The futures markets are stripped of their power to coordinate supply over time and producers are stuck being demonized by low quality agitprop from the likes of AOC and Lizzie Slapaho. Nationalization: The Next Two-Step Windfall profit taxes are already on the way in Germany, 90% of all profits taxed away to the state. Energy production, when that bill passes, will be nationalized in Germany. The end of rational energy pricing will be gone. Germany will become another energy subsidizing hellscape like we see all over the world. The choice in front of German energy companies now is Uniper’s fate, nationalization through bailout, or remain ‘private’ but on a government-mandated cost-plus business model the profits from which will never outcompete the depreciation curve. Today here in the US the Democrats are pushing for outright nationalization of all oil and gas production. That was the goal all along, the thesis. The fake antithesis is the “Drill baby, Drill,” crowd on Capitol Hill, crying crocodile tears over the loss of the Keystone XL pipeline for more than a decade. The synthesis this time around will be finally getting through their long-sought after billionaire’s tax in the form of a windfall tax starting with evil Big Oil. Even if they don’t get it, it’s not like they don’t have other things on their to-do lists to get it done. They are starting here again because they know no one will seriously consider outright nationalization (the next synthesis) unless there’s a war with Russia… *  *  * Join my Patreon if you aren’t schizo Tyler Durden Sat, 11/05/2022 - 16:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 5th, 2022

No Amnesty For Lockdowners

No Amnesty For Lockdowners Op-ed authored by Jeffrey A. Tucker via The Epoch Times, Now that we can talk to our friends and neighbors about it, the reality is sinking in. What our public health experts and politicians did to this country was egregious. Inspired by the totalitarian lockdowns in Wuhan, China, and urged to replicate that policy by the World Health Organization in a report that Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institutes of Health approved, all constitutional rights were thrown out by the government. (Jens Maes/Unsplash) The churches were shut. The schools were closed, in some places for as long as two years, thus sacrificing the education of a whole generation. We faced restrictions on house parties. We couldn’t visit the elderly in homes, not even their sons and daughters who were paying the rent. There were even restrictions on travel between states: Quarantine rules made it impractical. Health authorities specifically demanded the need to close all venues where people congregate. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Once people were allowed to crawl out from their domestic holes, they were forced to mask up (even though we had zero evidence that this would achieve anything!) and eventually get vaccine shots that everyone said would end the pandemic but obviously didn’t. It’s been nearly three years of imposed hell. We now live with the after-effects, including terrible inflation, learning loss, drug addiction, rising crime, cultural nihilism, and wholly justified public fury, which are driving the Democrats to doom on Nov. 8 because it was the Democrats who leaned in and perpetuated all these policies long after they obviously failed. So sure, people are upset. The right answer would be for our health authorities and politicians to apologize and beg for forgiveness. But nothing like that has happened. They just keep on pretending that all of this was fine. There has been no repeal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s claimed power to quarantine you next time, and the Biden administration’s own pandemic planning scheme is to prohibit states from opting out the next time around. So let’s discuss Emily Oster’s piece in The Atlantic in which she claims that everyone needs to immediately comply with some kind of amnesty that she has declared. We’re supposed to forget it all and move on. And why is this? Because, she says, there was so much uncertainty. They just didn’t know about the virus. It was the fog of war, after all, and everyone did their best. “We didn’t know,” she wrote, and then kept invoking the supposed “uncertainty” of the times, a word she deployed five times. Why, if she (or they) were so uncertain, did they so quickly decide to wreck all liberty in the United States? The so-called precautionary principle would suggest that government should undertake no such policy because of the obvious harms it would impose. They did it anyway. Here’s the problem. This is complete rot. We knew from February 2020 of the risk stratification of the disease’s serious outcomes. It was in all the papers. We had the data. We knew from the Diamond Princess experience in February 2020 that there were no deaths of those younger than the age of 70 on the ship. That comported with every bit of information we had at the time. Based on what we knew at the time, there was absolutely no case for locking down at all and every reason to not do this. For that matter, Oster could have merely read the news. MSNBC on Jan. 30, 2020, reported that Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, formerly Barack Obama’s health adviser, said: “Everyone in America should take a very big breath, slow down, and stop panicking and being hysterical. We are having a little too much histrionics on this.” On March 4, 2020, Slate reported: “There are many compelling reasons to conclude that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is not nearly as deadly as is currently feared. But COVID-19 panic has set in nonetheless. … Allow me to be the bearer of good news. These frightening numbers are unlikely to hold. The true case fatality rate, known as CFR, of this virus is likely to be far lower than current reports suggest.” On the same day, Psychology Today reported: “Yes, this virus is different and worse than other coronaviruses, but it still looks very familiar. We know more about it than we don’t know. … It’s scary to think that an invisible enemy is out there to make you sick. But your doctor is not panicking, and you don’t need to, either.” We can even turn to Fauci himself, who wrote as follows on Feb. 28, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine: “The overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1 percent) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10 percent and 36 percent, respectively.” On March 17, 2020, legendary epidemiologist John Ioannidis broke it all down: “The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco. … One of the bottom lines is that we don’t know how long social distancing measures and lockdowns can be maintained without major consequences to the economy, society, and mental health. Unpredictable evolutions may ensue, including financial crisis, unrest, civil strife, war, and a meltdown of the social fabric. At a minimum, we need unbiased prevalence and incidence data for the evolving infectious load to guide decision-making.” Wow, talk about prophetic! All of that happened. He knew this not because he was clairvoyant, but because he has a working brain. You can’t just shut down society without egregious consequences that affect health, economics, social relations, and so much more. In other words, authorities acted with extreme measures that were in no way justified by the data and did so with measures they knew for sure would massively damage the social fabric. For that matter, we’ve known about the damage of lockdowns since they were first pushed in 2005–06. Famed epidemiologist Donald Henderson warned that such measures would turn a manageable pandemic into a catastrophe! So here we are, living amid catastrophe. There are no apologies. There’s only coverup. Now, you might ask the following: Why, if the mainstream media from late-January through mid-February 2020 were counseling calm and urging against lockdown frenzy, and even Fauci was saying that we didn’t need a vaccine to get out of this pandemic, was there a sudden shift? What new evidence came in that caused Fauci, along with his minions and inner circle, to surround Trump in early March 2020 and demand that he greenlight the lockdowns? Read more here... Tyler Durden Fri, 11/04/2022 - 17:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeNov 4th, 2022

Orlov: The New Cuban Missile Crisis That Isn"t

Orlov: The New Cuban Missile Crisis That Isn't Authored by Dmitri Orlov, The Cuban Missile Crisis is a malicious misnomer. Cuba never had any nuclear missiles; it temporarily played host to some Soviet ones. The crisis started when Americans put their intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Turkey that posed a new threat the Soviet Union, which responded by placing similar missiles in Cuba, evening the score. The Americans flew into a rage but eventually calmed down and withdrew their missiles from Turkey. The Soviets withdrew their missiles from Cuba and the crisis was over. And so it should be called the American Missile Crisis. What’s happening now couldn’t be more different. Unless you spent the last few weeks hiding under a rock, you have probably heard that some sort of new nuclear crisis is underway because of “Putin’s nuclear blackmail” or some such. Some people have suffered nervous exhaustion as a result, neglecting their duties and generally letting themselves go. Take former British PM Liz Truss, for instance. The poor silly thing latched on to Putin’s words that “the wind rose can point in any direction” (a factual point about the utter uselessness of tactical nuclear weapons). She then allowed the British economy to go into free-fall while she obsessively tracked the wind direction over the Ukraine. It all ended badly for poor Liz. Don’t be like Liz. I am here to tell you that there is nothing going on beyond the usual - the usual Western propaganda fakery, that is. In particular, this has nothing to do with anything Putin or with anything nuclear. Instead, this is all part of a desperate attempt to compensate for narrative failure, and a failed attempt at that. The problem for the collective West is simply this: 80% of the world’s population has refused to join it in condemning, sanctioning or otherwise punishing Russia, with some very large countries (China, India) either supportive or neutral on the subject. Most of the world, including Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, is carefully watching Russia systematically destroy what was by far the largest and most capable NATO-equipped, NATO-commanded army in the world (the Ukrainian army, that is), understanding full well that what is unfolding is Washington’s Waterloo. Some countries (Saudi Arabia, for instance) are so sure of the result that they are already refusing to obey Washington’s dictates. This is a problem, because all the Washingtonians know how to do is impose their will on the world. Treating others as equals or looking for opportunities to negotiate a win-win is simply not part of their core competence—or any of their competence, for that matter. Once defanged, all they know how to do is bark and drool. To fix this problem, the narrative-mongers in Washington and Brussels have decided to play the nuclear card and accuse Russia of nuclear blackmail. Meanwhile, all that Russia has done is decimate the Ukrainian army several times over, then accept four former Ukrainian regions into the Russian Federation based on highly conclusive local referenda closely watched by a goodly number of international observers, and then announce that it will defend these regions against foreign attack by all means necessary. These, obviously, include nuclear means, since Russia does have them, and would use them in accordance with its nuclear doctrine, which precludes their first use. Meanwhile, the US has no such stipulation in its nuclear doctrine, has actually used nuclear weapons against civilians (in Japan), and has for decades dreamed of developing a nuclear first strike capability that could not be countered. If any country should be judged to be a nuclear threat, it is the US, not Russia… except, as I will explain, the US is no longer much of a nuclear threat either. Putin barely hinted at this, but a mere hint was enough to utterly infuriate the US national defense establishment, whose worst enemy is reality itself. Putin pointed out that at this point Russia has some weapons in its nuclear deterrent arsenal that are superior to that of the West. These new weapons, of which more later, guarantee that any nuclear attack on Russia would be a suicidal move. That is, the West has no way of reliably destroying Russia (it is too big and its economic core is too independent and too well defended with air and space defense systems) while Russia can reliably destroy the West (which is not nearly as well defended) but will not do so unless the West attacks first. Unlike back in the old Soviet days, Russia has no missionary zeal; it is happy to sit back and watch the West starve itself (due to a lack of Russian chemical fertilizer) in the dark (due to a lack of Russian oil and gas). All it wants to do is gather the pieces of the shattered Russian world and all the people and lands that the collapse of the USSR abandoned behind some Bolshevik-decreed border. In this situation, the risk of a nuclear war is pretty much zero. Please sit back, take a series of deep breaths and let the good news soak in. Feel the joy. But the joy probably won’t last if you listen to craven idiots whose job is to lie to you about “Putin’s nuclear threat.” When, for instance, Jack Philips writes that Moscow has threatened to use… tactical nuclear weapons… in Ukraine to salvage its war there,” he is basically just lying to us, and not once but thrice in the same sentence: Russia did not threaten to use tactical nuclear weapons but instead pointed out their uselessness; and Russia’s special operation is a success. The fact that there is no threat is the main message of this article, but let us briefly digress and describe of Ukrainian victory and Russian defeat look like. The Ukraine is victorious in that according to the IMF its GDP is down 35% in 2022; according to its national bank inflation has topped 30% and isn’t slowing down; according to the World Bank next year 55% of Ukrainians will be below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $2.15 per day; according to the Ukraine’s economics minister, unemployment has reached 30%; according to its prime minister, it will be unable to pay pensions and salaries without immediate foreign aid; according to the UN, 20% of the population has left the country and another 33% are internally displaced; according to its energy ministry, it has already lost 40% of its electricity generating capacity. The Ukrainian army is drafting any male up to the age of 60, having run out of reservists, and the casualties it is suffering at the front are nothing short of horrific. Meanwhile, Russia is vanquished because according to Reuters the Russian ruble is the strongest currency in the world; according to the Guardian Putin is more powerful and popular than ever; according to its agriculture ministry this year’s grain harvest is over 150 million tonnes, 50 million of which are for export, making Russia the world’s largest grain exporter; according to The Economist, Russia is emerging from recession just as the West is entering recession; and according to Goldman Sachs the index of economic activity in Russia is now higher than in the West. Russia just got done calling up 300 thousand, or 1%, of its trained and experienced reservists, who are now being drilled in the latest NATO-fighting techniques before being sent to the Ukrainian front. But let’s not let facts stand in the way of the dominant narrative: the Ukraine has to be winning and Russia has to be losing because otherwise what could possibly cause Russia to become so utterly desperate as to threaten the world with its nuclear weapons? That part is simple; what is less obvious is why Western propagandists are sufficiently desperate to concoct and promulgate the false narrative of “Putin’s nuclear blackmail”? The reason for all of this hectic propagandizing is that the collective West cannot hope to survive politically or economically unless Russia is brought to its knees and agrees to exchange its energy and mineral resources freshly minted digits that reside inside computers at Western central banks which can be confiscated at any time and for any reason. The situation is dire: the US is running through its Strategic Petroleum Reserve at breakneck pace, yet facing a shortage of diesel fuel and stubbornly high gasoline prices. It has a massive debt to roll over and expand but can only do so through direct money-printing, driving inflation, already at over 10%, ever higher. Europe is bracing for a harsh winter of ridiculously high energy bills, industry shutdowns and massive unemployment, while the US is not far behind. The fracking bonanza in the US was never quite profitable and now has perhaps a year or two before it is tapped out. Then the dream of US liquefied natural gas replacing Russian pipeline gas in Europe, never a realistic plan, will be dead for good while industry shutdowns spread to the US. To avoid this scenario, desperate measures have been applied, and all of them have failed. First there was the plan of sanctions from hell, forcing numerous Western companies to stop shipping product to Russia and doing business there. This has done great harm to Western companies while providing Russia with an opening to steal their market share. What couldn’t be replaced with domestic production has been replaced with “parallel imports” via third countries. Next, the West (Europe in particular) curtailed its Russian energy imports through a number of means, from sanctions against Russian tankers, to bans on the use of existing pipeline capacity through the Ukraine and through Poland, to outright terrorist strikes on Russian gas pipelines in the Baltic. An outright ban on Russian oil imports to the European Union is scheduled for December, and it will make the situation predictably worse. The result is that Russia has started shipping oil and gas to its partners in Asia instead, China in particular, and the West is now welcome to compete for this energy on the spot market, while spare supplies last. They won’t. Because of higher prices, Russia is exporting less energy but earning more foreign revenue. And so an ingenuous plan was hatched for a nuclear provocation in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians, with some US and British help, were to take an old Soviet-era ballistic missile (a Tochka-U), load it up with nuclear waste from one of the Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, blow it up somewhere in the Chernobyl exclusion zone (which is already contaminated with long-lived radionuclides) and then Western media and diplomatic sources would all wax hysterical and blame it all on Russia in unison, hoping that at least some of the countries around the world that have been refusing to join Western sanctions against Russia would be cajoled into joining them. How well did it go? Not at all well, apparently! First, Russian intelligence got the details on the whole operation from an inside source or two or three. This is not surprising, since no self-respecting nuclear engineer would be too excited to take responsibility for such a travesty. Second, Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu, under direct orders from Putin, made phone calls to his counterparts throughout the world, sharing this evidence with them. Third, Russia specifically requested that the IAEA go and investigate the two Ukrainian sites at which the travesty was being concocted. The end result is that the Ukrainians are now hurriedly destroying the evidence and covering their tracks. Considering that every gram of such highly controlled substances must to be inventoried and its every movement logged, this coverup may come to involve some incidents, accidents and force majeur circumstances. A nasty little accident involving a teacup of nuclear waste and a firecracker is not to be ruled out, to be blamed on Russia, of course. Meanwhile, in the real world of nuclear superpower standoffs, two interesting events took place. On Thursday, October 20, 2022, the American nuclear sub West Virginia, an Ohio-class sub that carries 24 Trident II ballistic missiles, each of which carries 10 nuclear charges, surfaced in the Arabian Sea and was visited by Michael Kurilla, commander of United States Central Command. I imagine that he lined up the crew on deck, stood before them in navy dress whites, then dropped his pants down and did a little “milk, milk, lemonade, round the corner fudge is made” routine… because he might as well have. The purpose of a nuclear sub is to be stealthy because Russian air defense systems can intercept Trident II missiles especially well if they know where they are coming from. Thus, the act of surfacing and holding parades on deck basically announces to the world that the sub is off-duty for the time being. Why would the Americans do this? Is this a clumsy peace gesture, a cryptic act of surrender or a veiled cry for help? Or are they all going senile because whatever Biden has got is infectious? It is hard for us to tell. Whatever it is, the Russians seem unaffected. The Russian nuclear sub Belgorod recently sailed off into the blue, causing a bit of a panic within NATO. It carries a number of the new Poseidon nuclear-powered drone torpedos, which are all about the number 100. Each of them carries a charge of 100 megatons. Poseidons have almost infinite range, move at around 100 km/h at a depth of 1000m (three times deeper than any nuclear sub) and when detonated near an underwater coastal ridge can raise a 100-meter tsunami. Just five of them are sufficient to demolish both coasts of the US and all of Northern Europe. These would be underwater nuclear tests conducted in international waters—antisocial, yes, but not exactly direct nuclear strikes on anyone’s territory, so hardly a casus belli. And the ensuing tsunami? Uh-oh! Oopsie-daisy, sorry about that! Nobody is going to write “in case of tsunami destroy Russia” into the US nuclear doctrine. Best of all, Poseidons can lie in wait for years, surfacing periodically to receive new orders. But if Russia is destroyed they will rise up and destroy the rest of the world world, because “What use is the world if there is no Russia in it?” (V. Putin) We can be sure that the Russians won’t launch a nuclear war because it’s risky and they don’t have to take that risk in order to win. We can be sure that the Americans won’t launch one because it would be suicide. And so we can all sit back and relax while the “Putin’s nuclear blackmail” narrative-mongers bark their stupid heads off. As for all those assorted media whores who are scaring people with their nuclear nonsense in order to catch some hype—shame on them! Tyler Durden Thu, 11/03/2022 - 23:40.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 4th, 2022